Tuesday, December 27, 2011

2011: The Year in Review

This has, without a doubt, been one of the craziest years my family and I have ever experienced, so it seems like a good idea to briefly recall all that has occurred...
In December of 2010, I was told (with everyone at my school) that positions would be cut for the budget. I had a feeling it would be me, so in January, Rob and I listed our house expecting a long wait for a buyer. In February, we received the news that my job was indeed no longer, and an offer on our home. By the end of February, I had applied for every teaching position I could find both near and far (including some place called Abu Dhabi that I vaguely recalled from my high school social studies class). By March, I had interviewed, been offered, and accepted a position to teach in the UAE, and began the paperwork circuit required to move a family overseas. Our house closed in May, and we moved into a 2 bedroom apartment (thank you, Heidi!) for the remainder of our time on US soil. My soon to be former colleagues threw me an amazing "pink slip" party (see this blog). In June, I broke my wrist from a fall in my creative writing class, watched my last class of Woodsville High School seniors graduate, and joined the ranks of the unemployed. Three days before I flew overseas, my birth mother died, and in August, I boarded a plane to the other side of the world.

I spent a month preparing for my family to join me, and in September, all the Littleton Tylers had a new address in Al Ain, the oasis city in the desert. For the last few months we've been settling in, playing tourist, attending concerts (Metallica and Britney Spears - yeah, a weird combination), celebrating a nation's 40th birthday, and learning about a new culture. We're ending the year in a new home (rented, but ours), with a new car, in a new country and are going to ring in the new year at a Coldplay concert in Abu Dhabi (the city). We've been making friends, and staying in touch with all our friends and family at home. We are truly blessed with all the support we've received in the past year that helped us survive all the ups and downs. Thank you for being there. We couldn't have made it through 2011 without you.

I don't know what 2012 holds for us, but 2011 is going out on a higher note than 2010 did, which I think bodes well for us.

Merry Christmas from the "land of sand"

Make your own slideshow at Animoto.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Decking the halls

Over here, the holiday season is known as the "festive season" and occasionally we are wished "Merry Christmas" by people who don't recognize the holiday in the same way. After all, Jesus is only one of the prophets, he is not the great prophet in Islam, and is not considered the son of God as in Christianity.  December 25 will be a regular work day for most of the country (because Sundays are our Mondays). 

We decided to attend the Christmas tree lighting with Santa visit at the Danat Hotel instead of the Hilton.  This turned out to be a good choice for many reasons. The tree lighting took place outside, surrounded by palm trees wrapped in lights.  Santa came in riding a camel, and children queued up as well as they ever do to get the requisite annual Santa photo.  The staff gaily lip synched to favorite holiday songs. The Hilton was apparently quite different - with Santa hanging from the ceiling, getting kidnapped by men with guns, and so much more.... Everyone attending commented on how bizarre it was.

Last week we went out to dinner at the Rotana with our friend Rich, and were able to admire their huge Christmas tree in the lobby and their bakery shop that was covered in real gingerbread and icing - to make a life-size gingerbread house. Belle took a small sample because she didn't quite trust me... Now, we just need to bake some cookies (maybe we'll start today), sing some carols (I think Thursday night at the Rugby Club), and prepare for the big night. Belle's stocking is hung, our tree is decorated with presents from our family in the US resting underneath, and decorations (and Santa hats) from our friends in NH. 

Friday, December 9, 2011

A reason to wake up early...

This week was a long one as I chased down students who did not submit their very important ECART and waited for the exams to be completed so I could grade them. It was a lot of hurry up and wait, but at this point, I think I have entered the grades correctly in the gradebook that no one really explained. Yeah.

On the home front, we've been researching vehicles to purchase since the payments will be cheaper than our monthly rental. Rob's narrowed it down to about six cars, which is good because I was completely overwhelmed by the task. Belle is going to her first rugby tournament tomorrow (she's going to support her "team" as she is not quite ready to play yet). Then after, we are going to the tree lighting at the Danat (or the Hilton) to see Santa. We can't forgo some traditions.

This morning, I woke Belle up at 5:30am and we both stumbled to La Brioche (which was not open when we arrived) to meet up with a group of international expatriates to see the camel races. I've been to races before (in college, I worked as a mutuels teller for a dog track and we telecast horse races; I'd attend the horse races at the fair in Rochester, and of course, the car races in Loudon), and they all had certain similar aspects: like wagering and alcohol. Not so, in a Muslim country.

Camel racing takes place on a dirt track (like a horse track). The camels have robot jockeys that the owners control via remote, and some have speakers so that the owner can speak to the camel as it runs. In addition, the camels have been trained to recognize the owner's vehicle horn and this is used to communicate to the camel as it races around the 5K or 4K track. This is done by the owner racing alongside the track in his Land Rover (and yes, all the owners were male). He may or may not have spectators in his vehicle. The owner concentrates on the camel and the remote, so spectators need to be extremely careful because while the owner is driving his vehicle, he is not concerned with people on foot or in other cars. So essentially, two races occur - the camels and the owners' in their SUVs.

While we were there, we saw 6 year old camels race 5K, and then they moved up the starting gate, creating a 4K track. It allowed us to walk along and get close ups of the robot jockeys and see LOTS of camels close up. They were incredible. It was an experience not to be missed and made getting up early on a weekend day worth it. And yes, it was a bit chilly this morning (you know, like 60's), so we wore sweaters and long sleeves.