Friday, February 24, 2012

February fun...

It is hard getting paid once a month. Lucky for us, there are free things to do in Al Ain:

Camel racing
Rob finally made it to the races.

Wild camels...
Hanging with friends
An international horse show
Photo ops in the mall

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Lost in translation

Bidet: foot bath or booty washer
When I was little, my great uncle Marion taught me how to cuss in Polish, except I didn't know what I was saying.  In high school, it was a game to try and figure out what the cuss words were in French, so we could use them on trips to Quebec. I felt so daring.

In adulthood, I try hard not to cuss and it bothers me to be around a lot of profanity. I'm a bit of Puritan when it comes to things like that, but I'll allow there are times where a good cuss word can come in handy. When I decided to move overseas, I wasn't searching for cuss words in Arabic, but rather words that might help me survive in a foreign country. Luckily for me, and my inability to roll r's, almost everything I need to get done is able to be accomplished in English. The first Arabic word I learned was "shukran" which means "thank you." The second was "shway, shway" which loosely translates to "by and by" or "easy, easy" or "slowly, slowly." Yeah, you see the problem - few things translate exactly, and I don't know if you've spent a lot of time thinking about the English language, but we do some pretty crazy/silly things that make learning it a lot more challenging.
I've heard beauty can be found in
a saloon...
I didn't know it was interchangeable with  salon.

We've been working on verbs this term in my classes, and I needed to bring in a straw and water bottle as a prop to teach "suck" because the Arabic dictionary I used had it translated to an infant's nursing. But the verb is used in more contexts than that, and honestly, I've never really thought of sucking=nursing.  And we were working on food vocabulary - so context...

I've also recently learned that some English words have words that sound similar to Arabic words, but mean very different things. "To think" in Arabic sounds like a very vulgar English word, while the abbreviation for a common fastener sounds like a very vulgar Arabic word.

Ok, Santa on a camel was cool...
And then there was today....
I walked into my 10th grade class for our second period of the day (after reminding them at the end of our earlier period to make sure their homework was completed because I would be checking it then).

One of my favorite students looks at me and says, "Oh, sh*t." (This is a very respectful student who is always concerned with being a good, honorable girl.)
I swung my head around a la Poltergeist. "What? That is a bad word. You should not say that word."

The class and student looked at me in puzzlement. "But, Miss, it means: 'oh my gosh.'"

"No, no, it doesn't. It is not a good word for you to use. It is an unclean word. It is word for the bathroom."

The cussing student: "But it is on tv all the time and the translation says 'oh my gosh'. All the time, at my house, my mother and I say, 'sh*t'." I have had a recent conversation with her mother, who while limited in her English, is very strong in French.

"It is a bad word for 'poop'. You should not say it. Tell your mother it is the same as 'merde'. She will understand. It is unclean. Do not say it." Guess my French cussing came in handy for something besides being an obnoxious teenager....

Another student: "What about 'damn it'?" 

Sunday, February 5, 2012

A Visit to Paradise

I've never thought a lot about the Guinness Book of Records, other than marveling at the luck of living in the town with the world's longest candy counter, but we seem to be doing a good job of hitting the UAE Guinness spots: the largest indoor ski area; the largest sheet of plexiglass; the world's largest building (okay, we've only seen the outside - we still have to do the tour); and now, this weekend, we visited the Al Ain Paradise Gardens - which has the world's largest display of hanging flower baskets.  It was a perfect pick me up after last week and a weekend of resting. 

Here are some of the photos from our visit:

The round arches leading into the garden
Lots of ground displays
Pyramid of flowers
The Eiffel Tower of Al Ain
Family Photo
The best part was this garden visit took place in February (which means a lot when you are from northern NH).

Friday, February 3, 2012

And moving forward from the doldrums...

Some weeks are better than others... (aka the Wet Blanket post)*

For the last few weeks, I've been sick. It has mostly been characterized by exhaustion and lethargy, resulting in several trips to the doctor's office or urgent care clinics where I have been prescribed or treated with things to deal with the congestion (it doesn't seem to go away), allergic reactions, headaches, throat pain, and dehydration. I have been a barrel of fun.
Part of the cause, I am sure is that I am in the culture shock period of rejection. I wish I had been placed in Abu Dhabi and not Al Ain; I am annoyed at the lack of resources at my school; I am worried about my daughter's education and keeping her on par with her US classmates; my husband is not embracing this experience; our flat is in the middle of a construction zone which NEVER stops working - making it impossible to sleep; there are no kids near our flat for our daughter to play with; there is nowhere for her to safely play outside our building; you get the idea.

On Wednesday I had my first classroom observation (which I learned about the day prior). Wednesdays are my ping pong days, not only do my normal back to back classes not happen, but I am going from one end and one floor of the building to another, and one grade level to another, after every block.  So my first period observation was on my best day of the week.

It was not a perfect class (when are they ever), but my girls were well-behaved, focused on the lesson, and for the most part, on task. But when I had my post-observation meeting, there was a list of things I didn't do well and what I should never do for an observed lesson. This upset me in part because I don't believe an observed lesson should be any different than any other lesson. I do a really good job of blocking out the observers because my focus needs to be on my students (comes from years of having stage fright and yet being a cheerleader/actor).  And for those who have known me as a student, worker, or teacher, you know that I hold myself up to standards that exceed "fine". I don't ever want to be fine.  The quote I live by is: "May I never be complete. May I never be content. May I never be perfect."  (Fight Club, Chuck Palahniuk) I am always striving to be better, but the feedback wasn't on how to improve but how to create a better performance. And I cried. I never cry in public. I hate it.

Then I came home, and tried to rest up because my husband and I had a date. We never go out without our daughter, unless we have company, and even then, usually one of us stays at home. But I had booked a babysitter the night before because we both needed an evening out with other adults, and Wednesday is the trivia night at the Rugby Club. Before our sitter showed up, Rob asked me if I was going to be okay going out because I looked like the walking dead.  But, we'd made plans to meet another couple, and we both really needed a "date". I drank juice and water, and sat in the sick corner next to another friend not feeling well, and came home before the music round. The next morning, when the alarm went off, I couldn't function. I knocked it onto the floor, and had to fix it. I tried to get up, but my eyes were gummy. I ended up going back to bed until after 10. When I went to the doctor's office, the doctor wanted to give me a sick note for 3 days.

And then I got an email from my observer hoping I had a good night at the Rugby Club drinking, and I wanted to scream. This person doesn't know me and is judging me because I took a sick day after going out to dinner with my husband, and drank cranberry juice AND water?!?

Yeah, so at this point I have two options, I can take my doctor's advice and rest, and feel better - regaining my normal optimism; or I can ignore her advice and continue to wallow in my pit of misery.  I'm pretty sure I know what I'm going to chose.

*Truth in advertising: I feel it is important to document both the good and bad of my journey.... even if this post has an inordinate amount of whining.