Monday, June 18, 2012

Exams and quality time...

We are in the thick of final exams at school. Belle had her English exam today and will be finishing third grade on Thursday after completing the rest of her subject exams this week. This means half days for her and more quality time with her dad.  At my school, the Cycle 3 (grades 10-11) girls began their exams yesterday. Today they had their English exams, where they had a reading section and writing. I will be marking them tomorrow as we had our "end of the year" staff party this afternoon, a luncheon with gifts from our principal and a gift swap among the entire staff. Like many of the staff parties, there was a background of loud Arabic music and the entire production took place in Arabic as well.  Unfortunately, the gymnasium is not air conditioned so it made it uncomfortable on this 115 degree day.  I ended up coming home and needing lots of fluids and a nap, while Rob and Belle went to the pool to cool off.

Rob and I are planning our first overnight getaway in years (in many, many years), to the Yas Viceroy in July to help celebrate a friend's birthday.  It is a nice excuse for Rob to get the Yas experience I had last August and for us to spend some quality couple time.  I think this weekend we might head to Abu Dhabi to spend some time with our city dwelling friends before the summer exodus begins.

Friday, June 8, 2012

No pictures, Miss

I used to teach 12th grade. This meant that the weeks leading up to graduation were hectic, trying to finish up curriculum while working around a marching practice schedule, chase down the graduation week speakers for speeches and rehearsal, and make sure all my grades were entered to ensure that everyone participating was actually graduating.  I even chased down students and called parents to have a student come back to make up work or do something to earn the last few points that would make the difference between a diploma or another year in high school. 

Not here.
They actually graduate BEFORE their final exams, and so at graduation, there are no diplomas issued, but laminated certificates. This is so everyone can participate in the celebration, and some girls have participated in more than one celebration.  The girls wear mortarboards and a cape (sort of like the hood you'd receive for your Master's degree). Underneath their hood, they wear evening dresses (think US prom).  Their hair is uncovered and face, so pictures are absolutely forbidden.

Instead of "Pomp and Circumstance" and the marching that I am familiar with, our girls walked out slowly to an Arabic song and then preceded to line up in a big circle, striking model poses in their evening gowns. It was like a scene from the Miss America pageant.

Then they proceeded to sit in their reserved chairs and the ceremony began. There were a lot of speeches in Arabic, gifts for their mothers and gifts from their mothers, sisters, and aunts. Food was served to all the teachers and female family members in attendance as younger schoolmates walked through our rows serving food and water.  There were slideshows of the girls as infants and in their more modest adult clothing, some dancing, and confetti cannons.  Grade 12 teachers were given a single rose, a small gift and a laminated certificate in Arabic.  And then, the teachers went to the social worker's office, shared a lunch and the day was done.
After graduation, I was invited back to a local family's home. The daughter was one of the highest achieving graduates (in the US she would have been valedictorian), but there was no party and indeed, outside of coming in briefly to greet her mother and welcome us to her home, she was absent from most of the visit. My coworker and I were served Arabic coffee and tea, and then were fed a meal in stages, starting with the chicken and rice with salad, then sweets, then fresh dates, followed by sliced watermelon and finished with cut fruit.  I had thought we were staying for just an hour, but the visit lasted for over five.  Her hospitality was incredible and upon departing, we were encouraged to visit her again, the next time bringing our whole family.

On Tuesday, our KG2 will graduate. I wonder if that will be different.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Hello, June...

June is typically the end of the school year - in the US anyhow... Belle's school will be finishing up around the 21st of this month, but my school year will end on July 12th.  The heat is beginning to make the end of the day classes difficult and I never complain when our social worker rearranges the schedule so 8 and 9 can be cancelled. Teaching when it is 115 or higher is a challenge - just as learning is, I'm sure. Graduations at our school start this week, with Grade 12 on Thursday and KG2 on the following Sunday.

Cycle 3 (grades 10-12) recently took a field trip - the first one I've been asked to attend - to Bawadi Mall. The last field trips I've chaperoned were to theater productions, so this was quite a change. Most of the girls spent a couple hours at Fun City (an indoor grown up version of Chuck-E-Cheese, I guess, with rides more typical of fairs or amusement parks) and a few went to see a movie. Then they shopped a bit, had lunch at Pizza Hut, and boarded the bus back home.  The field trip ran smoothly, but then, why wouldn't it?

Now, we are trying to figure out where we're moving to this summer, as our housing department has notified us that the building we are living in will not have its lease renewed. This did not make us sad because although the flat is nice, our location is not ideal and it has been a lonely year for Belle - no other kids around, and no safe place to play outside. We're hoping for more kids at our next location and some outdoor space - ideally with a pool.  Oddly enough, we'll be thinking about housing again next summer as we prepare to return stateside.