Before I moved to the U.A.E. I wanted to get an idea about what I was getting myself into. Middle Eastern and Emirati history, their culture, and their religion. However I wasn’t able to find many options, but I started reading what I could. Once I moved here, I’ve found more and was recommended many more as well! I still have a lot more reading to do, but this may get you started. Please post any others you think I should add to my list!
What I Have Read:
The Princess Series
By Jean Sasson
This series follows Sultana, a Saudi Arabian princess as a child, young woman, wife and mother while living in an extremely conservative Muslim country. While not the U.A.E., it gives a tremendous amount of information about the culture and their religion. A must read, especially for single women! Written by an American woman who was told the stories by the Princess herself. I will say that by the time you read the last two, you will feel a little jaded. The main character annoyed me. But it did give good insight.
By Patricia Holton
An American-born, British wed woman is adopted into an Emirati family as she helps to raise the sons. This is not long after the U.A.E. was founded and she documents the changes the society goes through as they try to merge the old traditions with the new and the Western influences.
By Nabeel Qureshi
As the title alludes, this is the story about a Muslim man who converts to Christianity. I wanted to read something that would compare the Muslim faith to that of something I was familiar with. It compared the two in how they have many similarities and also differences. This gave me some great insight into their religion and how to better respect the locals.
The Tribes of Jordan
By Ghazi bin Muhammed
This is a quick read that gives a good look at tribal Bedouin life in Jordan. It focuses on their laws and how they are similar and differ from Islamic Law. Understanding tribes and how they work is essential as families in the U.A.E. are still connected in a way to their family tribe, although no longer nomadic. It was very interesting to read.
By Adam J. Silverstein
Another quick read, but one that I intend to read a few times through. It s a very detailed overview of Islamic history, what it is, how it started and spread, the study of it and finally how it affects people, both Muslim and non-Muslim. I really found this to be enormously helpful, of course this is published by Oxford University, so the factual evidence is academically based.
by Zak Ebrahim
This was a heart-touching story that only took an evening to breeze through. It was as if Zak Ebrahim was sitting there talking to me. He is the son of an extremist but he shows how he chose to lead a vastly different life than his father. It is a fantastic reminder that people are mostly good, an opportunity to have faith in humanity restored.
The To-Read List:
by Shereen El Feki
By Leon Uris
by Malise Ruthven
by Katherine Zoepf
I have now lived in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates for almost seven months. The honeymoon stage is over. I figured I would stop thinking, “Wow, this is your life? This is amazing though!” But I haven’t. I am really content with my life here, both professionally and personally.
I have started to see the positives and the less positives, as anyone would when they move to a new place and accept a new job. For this reason, I specifically did not post anything to this blog because I wanted to not simply gush or vent over the small things as I acclimated to life here. I wanted to show a well-rounded opinion of everything.
My Work and Living Situation:
I was assigned to a school in The West! The placement letter shocked me. I remember reading the words “Al Gharbia” on the sheet of paper. The Unknown washed over me faster than a waterfall. My job placement was in the western region of Abu Dhabi, out in the desert, the dunes, lots of camels. I couldn’t even find the school or the city in Google, and Google never lets you down. I was a bit worried at that time.
More than likely I was placed in Al Gharbia because I’m single and without children. If I had a family, then it would be difficult for the children to be in a school. Abu Dhabi Educational Council (ADEC) considers this and places those with spouses and children in Abu Dhabi City or Al Ain.
After a few hours of research I was finally able to find the small town where my school was located. Only being about an hour from Abu Dhabi, I wasn’t too worried about moving to my area of the West. I knew ahead of time there was the likelihood of this happening and I had signed up for an adventure anyways. I would make it work whatever happens.
Others were not so accepting. I witnessed one young woman sitting on the floor like a petulant child balling her eyes out due to her placement. This to me was not only unprofessional but also immature and showed either her lack of research or her true inability to roll with the punches. I was embarrassed for her sitting among hundreds of teachers, in a line full of others who were also placed in the West, and she, just blubbering away. From what I heard, she did not end up staying to take her placement.
After a week of talking to ADEC and other veteran teachers, I ended up choosing to live in a larger city about 50 minutes away from my school called Madinat Zayed (MZ). Here I have an extremely comfortable villa (2 bed/2 bath) and a large expat community to hang with. The city has a small mall, a few different grocery stores, restaurants and even a Starbucks. If you can imagine living in a small town where you’re from, this wouldn’t be much different. I do have to make the commute every day, and it does bother some at my school, but not me. With carpooling, I only drive once or twice a week and I’ve discovered podcasts and listening to audiobooks whenever I don’t sleep. Back home I travelled a lot for my last job and used to commute over an hour to my old schools anyways. I haven’t ever NOT had a commute, so it’s not a negative thing for me; it’s the norm.
I only live about an hour and a half from the city which allows an extremely easy drive if I want to do something fun on the weekends. I go in to Abu Dhabi a few weekends a month and end up crashing at friends’ places.
(If you’re in the city and have friends in The West, then you let them sleep on your couch, it’s a given.)
My School Situation:
My school placement was in a smaller city in Al Gharbia along the coast. My school is a cycle 2 and cycle 3 all-girls school. I ended up teaching at the cycle 2 level (middle school) and overall it’s a great place to work.
There are challenges, but there would be those in any school no matter the country or culture. They are just different challenges because of the country and culture.
My teaching hours are more than some, but not more than back home. The endless paperwork and politics back in the U.S. is not something really seen here. I do have to make and submit lesson plans, I do have to take student attendance. There is professional development and parent meetings, but not to the mind numbing level that is required back home. I am able to use the ADEC curriculum and my experience to do what I think would show the most student progress. There are teacher observations and hallway duty. It’s a school.
This job has really helped me to separate my off hours and my work hours. I have seen countless teachers intertwine the two. There is nothing wrong with this; it creates impassioned educators who would do anything for their students. But in Florida, to become that sucked into the job is draining since so much is out of the control of the teachers themselves. It’s like that in many places. I found my job exhaustive and something always happened that made me become more and more frustrated. This led me to look at teaching jobs out of the country in the first place. I didn’t want this to be repeated when I moved here.
Here, I do have a separation. I work at work. There is enough time in my schedule to get the lesson plans and grading done. I can do research and prepare activities there. Occasionally I may bring things home to grade if it’s a larger project or if I want to plan for something more extravagant. But I set that as a goal for myself before moving. I wanted to, once settled, no longer live to work. Instead I wanted to work to live. I love my job, I love teaching and I love the kids. My job makes me incredibly happy, but I don’t just have that as my only source of happiness. I work this job and focus on other things that also make me happy! The current situation with education in Abu Dhabi is more teacher and student friendly than politician friendly, as it is in many Western societies. This allows for teachers to actually live a life separate from their job.
I am not saying those that work to live are not doing as they should, I commend them for their work ethic and passion for their profession. For me personally, this was something I wanted to change and moving to Abu Dhabi gave me that change.
How I Feel about my Situations:
I feel fine! Like really fine! Living in The West has been a great chance to experience the culture and way of life in the U.A.E. that people living in Abu Dhabi City just wouldn’t experience. People that live further west of me may have other thoughts, but my situation is fantastic. If I had lived in the city I would end up eating out too much, spending a lot shopping and going out every weekend. Plus the extra travel stipend for living in Al Gharbia basically covers my car rental every month. I carpool, so I save gas money. I cook a lot, so I save even more. Ultimately I save to travel, pay off debt and to have fun! So overall this is a good situation financially!
There is a nice teacher community here in MZ, they have rooftop parties, dinners and activities which makes living out of the city completely awesome! Plus I tend to watch Netflix as much as I do back home, so my evenings are pretty chill. The social situation is decent in the West and we have a stronger camaraderie here than people in the city do. We depend on each other and help each other out. When I went to the emergency room, two other teachers where there, one came with me, the other showed up within minutes. People I have only known for a few months, made sure I was okay. We look out for one another. Those are the kind of people you want in your life.
While my new life in Abu Dhabi is only in the beginning stages, I am thrilled with it so far. I’ve travelled more in the last seven months than all my years before. I’ve made connections with people I never would have, had I not moved and experienced so many interesting things that I know will change me in the future, for the better. It’s just the beginning, but it’s a pretty swell beginning.
It’s been some time since my last post. I was recommended by multiple people to NOT write about the job for a few months. The UAE does not have the Freedom of Speech right that is given to many of us in the West. This has given me a chance to learn more about their culture and how to be respectful and still informative. I will be honest and post about my overall life, including my job though! Have no fear!
As a summation of my first trimester the only overall statement I can really make is this: I love my life!
In all honesty this move has been an absolutely amazing opportunity. I’ll get into each individual thing about my awesome life as I get back into my posts. I am extremely happy with my decision to halt my professional progress back home and uproot myself to a completely different country located in The Middle East.
Not everyone feels that way, teaching is hard, moving is hard, all of it is hard! I could never fault an individual for not staying here. At times things have been difficult, but everything is completely doable. For me, it has been a wonderful experience so far.
I will be posting in the next few weeks about some of the following things:
- The process of moving to new country to live in, not just visit
- Living in a Middle Eastern country for a sassy, independent, American woman that I am
- Misconceptions in general
- Teaching info
- Down-time and breaks- by country
- Reading and Research lists I recommend
If there are any specific questions you might have, send them to me and I can try and answer them in the next few posts! I have had an amazing 6 months so far! I can’t wait to tell you all about them!
So a Florida man dogged his employers, a U.A.E.-based company on Facebook while vacationing back home. When he returned to the U.A.E. to work, he was arrested for cyber slander.
(Cyber slander. Yeah, it’s a Thing now.)
Anyways, after a few months of headache, the charges were dropped.
When I initially read about this on CNN I started to thinking about a few things. First, did this man not research the country he was going to live in? Did he not realize that this country has laws that are different from America and how he will have to follow the laws of the land when working there? I understand that he was on U.S. soil when he wrote the negative and racist comment on his Facebook page, but did he not consider that this comment would backfire? Apparently not!
Research is so important when you travel the world. Just because we are American doesn’t mean that the American Rights cover us all around the world. Research is key and this man admitted he didn’t even know he was committing a crime in the U.A.E. at all!
Second, why post the comment anyways? It was super negative and completely racist, a bit uncalled for in my opinion. (but that’s just me.) I understand the digital era has given people a more lax view on communication and allows many to voice their ideas and concerns more so than in past years. While I love technology, the internet and the ability to connect to others digitally, I have always monitored myself. In America we have the Freedom of Speech so there can be the most heinous topics mentioned and nothing can come from them. But just keeping yourself in-check is not a bad thing to contemplate. Don’t whine so much somewhere (like Facebook, Twitter, etc.) that people can find it and use it against you. Instead, use that lock-and-key diary that one weird aunt got you for your 12th birthday to write those thoughts in. Personally I think venting to your close friends or family members is the best route to go. Get it off your chest and then its just a person who can point fingers. (Check ’em for wires before you start to gab- Just kidding- but seriously!)
My job has geared me to stay more mute on voicing my complaints. I’m a teacher, which puts me above the law and mandates that we show extremely ethical practices. According to the ethical agreement of my school district I should not drink, smoke cigarettes, dress provocatively or engage in loose behavior. Teachers in the U.S. have gotten “let go” because there were pictures on their Facebook page showing them out with friends and drinking a beer. Apparently having friends and having a drink is a horrible thing for an educator to do in his or her free time. Instead we should be in our house knitting socks or something.
Another teacher in the U.S. who took a summer job as a JC Penny’s model was fired since she wore bathing suits in the catalog. In case you missed part of that sentence… JC Penny’s… not Maxim, not Playboy… JC Penny’s. So the pictures would be pretty simple and not risqué. Whatever the medium, she was fired from her teaching job as this was an ethical breach of her contract.
Whether it is (right or wrong), it’s still a concern we have to think about. In America, we supposedly have freedom of speech, realistically teachers do not have these freedoms without extremely negative consequences in some cases as seen in some of the examples above. I have become accustomed to this and my friends now know that certain things don’t get posted to my page and they refrain from certain topics to keep me in the Safe Zone. My job is my life and I would not want some stupid comment I made in frustration to ruin my career or in the U.A.E.’s case, take my freedom.
Which leads me to a general question: Do we as a societal group not have control? Why are so many of us unable to keep our digital voices in-check? I choose what I will say and when I will say it. Every time I hear about someone posting something and getting in trouble I ask myself, “Why? Why did they feel that this specific comment was necessary? Was it exceptionally insightful? Did it prove a point that was vital to everyone’s life? What was the absolute reason for them to say this?” Most of the time it’s something that is so trivial and unnecessary, (as well as showing poor spelling and punctuation- sorry English teacher) that I laugh because WHY POST IT AT ALL!?!
We need to think before we act or … (dun dun dun)… bad things can happen. Don’t post the instant you think of something or the moment you are upset. I have learned that I don’t respond to an email when I’m irritated because it will probably come off snarky. I’m naturally sarcastic and even more so when frustrated. If i’m upset with a friend I let myself simmer a bit, think about what I really want to say and the real reasons for my thoughts. Then I respond. Most people do these kinds of things every day so they don’t emotionally blow-up on loved ones. Why are we not doing this digitally?
I am not trying to be preachy, but what made me upset was this Florida man’s comment about not knowing the laws of the country and using the American Constitution as an excuse. Add on that recently there have been so many people getting caught posting something cruel or inappropriate and getting called out on them. Maybe we all need to think a little before we actually click “post” next time, especially if you are posting about your job or… I don’t know maybe… A RACIST COMMENT! Geez Louise!
I don’t think this will be a problem for most of us. Those that want to travel and work abroad realize that we need to do our homework to see what is illegal as well as taboo so as to not ruffle any feathers, but situations like this make Americans look bad on a global-level!
Read one of CNN’s articles on this situation here.
This is very good to hear! I do not have a fear of flying, but I won’t lie and say all the media coverage in the last two years hasn’t made me squeamish. There are so many airline issues and mistakes due to pilots being brought up, but I don’t think this is the whole story in any way. Just like any other issue, the news is only focusing on the negative. How many airplanes take off, fly and land without any issues AT ALL? Thousands every day, all across the world.
Recently I was on a plane that had faulty landing gear that was only identified during decent. When the nose of the plane went from pointing down to pointing up, I knew something was not right. The pilot and the flight attendants immediately relayed information to the entire cabin and everyone knew that we would be okay. An extra half hour of circling above the airport as the pilot troubleshooted with those on the ground led to a safe decent and flawless landing.
So even when things aren’t perfect, most of the time, they get worked out by the professionals. Read the article above for more insight!
This seems like a place I have to visit! However, I think I will be skipping on lunch!
Check out this Buzzfeed! It’s hilarious and awesome at the same time! I can’t wait to experience some of these things. Food delivery, yes please!
Isn’t this amazing! What a cool view of the city!