Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Classroom Management

So, I teach high school girls. You would think that high school girls would be motivated by, well, you know, girly things. And I guess in a way they are. If the girls were in fourth grade. My girls love stickers. And, inward shudder, pink things. I don't do stickers and I especially don't. Do. Pink! But here, now, they are slowly wearing me down. Sigh. Motivation is key here! And, truthfully, I just want them to be quiet!

But there is another way. Competition. Any task, if you say whoever is the first group to finish gets 2 marks or points, they rush to complete it. I love it! I used that trick just today. I wanted them to look up vocabulary words, which they hate, so I said whichever group can find and write the correct definition down in their notebooks first, gets 2 marks and can write the definition on the board. It was like I had thrown chum in the water with sharks around. And not only did the motivated girls work fast and rack up meaningless marks, the lower girls got to copy the definitions from the board rather than using the dictionary and got to ask questions in Arabic from the other girls.  It was a win win! 

Ciao for now!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Scuba Diving!!

So...scuba diving...something I have wanted to do since I was 12 years old.  Really.  At first, I was too poor to learn, then stuff kept getting in the way of my learning.  Every time I went to some exotic locale that had scuba diving (Thailand, Costa Rica, Bali), it was so dang expensive for lessons, plus, who wants to spend 4 or 5 days of their island vacation in a classroom setting watching videos and stuff? Not this gal!

So, here I am, in the UAE, a desert, right? Yes and no.  UAE is surrounded by other desert countries on 3 sides, but the fourth side is the Persian Gulf. And there is actually a lot of water in Abu Dhabi. Almost every street corner boasts huge fountains of sparkling water.  My theory is that water was worth more than gold for so long, that now that the country is richer than all of USA's founding fathers put together, they want to flaunt that wealth.  And what better way to do that then having sparkling fountains of splashing water in a desert?

Anyway, I digress.  So, being in the desert, scuba diving was actually the furthest thing from my mind.  I've been thinking more along the lines of desert camping.  But low and behold, I saw a facebook group for scuba diving! And there was a great deal for ADEC teachers! So of course, having an apartment almost completely devoid of furniture, and having no bath towels and no cabinets, what do I do? Purchase scuba diving lessons for me and the kid with my first paycheck! Don't tell me I don't have a healthy set of priorities!

So, training: We had to watch 5 videos, which was about 3 1/2, 4 hours (extremely boring!) then take a test, then there is 2 pool dives, another test on all 5 chapters of the book, and 4 open ocean dives to complete to become certified. I was excited for the pool dives but very nervous as well.  I've been snorkeling, and I don't like it.  There is constant water in your mouth with the snorkel and that feeling is just too weird.  But I had higher hopes for scuba diving.

Pool at One to One hotel, our classroom

So at the pool, our instructor tells us all about the very intimidating equipment; we put it together 3 times in a row, and then we got to put it on.  Have you ever tried to put on; a weight belt of 5 kilos, a BCD (buoyancy control device) vest tied to a tank of oxygen weighing at least that much or more, plus fins?! Then try to walk 4 feet to the pool?! It's almost impossible, I can tell you that!
My scuba gear is all packed up but it was a lot and heavy!

Once in the pool, we went over a few hand signals and things, then we put on our masks, let the air out of our bcd's and sank to the bottom ! Where we proceeded to stay for about 2 hours! Yes, 2 hours at the bottom of the pool! The pool was at a hotel so I know the guests were like, what the heck is going on there!

I was really worried about my mask and the breathing regulator getting water inside, but that didn't happen.  What did happen was me not sinking to the bottom of the pool!  Now, I am not being self deprecating at all, but I told the instructor (Poaula from Germany) that I would need a lot of weights because, and this is a proven fact of physics, f.a.t. floats! She was like, don't worry all will be fine. As I'm floundering around under water like a beached whale, unable to fully make it to the bottom yet not at the top either, I thought, see, I told you! I mean, I literally felt like a beached whale! I kept tipping over to the side, spinning around on my back. The air tank would bump the bottom of the pool and send me tipping the other way. I was waving one arm around to regain my balance, while the other arm is jerking on my bcd to keep me from tipping too far over, trying to keep my knees pointed down so I can kneel on the bottom of the pool and trying to signal to Poaula that I need more weights! All while continuing to breath slowly and deeply cus that's the first rule of scuba diving! She finally grabs my bcd and puts more weights in the pockets.  Yay, no more tippy tipster! I'm even feeling less beached whale and more yay, I got this! I'm even managing to kneel at the bottom of the pool; until my kid knocks me in the head with her fin!  Back to tippy tipster! Sigh.

First day down, still, not an enjoyable experience! But, determination will out!

Second day with Poaula, she had the weight thing down, luckily! So, I put my locks in a lower pony tail, put my mask and regulator on and lower myself into the pool.  But this time, somethings wrong! Immediately, as I start squeezing my nose to regulate my inner air spaces so my ears won't pop and my lungs explode (real fact! it could happen!), water starts to slowly seep into the mask and a layer of water is under my nose! And, the further I sink in the water, the more water flows into my mask, until my eyes are burning from the chlorine. And, if you have ever tried to breathe, you know that if your mouth is open, you are still breathing thru your nose as well.  So as I am breathing thru my mouth, there is water bubbling under my nose! Now, I know, in my head, that oxygen is obviously still getting into my lungs and not water, but having that bubbling under my nose is driving me crazy! I try to clear my mask under water like they taught us, and the water just keeps on pouring in. Then I finally resurface to empty my mask and try again.  Worse this time! Water is pouring in faster than a college student can collect beads on mardi gras! I finally figure out the lower pony tail is the culprit, I fix my hair, but there is still water coming into the mask. Sigh, I just decide to go with it and for the entire hour and half lesson, I'm breathing thru water in my nose.

So, second day of scuba, not the best either.  I can only hope that once I'm in the open ocean I will love it!

Ciao for now!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

EID Holiday!

Hi all!

So last weekend was the Eid 4 day holiday. I really, really wanted to go out of town but we just couldn't swing it.  Especially with the holiday being cut from a whole day regardless of what the calendar said.  So me and the kid decided to just do a few touristy things in Abu Dhabi!  The first thing we did was actually something I have wanted to do since I was in high school.  We signed up for scuba diving lessons and had our first class that weekend!  It was only watching a bunch of "how to" videos.  But I was just excited to finally be starting something I've wanted to do, like, forever! Even though I received a dressing down from my friend helping me with my budget here ("because why would you take your first paycheck and buy scuba diving lessons when you don't even have curtains or a sofa!" she said.  Honestly, not doing scuba didn't even cross my mind! that's why I need a friend to help me with my budget in the first place!). I'm really excited to do our first open ocean course!!

Then we went to the World Trade Center mall, which is huge! There are 2 parts of the mall, a souk, and then a regular mall with normal boring stores.  The mall itself was all wood interior and ceiling and was absolutely beautiful.  I loved all the items on sale in the souk.  Lanterns, and carpets, and all kinds of traditional looking things.

I really want one of these for my bedroom!

These were little pictures made with sand! 

Salt & pepper shakers!
We also went ice skating at Zayed Sports Center which is close to our house.  It was really fun! I haven't been ice skating in years, but the kid loves it.  Of course, I was the oldest person on the ice! I don't have a problem with that, I adore being the oldest person everywhere! There were quite a few little kids careening around the ice.  I love little kids.  They just took off, didn't matter how many times they fell down, they'd just get back up and take off again.  I skated with a few different little girls about 8 or 9 years old.  They were sooo happy I spoke with them.  Kids love practicing their English!  And it turns out, almost half the people on the ice were related! This girl was like, that's my cousin, that's my brother, that's my cousin.

The immediate difference between an ice rink in Abu Dhabi and one in USA, was lack of supervision.  There were groups of boys, from 11-16 racing around the rink.  Dancing, having races, careening off people right and left.  No one stopped them.  But really, with all their racing around, they didn't knock down anyone.  And at one point, the boys gathered into a circle in the middle and started dancing! On ice skates! They were pretty awesome.  I managed to snap a few pics on the iphone.

No preamble...guy just walked up and did a back flip! On ice!

I wasn't fast enough to get the whole move, but it was pretty awesome.

Well, that's all for now.  I can't wait until we actually hit the water in full scuba next week! 

Ciao for now!

Friday, October 3, 2014

Calendar Samalendar

One of the goodies from my students!

Before school started we were given an official calendar, just like at any school. And then, when school started, we were given another official calendar. Hmmmm.  Then my coworkers said, to not trust that calendar until we were told officially by ADEC what was up!

This Eid is our first official holiday.  The calendar says we have Oct 5th thru the 7th off, so we don't have to come back to work until Wednesday.  But people said, hey, we might have the whole week off, just wait until the holiday gets closer.  So, here it is, Sept. 28th and low and behold, what happens? The official holiday gets announced! We have to be back to work on Tuesday! Tuesday! It went from maybe we'll have a whole week off to having to be back to work by Tuesday!  The calendar here is decided by the moon and the official day of Eid Al-Adha is Saturday, so we get 3 days including that day, which is why we have to be back to work on Tuesday. Insert sad face, weepy eyes here!

I asked my students in every class, "who's going to be here next week?" They just looked at me like I was crazy and said, "not me Ms.!" One girl, one bright and shiny girl raised her hand and said, "me Ms! I be here!" I just gave her a blank stare.  Then I looked at her and said, "Mariam, it cannot be just you and me here, like this" I placed my hands under my chin and smiled, "starring at each other!" She said very excitedly, "yes Ms.! Just me and you!" So, it looks like I will have one thing to do next week. Find wonderful activities to share with one student and me! Shiny happy teacher! By the end of the week she will either love me to pieces or hate me!

Yesterday, Thursday, was the last day of the week.  In the morning, I had the same class twice.  We played vocabulary spelling games.  They were so into it that another teacher came to tell us to be quiet.  Then after lunch I was like, do I go to my next class, what's happening? Another teacher said, you can go to class if you want! You'll be the only one in there!

I walked down the long, surprisingly empty halls, lugging my 2 ton school bag behind me. I was looking around like, where the heck is everyone?! Then I glanced out the window to see the yellow school buses loading up all the girls! I looked into the teacher offices I passed and they were all empty! I could hear a trickle of raised voices coming from one room.  I couldn't tell if they were raised in anger or in the Emirate way, which is just loud.  I slowly approached the room and peeked around the door with a small sense of trepidation. To find at least seven members of our administrative staff sitting around on cushions, drinking tea and having henna done on their hands! They waved me in and offered tea and continued their raucous laughter.  I finally was able to extricate myself and return to my office, where everyone was packing up! Looks like, aside from those staff members getting henna, no one else was in the school! Yooo-hoooo! We don't have an extra day off, but we got to leave work at noon on Thursday! Not an even trade but I'll take it!!

I said on my last post how the students kept giving us candy but I didn't add the pictures, so here's a few. I ate so much candy I made myself sick! But, of course, I had to eat most of the other bag as well!

Ciao for now!!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Eid Al-Adha

Saturday is Eid which is a sacred holiday here in uae. It is in celebration of Abraham killing the fatted sheep instead of having to sacrifice his only son. The 10 days before Eid, is called Eid Al-Adha, Feast of the Sacrifice, where Muslims in uae prepare for the feast. They celebrate with all sorts if yummy food of course. Kapsa, which is the cooked sheep, briyani rice (which is really Indian but the emirates have incorporated it into their diets), halwa, which is a sweet date paste, and legimat, which is a fried dough covered in honey and white sesame seeds.
The kids decorate the classrooms with posters about Abraham and his sheep.
 They are to give a third of their food to charity, a third to the community, and eat the last third. Here at my school that means for the past 4 days the students have come around to each office and given all the teachers loads and loads of candy!!! If you want to win the heart of any teacher, give her food! I wouldn't mind some of that marinated kapsa either! I'm just saying! As the girls come around to all the teacher offices, they say a prayer," there is only one God. There is no God but God." When they pray here however, it is by singing ( singing is considered haram which means forbidden in the Quran. Actually, a student and I have a running argument on how to spell Koran in English. I've always seen it with a "k" but she swears, walla walla, that it is with a "q"!)

The students made these boards to show the journey to Hajj or Mecca, for Muslims.

At my school today, there are sheep in the courtyard. Yes, sheep, poor things. They are tied around a tent pool and looking miserable. When I went out to take a picture, one of the sheep had gotten loose. Luckily, it just went to the other sheep and was hanging out. All the girls were screaming and the school cleaners were trying to grab the rope, which was under his neck. I just walked up and grabbed it and handed it to her to tie up. Hero Ms. Ayanna saves the day!! They gave me some galaxy chocolate for my efforts! Takiah,takiah, takiah!! (Which means like hurray)

Eid Mubarak, everyone!

Ciao for now!