Friday, December 10, 2010


So life is humming along now, and I find I have little news to share. It's really not that different living and working here than in Texas. Okay, there are some differences, which tend to be a major topic of conversation among expats. I thought I'd share some of them.

Recreation in Abu Dhabi tends to happen at night. We went to a park called Children's Park one afternoon and had the whole place to ourselves. It was a big place, with play equipment, a picnic pavilion, and automated rides, but it was deserted. Like something out of a horror movie- you know, the swings blowing in the wind with the chains creaking. We walked past another, similar park the other night after eating out, must have been around 8:30 PM, and you could barely see the play equipment for the number of little kids swarming all over it. On a school night. I realize it's a reaction to the heat most of the year, but it does result in a number of kids falling asleep in class on a regular basis!

I could probably write a whole post just on the topic of bathrooms. One thing I've learned is to carry my own toilet paper. It's not seen as necessary here. Instead, there are spray hoses in every stall. I suppose they're fairly sanitary, but without paper for toweling off... well, I guess things dry quickly here in the desert. In public places, you'll often enter a restroom and find it near flooded. Someone got a little overzealous with the spray hose? There are workers employed to remain in every restroom in the mall, just to squeegee the floor and wipe down the commode after every use. I can't help but feel horrible for a person who has nothing to do all day but look at the loo.

Speaking of workers, there are hundreds of thousands of non-nationals employed to do every little thing. They are nannies, delivery motorcyclists, food service workers, janitors, shop clerks, construction workers, security guards, hotel employees, and so on. Each company has accommodation provided for its workers and operates transport buses to and from work. Most of the traffic you see is little white buses carrying people all wearing the same uniform. Some apartment buildings are labelled with the name of the employer. One near our block says "Hilton Workers Residence". I guess it's not that different for our apartment. Nearly everyone here works for ADEC.

Food is another major topic. There's a huge variety of food available: Asian, Indian, Mediterranean, American, etc., but it seems that vegetables are in short supply. Except for potatoes. French fries seem to be offered with every meal. Mark and I cooked last night, chicken with a tomato sauce that would have gone well with rice or pasta, but we couldn't face more starch. I miss my bi-weekly box of organic veggies! Sometimes I crave a salad, but I'm usually disappointed. Some of the salads here are pretty short on the lettuce, and when you get lettuce, it's almost always romaine instead of something more green. The caesar salad is out because the caesar dressing has tasted unpleasantly of fish every time I've tried it. One vegetable that is available is corn- kernel corn is sold here as a snack food. A cup of corn with a spoon. From a cart at the mall. Haven't felt the need to try that yet.

An interesting difference is the perks for the ladies. On the public buses, the front half is reserved for women. Many times we'll ride the bus somewhere, Abby and I comfortably sitting up front, while Mark is squished like a sardine in the back where there is standing-room-only for the men. There are ladies-only lines at the bank and the supermarket, and they always go quickly. I haven't yet ridden in a ladies' taxi, but I've seen them, with pink flowers painted on the side and a pink taxi light on the roof. It's easy to feel a bit spoiled!

We attended the street party celebrating the 39th year of unity for the UAE last weekend. It was mostly a parade of decorated cars on the Corniche, the road fronting the beach downtown. There were people hanging out of the car windows, out of the sunroofs, spraying silly string and canned snow all over each other and the other cars and the spectators. They were stopping their cars, getting out and dancing or spraying each other, then jumping back in and zooming on a few meters. The men in their khandouras were wearing red, black, white, and green wigs, or face paint. The women were sparkly in the same colors on their abayas. It was just sweet, clean fun. Mark, Abby and I felt safe amid the wild exuberance, because no one was drunk or menacing in any way. Abby and I came home with silly string in our hair.

So the only news this week is my dad is coming to visit! This is the last week of the first trimester of school. We have a two-week break until January 2. He will be here for a week, then we are all going to Egypt and Jordan for a week. After that, my dad is returning to Texas for Christmas, and Mark, Abby, and I will go to a resort on the Red Sea for a week. Mark plans to do some diving and Abby will snorkel. I'll enjoy relaxing on the beach. I may not get to update before the holidays, so I'll go ahead and wish everyone a wonderful Christmas and a happy New Year!

Monday, November 15, 2010


I notice it's about time for all of my friends and family in the States to be waking up to Monday morning, but I am comfortably at home enjoying the first holiday of the school year, Eid Al Adha. We have a whole week off! Nice, except I'll be teaching on Thanksgiving Day. I think some of us are planning to get together on the Friday after for our Thanksgiving celebration. We don't have to worry about missing the sales, because there's no Black Friday here. The only worry will be whether or not I can find corn meal and poultry seasoning for the cornbread dressing!

The details seem to be working themselves out in every area. I got my passport back, and I am now officially a resident of the UAE. Abby and Mark have applied for their residencies, as well, and we expect that paperwork to be done soon after the holiday is over. The next step is a national identity card for each of us, and driver's licenses for Mark and myself.

School continues to improve. The teacher who was absent so much has really just stopped coming to work. For  while, that made my class more difficult, as I shared in the last post. But then, something changed. The kids started thinking of me as THEIR teacher (since I was the only person they saw consistently everyday). Now, misbehavior is the anomaly. Amazing. They still talk constantly, and I have to work to keep their attention, but it's no worse than my class in Mansfield. I have come to adore my 21 boys. And, they're making great progress. We'll be starting spelling tests when we come back from the eid. Oh- and a different teacher will be taking my kids for their Arabic and Islamic classes. She's strict, so I anticipate some calm days ahead.

We finally socialized with a non-western co-worker of mine. Her name is Hind (with a short /i/ sound), and she's Egyptian. She teaches music to all grades. We met her family and my co-teacher, Hibba, and her family at the beach on Friday. The ladies sat under the tent and gabbed while the kids and dads played. It was very relaxing. I have a hard time with Hind's Egyptian dialect, so Hibba (who's Lebanese-Canadian) had to translate often, but we found plenty of common ground.

I've been meaning to update the blog for a while, but every time I've been on the computer lately, it's been to research and book our trip to Egypt and Jordan. My dad is arriving on Dec. 11, and he will stay for a week with us here. Then, we'll all fly to Cairo. We plan to see the pyramids and the Egyptian Museum, among other things. We'll travel to Jordan by bus across the Sinai Peninsula and boat across a small bit of the Red Sea to land in Aqaba. Then another bus will take us to Petra and Wadi Rum, which was T. E. Lawrence's hideout during the Arab Revolt, as described in his book, The Seven Pillars of Wisdom. Then back to Cairo, and my dad will fly home. Mark, Abby and I will head to Hurghada and Luxor for diving on the Red Sea and more monuments, respectively. We'll fly back to Abu Dhabi on New Year's Eve. It's a dream trip. This is what we came here for!

Except for being so far away from all of the people we love, it's an ideal life. I find myself seesawing between euphoria at the incredible chain of events that led us to this opportunity and misery at the pain of missing friends and family. Most days I'm able to put the pain aside and enjoy the day, but there have been times that I've felt too cut off from home to be okay. When my internet was out at the end of October, I didn't find out about the passing of my friend, Charlene, until days afterward. I sincerely regret not being there in the community to grieve. I'm sure I was upset about that when I burst into tears at school after my head of faculty gave me a sticker with a pawprint on it. It's just too much to miss your friends and your dog at the same time!

It is nice to feel settled in, though. We love being able to walk or take the bus wherever we need to go. I love seeing the sun rise in the desert haze, silhouetting the Grand Mosque, every morning on the way to work. I love seeing Abby try new things. I love establishing a relationship with my students.

The other day at school, when it was time to go, one of my boys looked at the board where I usually write the names of students who've misbehaved and who will have to stay behind for a few minutes after the bell. He said in disbelief, "Eissa's name isn't on the board." (But in Arabic.) I said, "No, it's not." Saif said, "My name's not on the board, either." I said, "That's true, it's not." He said, "Thanks be to God!" ("Alhamdulillah!") That's how I feel most of the time!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Fits and Starts

So I can't believe my last post was October 8th. There's no way that much time has passed so quickly!

One thing that is making the weeks go by fast is the new school schedule. For the first few weeks of school, the boys went home at 12:30 and we were allowed to leave by 1:30. Imagine changing the start and end times for school after the school year has begun! That's exactly what happened. Now the boys go home at 1:15 and teachers can leave at 2:45. Then add on my 45 minute drive home from Mussafa to the Tourist Club district of Abu Dhabi. I'm definitely feeling the extra hours. Not that I'm complaining! All of my western co-workers remember staying at school until 5:00 PM regularly.

It's been years since I taught kids younger than fourth grade. I really didn't have any resources for second graders, especially ELL second graders. So I'm not missing the stuff I left behind, like some of my colleagues are. I've been spending lots of time on the internet finding resources. We bought a printer finally, so I've been able to print the things I need. Since there is no set curriculum and few resources at school, I also spend time planning out what to teach next. I'm very thankful to have a co-teacher in second grade who has experience with younger kids. She constantly has great ideas, and we're learning to work together as a team.

This past week was rough at school. There were quite a few teachers out sick, and there are no substitutes. My students spent about 2 hours each day this week sitting in classrooms watched over by monitors with no planned activities. They came to me in a state of complete chaos. It was up to me to impose some sort of order for the two hours and fifteen minutes of English, math, and science. Needless to say, I wasn't very successful. By Thursday morning, I was really beginning to doubt my ability as an ESL teacher. Then, I got to school and found out the teacher who had been out was back. The kids had a structured day and came to me like different children. I almost cried with relief to realize that it wasn't my teaching that was lacking.

On the home front, we've been exploring options for private school for Abby. She's been a bit isolated from other kids. Mark has yet to make contact with anyone from the homeschoolers group here, and Abby has some friends here at our apartments that attend private school. She thinks she'd like to try it out. The thing is, she needs a report card and records from her last school year in order to apply. One school we talked to said very plainly that they just don't take homeschooled children. So we're a bit stumped. It's a problem that we'll have to overcome, but it might have to wait untilwe get our passport visas sorted. One bureaucratic snafu at a time, thanks.

Last weekend we rented videos from the store across the street. They have a huge selection of American videos in the back, but their main stock is Bollywood. It's great to be able to walk to the video store. Last Thursday night we walked to the video store, then to the Lebanese restaurant for shawarma. On the way to the retaurant we passed a giant traffic jam near the Indian cinema. I don't know how that mess ever got untangled. This past week, my co-worker who lives here in the Abu Dhabi Plaza showed me the nearest teacher supply store. There actually is one in walking distance. I could have spent tons of money, but I restrained myself.

Today we visited the Emirates Palace, a hotel that cost USD$3 billion to build. It was sumptuous, with gold leaf on the domes and marble everywhere. There's a shop that sells antiquities, and their wares were displayed throughout the public parts of the hotel. We saw statues from Anatolia circa 4000 BC, Greek pottery, Roman helmets and coins, and Babylonian bas reliefs. We also saw a buffet that was 650 AED per person (divide by 3.67 to get dollars). Not really our kind of place, but neat to visit.

Tomorrow we plan to take the public bus from Abu Dhabi to the oasis town of Al Ain to see the camel market and the zoo. We promise not to come home with a camel!

Home for now!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Settling In

In just a few days we will have been here in Abu Dhabi for a month, and finally I have a feeling of being somewhat settled. What a relief!

We are thrilled with the apartment. It's in the middle of a busy part of town, within walking distance of Abu Dhabi Mall. There are tons of restaurants in the surrounding blocks, as well as every other type of store you could need (except a teacher supply). We feel like we could be in downtown Dallas or New York City, except for the call to prayer that sounds from the mosque a block away several times a day. We found a wonderful Lebanese restaurant just around the corner where all three of us ate for less than $20, and there was a bakery next door to it! It will take us a while to try out all the unfamiliar sweets.

The apartment itself is spacious and in good shape, although not new. We've enjoyed Mark's cooking. He made some baked chicken and potatoes with lemon garlic seasoning the other day. It was just like home. The kitchen is so small that really only one person can work in it at a time. What a shame. I now have a coffee maker, so no more instant coffee, and we found that lactose-free milk is easy to come by. It's imported from Saudi Arabia. The best part of the apartment is the cleaning service. Three times a week, our floors are swept and mopped, the bathrooms are cleaned, the towels are changed, and the beds are remade. Luxury.

I'm settling in at school, as well. I spoke with my principal last week, and she asked me how I liked teaching there. I told her that the boys were challenging, but it's okay, because I like them. She said she had heard they like me, too. It's hard to keep that in mind sometimes when they are refusing to line and up and would prefer that I chase them around the courtyard or classroom (which I refuse to do), but I do feel like we are slowly establishing a relationship and an atmosphere of trust in the classroom. I taught the letters E, F, and G this week. I also reviewed addition to ten and counting by tens and fives. In science, which seems to be my students' favorite subject, we sorted living and non-living things, and decided that all living things had some characteristics in common. I know it's not what I'd be teaching second-graders in the US, but for students who are learning in a foreign language, it's a triumph.

Today is my first day that I've just stayed at home to do nothing. It feels wonderful. Mark and Abby left at 10:00 am to go with a friend to Oman. They have to exit the UAE and re-enter to get a new visitor's visa good for thirty days. I'm still waiting on my residency visa, but I have had my medical check, and that was the last step in the process. Soon, hopefully, and then I can start the bureaucratic process of sponsoring Mark and Abby for their residency visas. However, for today, I'm planning to make an example of place value for my lesson on Sunday, to finish the book I'm reading bout Genghis Khan (historical fiction by Conn Iggulden), and have dinner with a friend I met on facebook and at the Aloft hotel. Maybe Mark and Abby will be back in time to go to dinner with Tiffany and her son, too.

Sounds pretty normal!

Monday, September 27, 2010


What a difference a week makes! We are still at the Aloft Hotel, but are feeling so much better now that we know the answers to many of the questions we had last week. First, we have looked at an apartment that will be ours in the next few days. It's a two bedroom, 1 1/2 bath furnished apartment in the Tourist Club area of the city of Abu Dhabi. You can see it on Google Earth at the corner of Sheikh Zayed the Second St. (also called Electra) and Najd Street. It's a few blocks from the beach and a few blocks from Abu Dhabi Mall. Mark and Abby will have things to do while I'm at work once Abby's lessons are finished! We are happy not to have to buy new furniture, and all of our utilities are paid at the apartment. It's about twice the size of our place in Florida.

I also have experienced school Abu Dhabi-style. I'm going to choose my words carefully. Most days I enjoy my students, though they are very impulsive and rambunctious. I feel like I have not taught much in the way of academics so far, but have spent much time establishing expectations and routines. I am thankful a hundred times a day that I speak some Arabic. I can't imagine starting out with these students and having no way to communicate my directions! I have spoken more Arabic in the last ten days than I did in three years at the University of Texas. Most everyone can understand me even though I am speaking the classical form of the language. It is actually rather admired, my ability with what's called fus-ha. Very proper. Today I had a student rattle off some Arabic (very fast) and I told him I didn't understand. He argued with me, "Yes, you speak Arabic!" Finally he tried in English. I'm going to have to reduce my use of Arabic in class.

My school is a two-story, square gallery arranged around a central courtyard that has a canvas cover. The students arrive on buses mostly, and all wear some form of dishdasha, a long, tailored shirt that reaches to the feet. Most dishdashas are white, but some are cream or brown colors. The students take classes in Arabic, Islamic Studies, Social Studies, Science, Math, and English every day. They rotate through special classes for Gym, Music, Computers, and Art. Each period is 40 minutes long, and they have seven periods in a day. It's a bit shorter than school in Texas, so I have to be ready with a compact lesson for each period.

Outside of school, Mark, Abby and I attended an exhibit of Emirate Heritage over the weekend. It was great fun! There was plenty to see, mostly about hunting and camping. Many safaris in Africa were advertised. Mark found out that you must pay a fee of $45,000 (USD) to shoot an elephant. I was glad it was expensive. We learned that Emiratis camp in luxury. Abby was keen to have an Emirati-style sleeping bag, but we didn't want to have to move it to our new place and then ship it, perhaps, back to Texas. Much too bulky. Our favorite exhibits included the falcons and salukis (hunting dogs). Both were just beautiful. Abby had some fun digging in a mock archeological site that was sponsored by Hili Archeological Park in Al Ain.

We're finding there's lots to do. My school load seems to allow me time to do some of those fun things, too. It's a different place. I start to get used to things, and then I will have a jolt of realization about how different it is here. But so far, so good.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Week One

Well, we've been in Abu Dhabi for a week now. We've learned alot about getting around, and I am prepared to start teaching tomorrow, but myriad questions remain unanswered. We don't know where we will live, when we will move, when my residency visa will arrive, when we'll get a rental car, or really any information about settling in. We are learning to deal with almost total uncertainty. Hey, the hotel is nice and the breakfast buffet is free!

I have been assigned to teach second grade, team teaching with another licensed teacher from Canada. I have to be at the school at 7:00 AM and can leave by 2:00 PM. The really good news is that I will have only 18 students to share with my co-teacher in one period, and 17 students in the other. We have been told, however, that placements can change if we are needed somewhere else. I'm looking forward to meeting the boys in our classes (all-boys' school) and getting to know all of my new co-workers. They have found out that I speak some Arabic, and now they will not let me get away with speaking English until I try to say my piece in Arabic. It's good for me, but hard. It makes me appreciate what my students will be experiencing!

Yesterday Mark, Abby and I went to the Corniche to visit the beach for the first time. One section is set aside for families. You have to pay to get in that part, but there are no rowdy groups of teenagers or groups of single guys. It was really comfortable and safe. Abby found some other little girls to play with and had a great time. Mark and I enjoyed the warm water (more than 90 degrees) and the covered beach chairs. We did see a security guy blow a whistle and lecture a few couples that were getting a bit too touchy-feely. It's supposed to be a family beach, after all.

Mark did laundry last night while I prepared materials for the first day. I've only prepared lessons for the first day because I have no idea what to expect. I'll have to go from there after I see what it's like! Later today we will visit the Heritage Village. It was closed when we went last weekend, but should be open this evening. It shows what life was like in Abu Dhabi before oil, and Abby intends to have a camel ride. I'll be sure to take many pictures to post on facebook. Maybe I'll even figure out how to post them on my blog!

We miss everyone, sometimes horribly, especially when things seem so different here. But we are adjusting and are beginning to appreciate some of those differences. That's what it's about, I think.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Arrival and First Impressions

After many goodbyes and a few tears, we finally were ready to leave. Mark loaded our 12 bags into his brother's truck, and his dad drove us to Houston Intercontinental for our flight to Chicago last Thursday. That flight was only two and a half hours. We changed terminals, which meant we had to go through security again, at O'Hare Airport. It turned out that all of my worries about my name on the eticket were unfounded, because everything went very smoothly, and we boarded our Etihad Airways jet to Abu Dhabi at about 8:30 PM.

The plane was really nice, with a personal entertainment system at every seat. We could each choose individual movies at any time, or play video games or see a map of the plane's progress. There was even a link to a camera feed from the bottom of the jet, so we could see the landscape passing beneath us even though we didn't have a window seat. I watched "Clash of the Titans", then had dinner (lamb tagine with couscous). Later I watched "Robin Hood" (the new one with Russell Crowe- quite good), had a nap, and had some dinner again. We didn't get a breakfast, as the time in Abu Dhabi at the second meal was about 5:00 PM. It was really strange to basically skip Friday. In all, the flight lasted almost fourteen hours.

As soon as we exited the jetway, representatives from the travel agency were there to greet us. They guided all of the teachers on our flight (maybe 30 families or more) through immigration to get our visas, then through customs. We boarded buses to go to our hotel. The Aloft Hotel in Abu Dhabi is contemporary and hip. From my room on the eighth floor, I have a view of a bay, a small peninsula with what look like palaces, and then the Arabian Gulf (which is commonly known as the Persian Gulf to people who are not living in an Arab country). Abby and I agree it's a hotel my sister, her Aunt Sandy, would immediately love. It looks very much like her new condo!

We slept well that first night, despite the fact that our bodies should have been ready for daylight. However, we did awaken pretty early. After a buffet breakfast, we decided to check out the Heritage Village so Abby could pet a camel. Our taxi driver dropped us off near the museum, but it was closed. We walked around and eventually found a sign that said the museum was closed until 5:00 PM because of the Eid (holiday). As it was only 9:00 in the morning, we had to find something else to do. The Marina Mall was in sight, so we headed there on foot. It was getting hot, but traffic was practically nonexistent, so we made a quick walk of it, some of us more willingly than others.

The Marina Mall is huge. It includes an IKEA and a Carrefour (French Wal-Mart), in addition to hundreds of small stores like Gap, Izod, Starbucks, etc. Many of the stores are not common in the US, but are well-known in Europe. We found a place to get freshly made juice drinks, then I amused myself by reading all of the transliterated Arabic store signs, like LaCoste and MotherCare. There is a central tower with a viewing deck that gives a great view of the whole area, and also an ice rink. Well, Abby had never ice skated, so we cajoled her into walking all over the mall without buying stuff and promised she could ice skate afterwards. She did really well! She held on to the side of the rink for the first several laps, but eventually got the hang of it and ventured to the center of the rink. She decided she would have to come back and skate on a regular basis. Mark and I were glad to just sit and watch, hollering out helpful skating tips now and then.

So far it's hard to believe we're in a foreign country. Everyone has been welcoming and helpful, and we've only encountered people who speak at least some English. We have met very few actual Emiratis, but we did see some people in the national dress at the mall as well as here at the hotel. They make up a small percentage of the population in Abu Dhabi. This city is extremely modern, with very little of it built before 1971. It's clean and well-ordered and has almost no crime. Maybe it's not so hard to believe after all!

I attended an orientation today and got this information: we will be living in Abu Dhabi. I'll be teaching at an all-boys primary school in the south of the city, an area called Mussafa. We'll be given the keys to our apartment as soon as they become available, but I'll start school on Wednesday and commute from the hotel. I don't yet know what grade I'll teach, but third grade is a good bet. I wish I knew more, but I am doing my best to just relax and enjoy the experience!

Thursday, September 2, 2010


Finally, we have a tentative leaving date: September 9th! All of the documents have Hilary Clinton's signature on them and a stamp from the UAE embassy, so we're good to go. We don't have actual tickets yet, just an assurance from the Teach Away, Inc. representative on facebook that the last group will leave on that date. No word yet, either, on whether or not I will go first alone or if the whole family will travel together. It's a really good thing we learned to live with a large dose of uncertainty over the last year.

I'll arrive on the 10th, rest(?) on the 11th, then school starts for teachers on the 12th. Nothing like hitting the ground running. I'm doing my best to be calm about it all. I mean, I have started school with my classroom still under construction before. But that was in Mansfield. I'm holding on to the favorable comments left by other teachers on the facebook site about their wonderful reception in Abu Dhabi, and how well they've been taken care of. I'm sure my employers will understand what it takes to move so far away and get settled in. I know they won't expect some amazing lesson out of me on the 15th of September, the first day of school. I'm sure of this, but the muscles in my shoulders are twisted into knots anyway.

And then there's the goodbyes. I've said goodbye to friends in Florida, wonderful people that I hope to see again. I visited with my sister and had such a fun time exploring Dallas hot spots. I'm going to miss her so much. We saw family in Beaumont and Lumberton, and look forward to being back next summer to see them again. Today I hugged my dad goodbye. He was here in Pearland to make the trip to Beaumont with us, and now he's headed back to central Texas. That was tough, even though I know we'll skype weekly. Soon we'll drop the dog off at my cousin's house, and that will be hard, too. Last, we'll say goodbye to Mark's family. A year isn't that long, right?

So, feeling the leaving today. I'm not regretting the decision to go. I can't wait for the challenges and discoveries ahead. New experiences make life worthwhile. We'll be different people when we see you all again next year.

Friday, August 20, 2010


So most of my friends and family now know I'm headed to the United Arab Emirates in the very near future to teach. Many of them think I'm crazy to move my family across the world, especially to live in the Middle East, but the ones who really know me understand that I've been headed there my whole life. Finally, a reason to have studied Arabic in college!

There is a crazy part- I am going to another country to teach, but I haven't been told yet what city I'll be living in, nor what grade I'll teach. The indications are Al Ain and kindergarten. I'll find out when I get there! Mark and Abby will join me a few weeks after school starts so I can get settled first, and so they can qualify for dependants' visas.

The preparation has been interesting. We packed up the Florida house, selling or giving away the greatest part of our belongings. It was hard to pack suitcases, requiring me to ask myself about each item: Texas only? or Abu Dhabi only? or can I wear it in both? Abby and I came to Texas with our Texas suitcases, but Mark still has our Abu Dhabi ones to bring in the moving truck. He will be here in Texas in a few days so we can store the belongings we couldn't part with and get more organized to put everything we will take into 9 bags and suitcases.

I've also been doing a document chase, finding things like our marriage certificate and getting a new diploma mailed (my first one is framed and somewhere in Ryan's house, I think). It's all been sent to Washington, DC to be authenticated by the State Department and the UAE embassy. That should result in residency visas for all of us.

The longest process so far has been transferring our music to an mp3 player. Yes, I'm finally joining the mp3 revolution, although I opted for a Sansa Fuze instead of an iPod. Right now, I'm ripping the Cure's Galore album. I decided to start the blog because I'm so bored sitting here watching the progress bars on the ripped music.

Maybe I should be thinking more about what clothes or teaching supplies to bring. However, I'm imagining being over there so far away, feeling homesick. I think "Just Like Heaven" will make me feel better.