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.