Sunday, March 30, 2014

Rain in the Desert! (Long update!)

The past few days have been busy, busy! We moved from the city of Abu Dhabi to another city called Al Ain. I was told since my pre-interview back in August that we would be living in Al Ain because of my family size. I'm glad because Al Ain is beautiful and a lot more laid back than the hustle and bustle of Abu Dhabi. Abu Dhabi was more of a city life and Al Ain is more like suburb life- less high rises more neighborhoods. From what I heard, it's a lot more family friendly with lots of activities for the kids to do.

Right now, we are living in an apartment style hotel called Asfar Resorts. It's A LOT more spacious than the Executive Suites hotel that we were staying at in Abu Dhabi. It has 2 bedrooms (one with a queen bed and one with 2 twin beds), a living/dining room, a kitchen, 2 bathrooms, a laundry room, a pool, a playground and a designated parking spot.

Its been raining here the last couple of days. When it rains here, everyone goes into a state of euphoric/panic. They're excited to see the rain because it hardly rains, but they don't come to school because I guess they consider the rain a type of inclement weather LOL. So my first 2 days of school, it was raining and there were no kids! In reality, the roads were not made to absorb the water so they start to flood very easily. The buildings also leak water (my apartment and school). I've also heard that they "seed" the rain here. Meaning planes fly up into the clouds, they spray chemicals, then it magically starts to rain...a few people have told me that they've actually seen this happen. I guess it's meant to bring some water to this dry desert area.

As I said, I started work! I work at a KG school and I looovvveee it so far (granted, no kids were there lol). It's a school that is entirely Kindergarten (KG as they call it here). There's KG1 (which is comparable to American preschool because the ages are low 3's and high 4's) and there's KG2 (which is more like American pre-K because the ages are high 4's low 5's). I will be teaching KG1, which is cool because my Bachelor's Degree is in Child Development and I've worked with really young kids before for many years. The staff is absolutely wonderful and was very welcoming...I shook lots of hands and I was told that I will need to shake lots of hands everyday because that's considered polite. I'm really blessed to have been placed at a newer school with lots of resources and technology. It also has a nursery for staff children, which I am so, so, so excited about because it means my youngest (maybe 2 youngests, we haven't decided yet) can come to work with me next school year! That is truly a blessing, as it's a rare thing for the schools to have a nursery. That will alleviate a lot of stress off of Goldie, who will be homeschooling Ivy and Lyric while we are here. There is a really big community of homeschoolers here, and actually a lot of dads who homeschool while their wives teach. They also have private schools that we could put them in with British, American, and other curriculums, but the fees are outrageous and they have very long waiting lists. Plus, I really always wanted the girls homeschooled anyway, but we'll see how it goes.

Speaking of Goldie, he celebrated his birthday here on the 23rd. We got him a traditional Arabic honey cake. It was actually really good! It tasted like cinnamon streusel, but was also a little wet with some sort of vanilla pudding-like cream. The girls and I got him a spa package, and he treated himself with something he always wanted to do...jet skiing!


My view from the taxi during the rain 

A ridiculous amount of water...some people were driving on the sidewalk

Goldie's Arabic birthday cake...we got two smaller portions. We didn't want to get a big cake, just in case it didn't taste good
Sneaking a pic of the birthday boy

The girls running around on a sunny day

Having fun

Love how they put these in some of the parking lots (including the mall) as a shield from the hot sun

The drive to Al Ain 

The city of Al Ain is known for it's greenery

Summer loves it here! 

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Stores That Remind Me of Home

When I first got to the malls, it was a pleasant surprise to see different stores that reminded me of home. They have a lot of the same stores we have in America including Build-A-Bear, Claire's, Zara, H&M, Children's Place, Forever 21, Nine West, etc... but seeing the restaurants was the the most comforting feeling, especially since a lot of the restaurants here deliver. Even McDonald's, Subway, Hardee's, and KFC deliver! That is great news for me since I'm living in a hotel with 4 small picky eaters without a car. I'm trying to get them to try some of the local food little by little, but I don't want to overwhelm them.

A few of the American places we've seen:

Monday, March 17, 2014

Beach Day

After spending all day yesterday running around doing paperwork for my job, I was happy to have downtime today. We got up early and went to the mall (a different one this time) to buy 2 prepaid cell phones for Goldie and I, so that we don't continue to spend a lot on cellphone calls. We came here thinking we were going to use the Magic Jack app and make phone calls for free but every time we tried, the reception was TERRIBLE and kept breaking up. Very annoying and disappointing. So we picked up cheap phones for 69 AED a piece ( a little over $18), bought sim cards 40 AED each (a little over $10), and we loaded them with 110 AED (a little over $29).

We left the mall and went to the Corniche Beach/Boardwalk. The Corniche is a road that is about 4 miles long of beach. It is partially man-made because they extended the natural beach to add more sand. It was gorgeous and the water was a beautiful blue color. They had a family beach area that was gated, where you pay a few bucks to get in and enjoy an area for families where kids can play freely in an open space.  The weather was a perfect 78 degrees and the beach was not crowded at all, as most children were still in school. My girls really enjoyed it because it was actually their first time going to a beach. Jewel was hesitant of the sand at first, but she warmed up to it after a while.  We didn't get very deep in the water because we didn't bring swimsuits (we didn't plan to go there, just a spur of the moment idea), but we will be back very soon!

For dinner, the kids had McDonalds (they didn't have honey mustard, only hot mustard), and Goldie and I ate Red Lobster. After the kids went down for bed, I finally started to catch up on my Real Housewives of Atlanta, thanks to Mr. lol.

Pics from our day:

The malls here are HUGE! This picture doesn't do them justice

Love these ramps for strollers in the mall

The girls first arriving at the beach

Jewel refused to touch the sand with her feet at first...

...but she warmed up to it!

Summy loved it

Shaded playground in the family beach area

Beautiful water

Only got in a little

She had a good day :-)

Saturday, March 15, 2014

We Made It!

     Now that I've had a chance to get some sleep, I want to talk about the trip to Abu Dhabi thus far. We left Atlanta and took an American Airlines flight to Chicago this past Wednesday. The flight was pretty cramped and the kids were a bit talkative because of the excitement, but it wasn't too bad. After a 3 hour layover in Chicago, we boarded our international flight, Etihad. It was AMAZING. The service was awesome, the staff was very friendly and helpful. They even gave Ivy and Lyric each their own back pack with goodies and toys to play with. There were movie screens on the backs of the chairs where we could choose movies to watch. They served meals and snacks. They provided pillows, blankets, sleep masks, head phones, and socks. Needless to say, this was a comfortable flight and I actually enjoyed it. The girls slept 10 of the 13 hours and that was a gift from God! They spent 2 1/2 hours watching and re-watching the movie Frozen and the other time eating.
     When we finally arrived at the Abu Dhabi airport, a rep from my employer had a golf cart waiting for us and zipped us over to an eye scan and a passport check, bypassing long lines of people waiting for the same things. I felt a little bit bad about that, but not too bad considering my 4 kids were on an energy level of 10, bouncing and dancing all over the place!!! Then we were picked up by a driver that took us to the Executive Suites Hotel.
      The past couple of days we've been spending at the local Al Wahada mall and sleeping...someone told me before I came that the jet lag is real and they weren't playing. The word exhausted is an understatement to describe how we feel. Between jet lag and the 8 hour time difference, our sleep schedules are completely out of whack. Not to mention, we're trying to get 4 small children on a sleep schedule...not fun.

So that's about it, in a nutshell. Here are a few pics of us over the last few days:

We had 11 suit cases, 9 carry-ons ( 3 of which got lost but are on their way), 2 strollers, and 2 carseats
My mom and the girls right before we left Atlanta
Etihad flight

View from my hotel window

View from our other hotel room (they booked us 2 since our family is large). It rarely rains in Abu Dhabi but it lightly rained on our 2nd day there.
The only mall we've gone to so far
 The girls at the mall the 1st time we went 

2nd time going to the mall earlier today

Loved the mall elevator :-D

We've been catching taxis and having to take 2 every time because they only allow 4 people in a taxi at a time. This is the line of people waiting on a taxi leaving the mall.




Friday, March 14, 2014

Major Catching Up

Wow, time flies. I started my blog at the end of 2012, headed through the first couple of months of 2013, then fell off. The truth is, I had some pretty extraordinary things happen in my life in 2013.  First, I had my baby Summer Joy Hall on April 17, 2013 (the day after her sister Ivy's birthday). Then I decided to quit my job and homeschool my kids. Then, a chance meeting with a lady at a homeschool convention led to Goldie and I deciding to move our family overseas to Abu Dhabi ( I'll explain that in detail later).

Here's a recap/ picture dump of 2013: