Friday, September 12, 2014

6 Months Ago Today...

I cannot believe we've been living in the UAE for 6 months!!! When I say time flew by, it's an understatement. We've been living day to day, sometimes unaware of what the next day's challenges will bring. The way things operate here are sooooooo unbelievably different than the way things operate in America. Everything is way slower and processes change often...meaning a lot of times what worked for one person (even important things like getting your visa, registering a car, paying a bill) may not work for the next person, depending on who you're talking to and what mood that person is in on any given day. Needless to say, adjusting to our new life in the UAE has not been easy....actually it's been incredibly difficult and frustrating at times (I've cried many, many tears) ....but I'm happy to say we are finally feeling almost fully adjusted and at this point we are actually enjoying our time here! One of the best decisions that we've made thus far is deciding to stay here this summer instead of going back home to America. Although we really miss our families, it allowed us time to really explore this country and relax after a very stressful start-up.

Summer Vacation: We started the summer very chill...we were sleeping in, going to swimming pools, going to the beach, local indoor playgrounds, movies, malls, church....just hanging out as a family. It was interesting with Ramadan going on at the same time. Ramadan is a period in Islam in which Muslims fast from all food and drink during the day, until around 7:00pm at Iftar when they eat. It is actually against the law here for adults to be seen eating and drinking and even if you tried to sneak it, it is considered very disrespectful. People were telling me that we would need to switch our kids sleeping schedules to sleeping all day and being up all night, but that was totally unnecessary. We just had to make sure we ate well before we left the house and carried snacks for the kids in the car (kids can eat in public but all restaurants, food courts, etc. are closed until after Iftar). It was actually a nice time to go out during the day because most places were pretty empty and the malls would have big sales.

My girls: The girls are doing great. It was really important to Goldie and I to make sure that they liked it here and I can honestly say, mission accomplished!  Since they are home-schooled and are at home most of the time, Goldie and I wanted to make sure they had plenty of fun things to do at home. So we made a big effort to make the house child friendly by getting them things like skates, bikes, a trampoline, creating a playroom, a computer, etc..  We also like to get them out of the house as much as possible, although that has slowed down now that their school year has started. We've taken them to the beach, parks (only early in the morning because obviously, it's too hot to go out during the day), indoor playgrounds, a water park, play dates with other kids, the aquarium, and other child friendly places. We wanted the kids to feel like they were living in Disney World... like this is best place on earth, so we went out of our way at first to get out and about with them. Goldie and I aren't socializing with other adults as much because we really wanted to put the kids' adjustment here as our top priority, so usually when we go out it is to a family friendly place. Granted, Ivy and Lyric are the only ones we really had to be concerned about since the other 2 are babies, but Ivy is a naturally curious and adventurous child. She's always been fascinated with meeting new people, going to new places and trying new foods, which motivates Lyric to feel the same way, so we were blessed in that area as well. 

My husband: Goldie has really stepped into his new role as a stay at home/ homeschooling dad. He's taking care of us on the home front, while I'm away at work. I know it's different for him but he's taking it all in and overall likes being home with the girls as opposed to working a 9-5...not to say that being a stay at home dad isn't work because I'm sure it's not easy... but we both know that this is something that God has called us to do and we have both really accepted and have settled into our new roles.  Last school year he joined a group of guys who met 2 or 3 times a week to play basketball. He did that for a couple of months until everyone left for the summer. Now that the new school year has started, he's busy with the girls' classes and getting them adjusted to their new curriculum. But he will be getting back to basketball soon, and I know he wants to get in the gym for weight lifting.  

My Job: We started the school year back on August 24th and this year, like last year, I am split between two KG1 classes. I'm loving my school...the staff is friendly, the environment is relaxed for the most part, it's a newer school, there's plenty of resources, the kids get out at 12:30pm, and  2 days out of the week teachers leave at 2:30pm and the rest of the days we get out at I'm feeling really blessed to be there. That being said, last school year when I first got there I felt like a fish out of water. The pressure of adjusting to the expectations and the new outcomes/standards, combined with trying to form a good work relationship with 2 co-teachers (not to be confused with assistant teachers) who speak a different language, as well as the parents and children who speak a different language, was a lot. I prepared myself as much as I could before I came, but it was still challenging. I'm so glad I got the opportunity to come at the end of last school year so that I could get my feet wet. These days I feel soooooo much better...way more relaxed and confident. 

Pictures of the Family:

Ivy and Lyric did a princess modelling contest when we first moved to Al Ain 

Ivy actually won in her age group! 

Jewel, Lyric, Ivy

Ivy and Lyric love to ice skate...Ivy picked it up quickly

One of the indoor arcades for kids in the malls

Lyric wanted me to try on a bow so we could be twins

April babies...the 16th and 17th 

 Goldie and Summer

Getting my hair done at an African hair salon

Finished product! 

My pretty girls 

I had to use whatever I could to dry their hair before I bought towels in our new house LOL

Jewel stretching on our beautiful Persian rug

Just got their hair braided

This is our nanny/housemaid that we hired over the summer. Hiring a nanny (cook, driver, cleaner, etc) is a common custom here and it's very inexpensive compared to America. 

Cowgirls :-)

 Goldie and his girls 

Shopping at one of the local here is fresher and doesn't contain as many chemicals

Oh nothing, just an OSTRICH in the parking lot! 

This baby right here! She is walking now but it took her 16 loooonnng months!!! We weren't worried because Ivy didn't walk until she was 15 months, Jewel was 13 months, and Lyric was 12 months... their daddy was a late walker too :-)

Enjoying the hot sunny weather before it got too hot to play outside

The Aquarium in Dubai

 We got to take a boat ride over the large tank

The girls loved it! 

Baby butterfly

Ivy bit her finger...of course Daddy's kiss made it better :-)

The baby area of the water park we went to this summer

Ivy and Lyric having fun

We went to Dubai for a few days to celebrate my we are at the Rainforest Cafe

Photo-bombed by my nanny lol

Ivy getting henna

 Lyric getting henna

It was Indian started off orange for the first day but then turned this pretty brown lasted for almost 2 weeks

 The girls

Mommy and Jewel...I wear my hair in twists 90% of the time

Birthday girl

On the boat in Dubai

Goldie and I

The girls opening their gifts from G-Ma and Grandad :-D 

Summy loved her piano :-D 

Overall, we are enjoying our lives in the UAE...we are in a really happy place and I think it will only get better from here. We hope to finish out my 2 year contract and possibly stay an extra year after that. We are very aware that there are a lot of political things going on in the world, but we are not living in fear and we feel God's presence here with us every day.  Right now we feel very safe and protected in this country, it's almost like we're living in a don't feel or hear about the negative aspects of the region at all.  The UAE is a beautiful country. Most of the people are friendly and there is so much to see and do here...we are truly having so much fun! 

Thank you for reading this long update and please continue to keep us in your prayers !!!

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!