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Saturday, May 7, 2011

I'm Ready to Exit the ME

Please watch this and see if you see any bigger issues at hand.

How ironic that one girl says she wants to be a bone doctor because her mother has bone problems. Could it possibly be that the mother and many others covered head to toe might be lacking vitamin D from not being allowed to see the sun, nor have the sun touch their skin?

Enough. Enough. Enough.

My hope for the people of this region is that they begin to identify and solve the root of the problems, which can be read in a fantastic article by Thomas Friedman for the New York Times.

Curing a common problem that could be prevented is not the solution to that girl's biggest problems.


Until Next Time,
WW

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Oregon Trail






Well, my patience and a well-timed follow up email to the program director paid off. We'll be heading out on The Oregon Trail the first week of June. We are super excited to see such beautiful nature and seasons.



We'll still be far away from our families, but they'll just have to visit! My dad has been to Oregon and loved it, so that's a plus. In one week's time we'll have a lot to do before moving out there: renew my driver's license, buy a car of some sort (this might be a possibility), and move our storage items to a U-Haul. After all that, we'll drive out to Oregon with the U-haul, new car, and our two cats.



In more exciting news, I was granted early leave from Qatar so that we can settle in Oregon before my start date. We'll be leaving Qatar (forever) on June 1st, 2011. We've got just about 49 more days!


Until Next Time,

WW







Thursday, April 7, 2011

Patience




At first, I was afraid to apply for such an amazing intensive program like program X. I had seen their faculty listed as presenters many times at TESOL conferences. The location of X program is pretty much heaven on Earth. It is in the US, but not very close to our families. Why am I being so secretive about program X? I don't want to have to prepare a rejection speech for each person (from friend to complete random co-workers) who asks weeks from now, "Hey, did you get that job with program X?"




The process has been long. I've been watching the job advertisement websites since January, about the time I handed in my resignation. Actually, I'm always looking at job advertisments just to see what else is out there and which programs are expanding and therefore need more instructors.




After a few months of looking, I started to notice things. For example, program A hires each semester. 'Why?' I wondered. Are they really expanding as the job advertisement states? Going home is not a move like going abroad. This job I'm looking for needs to sustain our future family. It needs to support our future home mortgage. And if I find the program is not expanding, but rather running off good instructors for whatever reason, then I have just moved home for a dead-end job. That's what's so tricky about this. We're both looking for a good fit: the program hiring and me.




You also become learly of university Human Resource website information that looks a little different than the job advertisement website. How did I become learly? I embarrassingly managed to apply to a job that was not even available anymore. In my own defense I need to clarify that the job on the HR site did have dates that had already expired, and the job advertisement on the TESOL organization website did not state exactly when the job would start. Furthermore, many large programs simply copy and paste old job openings and from what I can gather - simply do not edit them for future start dates. I had long admired program X from afar, but never thought they would consider me. There are so many other applicants with so much more experience. I've got a good amount of international experience, but when it comes to working in the US I've got just a bit. In fact, I have had just two years of teaching at an academic intensive program while in graduate school, and then just two semesters between Korea and Qatar as US academic intensive program experience. Therefore, I was not too incredibly surprised when program X finally rejected my full-time instructor application. There was no invitation to interivew and no reason given. After speaking with some colleagues I decided to email and ask what I could do to make my CV more competitive. Boy, am I glad that I did! One administrator took the the time to relay that the other applicants simply had 1. more professional development experience in presenting at conferences (I've only done one at TESOL in 2010), and that 2. others had a developing area of professional expertise (I'm all over the board - technology, writing, etc.). The best part about her reply was this: "we strongly encourage you to apply for a full-time adjunct position"




While I was happy to get solid feedback for the rejection, I wasn't sure about applying for adjunct. I didn't know what that meant, "adjunct". And I assumed the worse. Did it mean minimum wage, and no benefits? I found out that the adjunct position at program X is one that can lead to a full-time position after some semesters or a few years. I also found out that the adjunct instructors are given full-time hours with benefits. Whew! Not knowing this cruicial information is hard. The second most difficult part about job searching is the waiting. Here's the breakdown of the time I've spent applying for jobs:



    • January 11th, 2011 - applied for full-time instructor position at program X

    • January 14th, 2011 - applied for full-time instructor position at program Z, on their university HR website (later I discovered the univ. HR department simply removed the job advertisement- that was frustrating)

    • January 2011 - I emailed program X's cooridinator to let her know that my school was on mid-academic year break and therefore some of my references might be unavailable

    • February 10th, 2011 - rejected for full-time instructor position at program X

    • February 17th, 2011 - applied for adjunct instructor position at program X

    • March 15th, 2011 - Skype interview for adjunct instructor position (starting June 20th, 2011) at program X

    • March 24th, 2011 - Followed up with program X's interviewer and was told program X would be contacting my references, but to follow up again as program X was soon to start their spring term

    • March, 2011 - Program Z advertised an opening again, but for the first week of April start date (this was just too early)

    • March 29th, 2011 - I emailed program X's reference checker to state that my school was on Spring Break and therefore some of my references might be unavailable

    • April 6th, 2011 - I received notice from university academic intensive program Y (near program X, and therefore next to "heaven on Earth") would like me to interview

    • April 7th, 2011 - I emailed program X's reference checker the contact information for all my references, hoping to speed up the process (I need to give notice to leave non-teaching days early if I get the summer start date!)



    So, after nearly 3 months of stalking this job at program X I sure as heck hope that I get it. If not, there's also program Y. And if neither want me, there's teaching hours at my hometown university's program where I did my MA. Needless to say, this whole process from January to now is teaching me a lot about patience.



    Until next time, WW



    Saturday, April 2, 2011

    Stupid Things Expats Say When You Decide to Go Home


    Most expats complain at one point or another about living abroad. It is just a fact of the lifestyle. Nothing is exactly as it was back home. Some things are better - salary, healthcare benefits, vacations, etc.

    However, we all complain - lack of personal space, lack of freedom, foods we cannot find, beverages we cannot legally drink, call to prayers interrupting sleep after 4AM, missing friends and family, culture clashing because of different (strange) expectations and communication styles, etc.

    We decided to move back home for two basic reasons: my husband would like the opportunity to seek a graduate degree, and I would like to start our family of non-furbabies in the US. We also miss our freedom. I am a runner and I have only ran alone once here. It was not relaxing mainly because of traffic, cultural expectations that demand women be chaperoned by a male family member and fully clothed. My elbows, kneecaps and shoulders were all too round and sexy for the drivers and passerbys to handle. I wore my baseball cap pulled down low and kept my sunglasses on despite the sun setting. I was annoyed, but safe. Here they don't mess around with punishing criminals and that made me feel safe....but I was still incredibly annoyed and vulnerable. I miss my freedom!


    Anyway, this post is not about what we miss and why we are going home, but about the reactions we've had from others once they find out we're leaving the sandbox.


    For starters, I kept our decision a secret for quite some time before I had to give my 6 months of notice at work. I did not want my employer to feel like I was happily screaming from the rooftops "We're outta here!" to everyone. However, I did tell a few close friends because I felt badly misleading them into thinking that we would be around again next year.


    Once I told my employer I felt a huge sense of relief. Then I had to deal with the rumor mill at work. I remembered a friend who had left before also feeling annoyed at others' reactions to her leaving. I have been annoyed mainly because people assume things and they make judgements about my life without having been in it at all over the past 18 months.


    Here's the stupidest reaction from someone who heard from another that I had turned in my resignation:


    I was sitting in a common area at work and he approached me, kneeled down next to my chair and said with a lowered voice and cheshire cat's smile, "I just wanted to congratulate you on your resignation." I calmly replyed, "Oh, thanks." Even though I have not spent any social time whatsoever with this person, he continued with, "Hey, let's get together some time and we can talk about it." I know my face was probably saying, 'what the hell for?' but I calmly said, "Well, we're busy checking things off our list, so I don't know when that would be. However, if you're going to X's dinner on Friday, then we could talk about it there." He said he was busy. I can only guess that he wanted to hear some sad, dramatic, story about us hating it here and running home. He most likely wanted first hand knowledge of our private lives to spread around. (First hand knowledge in this part of othe world is rare, and prized.)

    What he did was 1. approach me as if we were friends, 2. assume that there were some terrible news about why are leaving. Wrong. Wrong.


    A few others made stupid comments like:


    I just don't understand why you're going home when the US economy is so bad.

    [Guess what? The world economy is bad. And hey - remember we are in the ESL/EFL field. And if you didn't know this before, that means that rich foreigners send their children to the US to study. If I were a car salesperson or a realestate agent, then I'd rethink leaving this stable job in this place that we don't really like to live.]


    So you're quitting? Are you tired of the heat?


    [It isn't quitting if you're giving notice (of 6 months!) and it ain't just the heat! There is a list of about a hundred things that are calling us back to the US.]


    What will you do?


    [Gee, I think I'll go to med school. Why are people so stupid. We've all got graduate degrees in what we're doing here. Why would I change my career just because I was heading home? Again, people send their kids to the US to learn English in intensive programs. And in all fairness the people who have asked this are either not from the US or they got their MA from online, so they do not know about the intensive programs.]


    Hey, so I heard you were leaving. What will you do? Do you have a job yet? Where will you go? Are you worried? Why are you leaving? I've heard others are leaving and you know I just wonder. You know, you can out grow a place .... So, did you not like it here? . . . . [5 minutes later] . . . Wow! This is the longest conversation we've had.


    [Yes, this is the first time we've had a conversation over 10 seconds. You're asking a lot of personal questions that you need to ask yourself. For example, why are you still here? What are you hiding from in the Gulf? And, who are you again?]

    Do you have a job yet?


    [Most asked this in January. I found myself thinking: What do you think? No, I don't and I think it is interesting that you are so concerned about my personal life when you never were before. Oh, wait. You are asking this to make yourself feel better about being trapped in this sandbox by not taking a risk and competing for a job back home. FYI: some US university intensive English programs do not hire teaching staff until 1 week before classes start, which might be late August for a fall semester job. No, I'm not worried, but thanks for sharing that you are worried for me.]

    We'd probably move back, but we don't want to pay income taxes.

    [Well, more power to ya! I would love to pay US taxes knowing that it builds and sustains our great nation. I love that our taxes will go towards roads, schools and other things that make life enjoyable instead of the government throwing money at projects in sandbox where people do not appreciate what it given to them.]


    Will you guys live in the same place?


    [I know we got married after I moved here, but I'm not done being married to my sweet M! I mean, even if we have to work as Wal-Mart greeters or Starbuck's as baristas to live in the same town and same apartment, we will. I think this question was asked by that particular person because he and his wife could not find jobs in the same place.]


    Basically, some expats have been abroad so long that the thought of having to live in their home countries brings up a lot of fears. People don't want to pay for housing, pay taxes, pay for healthcare (Americans), or have to do their freaking job. In my opinion, there are a lot of people here that get too comfortable with a lifestyle that they really do not deserve. We've never hired a housemaid nor paid a man to wash our car. Yes, we've saved a lot of money here because of free housing and our tax-free double income. However, we have not lived above our American means. We've even managed to save as if we were paying utilities and rent back home each month. In addition, we're putting most of our savings towards our future home down payment and college education funds for our future children. The stereotypical expat lifestyle of wining and dining, hiring help, and doing the minimum at work (in my field of teaching anyhow), is just not who we are.

    The other expats who are aghast that we're leaving the security and high salaries of the Arabian Gulf are those who have a lot more to lose if they went back home. We know people who are hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt, who live well above their means (even in the Gulf), who haven't filed US taxes in years, who seem to buy whatever they want (why not buy a year membership to a hotel beach club for $5,000USD or more/year?), and who seem to simply not follow a budget regardless of their salary. We only have my $19,000 student loan as debt, which we pay every month. We know we will have to buy another vehicle once we get home, but we will not be buying a brand new luxury car. Also, we will continue spending based on our budget. Basically, money and buying crap isn't who we are.

    We're going home. And we're excited about that. There's no salicious story. There's no drama. We aren't terrified of having to pay for housing or taxes. We'll do it because the trade off for us is well worth it. I'll get to run around our neighborhood in shorts and a sleeveless shirt, M will get to BBQ pork bacon on a grill in our backyard while we sip margaritas, and we'll eventually have children who will be closer to their grandparents and our culture.



    Until Next Time,

    WW





    Sunday, March 6, 2011

    The Big Homeward Bound List

    We're making our way through our "get outta here!" list and it feels darn good! Here's what we've been busying doing lately:


    1. Selling the car and squeezing as much out of the transportation allowance as possible in car rental
    2. organizing our stuff: sell, give away, ship home, pack and take on the plane home
    3. job applications
    4. scourering online for various departure date airfare
    5. researching the best (and cheapest) way to immigrate our two cats to the US
    6. teaching


    Selling the car was a pain the in ass that we ended early - thank goodness! As soon as we posted it on Qatar Living we got two phone calls despite my error in listing M's mobile number two different ways! Unfortunately, those early callers were just trying to low ball us by offering well below what we had listed the car. I figure there are some locals that make a killing off buying cars and flipping them for a profit in a week's time. After a few people called, said they would meet us at X location to view the vehicle, and then did not show up - M took the next customer that showed up. We finally sold the car less than a week after posting it to a nice Indian woman. Her husband and friend came to view the car, but I actually sold the car to the wife. We felt good about selling it to that couple because they really needed a car for the wife. They had been paying a driver 1,000 QR each week to drive her to and from work in Al Khor! I could see that she was very excited to get the car. We only dropped the price by 2,000 QR and more importantly, we do not have to worry about selling it at the last minute.



    Kia Soul



    Suzuki Celerio and Alto

    Since we sold our car, we had to find a rental for our remaining months here. I have never driven a car quite like the one we have now. For just two days we drove what we thought was the world's tiniest car - the Kia Soul. We were wrong. In retrospect, I loved that Soul. We are now driving a Suzuki Celerio, soon to be replaced by an even smaller gutless Suzuki Alto. These Suzukis are so tiny and powerless that even though they are automatics we drive them as if they were manuals. I feel badly for formerly cursing the drivers of these tiny cars because I thought the drivers were just taking their time on the mean streets of Doha. I now know that the slowpoking was not due to the driver, but because of the car's non-existent engine. The Suzukis are both only 1450QR a month, and my transportation allowance is just 1500QR a month, so we are technically making money by renting a car run by gerbils.



    We've got quite a bit of stuff, but not nearly as much as others will have to deal with when they leave Qatar. We have truly saved money while in Qatar, rather than spent it. The only things we will ship or pack are:

    • books
    • shoes

    • clothes
    • photos
    • souvenirs
    • Bose iPod docking station

    • Pampered Chef crockpot

    • Down feather comforter

    • two personal laptop computers

    • cameras

    • iPods
    • Imation media center

    • cat toys (Yes, I am taking the cat tunnel whether my husband likes it or not!)


    We've got nearly a whole house in storage at home, so the sell/give away list is quite large. Here are the things we will sell or give away:



    • blender

    • microwave (so big the crockpot could fit in it!)

    • faux George Forman grill

    • iron and ironing board

    • DVD player

    • clothes drying rack (no clothes dryer here - so happy to be going home!)

    • two sets of twin sheets

    • two sets of queen sheets

    • four pillows

    • throw pillow covers

    • curtains

    • dishes (not a full 8-person set because some were broken in shipment to Qatar)

    • pots and pans

    • forks, knives, spoons

    • place mats for 6 (2 sets)
    • trash cans (1 kitchen, 2 bathroom)
    • shower curtain, rug, toilet bowl cleaner (2 sets)

    • two folding picnic chairs
    • potted plants

    My job search has been a roller coaster of ups and downs. As always, I need to relax! While looking for jobs, I need to remember that the "fit" is most important. I need to find where I fit best, not just which job I think I want. I have been checking my favorite job posting sites nearly every day, but some institutions will not post openings until they confirm fall enrollment which might not be until late August. My little heart must be patient, which is something it does not like to be. In addition to waiting to pounce as soon as the job advertisement goes up, some openings are not really open to the public. Therefore, I am letting specific colleagues know that I am job hunting and what M and I are looking for in a place to settle for awhile.

    Of course, if we are both unemployed for more than a few months after we get home there's always Plan B - get a part-time job teaching where I got my MA. I am not worried about M. He can go back to school for his MS, or do anything really because he excels at whatever he puts his mind to doing. My super husband is a jack of trades, very likeable, and a helluva worker. (In fact, his incredible work ethic was one of the top three things that attracted me to him!)

    Sending the cats home to the US has been a nightmare of finding information. There are some good pet relocation services that operate out of Doha, Qatar. However, our hometown/region in the US is smack dab in the middle of nowhere. Therefore, we received ridiculous quotes like these:

    1. Service can get the cats to Houston, Texas, but that's it . . . for about $4000USD. This was strange because they claim to get pets from "A to B."

    2. Service can fly cats from Doha to New Jersey and then to Chicago. Service would drive the cats to hometown - hours away for double the price estimated above. Nice, so what you're saying is you'll rip us off and totally piss our cats off!

    3. Service will only do the paper work and give us a website (see #2) to rip us off.

    What we have decided to do is this:

    M will take his one week of his 24 remaining days of vacation that his work refuses to cash out. M will fly on the cheapest airfare we can find to Houston, Texas. He will take all the luggage he can handle so we save on shipping later. He will meet the cats that will have flown direct from Doha to Houston via the "world's only 5-star airline" Qatar Airways. The three of them will road trip an estimated 12 hours to our hometown and collapse. M will leave the cats with my parents to acclimate to live in America while he drives back to Houston and flies back to Doha. That make me tired just thinking about it, but oddly enough it is the best plan for where we are going, and what my employer will give us for shipping allowance upon departure. Plus, M gets to eat Mexican food for a whole week! Sadly, they will leave me all alone in this hell hole. In fact, this upcoming Operation Fly Cats Home ordeal will keep M and I apart for the first time sine October 1st, 2009. Yikes!

    During all of this I have been teaching a very good group of young Arab men. We are entering week four of fourteen, and I must say it has been a good first few weeks. M is also having some relief at work teaching courses that he has already prepared for, and thus, does not need to spend as much time making lessons.

    Life is good, but it is going to get even better!

    Until Next Time,
    WW


    Image sources:
    http://www.indianautoblog.com/
    http://www.mexicogarage.com/
    http://www.car-blogger.co.uk/

    Sunday, February 20, 2011

    "You shouldn't wear sandals in case we have to run."


    Bahrain Protesters in Pearl Square


    Egyptian Protesters in Tahrir Square



    "You shouldn't wear sandals in case we have to run."

    That's what my husband said the other day to me on our way to the mall to eat lunch and watch a movie. With all the protesting and revolutions going on in the region, that is one example of the things we have talked about lately. While I think democracy is good, I do not know if this part of the world is truly ready for it. This region has been run by the elite wasta bearing minority (royals and military) for so long that it will take time and re-education of all before they can put a legitimate democratic election into place. These big, important changes will not happen over night. Wasta, or connections, will continue to be the way things get done around here for a long time to come.

    We're here until July unless something forces us out - like a revolution in Qatar. We already planned to leave Qatar at the end of this academic year, so I won't be sad if we have to leave sooner. However, I really do not think the people of Qatar will revolt. The people here have a lot more to lose than others in the region. I've blogged before about all the handouts, welfare, and subsidies that the Qatari nationals get. The expats or foreign workers with residency (some with generations of only residency although having been born and lived here all their lives) could revolt. However, if the residents (not citizens) of non-western nations revolt, they'll just be deported to their homelands for which they hold passports: India, Sri Lanka, Oman, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Sudan, Somalia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, etc. And then more laborers will come to replace them. Everyone is replaceable especially when conditions in their home countries are far worse. As one co-worker put it, "You vote with your feet."
    My husband, being the responsible man that he is, even suggested that we have a "bug out bag" in case we need to jump on a plane or go to our embassy. What would we take? We've decided that we'd take our passports, financial papers, laptops, and wedding album proofs. We haven't put together a bag just yet though. We'd also grab our two cats.

    Besides having to plan for the worst case scenario, the thing that irritates me the most is all the rumors and lack of information because it spreads nothing but fear. I had to stop reading one person's Facebook status updates and comments because of the rumors and lack of valid information the person was sharing. This person stated that protests would happen here in Qatar according to the Arab speaking world, but this person did not state when or where the several thousand person protest would happen. What good does that do to broadcast half the information about something that has not yet been verified? It only made me want to stay inside, and ignore all other posts from the person, rather than sympathize with the cause. I think some people get off on being the bearer of bad news, or withholding powerful information from others. It doesn't help matters that there is no real news source here about national issues except for the lovely online source called The Penninsula. That website has mainly short articles about nice diplomatic meet-and-greets and family fun festivals (that may or may not have already passed.) Therefore, I check CNN International every morning and a few times throughout the day as well.
    My dad posted this on my Facebook wall:

    Bahrain riots are close to Qatar? Be safe . . .

    A dear friend posted this on my Facebook wall as well:

    The sands are shifting around you . . . democracy is in the water. What do you think is going to happen?

    God bless them both for actually knowing where Qatar (and Bahrain) are. When I told my dad that I wanted to study abroad in Granada, Spain, he said, "Didn't we bomb the hell out of them?" He was thinking of Grenada. If anything, being over here makes all our families and friends more aware of international issues.

    I'm still wearing sandals. We live in the desert and it is hot! We'll just be sending our hard earned Qatari riyals home on a more frequent basis in case we have to leave quickly. It would really stink being here for the money and in the end not getting our nest egg safely into our US bank accounts.


    Until Next Time,
    WW

    Saturday, February 12, 2011

    Taming the Lions


    I start my final semester teaching tomorrow. For the past three semesters I've taught women (lionesses), or girls rather. At first, I wasn't too happy about being sent over to the men. Who loves change? I have come to realize that there could be some advantages to taming the lions though:
    • Boys won't disect and judge my non-name brand fashion choices.
    • Boys will care more about impressing me (an older auntie/sister figure) than the girls did.
    • Boys will not be so shy and will be eager to compete with each other, rather than with me as the girls did.
    • Boys will not be so vendictive like girls.
    • Boys will not be obsessed with checking their drag queen make up as the girls were.

    Yes, these potential advantages are from stereotypes and anecdotal stories from other teachers, but it gives me hope that my last semester teaching here might possibly be a good one. After a lot of positive self talk I'm actually excited about tomorrow's first class. After all, this will be my first real exchange with Gulf Arab males outside of that one flat tire incident! One thing that I'll have to get used to is memorizing names with faces rather than handbags. (Many of us teachers started matching handbags to female student names if they wore full niqabs with their hijabs.)


    image credit: http://www.sandiegoozoo.org/

    Saturday, February 5, 2011

    The Big Move Home


    I lived in the middle of this great city, Seoul of 10 million people, from January 2007-December 2008.

    And then I moved back home to a small midwestern American city/town that has a population of about 200,000 people which includes the surrounding farming communities. Needless to say, I was making plans to leave again after just three months!

    Here I am on the last official day of my mid-academic year break reading blogs about those who have taught in South Korea. What is it about living in a foreign country and the pull it has on your heart? When I lived in South Korea I down right hated it on occasion. Some days were difficult and lonely. Many unique and interesting things became annoying (i.e. conversations with complete strangers: "Hi! Hi! Hi! Do you speak Engrishee?! Why you not married? Where do you live?"). However, I think I really miss that time of little responsibility, complete selfishness, daydreaming about a future yet to be decided, and the foreign adventure of living in an amazing city like Seoul.

    Here's another blog that I like to read about someone who has recently moved back to her small hometown in Canada with her husband. She's facing challenges with her new marriage, cultural differences, and living in her hometown as someone who has lived abroad. I totally get some of the things she's discussing. I understand what it is like to want to be somewhere else, only to feel yourself being pulled back to the place you just left - or lived before. I often fantasize about living in Seoul again.

    I think everyone who has ever lived somewhere so different from where they grew up will forever feel that pull and tug to go back.

    How do we expats and former expats soothe the urge to hop on an international flight to take a job in another country? We get busy with goals: build a home, make a family, further our education, and strengthen relationships with those who matter most. And if all that doesn't make you want to make your homeland your home, save up for international trips and live near an international airport to make travel easier. We can also search for work in our home countries that might have futures abroad.

    Right now, I am looking for work at an American university that has foreign branch campuses, or who want to at least recruit internationl students. This could lead to me going abroad for a week to recruit students or it might mean my whole family (husband and two cats!) go abroad for a semester or more as American university employees.

    until next time,
    WW

    Photo credits:
    http://thebesttraveldestinations.com/seoul-korea/
    http://www.destination360.com/north-america/us/missouri/springfield

    Monday, January 17, 2011

    Update!

    Here I am on another "non-teaching" day before I get to officially be on vacation, and I'm looking back at all we've done this fall.

    Two exciting things have happened:

    1. We decided to train for a marathon. IN THE DESERT! We'll be running the Dubai Standard Chartered Marathon this Friday, January 21st, 2011. I am excited, but also terrified of the pain I'll surely be in afterwards (and during!). While this will be my fifth marathon, it feels like the worst training I've been through: running in sweltering heat, being surrounded by all men staring at me in my running clothes, not being able to run alone (by personal choice, not law), and massive IT band and knee pain for a good portion of this past fall.

    2. We decided to move home! This is perhaps even more exciting than running my fifth marathon! I cannot wait to to do the follow things in the United States:
    • buy dill pickles
    • buy delicious deli lunch meats
    • buy delicious whole wheat breads
    • buy yummy bagels
    • buy Dr. Pepper for my addict husband
    • work at an American university
    • run whenever, wherever I want - even alone if I choose!
    • run a race at Disney World with my sweetie husband
    • attempt a triathlon (first, must take swim lessons and buy a bike!)
    • enjoy four seasons
    • happily wear socks and close-toed shoes again, and all other cold weather clothes
    • be able to see friends and family more easily
    • go to the movies with an audience that knows talking on cell phones is rude
    • go to public places and know that a child unattended will be quickly sought out by a guardian, rather than left to the involuntary supervision of strangers
    • drive regularly in a car that will not be run off the road because some jerk is in a hurry and flashing his headlights while tailgating way too closely
    • have police that actually enforce the laws on a regular basis rather than only have responsibilities as traffic cops
    • celebrate all American holidays without offending someone by proudly saying to all "Merry Christmas!" rather than having to see it referred to as "the Magic Season" in the stores
    • wear shorts and t-shirts (and possibly sleeveless shirts! - gasp!) without offending others
    • watch our kitties experience life in the US - watching nature through house windows
    • relax without censoring my self - words like "girlfriend":and "boyfriend" and "dating" will become part of my vocabulary again
    • enjoy being able to leave my country for work or vacation without an exit permit
    • enjoy getting to know an American city with my husband (we moved to Qatar almost immediately after meeting and marrying)
    • getting a decent radio station while driving in the car
    • knowing that if it gets ridiculously hot in the summer that I can and will wear a bikini to a public or private pool and not worry about it offending everyone or drawing an insane amount of judging leers from random people
    • enjoying being home

    Wednesday, December 29, 2010

    So that was Christmas

    Christmas has come and gone. I find myself here looking forward to the next 5 weeks or so of "non-teaching" days. Christmas was hard this year and last year. Internet can only do so much to bring people together. We decorated our little tree a few days after Thanksgiving, bought and exchanged gifts, and ate a big Christmas breakfast. It was still warm outside. There was no snow on the ground. We were without family and friends from home. Next year will be different.