The Visa & Flight Email

I am booked for a flight to Abu Dhabi tomorrow…and I won’t be on it.  Or, at least, I think I won’t.

We received the email we should have received last year:

Congratulations, you are in Group 1, scheduled to leave on or about July 19th…

I am booked for a flight to Chicago O’Hare and then overnight to Abu Dhabi.  I am scheduled to stay at the Sofitel Abu Dhabi Corniche – a stellar looking accommodation for a lowly teacher from New York.  Despite all this, I am taking a gamble and holding out for Qatar.

I can hear you shouting, “Go to Abu Dhabi, you Ninny!” and I’m up at nearly 2 am thinking the same thing…except:

  1. I’d be traveling alone.  I would need to go alone, apply for sponsorship for my family and then bring them over anywhere from 6 weeks to 3 months down the line.
  2. I would also be heading there blind – no clue as to where we will live, which school I would be placed in to work  or who I’d be working with.
  3. I would know absolutely no one (aside from the facebook groups who are all super excited about going and I’m NOT).  I don’t like going into this already jaded!

So here I am, taking a gamble.  I don’t have a flight or visa information for my job offer in Qatar, but I’m holding out for it.  It has got to be on it’s way.  I’m checking my email more often than ever before…every 3-5 minutes if you can believe it.

I’m hoping I’ll wake up and my inbox will have the visa and flight info for my whole family to travel to Qatar at the beginning of August…less than 2 weeks away!

 

Top News Story Today: Arab Countries Cut Ties to Qatar

Each morning, I start my day with NPR news on the car radio.  Today, as if on a loop, the headlines all began with “Qatar.”  Today, as I am driving down to Richmond, VA to visit the Secretary of the Commonwealth of Virginia to finalize more papers for working abroad, I learn that there is “tension brewing from the countries surrounding Qatar” – the country I am headed for.  Today, June 5, 2017, the same day all my authenticated paperwork arrives from the Qatar Consulate of New York…I am wondering if I will be needing all these papers at all….

My weekend started out great, thanks to Kennesha at American Teacher in Qatar.  She gave me a lot of encouraging advice and tips on life as a teacher in Qatar.  What stands out most?  Don’t listen to what they say in the news. I have a great appreciation for the free press, however, true Journalism exposes truths; money and greed twist it.  

Virginia Capitol
Monday morning, I hit the road nice and early for a nearly 2 hour drive to Richmond. I enjoy 5 minutes of Garrison Keillor’s The Writer’s Almanac. His soft voice and soothing poems usually prepare me for a day of English Teaching. After he bids farewell with, “Be well, do good work, and keep in touch,” I listen on to the news headlines. I feel like I can trust NPR as being a reliable, fair media source.  My ears perk at the mention of “Qatar” and then my thoughts begin to race as I hear the words over and over: “Several countries cut diplomatic ties with Qatar… ” What does this mean?

It’s too early to tell, but am I looking at yet another dream deferred?

“It seemed like reaching for the moon” – Barbara Johns

Sleepless in the US

Remember not being able to fall asleep on Christmas Eve?  Or the day before a trip to Six Flags? Or the night before the science fair?

That was me at last night.  The night before a Skype interview with a school in Qatar. Despite interviewing for Abu Dhabi last week in New York, despite receiving an offer letter from them (again), and despite receiving another invitation to interview with a school in S. Korea, I was super excited about interviewing for Qatar.

If you’re looking for more information about moving abroad and teaching in Qatar, you should check out my fellow teacher/blogger American Teacher Abroad.  Kennesha has been inspiring me from the start and to have her rooting for me in this endeavor has been a great support!

For me, my fascination with Qatar’s school system is their initiative to offer the leading international education experience. They are very forward-thinking in their curriculum design and offer an International Baccalaureate program.  I believe my teaching style and philosophy is most in line with the IB Program.

At 6 am (2 pm in Qatar) I settled into our building’s conference room and prepared to interview.  Via Skype, I met two lovely ladies, one a school director and the other a school principal.  In addition to asking me questions, they described their school’s vision and learning environment.  Some of their questions included:

  • What would I see walking into your classroom?
  • What has been your experience teaching students with limited English language skills?
  • How do you keep children in this age group (middle school) engaged?
  • What assessments do you give and how do you use the data?

It was very easy to speak with my interviewers.  They seemed truly interested in pursuing my application until we got the question:

  • Are you married? Single? Do you have any dependents?

I feel like at that point, they took a step back and said

“It will be a few weeks before we make any decisions…”

 

In the meantime, I will sign the Abu Dhabi offer letter and email it back to my recruiter.  I will check my email every few minutes.  I will message my fellow interviewees and see how they are getting along with the process of moving abroad.  I will wait….sleepless in the US.

Check out some of these blogs by teachers currently teaching in the UAE…I haven’t found too many by teachers in Qatar (most blogs are several years old) so feel free to share!

Amber in the UAE:

http://ivyinthesand.blogspot.com/2016_11_01_archive.html

Jen in the UAE:

http://myjourneytouae.blogspot.com/

I Pass

I recently passed up two job opportunities.  Here I am writing a blog all about how much I want to teach abroad and I’ve fudged-up two jobs!

The first was with a job in Jakarta.  I had all my paperwork in, final interview scheduled and a great recruiter rooting for me.  The phone started to ring at the appointed time and I hesitated.

Ring 1

The pay is very low, but there is a very low cost of living as well.  No money would be left over to put into savings.

Ring 2

This job would not help me find housing

Ring 3

This job does not provide flights for my family

Ring 4

The school is located far from the ocean

Ring 5

There is no healthcare provided for my family

I never picked up the phone.  I apologized to the recruiter later and said that I never should have agreed to interview.  This was not the right move for me and my family.

A month later, I was asked to interview with a school in Saudi Arabia.  The call came in at 5 am.  Again, I let it ring and ring and ring.  I didn’t pick up.  The school left a voicemail saying they would reschedule in another two weeks.   Are they nuts?  I wouldn’t give me a second chance.  When the call came in two weeks later, I picked up the phone.  I interviewed very briefly with a department head and Principal.  Their questions included:

How soon can you move?

What will your husband do when he comes here?

Are you ready to take on a new culture and way of life?

Ok, so these are completely valid questions, but not a single question about my teaching? Education? Educational philosophy?  I Googled the school to make sure it is a reputable place and it looks really amazing.  There are pictures of a sprawling, modern campus and high-tech classrooms. What were they looking for in me?

The recruiter asks me to submit paperwork to begin the process of applying for a visa.  As I stared at pages of paperwork, medical forms, authentication procedures…I hit a wall.

I did all of this.  It took so much time and effort.  And money.  And it all went to waste.

I replied that I would turn the papers in within a few days, but I put it off another week. Then two weeks, three weeks, a month goes by and I can’t bring myself to even print the applications.  The last email from the recruiter went unanswered.

What’s wrong with me?  Wasn’t moving abroad the point of this past year?  Yes, it has been a year since that first interview over the phone for Abu Dhabi.  I remember how confident I was as I moved through that process; phone interview, in-person interview, paperwork and more paperwork.  Running between Mineola and Midtown, Brookville to Jamaica, Queens.

I actually don’t think I have the energy to do it all again.  At least, not right now.  The process of moving abroad is not easy.  But, It’s hiring season again.  Do I keep going for it or give myself a year to mend my broken heart?  I love my new school here in Virginia.  It’s everything a teaching position should be and more.

And then I get an invitation to interview for ADEC in New York on November 14th.  Here we go again!

Mosaic District, North Virginia

How is She Holding Up?

Upon receiving an offer to teach abroad:

1-Congratulations!  Welcome to the emotional rollercoaster trumped only by being married and having children!

2-Please remember that the Offer Letter that you are asked to sign, date and initial is NOT a contract.  Lesson learned.

3-DO NOT QUIT YOUR JOB.  Lesson learned through the sad stories of teachers hired for January 2016, only to be left in the dark until April 2016 that their departure was pushed to August 2016.  Then, in some cases, the offers were cancelled.  DO NOT QUIT YOUR JOB until you have a plane ticket.  Even then, try to take a leave of absence and not resign.

4-DO NOT sell everything!  I am very fortunate to have found out I am not going to be moving to the UAE before selling my beloved bed and plush couch.  Two pieces of furniture getting a lot of use since having my offer rescinded.

It has been 2 weeks since we got the sudden letter of rejection.  Words of encouragement to “keep trying!” and “don’t give up!” have been pouring in until about a day ago.  Then everyone returned to their regular lives.  Except us.

I don’t mean to sound defeatist…I want to give you a positive proverb or two on keeping the faith, but it’s not looking too bright.  My Teach Away Rep seems to have dropped me.  She doesn’t respond to my emails so I doubt she is being proactive in finding me a new position.  Me, on the other hand, I’ve been applying, emailing, scanning, networking, searching, following-up, phone interviewing, and skyping every hour of every day (and sometimes in my sleep – some of these recruiters are located around the world!)

But nothing is coming up.  I think I’ve put in all the time I can to this.  This weekend I took up binge watching “Lost” because that’s exactly how I feel.

I’ve got 3 timelines to consider:

June 28th – School ends.  I need to spend some time packing up my room. Or not.

June 30th – We are moving out of our townhouse.  Yep, we are going to be one of those homeless Abu Dhabi Hopefuls 2016.  We gave our landlords notice back in May and now they’ve gone and sold the house!  Good for them, bad for us.  I have no idea where we are moving to!

September 8th – School Starts up again here in NYC.  In 9 weeks we need to find a new place to live and decide if we even want to stay in New York. We could move to Virginia/DC area or move to North Carolina.  We have family in each of these areas willing to help us transition into a new life.  Or do we decide to stay in New York?  What would Suze Orman say?

So, while I’m not giving up, I’m not feeling so NYC Teacher Abroad anymore.  I’m feeling like NYC-Teacher-Stays-Her-A$$-In-The-US.  At least for one more year.

5 – Make peace with your decision and keep going for it.  

I’m going to be ok!

The Process of Moving Abroad

Imagine you’ve signed a contract to teach abroad.  You’ve quit your job, politely, but smiling on the inside. You’ve sold your house and most of your belongings.  You have 5 pieces of luggage packed and ready to go.  January passes and you

wait.

February passes and you

wait.

March and April pass and you’re still

waiting.

It’s now 4 months past the time you were told you would start.

And finally you are told to

wait

4 more months!

This is what has happened to over 100 teachers in April.  They were hired for a January 2016 start date and were prepared to go sometime between January and February, but their ticket never came!  I have been following several Facebook groups and Google+ pages dedicated to teachers heading to Abu Dhabi in 2016.  A large group had been posting about their endless waiting.  No information was offered through their recruiters so they were totally in the dark, waiting. They had quit their jobs, sold their homes, ended their leases and sold most of their belongings, but continued waiting.  With no income and no home of their own, life became strained.  Finally, notices were sent out that their contracts would be re-issued for August start dates instead of the original contract for January.  8 months of waiting!  My heart aches for these teachers and their families!  Am I ready for such a huge leap of faith?

I need to be prepared for anything.  This is not the first time a group has been delayed.  I’ve read a number of blogs as “research” into the moving process and many have stated that there is no rhyme or reason to receiving your departure ticket.  The best advice I’ve heard is, “hold on to your current job until you have your ticket!”  Even then, consider taking a leave of absence instead of resigning.

All of my documents were submitted to the UAE at the end of March, so I am just waiting for a visa to be issued.  It can take a minimum of 2 months but probably much longer. I don’t expect to hear anything before mid-July.  A teacher posted today that his recruiter sent an email saying his departure would most likely be delayed till October!  He was hired around the same time I was and expected to depart in August, just like me!  What will I do between now and October if we sell our stuff and move out of our townhouse?

I will remain optimistic; sell as much stuff as possible, pack our bags and be ready for when the “Golden Ticket” arrives!

*  *  *

Saturday we decided to have an impromptu yard sale.  I’ve been posting and selling things online, but I thought a yard sale would really get things going.  We put up a few little signs around our block and put as much as we could out in the yard.  The kids played with all their toys and, luckily, neither put up a fight if someone bought a toy.

Backyard Sale

The sun was bright and cheery.  We sat on our lawn chairs,then

switched to our dining chairs and then back over to the patio set.  After 3 hours, we made $10.

Things picked up after 3 pm…not so much in the money department but in the friendly neighbors passing by.

“Where are you moving to?”

“Abu Dhabi”

“Get Out!”

“Yep, that’s the plan!”

“That is amazing!”

“It should be!”

“Wow what an adventure!”

“Yes!”

Since announcing our move, we’ve had one family cook us a BBQ, another invited our kids to the park across the street to play, and yet another invited us over to check out the ocean view from their high-rise!  Where were all these people these past 2 years?  All I wanted was a community, a village.  For our kids to enjoy company and not have to drive 45 minutes away to enjoy a meal with someone.  Suddenly, all of that exists here!  I guess it has been easier for me to open up to people now that I know we are leaving.  Because I know our time together is fleeting?  Because we are likely never to see each other again?  Whatever it is, I’m appreciating my neighborhood now more than ever before!

More walks on the beach

By the end of the weekend, we made a significant dent in our living room, dining room and garage.  There’s still a lot more to go, but I’m confident there’s someone out there that will take it!
Last crazy thing…we lost EVERYTHING 3.5 years ago during Sandy.  Where did all this STUFF come from????

One man’s junk…

 
Featured Image: On the Sand Dunes of Rockaway Beach 

If We Were Having Coffee…

If we were having coffee,  there would be two unfinished cups, an empty dessert plate and a box of tissues the barrista was kind enough to bring over.

We’d pick a non-Starbucks spot to meet up because there’s so many new coffee shops along Northern Blvd; Caffe Beane, perhaps?  I’ll be a minute or two late because I misplaced my phone, couldn’t find parking and walked into the shop next door by mistake. It’s what happens when you are granted the chance to leave the house and two toddlers for a few hours.

“Toffee Nut Cafe Misto” I order and you immediately order the same because you always end up wanting what I ordered anyway.  “One peanut buttercup pie and two spoons, please.” I add.  Otherwise, we’ll end up standing on line again later.

I’d ask you how everything is going and of course everything is going great…except for that one thing that Little Ollie did and “Why is she going through the terrible threes?” The same with my little Lady Z, who is no longer Baby Z because a “Three-nager” is a real thing.

We’d talk about Mr. Kramer, who passed just last Thursday.  Kramer spent 51 years in our school building as a reading specialist and then as the sweet teacher attendance coordinator up until this past December.  Why did he wait so long to retire?  We’ll never know.  The last time I saw him, he was wearing a graduation cap and gown and hugging us all good-bye.  

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you about Carla, who is my age, and will be entering Hospice this week. Somewhere down the line, I’m certain we are distant cousins, but we became friends through Maria’s wedding, kids birthday parties, and family BBQs. Her two teens attend our school.  Her littlest will probably be in my class some day. Carla always stops into my classroom to say hi when she is up for parent-teacher conferences or to take her kids on a trip. But not this year.  We thought she beat breast cancer years ago.  But it came back, spread, and now it’s taking her away.

I’d tell you about how I sobbed uncontrollably for an hour when she posted her good-bye on Facebook.  She wrote,

This will be my final post…I’ve decided o share my last thoughts by letting you all know that I’ve cared about each of you in some way over the years and that’s why we are still “FB friends.”  I only have 79 friends and half are related family or in-laws.  A quarter are the friends that are more family to me than anyone else. They have been with me and in my children’s lives since the beginning.  The last quarter – about 20 people or so are the “friends” I’ve accumulated these past years and have watched over the years.  You’ve all meant something to me through the years, which is why I’m still following you.

This goes out to all of you…it was never about “woe is me” and I wish it were them instead of me…it’s always been that I wish I were you and not me.

Please don’t be sad for me – I’ve had a wonderful life.  Please be sad for my husband, my children, my mother and each other.  Life is too short – make the most memories you can with those you love.

Thank you for my memories FB – I love you all…

And of course my eyes will tear up again – I’ve decided to read straight from her post as her words are more true than anything I can say.  I cry so often since becoming a mom. I’m sure that’s why I feel strongly for her – her being a mom of 3 young ones. They will want their mother but she wants to be there for them even more.

When I went to see Carla on Saturday, I walked into her living room and looked around twice.  I saw her Mom, her daughter, her cousin and someone lying down.  I had to look again and I realize she was the person lying down.  I couldn’t even recognize my friend!  Her sweet Mother was right beside her, trying to feed her and Little Allie was playing nearby. Three generations of women.  My sadness turned to her Mom, watching over her baby, feeding her, willing her to live.  I awkwardly shove a box of cookies in their direction and take Carla’s hand.  I realize that there’s no use in talking about the situation.  Instead we talk about her kids and school.  I promise to make sure they do well…and then I realize I might not be there much longer.

“I’m moving to Abu Dhabi!”

“I heard! That’s so awesome!” 

“But I’ll make sure my teacher buddies look after them while I’m gone!”

“But I need you.”

“I’ll be back.”

“No, Nancy.  You’ve gotta go and live.  That’s what I’m saying.  You’ve gotta live.”

If we were having coffee, my cup would still be about 1/4 full.  I never finish my cups of coffee.  I blame my kids, who are usually interrupting me or the phone in my classroom that never stops ringing.  Today, it’s these damn tears falling…Damn you, Cancer.

If we were having coffee, as we have done so many times before, we’d find a way to stifle these tears and think of all that we have to be grateful for.  Our kids, our husbands, our families and our friends.  And the peanut buttercup pie we’ve just shared!

What a crappy coffee-date I’ve been!  But that’s what’s going on today.  Grandma is 104 and still ticking away! Next time we need to meet up for stiff drinks. A drink to your Mom, my Grandpa and to Mr. Kramer, may they rest in peace. Let’s drink to this precious life, long or short. And to all the Moms who have lost their babies.

Hugs and kisses to the kids and although they drive us nuts at times, My God-aren’t they amazing?

Update 4/8/16 – Today we lost a beautiful soul.  Your heart, your smile, your laughter and your dreams live on through your children and every life you have touched.  We need not look far to find you.  May we all take your simple advice to live.

Rest in peace my friend.  

Love,

Nancy

#ifwewerehavingcoffee

#weekendcoffeeshare