Just pick out the China and move to Vermont ….was a phrase I heard the other day on Modern Family.  As usual, my husband and I heard two different things:  he heard there was a wedding planned and I thought the actor was inferring that often in life what we expect doesn’t happen…I must have missed the intent because I was focused on hearing the destination China yet he might end up in Vermont.  After reading that funny blog of the teacher’s time in the UAE, I decided to write mine and will present it in two sections.  I think this is a classic case of expectations  meets reality.  And some of you might really enjoy the story!  So, here is part I.   

   Facebooking is something I want to talk about today.  I consider it an active verb because I remember those potential friends from when I had officially accepted my job in the United Arab Emirates.  I began my facebook account by “friending” teachaway and from there I had access to troll the discussion boards and make friends with other teachers who were in the UAE and those who were considering the position.  It was my first experience in social media because I didn’t have a MySpace account.  My husband was away at work and I would sit in front of the computer in my office room reading the board and chatting in time with new friends.  One friend was even in the immediate Florida area about an hour away.  It was exciting to read the postings and even more so to accept friends from different areas including Brooklyn, Canada, Louisiana, and Michigan.  I became very attached to their stories and looked forward to meeting them.  Since I had sold my car, I didn’t go many places as the money from the car sale would be the money to support me for the first month until the paychecks clicked in.

There was also some apprehension because the first group which left for the UAE one year before had some difficulty with school situations, housing, money, etc.  I remember reading one teacher’s account of a Principal who did not want her there and was very hostile and unsupportive.  It wasn’t until I landed in the UAE that I learned more of the ambiguity with which the foreign teachers were embraced or rather the best way to state this apathy is they were not always embraced by the Administration and the native Emiratis.  It depended on where you were placed.  And facebook was funny in the way that real life doesn’t mirror virtual reality and that the same teachers who were friendly when chatting on the computer wanted no part of face to face reality.  In other words, you were on your own.  There was one particular chat thread that I followed along with many others called the lonely hearts club.  I knew that initially I was going away alone and hoped that my husband would join me.  But we felt it best that he stayed with his job, our home, and our older dog.

So the lonely hearts club thread was about making friends; most of us in this chatroom were over the age of 35 and we were a little bit insecure about moving away so far without our friends or family.  I still remember the woman who started the thread; Jennifer is a very gregarious woman who is still living in the UAE.  I believe in the six years since I followed her on facebook, she went through 4 boyfriends.  I watched her dog for her the time she dated a policeman from Oman.  She fit in very well and we remained friends until in her Canadian voice, she criticized the United States for their what she called paranoia of Muslims.  And I blocked her from my page.  I felt so strongly about it and so patriotically that I wrote about it on my blog. That is the best thing that living overseas brings out in you:  your patriotism and loyalty to your country or it did for me.

I did meet others who went the complete opposite disgusted with the political situation, unemployment, etc and erased the United States by staying overseas.  Some told me that they had no intention of returning anytime soon.  Or as some insinuated until the Administration changes. I found by facebooking that I had much in common with someone called Maria who lived in Louisiana.  Her husband wasn’t going and she was, so we corresponded on what to pack including shoes, etc. and traded war stories of teaching.  Maria was the same woman that I would try to visit in her hotel apartment which was about 20 minutes by bus in a very busy area.  The only thing was she never wanted to leave the apartment unless to go to the mall or to a local watering hall down the way by taxi for foreigners.  I was not part of the three lady group because I didn’t live in the same apartment hotel and we never coordinated our times.  So, I learned that the best bedfellows are sometimes the ones nearest you meaning that you choose your friends based on your location.

At the time, I didn’t understand that getting around was not as easy as in Florida.  The traffic in Abu Dhabi was heavy and not everybody had a car.  I didn’t and I had no intention of getting a car but instead took the local bus for the scenery or a taxi for speed.  The interviewer asked me during my Atlanta interview “Are you prepared to drive a car?” At the time, I felt “Of course.” I had driven a car in New York City during my mid 20s and I felt sure that I could adapt to driving in the Middle East.  However thinking that you have the ability and then being placed in the situation are two very different things.  When I watched the whizzing traffic of the fast lane owned by Emiratis speeding, I could not do it.  So that made me vulnerable as to how to get to work because my first work school was about one hour away in the dessert.  Places for the teachers to ride together tended to be very competitive and cliquish.  Since I choose to live at a hotel location farther from the immediate central area, I had a smaller group to relate with regarding rides.  And despite it all, not everyone was willing to share a ride even for a price.  I didn’t see that coming!  Tomorrow-part 2.