How to Find Work in the UAE

Mosque 2

The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi.

Mainly, due to my experience as a teacher with ADEC, I have blogged about working with that organization. However, don’t forget that there are many, many schools in the UAE, and for you teachers on the job hunt, ADEC is far from your only option for employment.

First off, certified primary and secondary teachers have quite an array of opportunities. I’m certainly not going to list every place out there that might be a good fit for you, but I’ll name some of those that come to mind immediately. Emirates National School hires many expatriate teachers and offers a sound employment package. Al Ain English Speaking School is a private school in Al Ain which caters to expat families. Formerly Glenelg Schools, ADNOC Schools recruit expats. Try googling those names and seeing what you come up with.

If you’re interested in higher education, then there are plenty of other opportunities, though they often require degrees in ESOL or the equivalent, or some other type of ESL certification, such as the CELTA. I interviewed with a branch of the Higher College of Technology in Al Ain, and they basically ended up telling me that they were looking for someone with a CELTA or what-have-you. Besides HCT, there’s also the Petroleum Institute in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates University, and any number of other institutions, some of which even have Western pedigrees (take the New York University of Abu Dhabi, for example).

Besides simply googling to find out more about schools, I highly recommend a few websites which helped me find work. I’m in no way affiliated with them, though if they offered me money to promote them, I’d happily consider it!

To get a good feeling for whats out there, you can create a profile and search jobs using Gulf Talent. This site lists job opportunities throughout the Gulf area, not just the UAE, so it’s a great way to get acquainted with what’s available. This is how I got my first contact about working in Abu Dhabi, and the school actually got in touch with me, not the other way around. If you’d rather use an agency, which is what I ended up doing to get placement with ADEC, check out Teach Away. You can register on the website, then get in touch with one of their recruiters. They hire heavily for the UAE, seeking teachers at both private and public (i.e. ADEC) schools. You might try out CRS Education as well. They’re a smaller outfit than TeachAway, and while they tend to hire for China, they have conducted job fairs in Abu Dhabi for two years running, and many local schools were represented there. I’ve been very pleased with the level of personal attention I received from CRS representatives.

I hope this helps you on your quest to see the world and experience teaching in one of the world’s premiere travel destinations. Happy job hunting!

 

An Ending Begins

We have 8 days left in the UAE.

The last week has gone by in a blur as I zipped from place to place after invigilation (which ought instead to be called supervised cheating) at school. But it’s Friday, the weekend is upon us, and I’m ensconced in the Hili Rayhaan hotel, comfortably in a king-sized bed, having spent the morning at a leisurely breakfast and then in the pool. There was even a nap this afternoon. Things are looking up.

Here is what happens at the end of working for ADEC. Unsurprisingly, the resignation procedure is much the same as the arrival procedure, only reversed.

The steps are: wait wait wait wait wait for your resignation (which you submitted in the online system well within the official window of time) to be approved, then wait wait wait wait wait wait some more.

Then with about a month of work left, it’s approved and things start moving quickly.

If you’re me, you print a form that you obtained from someone not your principal (who is supposed to have received said form in his email, but may not be aware of it, or perhaps he was just not at work on the day it was sent). You fill this form out, and then you have to collect about seven signatures from various departments at ADEC headquarters (called “The Zone” around here).

You make a trip to The Zone to get the next couple of signatures, because they’re mostly a formality.

Then you wait a bit, because you’re hung up getting clearance forms (haven’t you heard of those? They’re forms which officially show that you’ve paid your bills and haven’t got any outstanding balance) from the combined power and water company (Al Ain Distribution Company). This requires a visit to one of the AADC places in town. I’d suggest the Al Ain Mall one, or perhaps the Hili Mall one (which is never busy). If you go to the big headquarters near The Zone, you’ll probably wait forever and a half day. Anyway, the process takes a couple of days. You request a final meter reading and clearance certificate, AADC sends you a text message as acknowledgement, and then, if things go correctly, you get a second message to say you’re all set. From prior experience, I can tell you if that message doesn’t come after two days, go visit an AADC office and ask for an update. This all means getting the AADC clearance takes a couple days. Then you’ll need an Etisalat (phone and internet) clearance form, too, and that company forces you to visit the large, crowded, slow office in Sanaiya to get a clearance letter, although it bears noting that you can get service cancelled at several other locations (such as Bawadi Mall). Again, the clearance from takes a couple of days or more. If you’re me, you make no less than eight trips to Etisalat to get this done, and you still have to go collect the form another time.

After you have your AADC clearance form, you can get your apartment inspected. We pay 180 AED to the apartment manager because one of our screens has a dime-sized hole in it (and it might indeed be our fault, so no problem), then he prints a letter declaring that you’re all set, but in iffier English than that. You take this letter down to The Zone and collect another signature.

By now, you’ve dropped off and then collected, a couple days later, your dependents’ passports at the Infinity Services window in ADEC so they can type up visa cancellation forms for you (saving a few bucks), and you take these passports a few buildings over to immigration and have them cancel the visas. You need to show your own original passport, Emirates ID, and work visa there. The guy in a kandora behind the counter glances at your stuff, then stamps the dependents’ pink visas with red ink which seems to read “cancelled” in Arabic. He also collects their Emirates IDs. A couple moments later a text message arrives from the Ministry of the Interior notifying you of the cancelations. This means your cleared for the next step: having your own visa cancelled. This means I turn in my Emirates ID (bye, little card!) and passport for a day.

The next day, I collect my passport, and the guys older guy sitting in his chair takes a box of passports with paperwork attached to them from a locked cabinet. He looks at my picture carefully, at me, back at the picture, and is smiling and the other guy is laughing.  Then they tell me how somebody else who looked kind of like me picked it up earlier in the day. “Same name,” they said, but I’d be floored if there’s a second Shon Rand running around Al Ain. Regardless, my passport is in my hand, and I can collect another signature on my all-important form. So I do.

And I proceed to housing, where I need another signature. That’s fairly easy. He directs me to hand over another copy of my AADC clearance, and then take copies to the Abu Dhabi Commercial Properties building downtown to get my housing deposit back. I notice it’s almost 3 o’clock, and it’s Thursday, and figure I won’t find anyone there if I go now, so I decide to wait until Sunday for that.

As it turns out, I need to make another trip to ADEC anyway, because I need that Etisalat clearance form which I haven’t got yet in order to submit my super-duper important form to the last people–payroll, who will calculate up my End of Service (EOS) payment.

Thus, over the period of about 9 days, an ending has begun. There is very little left to be done, and hopefully it will all be knocked out on Sunday. There has been a bit of stress, like there was in the beginning, but it’s been tempered by knowledge that things move slowly here, especially when you hope they’ll go fast. We have only 8 days left in the UAE. Wow.

“Lose Your Shoe?” or “What’s Really Good to Know?”

“Don’t cross your leg and aim your shoe at a guy you’re sitting in a waiting room with,” said the ADEC guy from the stage. “You might as well take it off and hit him across the face with it.”

Thus went the orientation. Oh, that and avoid talking about the politically debated UAE or maybe Iran-owned islands which the Persian Gulf gets its name from–that’s right, because those islands should belong to the UAE, it’s known as the Arabian Gulf in these parts. And don’t use books featuring pigs.

There was more, but the gist of that orientation was that culture is important, and newcomers should be sensitive and respectful. Great advice. If you’re considering a move to the UAE, I can offer a bit of additional insight, though.

What they didn’t cover at that orientation, and what might have been nice to know, is the way the less formal interpersonal, inter-office relationships and politics tend to work.

The best advice I got about that was from a fellow teacher who’d been here longer than I. “Always take the tea,” she said. It’s wise to sit down and have a drink of tea, or coffee, or whatever, to build relationships. “You may think you’ve got too much to do, but people won’t understand that.” She was right. Not least because they, that is the Arabic Medium Teachers, teach a maximum of 20 contact hours per week, when English Medium Teachers do 30. That rather pronounced difference in hours would have been nice to know about ahead of time, because then I could understand why the AMTs were always upbeat and relaxing in the office with the ubiquitous tea or coffee, but I had to wait until I started working to gather that tidbit.

Another bit of knowledge that I have gleaned from experience is that every time you see someone for the first time that day, you’re expected to shake hands. And maybe when you see them the second time, and possibly the third. Besides that, you should also stand whenever you shake hands with your colleagues. My take on shaking hands has always been the first time you meet someone, you rise, shake hands, be kind of formal about things, and then afterward, well, if you’re in the middle of something and someone comes by and reaches for your hand, no problem, shake it, but standing up–not necessary. If my time here, working with guys from Jordan, Palestine, Egypt, and so on is any indicator, in the Arab world the expectation is that you show respect for each other by standing whenever you shake hands–first time, etc., ad infinitum. It’s not a hard custom to adjust to, but it’s something I’d love to have known about ahead of time, before I probably made some guys wonder why I was being disrespectful toward them.

Maybe taking the tea was enough to counterbalance that. There is hope.

Let’s return to shoes. Since I’ve dwelled in the UAE, I’ve never inadvertently aimed the sole of my shoe at anyone here. I’ve been really conscious to cross my legs in a discreet fashion. I feel somewhat proud of that.

Now, as I write, there’s a shoe on the ledge just outside my living room window. It came flying upward an hour ago, struck the window gently, and came to a rest behind the wrought iron bars that protect the lower pane of glass from…from, well, maybe soaring shoes? There’s no reason for the bars, as far as I can tell. But bars aside, the flying flip flop strikes me as funny. No matter how much the sole of the shoe is considered horrible and dirty, and hitting someone with a shoe is deemed an astonishing insult (remember the time George W. ducked a shoe tossed at him in Iraq?), the kids in these parts sure take joy in stealing each other’s footwear. I assume one of the many noisy children playing outdoors in the yard stole this one from another child and tossed it in the air as a joke. So far nobody’s shown up to ring the doorbell, so we’ll see what happens with that. Looks like a cheapie, so it might be there until I get tired of looking at it and shove it off the ledge.

In class, my 10th graders run off with each other’s leather sandals. Someone inevitably takes his feet out of his shoes, only to have one of his classmates swipe one and stick it out of sight, under a bag, or, once in a while, in the trash can (there’s also, in my experience, a near-pathological aversion to getting things out of the waste basket). This brings me to another point about teaching ’round here: it would have been nice to know that the maturity of the young people may not be quite to the level I’d been accustomed to in the States.

What’s really good to keep in mind when you’re exploring your international options is that the culture wherever you go will not be the same as home. Compare it and contrast it for a while when you move, because that’s normal, but try to adapt so that you’re comfortable being with people and they’re comfortable with you around. Let the idea that your culture is better, even when you’re right and it is actually better, fall by the wayside–what you’re doing abroad is finding out how others live, and garnering amazing experiences. Temper your expectations about a great teaching and/or living environment with the reality that all places have issues, and you’ll encounter plenty of them. If you have equipped yourself by doing some research, poring over blogs, etc., you’ll have an easier time adjusting. Hopefully my reflections will help you have an easier transition (or, alternatively, provide you a little amusement).

Authentication Revisited

Part of the deal with working here in the UAE was getting a whole slew of documents authenticated.  The authentication process is annoying and overcomplicated, but it is necessary.  So I bit the bullet and did it.

If you go through a company like Teach Away, they’ll help walk you through the process.  It’s not really all that difficult, in truth, just annoying.

Teach Away recommends ProEx Courier Service to deliver and pickup documents from the Embassy in DC.  I used them and had no issues at all; they were fast and efficient.

As far as the individual documents go that you’ll need authenticated, that depends on where you’re from and whether you’re married, have children, etc.  We needed our marriage certificate done, my highest diploma, and a couple other things.  I covered all that before, so I won’t go into it in detail.  The irritating part is doing it at three levels, which is where ProEx enters the scene–they’ll deliver documents from the Department of State in DC to the UAE Embassy there, saving you a long trip and a few days in between.

Do the authentication early so it’ll be stress-free, and then just wait.

Once arriving in the UAE, you have to get those authenticated documents translated into Arabic.  Bargain, or ask around for the best rate.  The place that ADEC uses (Infinity Services) actually increases their fee for ADEC teachers.  If you arrive in Abu Dhabi and take documents to them, be sure not to tell them you’re with ADEC.  If you do, they’ll say, “Special price!”  Yeah, special, alright.  We have “sucker” written all over us.  It shouldn’t cost more than 60 AED for documents to be interpreted, so be aware.  There are plenty of “typing offices” that will interpret for the price I mentioned.

When you get your documents interpreted in the UAE, also have your driver’s license done.  If you’ve got any special endorsements, such as motorcycle, be sure to note that and ask that they include that in the translation, or else you won’t get that endorsement on your UAE license (which is good for a full 10 years, by the way).

I’m leaving on a jet plane!

My bags are not packed, but I sure am ready to go!

This time tomorrow my friend Desi will be driving me to Columbus to take a shuttle to Hartsfield-Jackson. At 5.50pm, I should be heading to Chicago, and from there to Abu Dhabi.

My temporary bedroom looks like a war zone, with clothes, toiletries, papers, and electronics all over the floor and my air mattress. I’m running around town like an Energizer bunny, saying good-byes, changing addresses, canceling insurances and suspending subscriptions.

Saying good-bye to Bruno has been the hardest one so far.

Over the course of the last several days, I’ve had my last (for awhile) Blizzard
Mellow Mushroom pizza
Bottle of ShockTop
Trip to Walmart

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E-Tickets and Communication Struggles

Perhaps we’ve had a small taste of what it’s going to be like dealing with the Arab world.  The other day, I (Shon) finally got an itinerary e-mailed to me from the travel agency that ADEC deals with.  It sounded good–flying American Airlines to Chicago, and then Etihad (AKA the Cadillac of airlines) to Abu Dhabi.  I was asked to confirm it.  So I did, and I asked the agent a question about my wife’s documentation (she’s now an American, so I wanted to make sure we could update her information without any hassles).  I got no response regarding that, but I did get an updated itinerary–flying from Atlanta, again, but then connecting to a Royal Jordanian air flight from Chicago, instead, and with a second layover in Amman.  Okay, right?  Sure, but they added Jenia to the itinerary.  Which would be great, except that traveling on her American passport will simplify things for her, and, more importantly, her passport hasn’t arrived yet.

We’ve been planning on having her fly over later (which is ADEC’s usual procedure).  So to sort out Jenia’s travel arrangements, at least two e-mails from me to the agent end up either misunderstood or ignored.  “ADEC has changed the airlines, so if you want to travel American Air and Etihad, you’ll have to contact them,” I was told.  Well, okay, but that was not really the concern here.  The crux is simple: although she’d love to travel with me, it’ll be better for my wife to follow me.  Eventually, after a couple of days and one final attempt to communicate this, the travel agent got the idea through his head, and had me confirm the new itinerary today, this time with the wife removed from it.  I’m delighted to say I actually have my e-ticket and my visa in my e-mail now.

The outcome of all this is that now we feel a little bad, because we had the chance to travel together, which we hadn’t expected and hadn’t planned for, but we rejected it.  Necessity, of course, lead to the rejection.  But if ADEC or Teach Away or someone had told us that the chances were good that we could leave together, we could have planned for that contingency, and there wouldn’t have been any problem.  It would have been easy to expedite passport processing, for example, and the bits of business Jenia’s planning on taking care of could have been handled already.

So that’s the way it is now.  It’s been a little frustrating, but we determined to just roll with it, and relax, bearing advice from folks with experience in the UAE in mind.

Unclaimed Baggage (and Huntsville)

Last weekend we headed across the big water, into the wild west, the tremendous neighboring state of Alabama.  When I say “the big water,” I’m referring to the Chattahoochee which stands between us, and it’s kind of wide.  There are some bad things about Alabama–such as 8% sales tax and central time, which always confuses Jenia much more than it should, but in general, it’s very much like Georgia.  Northeastern Alabama is hilly and quite pretty.  Nearing the end of our 5 hour journey from Cuthbert to Scottsboro, home of our destination, Unclaimed Baggage, we stopped at a little park overlooking the Tennessee River and snapped a few photos.

The sprawling Tennessee River.

Jenia gazes out at the Tennessee River valley.

From there, it didn’t take too long to cross the marshes and find Scottsboro.  It was about 1 o’clock when we arrived, and the parking lot was crammed full of automobiles from all over.  There were license plates from several different states.  The place is really a shopping destination.  We spent about four hours inside, and didn’t take any pictures while in there, although some of the oddities hung on the walls were probably photo worthy (there was a huge model airplane, Danish wooden shoes, a stuffed goose, some Russian instrument, and other things of that ilk; they even have a Hoggle puppet from the movie The Labyrinthon display in the lobby).  For the most part, though, it’s kind of like a large upscale second-hand store, and that, truly, isn’t particularly memorable.

UB had a sale on Amazon Kindles, so we picked up one ($69 for a 3G in like-new condition with a case–not bad), and gathered a few other things.  The prevailing wisdom is, by the way, to grab anything you’re even thinking about purchasing and carrying it around until you’re certain.  That item probably won’t be there when you come back for it. Despite knowing this, Jenia didn’t grab a bottle of DKNY perfume she later decided she wanted.  When we went back for it, it was already gone.

Is UB worth a trip to Scottsboro?  Well, maybe.  If you’re looking for good buys on electronics, then you might find something, like we did.  But then again, you might not.  We are in the market for a used Apple laptop, and what they had wasn’t priced exceptionally well at all.  In fact, they were kind of high.  Their iPads were only fair, in terms of pricing.  There were some good prices on used Windows laptops.  If you’re in the market for a used smart phone, you might find a good deal.  They had an array of iPhone 4s (not 4S, mind you) on sale for $300-350, which seems very reasonable.  They’re not unlocked, however, which kept us from buying one.  Used baggage itself ran the gamut from downright expensive (even if the bags themselves bore names like London Fog) to reasonable.  I picked up semi-hard duffle with wheels for $26.

One downside to UB is that it closes kind of early.  We left in search of food around 5 o’clock.  We found a cool Indian place called the Bombay Grill next to McDonald’s.  It’s only been open since Father’s Day. The restaurant wasn’t busy at all, and as a result, the Indian couple who run the place lavished attention upon us.  They were thrilled when they found out that we know a little about Indian food.  We were given free stuff–which is always fun, and makes the dining experience that much better.

I bought the spicy/salty Kashmira drink, and the owner gave us a Marinda for free.

A little after 6, we swung back by UB to snap some photos–and the place was closed up as tight as a drum.  The parking lot was deserted.  Everything else in the vicinity, including a generously sized Goodwill, closed at 6, too.

Closed at 6pm, the parking lot was empty when we drove back through town.

Not a car left in the parking lot, and not much after 6 o’clock. Count on getting your shopping done relatively early if you’re going here.

Since Huntsville is close to Scottsboro, we hopped on the 4-lane and headed that way.  We spied a rangy coyote along the way.  A bit of Pricelining found us a hotel room for $60 right next to the US Space and Rocket Center.  On Saturday, we spent several hours there.  Who knew the history of rocketry would be interesting?  Besides the museum indoors and rocket park outside, there’s a Saturn 5 moon-landing rocket on display in its own dedicated building.  We learned a bunch.  One of the volunteers in the Saturn 5 building is a retiree who used to work with Werner von Braun, the scientist who was behind the German V2 rockets and eventually the moon rocket.  A fellow visitor asked him about the Saturn 5 engine testing that took place in a quarry nearby.  “Windows broke in downtown Huntsville,” he said.  “There were lawsuits.” Asked if they could hear the engines being fired in Birmingham, 2 hours away, he nodded and said, “They knew.”

Some of the rockets in Rocket Park, and a mock moon lander, complete with crater.

I know that the Space and Rocket Center doesn’t have much to do with going to the UAE, but after we left there, we made a stop by the Apple store in Huntsville, and I bought a new iPhone 4S.  It’s unlocked, so it should work easily in the UAE.  One more thing to do checked off the list.

Thursday Post: The Progress List (and a photo!)

When I look around, with all three dogs still in the yard, both cars and the bike’s insurance bills on the table, pictures still on the walls, and clothes still in the closets, it is hard to believe we’ve made any progress. But we have. Here’s proof.

Necessary things purchased:
1. New router to take with us to set up VPN. Anyone wants our 1-year-old wireless Belkin, by the way?

2. A Kindle Wi-Fi and 3G (for a total of $69 with the case! Looks new, feels new. Yay for Unclaimed Baggage Store Shon will write about one day). I was tempted to buy two, but in all truth, one is enough. Now you can give us Amazon giftcards for holidays!

3. An iPhone for Shon – the first smartphone in the house. And yes, a phone with GPS really is a necessity in the UAE, due to their peculiar address system. Mine will have to wait until September, I think.

4. A suitcase for Shon. Once again, thanks, Unclaimed Baggage!

5. A new lens. Ok, a nicer one than truly necessary, but between my amazing win, accumulated rewards points from Regions, and the unused vacation time $$, it only cost me $40.

Things accomplished:

6. All of my clothes have gone through preliminary sorting.

7. No-foreign-transaction-fee cards are in our wallets.

8. All holiday-related decorations packed and moved to Bowman.

9. Most of the books packed and moved to Bowman.

10. 4 (!) small tables moved to Bowman. Mind you, all of these “packed and moved” things were moved in the Jaguar in one sitting. Yes, I am that good at packing!

11. I have successfully left the College and am now working from home only. Shon’s last actual working day is tomorrow, but he will have to miss it, because

My Hogwarts Letter

12. I passed my naturalization interview on Tuesday, and will leave for Atlanta before 5am tomorrow to be sworn in as an American citizen.

I say, we’ve done pretty well, all things considered.

And here’s a bonus shortened list of things we still need to purchase/do:
1. Subscribe to VPN
2. Buy a second laptop (I have to have one here to work on, and Shon will need one there)
3. Buy a phone for me
4. Sell both cars
5. Finish moving
6. Drive to Maine for the family reunion
7. Buy a suitcase for me
8. Get a US passport.

FAQ About Flying and Stuff

Lots of folks ask what we’re doing with our stuff. When flying, it’s impractical to take much with us, so we’re giving some things away, yard saling other stuff, and storing other things.

As for flying, what can we take with us? After all, that little Nike backpack won’t hold that much.

No irony because of the Union Jack is intended.


Well, that’s easily quantified. We can take two pieces of checked luggage on Etihad, and they can weigh no more than 50 lbs each. Dimensionally, those pieces of luggage can measure no more than a total of 138cm. Here’s the link to their website: Etihad Luggage Policies. And if we go over those limitations? Well, we pay a fee, and it can be quite costly.

So what will you carry in two bags? Well, remember, we can have two carry-ons, so that expands the possibilities a bit. The only things I really want to take with me are clothes anyway. Besides that, we’ll be carrying electronics, since they’re cheaper to purchase here. That’s pretty much it.

Speaking of those bags, we’re making a trip to the famous Unclaimed Baggage store in northern Alabama on Friday to see if we can acquire some good luggage at a good price. Maybe we’ll luck into some other stuff, too. Seems like a future post, doesn’t it?