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?

Frequently Asked Questions

This post has been coming for quite awhile.  I am certain it’s the first one out of several.  Some of these are, eh…, surprising.  Some are legitimate.

1. So where is it you are going?

The United Arab Emirates, also known as the UAE. Capital: Abu Dhabi.  Population: 5,314,317. Official language: Arabic.  Religion: Islam.

2. Saudi Arabia??? (bulging eyes optional)

No.  Even though both countries have the word “arab” in their names, they are not the same. The UAE and Saudi Arabia do share a border and a religion, but are quite different in many ways.

3. Where is it?

In the Middle East, bordering the Gulf of Oman and the Persian Gulf, between Oman and Saudi Arabia.
Ever heard of Dubai? That’s the largest city in the country.

4. Isn’t it dangerous?

No more than the United States, provided you are not an idiot or don’t act like one.  In fact, most of the US-turned-UAE teachers we talked to said they have not felt as safe in the States as they do in the Emirates.

5. Will you (Jenia) have to wear a whatever it is called that their women have to wear?  You know, being covered head to toe?

Let’s start with the terminology.

Abaya:

No, I don’t have to wear any of these things.  However, I will certainly invest into a couple of abayas.  Expat women rave about them.

6. Will you have Internet access/phone/electricity?

    What do you think?

Thursday’s List: Important Documents

Teach Away tells us that we’re to take our authenticated documents (the cause of much hair-pulling, sleep-losing stress for many folks) with us when we head to the Emirates in August.  They also tell us to take original documents, because the originals will be needed, which makes me wonder why we go through all the hassle of authenticating anything, really.  But I’m sure there’s a reason, even if it’s just making money for the various agencies the documents must go through.  In my case, the list of documents to take looks like this:

1) Authenticated teaching certificate

2) Authenticated Master’s degree

3) Authenticated original marriage certificate

4) Original teaching certificate

5) Original Master’s degree

6) Original marriage certificate

7) Letter from Board of Education stating that I did, in fact, work for the school I claim to have worked for

Besides these documents, I am to take a bunch of passport sized photos which will be used for a variety of things in the UAE.

8) At least eight passport sized photos

So I’ll put all these things in a heavy cardboard envelope and carry them with me.  But let’s stop and talk about item number 5 for a moment.  The Master’s degree.  What a minor pain.  See, it’s hanging on my office wall. Hanging there in a nice frame, I might add, professionally matted, quite costly.  It looks nice.  And I really don’t want to take the backing off and dismantle the frame in order to take it out.

Now I have a funny story about my other degree–my BA from Emmanuel College.  It’s also framed and hanging on the wall, and looks very nice, too.  It says, among other things, that I “satisfactorily completed the course of study….Summa Cum Laude.”  The funny part is that EC actually had a typo in a number of diplomas.  Mine was one of them.  Shortly after receiving it, a buddy of mine named Mike asked me if I found the problem with it.  I scanned it, seeing nothing.  “Really?” He said. “You’re an English major.  I figured you’d spot it right away.”  He pointed to the word “satisfactorily.”  Only then did I notice that the word was missing a letter.  According to my degree, and his, and probably everyone else’s, I’d “satifactorily completed” my course work.  He was on the way to get the registrar to reprint his degree without any spelling mistakes.  I joined him.  The registrar was and is a wonderful, sweet woman, and she was very apologetic, and murmured something about how many of these had been printed that way.  Right after Mike had his reprinted, she stuck a piece of classy looking paper in the printer, ran off a new diploma with the spelling fixed, affixed a couple of snazzy golden stickers to it, and handed it to me.  “Do you want to keep the old one?” She said.  I grinned.  “Sure,” I said.  I’ve still got the old one, and I get a grin out of it whenever I open up the filing cabinet and come across it.  Now, this story is made funnier when I tell you that I graduated Magna Cum Laude, with a 3.9 average.  I missed Summa by a hair.  It wasn’t until I returned home that I noticed my new corrected diploma indicated a higher degree of honor than I actually obtained.  More laughing.  Maybe Mike was a better student than I was, and he’d graduated Summa, and the lady forgot to change that when she printed mine.  I don’t know.  Anyway, “I’m not going to go back and have her fix this,” I told my mom. “Who’s going to worry about it?”  To this day, hardly anyone has even commented that it says Summa Cum Laude in the first place.  Everything is spelled properly, anyway.

So bearing in mind my EC experience with the ease of printing a new diploma, I figured I’d contact Piedmont College and ask whether I could obtain a replacement diploma.  I got a friendly girl named Megan when I called the registrar’s office yesterday.

“I’m moving to the middle east to work, and they need me to take my original diploma,” I explained.

“Did you lose yours, or was it destroyed somehow?” She asked.

“Actually, heh, it’s hanging on my office wall in a frame that cost a hundred and some-odd dollars,” I told her.  “I really don’t want to take it out, so I thought I might just get another one, if that’s even possible.”  I know it’s possible, and I know, based on my EC experience, that it takes about two minutes.  Actually, considering that my PC diploma is rather plain next to the EC one (no stickers!), it might take even less time than that.  But I don’t know how willing colleges are to do this simple task for folks who didn’t have theirs printed with a mistake, or perhaps burned in a house fire, or eaten by somebody doing bath salts.

“Let me go talk to the registrar and see what we can do,” she said, obligingly.  In a moment she was back on the line.  “We can print you a new one.  What you’ll have to do is send a letter explaining why you need it, with your signature.  And,” she paused, then continued apologetically, “Include a check for a hundred dollars.”

I laughed and she did, too.

“That’s about what I paid for the framing,” I said.

“I know,” she replied.

“Let me talk to the wife and we’ll figure out what to do,” I told her. “Thanks for your help.”

$100?  Really?  Guess we can’t have people running around with too many duplicate copies of their degrees, now, can we?  Maybe I’d be willing to cough up $50 or so, just to avoid the hassle of tearing the framed one out and having to re-frame it later.  But $100? Heck, a hundred bucks isn’t that much compared to tuition (not by a long shot!).  But it seems like rather a lot for a piece of paper that doesn’t even have the snazzy golden seals that my EC diploma has.

Oh, well.  The wife and I agree: let’s see if we can get the one on the wall out of the frame.

Teach Away–Far Away!

Since you’re reading this blog, chances are good that you’re interested in teaching abroad.  Either that or you find yourself strangely but irresistibly drawn to my imbecilic writing (this is Shon writing, by the way) and can’t help but continue reading.  That’s because I’m using the force on you.  Or, there’s always the third option: you know us and are simply interested in keeping up (which is wonderful!  Please do!).  Anyway, if you’ve read my first entry here, “Beginnings,” you know that I wanted to teach in the Emirates for years before finally finding myself able to do so.  Because I love both teaching and traveling, I can hardly wait to combine the two things, and I’m sure looking forward to this new adventure in a foreign classroom.  If you’d like a wee bit more information on teaching in Abu Dhabi, I found a couple of short videos you might like to watch.

If you’re curious about the recruiting organization Teach Away, or you are simply interested in some details about teaching in Abu Dhabi, the first video is for you.  It’s a Teach Away/ADEC promo.  Mind you, I’m in no way endorsing Teach Away, since they don’t pay me (but if you work for Teach Away and you’d like to consider adding me to your payroll, I’ll think it over).  The TA folks are easy to work with, however, and my experience with them has been quite good.

The second video is a Fox News Atlanta segment that was made last spring, round about the time I had my first ADEC interview and was seriously fretting about finding a job because of, as the reporter says (more or less, I’m not quoting, so give me some slack), Georgia’s faltering economy.

In the first video, you’ll see a guy named Don who was present at the ADEC interviews in Atlanta.

In the second video, you’ll not see anyone I’ve ever met.  But I have the feeling that every high school in America has similar concrete block walls.

Federal Dress Code

I was just perusing the UAE news site The National and came across an article on what seems to be a fairly hot topic right now: a national dress code.  I know that everyone probably doesn’t exhibit a reasonable amount of modesty, but to my ears, this sounds sort of ominous. Here’s a link to the article.

Headline photo from the news site Al Arabiya showing a mall’s dress code.

After I read The National’s articles on the subject (which reflect a variety of opinions on both sides of the issue), I did a little searching for an image to use for this blog entry.  That led me to the UK’s Telegraph, which has an article on the subject today, too.  Here’s the link to their story, which isn’t drastically different.

The Telegraph’s UAE Dress Code Photo–misleading, because beach wear won’t be affected.

The news site Al Arabiya has articles on the subject too.  It seems that the middle-eastern websites offer opposing viewpoints readily.

Perhaps I shouldn’t have this knee-jerk reaction of fearing a restrictive law about what is acceptable to wear and what is not.  What do you think?  Maybe you’ve been to the UAE and have an opinion?  Do you think a law like this would affect tourism?  What about your own personal desire to visit?

Money Monday II: The Dollar Strikes Back

I’ve been sitting here trying to think of something funny to write–something having a little kinship with my allusion (above, in the title, if you somehow missed it) to George Lucas’s brilliantly conceived Star Wars sequel (wow, it’s been a while since those words have been said, huh?)–but I’m coming up with nothing.  Nada.  Zilch.  Zero.  Punch it Chewie, I’m done.

What I set out to blog about today is obvious: money.  Jenia and I have been discussing finances a bit today.  Always depressing.  At least it is for me–maybe you come from better circumstances or the Lord has been kinder to you in that regard.  Anyhow, regardless of how far down the road to financial failure any of us maybe, the wife and I are managing to squirrel away a decent amount of savings.  That would be because at heart, we’re both cheap, penny-pinching Scrooges (sorry, honey, but you know it’s true).  It would also be because when I arrive in Abu Dhabi, I’m supposed to have a couple grand to make it through the month, to last me until my first pay period.

Now, different people advise you to take different amounts of money.  So I’m sure that with my miserly ways, I could probably survive on about ten bucks, but we want to be safe.  In all seriousness, folks have said that a thousand dollars can get you by until your first pay check.  We’re playing it safe and trying to put back about twice that, so that in case there are any unexpected financial burdens that rear their freakishly ugly heads, we can tame them without any undue stress.

We do not want this to happen!

Let’s shift gears a little bit from actual money in the bank, to the sort of spending device which causes many people to have virtually no money in the bank, and which can easily lead to a complete lack of financial security: a credit card. We all have them, we all know they’re great if handled wisely.  In a way, a credit card is kind of like a pen in George Lucas’s fingers: it can be responsible for some great material, but if the individual wielding the thing gets stupid with it, the outcome can be pretty disastrous.  Oh, boy, look at me tossing Star Wars references around like The Phantom Menace just came out a couple months ago.  Hm.  Actually they did re-release it in 3-D round about March, didn’t they?

Jenia and I, anyway, are Discover card people.  Not because of any particular preference, but it’s just ended up that way.  I’ve been really happy with my Discover experience, but Discover is an unknown quantity in many countries abroad.  When we went to London over Christmas, the card was useless.  Nobody in England takes Discover.  And I do mean nobody.  It appears that England and the Emirates have something in common (besides trying to teach their young English with varying degrees of success): Discover is, well, undiscovered.  So since we’ll be unable to use our credit card there, we spent some time digging around on the internet for a good card which works abroad (Visa or Mastercard is fine in that respect).  If you watch more TV than I do (which is likely, because, if you haven’t figured it out yet, the only thing I’ve ever watched is obviously Star Wars), you may have seen Alec Baldwin hocking Capitol One’s Venture Visa card.  Turns out that Capitol One’s Venture cards have no overseas use fees, which is wonderful.  And they’re Visa cards, too, so they’ll work most everywhere.  Partly because the card will simply work overseas, and partly because they have a pretty stinkin’ good rewards program, we decided to apply for one.  Look what came in the mail the other day:

New Venture Card–no, you cannot have my card numbers. Get your own.

Not only did Capitol One approve me for a card, they set my credit limit at fifteen thousand dollars.  Yikes!  I can just imagine how much they’d like for me to spend a sum that large–they’d be making big bucks off me, as I struggled to pay off my balance.  That’s right, even in Abu Dhabi, I will not be paid well enough to pay of a fifteen thousand dollar credit card bill overnight.  Fortunately for me, the folks at Capitol One didn’t know what a ridiculous tightwad I am.  Please don’t go and tell them.  They might revoke my card when they realize they’ll never make a penny off me.  I know how to work a rewards card, baby.  Or so I say.  Those sound like famous last words, don’t they?  I wouldn’t want to be cocky.  But used right, a rewards card can really work for you, and that’s how we intend to use this one.  We’ll not make any silly purchases with it.  We’ll pay it off every month, and the little buys we make will add to the rewards balance, and in a while, we’ll have free airfare to somewhere interesting.

Anyway, with the savings account growing and a credit card that will work overseas, I think we’re going to be financially prepared for our upcoming adventure.  I think that should do it for this entry.  May the force be with…never mind.

Authentication Complete

Check it out–my documents arrived from ProEx!  This is a good day!

I’ve scanned copies of each sheet, including the stamps from the UAE embassy, and e-mailed them to Teach Away. Furnished with these documents, Teach Away will now work with ADEC to get visas and such underway.

For the time being, these documents are safely in an envelope on my office shelf.  When I leave, I’ll take the authenticated documents as well as originals.

This hurdle jumped, we can now return to waiting for more information on departure dates, etc., etc.

Firsts and Lasts. Installment 1.

I’ve had some firsts and lasts lately.  Worth recording?  Possibly.

I packed our first 3 boxes.  Books.  There are going to be at least 3 more boxes of books, I suspect.

Went to see an optometrist for the first time in the USA.

Check out my new glasses: 

Had my last dental cleaning at Dallas Dental today.  For the first time in my whole life there were no new cavities.  Also, I had to say my first good-byes related to this Great Move.