What a Day

I’ve never been locked out of my workplace before, at least not deliberately, by the administration, who blocked off most of and put a heavy chain through the handles of not one, but all the entryway doors in order to contain students today. This was done, of course, with no notification to teachers, and I happened to be getting lunch when they did it.

There were three other teachers with me, and we all found ourselves looking through the glass door at the Filipino office assistant on the other side who shrugged and said, “Padlocked, no key.” So we seated ourselves and talked about the possibility that we might not have to teach another class today.  However, another of the Filipino assistants noticed our plight and pointed us to a back door leading through the biology lab. The guys there threatened to charge us admission fees, but we made it through their gauntlet and got back to work.

Why the extra levels of inmate containment? Not sure, but the kids are getting restless, and I guess the administration sensed the likelihood of a mass escape attempt was high. I say mass, because they constantly manage to squeeze out in small numbers one way or another. At lunch, they sneak over the fence or get out in some other creative fashion. By the way, it’s pretty funny to watch boys wearing what amounts to dresses making their way over walls, as I did a few days ago. Maybe the cause of the restlessness is the Al Ain vs. Manchester City expo game that’s going on now? Who knows.

Anyway, all told, it was just another day. They unchained the doors and released us all when the clock reached the proper hour.

The chain and padlock of which I speak, here shown after the throngs were released.

The chain and padlock of which I speak, here shown after the throngs were released.

Surprise Day Off!

Even Google is celebrating Dubai’s hosting of the Expo!


It’s almost 6:00pm in Al Ain as I write this. Today is Thanksgiving for America, and we’re thrilled to be celebrating it with a surprise day off here in the UAE. You see…

Yesterday Dubai won its bid to host Expo 2020. This will supposedly generate billions of dollars ($35 billion, according to one article) of revenue for the area. Accordingly, Sheikh Mohammed, the ruler of Dubai, up and decided that today should be a national holiday.

As my friend PJ Smalley wrote last night, “The ruler of Dubai just informed the nation that there will be no school tomorrow in celebration of winning the bid for World Expo 2020. Why doesn’t President Obama order more spur-of-the-moment holidays? Gosh, who voted for that guy?”

You know nothing can happen in a way that allows people to plan anything in advance around here, and this is no exception. But it’s nice anyway. Let me tell you how the official word came around. This begins at 10:45pm. 1) Text Message from Pj–no school tomorrow. Check Facebook. 2) Facebook groups for EMTs and such–“No school tomorrow!” “Is this true?” “It’s true–here’s a link to such and such a newspaper website article.” 3) Phone call from my school’s English department coordinator: “My neighbor’s Principal said they’re off tomorrow; my wife’s Principal says they’re off tomorrow, and I’m assuming we’re off tomorrow. So don’t come to school.” My coworker who rides with me every day didn’t even believe me at first when I called him at 11:00pm to inform him that we wouldn’t be working the next morning.

To sweeten the deal a bit more, Baskin Robbins, everyone’s favorite purveyor of fattening junk food, announced they would give away free ice cream today. Our neighbors got some before it ran out.

Another of my friends, Katrina, writes: “I love this – the stuff legends are made of. A whole generation of today’s schoolchildren will grow up and tell their grandchildren, ‘I remember the day Dubai won the World Expo. They closed all the schools and there was free ice cream for everyone.'” I think she’s right.

Any way you slice it, this is the kind of thing that makes living here so wildly, and in this case, wonderfully, different from living in the USA. Surprise days off are nice!

If you’re interested in more of the stuff that’s been going on today, click on this link to The National. There’s been more interestingness…

Advice (and a book on help) to New Teachers

Tonight Jenia and I attended a snazzy welcome party for new ADEC teachers at the Rotana hotel in Al Ain.  We met a few of the many new teachers on hand, and when a young lady named Kim asked for advice on how to make it here and survive the year to return for another, I told her this: “Go with the flow.  Relax.  Don’t worry about the pressure–it just doesn’t matter.  Don’t let them stress you out.”  Yeah, my biggest and best piece of advice is that pathetic.  I mean, the best I can say is “roll with it, baby?”  Pretty much, but I do emphasize the “it just doesn’t matter” part pretty heavily, too.  Generally, we Western teachers have a work ethic and such that will more than get us by here, and if we just apply what we already know and don’t allow administrators to stress us out, we’ll be solid additions to the workforce.  Oh, and, as one veteran teacher told me last year, “Take the tea” whenever it is offered by your Arab co-workers.  Go have a chat, ignore whatever work you might have for a few minutes, and be social.  That helps you build relationships, and those can be helpful (if not critical, in some cases) to succeeding at work.

One other thing that is an incalculably helpful resource–there is a group of expats called Al Ain Life (the ones that staged tonight’s get together) that has put together a truly splendid booklet offering insight into the whole residency process (how to get your electricity switched over to your name, for example), unraveling an extremely and unnecessarily complex part of settling in.  We picked up a hard copy tonight at the event, and it’s wonderful.   Al Ain Life (people we know personally, by the way) are more than happy to share a digital copy with you.  If you’re interested, comment below, and we will sort out a way to get it to you.