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!

 

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Highlights

How about a pictorial post featuring some highlights from our various travels the last few years? It seems like a good idea to me. As you probably know if you read the blog thoroughly, we do talk about our travels a bit, but we’re not really travel bloggers in the sense of step-by-step, day-by-day chronicling of our journeys. That has its own appeal, but lots of people do it and probably better than we could. Instead, I offer a handful of what I think are our best instagrams capturing some curious, challenging, or memorable moments from our adventures, and a micro-snippet of a story for each one.

How you get to the train station from #Corniglia, #CinqueTerre.

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You’ve gotta be kidding me. Another staircase! AAAAAH! Italy, 2014.

#Escalators in #SiamCenter #mall, #Bangkok, #Thailand

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Maybe the coolest looking mall in the world? Even the bathrooms were awesome. You should go there, because it’s technologically amazing. Thailand, 2014.

Me hanging with some of my students in Sweihan. #UAE #desertlife

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I attended the Sweihan Camel Festival with a small busload of my students. It was phenomenally boring. We drank coffee together and sat around at one point. UAE, 2014.

#horseback #riding in #Franschhoek #southafrica #mountains

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South Africa, 2013: no better way to see the hills, or a mongoose. Thank goodness for our friend who watched the little one while we spent an hour doing this!

#Rain caused minor #floods on roadways in #AlAin #AbuDhabi, #UAE today.

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When you gotta drive following some rain. UAE, 2013.

Hangin' on the beach with the cattle in Sri Lanka.

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There were cows moving about freely, and there was trash strewn everywhere, too.

#russia #ryazan #kremlin

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Who cares about the frigid weather and icy walkways? Russia, 2012.

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You never know what you’ll encounter in Downtown Dubai. 2012.

In #Baktapur. #Nepal #BTspringBreak #Travel #Temple

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We strolled through Bhaktapur’s beautiful squares, toddler in tow. Nepal, 2015.

The little one enjoying the #WadiRum #desert a couple days ago. #Jordan #middleeast

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Turtle LOVED off-roading and exploring. Jordan, 2014.

#wadirum #jordan #travel

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LOVED, not least because there were no seat belts in the Land Cruiser!

Looking down over #Liechtenstein. Just one amazing #view. #latergram #Eurotrip #scenery #Europe

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Curvy, narrow roads, steep drop-offs, staying just ahead of bad weather. Liechtenstein, 2014.

Seeing the Himalayas–from 32,000 feet. 2015.

Close encounters of the monkey kind, descending from Swamabhunath Temple on a hilltop–Nepal, 2015.

#boylovesairports #Prague edition. #airport #Praha #blackandwhite

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The child loved snow, too, but not mittens. Czech Republic, 2014.

My view this morning #wadirum #jordan #travel #middleeast

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Getting around Wadi Rum the old-fashioned way; the baby aboard in the Boba carrier. He got used to it and didn’t mind after a little while. Jordan, 2014.

The way out of the temperature-constant caverns. France, 2014.

#romance #love #old #couple at #jardinluxembourg #paris #france #europe #travel

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Sometimes sitting on a park bench lets you witness a story. Could it be true love? France, 2014.

Leaving plastic on the seats and steering wheel of your #porsche is life #emiratistyle #uae #wtf

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Peculiar local customs. UAE, 2012.

Taking laziness to a whole new level… #uae #alain #shisha

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More peculiarity–drive-in shisha cafe. UAE, 2012.

Somebody passed out at a most unexpected time today. #lifewithatoddler #Kathmandu #nepal #travel #Thamel

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Sometimes napping just can’t wait, like here in Nepal, 2015.

What we didn't eat today #food #crazyfood #thailand #asia #udonthani #travel #instatravel

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Fancy a freshly fried snack? We didn’t. This was at the night market in northeastern Thailand with friends. 2014.

Richer Than Me, They All Will Be.

So, why work hard if that’s what’s in store anyway?

One of my new buddies who is also a teacher here in the Emirates wrote a great blog post 2 days ago. I say it’s great because he’s got a distinctive style which is fun to read, and also because he’s right on point with each observation.  I suggest you click over and read it if you’re interested in why students are so darned difficult to corral in these parts.

Generation Money.

It explains a lot. Also, I challenge you to tell me truthfully that you’d have acted differently if you were a teenager in the same situation. Okay, catch you on the flip side.

-Shon

Eid Break. Maybe.

Well, as I write this, it’s Tuesday, October 8, 2013.  There is a national holiday coming up, and the dates of this holiday were announced last week.  Wait, you say, nobody knows the exact date of a holiday until two weeks beforehand?  Quite right.  That’s because, even with the amazing technology that we possess in this modern era, the local government insists upon waiting until the various phases of the moon are abundantly clear—remember, this is an Islamic country, and the Islamic calendar is lunar, not solar, and so things are more than a little different from the USA.  Some holidays are fixed, of course, such as National Day, which always falls on the same day in December.  The ones of religious significance are the ones that are in flux, such as this.  It’s called Eid al Adha, and I mentioned it last year in our post about going to Muscat.

In a nutshell, the holiday is a celebration of Abraham, who you may remember from the Bible, and his willingness to sacrifice for God.  Lots of goats will die during this time as people slaughter them and share the meat with their families and the needy.

This image is from http://www.familyholiday.net.

Anyway, the holiday means that we have time off from work.  As you no doubt know, there is nothing like time off to put a smile on a person’s face.  Since Eid is going to fall on October 15, the middle of next week, we have been expecting to have most of the week off.  However it wasn’t until two days ago that it was announced that government workers would have the whole week off, which, if you count the coming weekend, amounts to 9 days off in a row.  That’s pretty nice, right?  Now, I can only assume that we teachers are going to be off on those days, too, because the Abu Dhabi Education Council hasn’t seen fit to notify us peons as to when we’re officially off.

This is the sort of thing that can be a bit upsetting—after all, when given the time and the opportunity, the wife and I like to travel, and 9 days is plenty of time to go somewhere interesting.  Knowing when those days would fall, though, is a key piece of information a person needs to purchase an airline ticket and make plans.  On the other hand, far be it from me to complain too loudly—having 9 days is great, even if we didn’t have advance notice.  Sticking around the house and perhaps seeing some new quarters of the UAE instead of going farther afield is still going to be pretty neat, I guess.  Come on, Eid break.  Arrive quickly.  We need you.  I need you.  My sanity requires you.

Year End

The end of the year is upon us.  Three more days of work, and most everyone will be hitting the road for another part of the world, wherever they reckon home to be.

The school year has wound down to the point that teachers and staff are now required to be at work, however there is absolutely nothing left to do, so folks watch movies on their computers, tie up any loose planning ends (well, really, that was done last week), and lounge around and drink tea with the Arab teachers, or try to find something else productive to do with their time.

This is the time of year when it’s easy to forget what a tough place this is to work most of the other days on the calendar.  We’ve all got starry eyes as we plan our summers.  July 4th everything will be over, and we’ll be free to go where we want, when we want, and enjoy life for a while.  It’s even hard for those of us who didn’t get adequate flight allowances (keeping the old fingers crossed, maybe they’ll address that yet) to be depressed–summer is finally here, and we can forget about the myriad trials we endured for a while.

My wife and I are very much looking forward to our summer adventures.  Now, lest I spoil the fun of sharing what we’ve got in store when it actually arrives, I shall sign off.  Come, summer, come quickly!

Three Weeks of Fatherhood

Life always takes twists and turns.  Some of those twist and turns aren’t welcome, some are surprising, some have no effect at all on us, and some change us profoundly.  Who can argue that parenthood is one of life’s most dramatic curves?  Jenia and I are changing.  We’re having to become kinder, more self-sacrificing people than we were before.  We have to serve our son, for the time being, as his very life depends on our ability to look after him well.  It’s tiring.  It’s time-consuming.  And it’s wonderful.

I’ll let Jenia write a post about our experience in the birthing suite of the hospital here in Al Ain.  Suffice it to say, for now, that everything went well and we welcomed a healthy baby into the world.  What a feeling that was!  No father has ever tried to describe to me what it’s like seeing his child emerge into the world after hours of his wife struggling in labor.  I’m glad that no one did, either, because there are simply no words that can describe the experience or the emotions that go with it.  I’m tempted to write about what I felt–the rollercoaster of agony and ecstasy that ends in pure joy and love–in depth.  I could fill lengthy paragraphs with my heartfelt gushing.  And yet, if I did that, then I’d fail, I’m sure, to capture what is most important about it.  There are some things that a person must live to fully understand, and this is one of them.  To sum up, one word returns to my mind over and over–amazing.

The last three weeks have seen us changing, as I said.  We are being stretched and forced to grow in new ways.  Here are some impressions and anecdotes:

1) Sleep is precious.  On my way to class last week, I stopped to chat with a fellow teacher.  He paused, mid-sentence, and exclaimed, “Dude, you look f***in’ exhausted!”  Evidently having a newborn does that to people.  Who knew?

2) Food is special.  I don’t mean any old food.  I mean the sort of food that people have brought to us so that we haven’t had to worry about cooking dinners.  What a blessing it has been to have that kind of love shown to us.  We’ve been able to spend more time enjoying (or coping, depending on the day and our level of sleep deprived-ness) having a child and less time in the kitchen.  That’s really something.

3) Expat friends are like family.  Andrea (whose blog is mentioned in the “blogs we read” section) brought us toothbrushes when we forgot to take them with us to the hospital.  Other dear friends brought us numerous gifts and, most important of all, their presence, congratulations, and encouragement.  We’re totally blessed.

4) Emiratis love, no, that’s not strong enough; they loooove, no, that still doesn’t capture it; they L-O-V-E infants.  When we got the kiddo’s birth certificate (interestingly, the hospital doesn’t provide that to you here; you have to take the certificate of live birth you’re provided and head over to the Health Authority to get an official certificate with the baby’s name and so forth printed–that’ll set you back 100AED if you get one in Arabic and one in English) the ladies there were just gushing over the little one.  When I offered to let one lady hold him, she was thrilled, and she posed for pictures holding him–her coworkers swished around the desk to aim their Blackberries and snap away–and they kept saying, “Mashallah, mashallah!”

5) Being peed on really isn’t so bad.  That’s enough about that, right?

6) Baby passport photos.  Yup.  Not super easy, but necessary.

7) Baby passport.  Not that hard, but it does require the aforementioned photo, and it’s required for doing any traveling outside of the country, which we definitely plan on.  When we applied for el nino’s passport, we left a couple of fields on the form blank: hair color and height.  I guess we could have penciled in, “Not sure yet and 20 inches, last time we checked,” but we didn’t.  I asked the woman at the Embassy about this.  She chuckled and said, “It’s okay.  Don’t worry.  It will be ready in four weeks.”

8) Baby voice.  It can’t be helped.  Sometimes I notice that I’m using baby voice.  I’m cooing and being silly and sounding like the most ridiculous man since, well, maybe ever.  And I don’t care.  It’s fun!

1 week old

1 week old

4 weeks

4 weeks

Should I Learn Arabic? Thursday List.

ADEC has a sales pitch for prospective teachers.  It’s effective: housing is provided, insurance is good, pay is pretty high.  They’ll tell you need that you should have some experience teaching, you should perhaps (or actually definitely, emphatically) be prepared to deal with some classroom discipline issues, and you have no need to speak Arabic.  You are, of course, also tempted by the exotic location and interesting sights.  This sales pitch is all true–you’ll have a nifty life here if you sign up.  They might mention in the interview that you should be flexible, too.  That’s the truth.  Living in a different culture is exciting, but it’s taxing, too, as you try to learn what is considered normal, abnormal, and basically try to adapt to a dramatically different way of doing things.

In fact, what ADEC tells you is entirely correct.  All of the things are true.  There’s much to commend the UAE to visitors and an ADEC job to expatriate workers.  English teachers will have good pay and benefits, and if they’re adaptable, they’ll learn how to work in the classroom here. The job doesn’t require them to speak Arabic either.  But, there is a difference between being required to speak the language and whether or not you ought to.

Today I substituted for a fellow English teacher.  I decided to practice conversational English skills with his students by talking to them.  I asked one boy about his rowdy classmates, and asked them why they behaved so badly.  He told me, more or less, “With Arabic teacher, it is Arabic and Arabic.”  He gestured with his hands, putting them side by side.  “But with English, it is English and Arabic.”  He moved one hand away from the other one at an angle.  He was saying, basically, that the kids don’t understand English well enough to get much out of having a teacher who only speaks English.  And after nearly a year here, I’ve got to agree with him.  After all, many of these young men speak only the most basic English.  The idea is that this will change as the New School Model comes of age, but that day is not going to happen for years yet.

What little Arabic I know I’ve picked up from my students and a few other people.  You ought to see the expressions these kids get on their faces when I use a new Arabic word or phrase.  They’re thrilled.  Their level of interest in what I’m doing increases dramatically, and they like interacting with me.  As a result, If I could recommend any one thing to a person considering teaching in the UAE, it would be to learn as much Arabic as possible.  The more you know, the more effective you’ll be in the classroom.  When it comes to learning Arabic, you might very well be put off to learn that there are many different dialects based on location.  When I found out that Emiratis use a rather different version of the language than most other countries, I allowed it to discourage me from learning much beyond “Asalaam aleykum” before I came.  Now it’s definitely true that the kids here speak a language that incorporates a lot of slang and words from Hindi and Urdu, but they know and understand standard Arabic.

So the question is, “Should I learn Arabic?”  The answer is, “Definitely.  Yes.”  With only a month or so left of the school year, I’m now setting out to actively try to learn more words and phrases.  Next year I may just find myself a tutor and start really trying to learn how to speak conversationally.

As I’ve been thinking about this, I’ve also considered other reasons why it’s worth pursuing the acquisition of Arabic. Here’s a list:

1. It engages students.

2. It’s nice to know when students are calling you bad names or saying bad words, just so that you can respond somewhat appropriately (“What did you say?  Let’s go talk to the social worker about that, shall we?  Or do you want me to call your father?”) and scare your kids into better behavior.

3. It is a challenge–a fun one, if you feel inclined to learn a non-romance language.

3. It can only help you in situations outside of school when you interact with others, such as parents or people in important positions.

4. Learning a foreign language while you are teaching English as a second language gives you a much better measure of sympathy and understanding as to what your students are going through.

Normalcy

Dear reader,

Today I’m offering my newspaper column’s entry for the week.  It is something that any expat can probably relate to.  If you’re an expat and you agree or disagree, let me know.  I enjoy hearing your thoughts more than you probably know.

-Shon

How long until seeing this becomes normal?

How long until seeing this becomes normal?  Eh, give or take six months.

Vantage Points: Teaching Abroad

Normalcy

Normalcy is defined by freedictionary.com as “being within certain limits that define normal functioning.”  So, in terms of living our lives, normalcy is what we’re used to.  Our routines, our home, our friends, and so forth, all contribute to our sense of having a nice, normal life.  And all that is quite definitely abandoned when you move overseas.  How long does it take to achieve normalcy when you move to a new country?  Well, you go through a few marked stages before any kind of new normal can be established.  Experts say you go through a state of euphoria when you first arrive in the new place.  That’s when most everything is lovely and you’re all excited about being in a new country, a new culture, and having new experiences.  Then you swing to the other extreme, and basically hate everything about the new place.   Everything that isn’t like it is at home drives you mad.  Then, finally, you end up back in the middle, more or less, and living in this foreign country becomes normal.  Based on my own time here in the UAE, I’d say that’s entirely correct.  I went through each of those stages.  And now I’m more or less back to feeling normal.  I recognize that this country is vastly different from home, but generally I feel comfortable.  The other night I was hanging out with a friend who has traveled extensively. He and his wife taught English in Japan and Korea before coming here. Anyway, he commented that it takes about 3 or 4 months to get financially comfortable in a new country.  He’s completely right.  The first month is consumed by running about doing paperwork and errands concerned with residency.  The next month is more or less burned up with adjusting to everything else, making sure your apartment is furnished, and all that sort of thing; the third month, finally, is when you might just be able to put some money back into savings.  That’s when things start to balance out.  That’s when you start to have some expendable income for a change, and when you can think about things that make life more normal—getting a used car, purchasing a guitar, whatever.  I’ll tell you what: I never really appreciated how nice it is to just have things good and normal until I left my own country to come here.  And now that I’ve adjusted to life here, I’m glad to have normalcy return.

Mini vacation

Fujairah is 2 1/2 hours from here. We went there. There isn’t a lot there, but there are pretty forts around. The beach in Fujairah itself isnt so great, but a short drive south into Kalba yields a nice park along the water and long expanses of sand. Drive a bit further south and you will find lovely mangrove growth, although its closed to visitors right now. Kalba is a fishing village, and we witnessed the fisherman hard at work, trolling, we think, for fish with an interesting if peculiar truck-truck-truck-boat setup. Anyway, here are some photos. I’ll try to add some more soon.

The first two pictures are of Fujairah Fort, which was, according to http://www.guide2dubai.com, established in 1670.  As it stands now, it has been reconstructed and is surrounded by ruins of old brick buildings from years ago.

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A pigeon makes his final descent to Fujairah Fort.

The tower which stands by itself is one of Al Hayl Castle’s buildings.  Getting to this fort is a bit more difficult than it seems like it should be.  At one point, we were driving through a residential neighborhood and it seemed like there was no way we’d gone the right direction. If it weren’t for a reviewer on TripAdvisor saying to keep on going straight when it seems like you’ve lost the road to the castle, we’d have probably given up and turned back, missing out on a picturesque, if small, place nestled in the rugged hills.  In fact, the journey to Al Hayl led one of our intrepid and faithful traveling companions, Melissa, to declare, “I love this!” from the backseat as we pounded along a rough stretch of gravel road in our Kia.

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Fujairah Fort stands in downtown Fujairah, near the water. There are plenty of signs pointing toward it, making it easy to find.

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The lookout tower at Al Hayl Castle.

Photobombing

Photobombing

The mosque by our hotel

The mosque by our hotel

Us looking all cute

Us looking all cute

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These trucks were operating together in a puzzling dance, towing ropes through the water. Evidently, a crew in a small boat dropped a trap or net and these trucks were towing them toward shore.

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One way to create a winch is to use little Toyota trucks, set an old wheel up so it spins freely on the front of one, and tow the rope using another truck. The people in charge told me they were catching fish. “Little ones, some big,” they said.

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These guys were working the ropes which, as near as I can tell, were towing traps or nets slowly toward shore.

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Fujairah’s beaches are strewn with shells.

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20130206-185556.jpg A fairly common sight in these parts–workers, most likely Pakistani, riding in the back of a 2-ton truck.

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The mangroves preservation was closed. Looking at this one can forget he is in the UAE.

The Blob is growing. So is Jenia.

The Blob is growing. So is Jenia.

The rugged hills themselves are interesting, and watching the sun set behind them was nice.  That aside, we received a free tour of the castle and its little compound, which our guide told us was 150 years old.  We even were allowed to climb up on the roof of the main building and the tower atop it, which was pretty cool.

On the way to and from Al Hayl fort we saw a bunch of donkeys wandering freely.  We suppose they’re all the property of a local farmer.  Naturally, we took some pictures, since free-roaming animals of this type are pretty rare around the southeastern USA.

Melissa and Jenia had to get out of the car and take pictures of them

Melissa and Jenia had to get out of the car and take pictures of them

ADEC Housing

Lots of folks have dropped by this blog looking for information about ADEC housing.  If you’re one of those folks who wonder what sort of digs a person gets when they come to work here, I can help you out.

In short, the answer is: it varies.  In Abu Dhabi, the apartments are usually pretty nice. They’re fairly small, but from the photos I’ve seen others share, they’re fairly well-appointed to begin with, with built-in wardrobes and such.  Many of them are in a new section of the city that may require you to drive a good ways to work.

Those teachers placed in Madinat Zayed or other places in the Western Region of Al Gharbia, often have totally different housing.  Many of them share a big place.  Others are put up in hotels.

Those of us who are put in Al Ain have been given very different housing from one another.  We were told during orientation back in August that “There are no small places in Al Ain.”  That is hardly accurate.  What ADEC looks for, we’re told, are places that adhere to local codes and regulations.  They evidently don’t give much regard to size, however, for that statement about small places was simply inaccurate.  Jenia and I were first placed in a tiny 2-BR apartment with a miniature kitchen and bathrooms.  The apartment was in the Sultan Bin Tahnoon complex, and was brand new, but was much too small for the two of us (nevermind when number three shows up).  Another teacher found herself placed in a run-down complex with a sign warning about danger on the door.  She had to fight and fight with ADEC to get herself put in a better complex.  They did eventually see reason, but it was a struggle.

The first complex we were placed in, Sultan Bin Tahnoon.

The first complex we were placed in, Sultan Bin Tahnoon.

Tiny little bathroom in Tahnoon.

Tiny little bathroom in Tahnoon.  The shower is nearly on top of the toilet.

This is almost the entire apartment, aside from bathrooms and eensy-weensy kitchen.  The photo makes it look bigger than it actually is.

This is almost the entire apartment, aside from bathrooms and eensy-weensy kitchen. The photo makes it look considerably bigger than it actually is.

Fortunately for us, a colleague of mine was interested in swapping apartments, so we exchanged keys and went to the ADEC headquarters in Al Ain and had it made official.  There was no problem with that at all.  The place we’re in now is much bigger, albeit still not even close to large by American standards.  Like the first tiny place, we’ve got two bedrooms.  But there are three bathrooms (all quite small, but reasonable), a small kitchen (this time with room for a full-size stove and a dishwasher), and a living/dining room.  Other teachers are placed in the Hili complex, which seems more generously sized, although its location isn’t quite as convenient.  Yet others are placed in The Village (typically those with two or more kids), which offers very spacious quarters.

The complex where we now live is

The complex where we now live is much better than the first one.  It’s got a swimming pool (albeit a small one) and a (not-too-well-appointed) gym, and even underground parking, which helps keep the car a lot cooler during the hot months.

Our new apartment actually has a reasonable amount of space.

Our new apartment actually has a reasonable amount of space.

The bathroom, by comparison, is roomy, although there is still no storage or shelves.

The master bathroom, by comparison, is roomy, although there is still no storage or shelves.

So what can you expect if you sign up for a job with ADEC?  To have no idea whatsoever what to expect.