Wheel in the Sky

The Corniche is located on the western side of the city of Abu Dhabi. A curved 6-km stretch of land, it’s a great place to hang out. Pier fishing, cycle paths, bike rentals, fountains, park areas, a public beach, exercise stations (which I find humorous for many reasons), and my favorite thing… cats. Lots and lots of cats.

Exercise Station

Exercise Station

The Corniche used to be all beach area; dhows and ships would anchor there before Mina Port was constructed. Now only a portion of the area is a public beach.


The Abu Dhabi Yacht Club is nearby. This is where I watched the port race when the Volvo Ocean Race sailed through last year.

Marina Mall is across the street from the yacht club. I quickly came to despise this mall because I went there probably every day for the first 10 days after arriving in Abu Dhabi. It was the closest place to eat, shop for household items, exchange money, and buy a phone card.

One of the weird things that happens when I go to the Corniche is that my ‘Chicago’ kicks in. Because I liken it to Navy Pier, I go on and on about what needs to be added to the Corniche to make it more exciting. I gab about the restaurants, beer garden, Skyline Stage, rock & roll boat rides, cruises, Ferris wheel, fireworks, etc. that make Navy Pier such a popular destination. I’m not trying to knock the Corniche. Really. It’s a beautiful place to walk, bike, relax, and enjoy the views.

Why I constantly compare is beyond me. Maybe it’s because the Corniche is so underutilized that my mind is blown. This is waterfront property! Attractions in Chicago are always jam-packed. Granted, it’s a little warm here during the summer months, but I walked the Corniche yesterday on a beautiful “fall” afternoon and passed fewer than three dozen other people. Oh well, more space for me, I guess.

You’d think with all my ranting, everyone would simply tune me out. But someone had their ears open because look what just rolled into town next to Marina Mall.

Now that’s what I’m talkin’ ’bout! They’re really getting the hang of this commercialism thing!


Back in the (Camel) Saddle Again

Dear Blog,

You’ve been hanging over my head like a black cloud. I’m compelled to write a post tonight, lest August 2015 go down as the only month I’ve skipped since I started chronicling this journey. Sometimes it’s difficult to find any words, so I’ve avoided you for quite some time. Yet, it’s August 31st and you’re staring me in the face point-blank, so here goes.

Summer was a whirlwind of driving around the Midwestern US, visiting family and friends, sorting, packing, and moving the girls and the cats into their digs for the year.

I didn’t spend enough time with Kate and Jenna. I saw many people several times but didn’t see anyone enough. I felt like a ticking time bomb, scheduling lunches, brunches, dinners, pool dates, concerts, a Cubs game, parties (Woo hoo! Canoeing at 3am!), and all kinds of other crazy activities. I took Kate and her BFF Brandon out to celebrate their very belated 21st birthdays

and shortly after that we celebrated Kate’s 22nd birthday in advance of its November date (but at least I have a pic to post on Instagram and Facebook when it rolls around). Thanks to all who were able to accommodate me at some point; I look forward to getting together with everyone at leisure upon my return next summer. I forgot to take advantage of photo opps with many folks, but here’s a taste of what went down:

The Berg Girls’ good-bye tears flowed freely; I guess we’ll never get any better with that. Then… wham! I’m back in my Abu Dhabi apartment. My first thought is, “Where did all this STUFF come from?” I’m at capacity. Plenty of clothes, shoes, swimsuits, candles, medicine, hair products, US crackers, Crystal Light, etc. I’ve really made myself at home here! I also had my place professionally cleaned (ok, it’s not really even a splurge at $24.50 USD including supplies) and everything’s in pretty good order now, especially for someone with ZERO motivation these days.

Employment: We started back to work a week ago but the students didn’t arrive until yesterday. About a quarter of them showed up and the rest will trickle in slowly over the next week or so. Here, or at least at my school, we don’t start formulating a plan for the year until the kids arrive. We actually DID get assigned to our own classrooms (yay!) as the first bell of the morning rang. Preliminary class lists were handed out. The school day has been lengthened by 40 minutes, but we’re hoping that it will be shortened in the near future, as schedule changes are de rigeur here; I think we had over two dozen modifications last year. But all in all, the day went as well as could be expected and I have a lot better handle on the whole thing than I did last year.

Weather: Hot, hot, hot. And if that isn’t enough for you, throw in steamy. Like literally, physically steamy to the point where I swear you can see it in the afternoon. And hazy. Downright disgusting. I’m coughing up my requisite lung, as I do every time I re-enter this country. Once my body adjusts to its daily intake of sand, I’ll be just fine. At this point I’ve amassed an entire pharmacy’s worth of products so I can self-medicate whenever or wherever needed. I’m not 100% yet but at least I don’t sound like Darth Vader anymore.

Goals: The year will pass quickly! Please hold me accountable for paying off the balance of my grad school loans. I paid a huge chunk last year but my expenses at home are greater this time around so it will definitely be a challenge. Luckily, a number of my friends here plan to tighten their belts as well, so I’ll be in good company. I still plan to make a few small trips during the long weekends we have this year. The moon sightings (which determine many of the Muslim holidays) appear to be in our favor; in other words, they’re hopefully falling on weekdays instead of weekends. We also have a new holiday, Martyrs’ Day, on November 30. If this is combined with Dec. 2 National Day, it will make for one helluva break! If the budget allows, I’d like to visit a few more countries on the Asian continent while Iiving on this side of the globe, but I’d be just as happy to explore some of the emirates that are right in my own backyard.

My last goal will be to land a job before I return home. Ugh. If it’s not one darn thing, it’s another. So I’m taking this one step at a time. Keep me in mind, though, if you have any connections back home. Or if you know a rich, single guy, preferably late 40’s and over 6’ tall who’d set me on an early retirement path. I’m not too picky. The clock’s a-tickin’, people.

So, that’s all I have to report at the moment. Now that I’m back here I’ve seen a number of things where I’ve thought, “Yeah, I gotta write about that, or “Hey, that would be a fun post.” All in good time, though. It’s just too hot to be outside for any length of time and too hazy to take good photos. Right now, I’m setting my alarm and turning on Netflix. Lazy girl mode has taken over once again. But I made it through the first two days of work, so I don’t even feel guilty.

The Waiting Game

Do you know when you’re leaving yet?

—- Nooooooo

How come you don’t know when you’re leaving?

—- That’s just the way it works. Stop adding to my anxiety.

The first wave of teachers was brought to Abu Dhabi last week and is currently divided between two hotels; it’s been really exciting to follow their adventures! Thanks to Facebook groups we’re able to connect, ask questions, make plans, complain, and celebrate progress together all day, every day! Orientation gets under way quickly. As an added bonus, teachers who have been in AD for a year or more have set up meet & greets for the new arrivals. They explain some pretty confusing processes, like how to get phones up and running and where to find places such as grocery stores, which definitely helps make the transition a little easier. The first group is now receiving housing assignments and keys, and we’re under the assumption that once they’ve been cleared out of the hotel more of us will be sent our plane tickets. The process seems to vary from year to year though, so nobody knows for sure what’s going on.

I received an email yesterday from my recruiter stating that the 2nd group can expect to go over in approximately two weeks. At least they’re kind enough to throw us a bone and send some sort of update our way, but the problem is that nobody knows who’s in the 2nd group, or how many groups there are for that matter! When our employer processes an entry visa, it’s given to their travel agency, who emails the visa along with a plane ticket. Although many teachers are chomping at the bit, I’m in the minority because I don’t WANT to be in the second group. Kate’s going back to school on Aug 14 and we’re awaiting confirmation from Jenna’s dorm of her Aug 19 move-in date. So, in a perfect world I’d receive a plane ticket to leave on August 21- it that too much to ask?? I know it won’t work out that way; if I’m in the 2nd group I’ll be rushing to leave before the girls are gone and if I’m in the 3rd or 4th group I’ll be sitting at home wondering why I haven’t been called over yet! It’s the stress of not knowing that is causing all my anxiety. Some teachers received 10 days’ notice of their departure but a small number of teachers were only given 24 hours’ notice. My current to-do list will require a minimum 3-day advance notice in order to properly execute my departure; however, once the girls are gone I’ll be ready to fly at any time. I’m so stressed out and need to re-group, so I had to declare today a stay-at-home day, where I’ll busy myself by cleaning the stove and refrigerator, and probably re-organizing some of my packing. It will all work out, as things have a way of doing.

For now, I’ll enjoy spending time with friends, family, my daughters, and my cats for as long as possible! I just popped over to beautiful South Haven MI for a short visit with my friend Robin and I will continue to enjoy this wonderful, mild Chicago summer!

Love Chicago in the summertime!

Love Chicago in the summertime!

In the Beginning…

For the past 11 years, I’ve generally felt “manageably overwhelmed,” though I look back and truthfully admit I’ve enjoyed the ride. Our little ranch house in Elmhurst, IL, as much as we tried to love it, failed us time and again until we finally gave it its walking papers (sold to a builder, which is fairly common where I live) and “moved on up to the big time” in our present condo. When you’ve had nothing but trouble, I’ll attest to the fact that a pool, clubhouse, and underground parking are dreams realized. I’ve been working full-time for the past ten years, sometimes with an extra part-time job or two, and also obtained my Master’s degree this past spring, all while raising two girls who will both be in college this fall. Unfortunately, I’ve barely been scraping by, knowing I needed to do something more for my kids and myself.

As far as careers go, I’m confident that I was meant to teach. I’ve encouraged my own kids to explore different paths to ensure that they have a good job after college, make decent money, and have some flexibility while raising a family. To date, my biggest accomplishment is the peaceful and joyous relationships I’ve created with my daughters, and I wouldn’t trade that for anything. I think I’ve successfully drilled into them that life is nothing but one big experience and they shouldn’t be afraid to explore unknown territory… which led me to teaching in the United Arab Emirates. I was surfing the net one day and happened upon a website to teach abroad in Europe. I soon realized that I was over the age limit (?!!) for that particular program and it hit me… if I want to make things happen I have to do it now. My research led me to opportunities in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the UAE. Hundreds of English-speaking teachers are hired yearly and move to the wealthy desert metropolis, so why not me? Yes, it’s far away (more than 7,500 miles from Chicago). But depending on how you look at it, it’s also just a plane ride away, albeit a LONG one. I happened to apply at the perfect time (February) and after my initial Skype interview I was informed that in-person interviews were taking place in Chicago the following weekend. Yay, no time to get nervous! After wading through the process, I was offered a position for the fall. Hearing this, I realized that I needed to quickly finish my Master’s degree, something I had put off due to lack of funds, because my pay would jump significantly if I obtained it before departure, but would not increase if I completed it once I was there. Done. Let’s just chalk April, May, and June up to sad times. But I plowed through my last two classes (online) and the cats were happy that I was huddled up at home every weekend working away on my laptop.

Upon graduating, I thought this summer would provide some badly needed respite from the chaos I’ve experienced in recent years. However, I’ve encountered an extreme amount of stress- setting up the girls to make sure they’re ok until I see them at Christmas, figuring out how I’m going to handle money, payments, cars, mail, and bills at home, working out all the tech aspects of moving to the UAE (HUGE stress factor), sorting, donating, throwing away, selling, organizing all my stuff while preparing the girls to leave for school in August, resigning from my jobs (but tutoring in the meantime), and taking that one last Berg Girls roadtrip (Memphis) for good measure. Now I’m waiting for my authenticated documents to be sent back from the UAE Embassy in DC. Pressing matters also include extensive dental work (major stuff for all three of us!) and an endless stream of paperwork, along with tying up a thousand loose ends.
So there you have the short version of it; the adventure has begun.

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