Hi all! Well it’s been a while, as per usual, since I’ve written. I know I promised to update you with some travel blogs, but I think I’ll write this one first, then I’ll update the travel stuff. Writing and editing travel blogs is a lot of work. But if you’d like to see what I’ve been up to you can always pop over to my Instagram or check out my pics on Facebook. It takes a while to load and edit pictures onto this format, so that’s why I keep putting it off. However, I do like sharing how I’m able to do the things I get to do, and I do love sharing my tips and favorites places, so I promise to write about Morocco and my latest trip to Tanzania. But first, end of year number three in the desert.
As most of you know, I agreed to a two year contract here in Abu Dhabi. The thought being, hey, I can do anything for two years. How bad can it be, after all? And now finishing year three, and preparing for year FOUR, I’m sitting here realizing that I really like living here. I really do. Plus, I don’t know what I want to do when I come back to the states, or where I will live, so staying here seems pretty logical to me. And like I said, I like living here.
When I signed on to teach abroad, I had no idea what I would be facing. What my day to day life would look like. Who my friends would be. Where I would teach. What my students would be like. I knew nothing. Like really nothing. And those of you who know me pretty well know that I am a planner. I am a compulsive planning nut job who likes to see all the cards on the table. I don’t deal well with surprises, and I just need to see a clear (ish) path. However, what I’ve discovered about myself, living here, is maybe that’s not really me after all. Let me explain. I read a lot. I read books and books and books, and I quite enjoy reading other blogs. From travel blogs, to teacher blogs, style blogs, and inspirational blogs, I read ’em all. I like them, too. I like the ideas I see, and some of them help me do my job better, and encourage me to try new things. But when I read and see writers and the so-called gurus talking about a plan and a vision for your life–you know the whole make a plan, take the necessary steps to execute said plan, and then you’ll reach all your dreams–I have to disagree. Here’s why. Like I said before, I am a planner. Well, I used to be a planner. Because here’s what I’ve learned: those carefully crafted plans rarely work out. I mean, we can make all the plans we want. We can set goals. We can take the steps to reach our goals. We can do every single thing in our power to make that plan go forward, and sometimes it will. And sometimes it won’t–no matter what we do. And when people ask me how I came to live in the Middle East, believe me when I tell you, I had no plan. Zero plan for this. Living here, working here, teaching local students was never, ever a part of any plan. At. All. It wasn’t some dream of mine to live in Abu Dhabi, and teach English. It was never on my radar. And on a total lark, I filled out an application, took a job interview…and here I am three years later–going strong.
I like to tell this story because I think people, in general, get too caught up in planning. Like there is some magical, mystical plan for our lives which if we can find it and complete it, then we’ll be happy. That’s just wrong. Because these past 3 years are some of the happiest (and hardest) years of my life and there was NO plan. No vision seeking. Nothing. Except this: a leap of faith. Like for real. I tell you this because if you don’t know what you want, if you don’t know where you want to be, if you don’t have a “plan” I think that’s ok. Just keep moving forward. Find something you love to do and figure out a way to get paid to do it. (Sounds like you need to have plan) But instead of focusing so much on the “plan” maybe just try being open to whatever comes your way. You never know what might happen!! And what if what does happen completely deviates from the plan and leads you to something greater and more meaningful than anything you’ve ever known? It’s something to think about. I don’t believe we need to have all the answers. I just think we need to have a little faith….
So year number 3. This was a really great year. I taught 3 classes this year, as you may know–two eleventh grade classes (the “naughty” girls) and a twelfth grade class of gifted students who I had the privilege of teaching the year before. And oh how I loved these girls. The girls in our gifted program (which will no longer exist, unfortunately) were amazing in every way. Plus, since I already knew them, it was super fun this year to try new things and to stretch them even further than I did the year before. While these girls have very good English acquisition, it is still their second language, so the expectation shouldn’t be what I would have for my students in the states. However, I found myself having really high standards for these girls, and I have to tell you, they met and exceeded just about every goal I had for them. We read Jane Eyre, which most of them loved (I love it, of course) and we had the best discussions!! They had a choice of reading 1984 or The Giver…and boy was that AMAZING! And at the end of our year together we read A Thousand Splendid Suns–my favorite of the Hosseini novels. They created a beautiful graffiti wall for one of their final projects, and it was all so wonderful. I was so sad to miss their graduation, but I was in the States, attending Victoria’s college graduation, so I think they forgave me. At the end of the year, I wrote each girl a personal note and gave each of them a pink rose. There were lots of tears, and hugs and kisses and well-wishes. And some of them wrote me the loveliest notes of tribute you’ve ever seen.
One of my students even received this amazing scholarship to come to school in the US. I was over the moon–so was she. She is the tiniest girl with the fiercest spirit! She wants to make a difference in our world, and I believe with my whole heart that she will. When she popped by the school to collect some recommendation letters, she came to see me. She said: Miss, you changed me. You made me crazy! I said: I made you “crazy?” (I wasn’t sure this was such a great a thing) But she continued: Yes! You made me crazy! You made me believe that I could do things I never thought I could do. And here come the tears. Again. It’s so hard to explain how words like these make me feel. Let’s just say this. When people ask me why I do what I do it is for times like this. When someone says to me: You changed me…you gave me hope. What more can a person aspire to do? I don’t know. It’s just so humbling. I’m just a regular person, but I want to make a difference. And it’s times like this when I get just a glimpse of that…and I’m so very grateful.
We also had a lot of changes this year. Several of my teacher friends are leaving the UAE for good. Some are heading home, others to new adventures. It’s going to be weird starting the year without them in the fall. That’s the thing about living abroad. It’s temporary. People come and go, but we form these amazing attachments that will last a lifetime, and I’m thankful for my friends here. Without them, I’d surely go mad.
The two grade eleven classes I had were challenging. Some teachers had fits with them because they’d be so bad. But I didn’t really find that to be true for me. Yeah, they gave me some problems. They didn’t want to do much of anything. But we still laughed a lot. They still learned. And, at the end of the year, there was a lot of: I’ll miss you so much!! We love you! So all in all, year three is in the books, and it was a fine year. Now, onto year number four–but first, a little more vacation!!
Thanks for reading. Don’t be afraid to deviate from “the plan.” You never know where that path might lead you! Till next time! L