Saturday, September 27, 2014

My day-to-day life in Saudi Arabia

Hello blogosphere, I know it's been a while. Last week I had a cold and was definitely not feeling up to typing up a clever-and-always-too-long blog post. So now I'm going to write about what's been going on since mid-September and provide some insight into my daily life.

Since my last blog post nothing of great significance has happened. This past Tuesday was Saudi National Day so there was no school. That was a nice break in the middle of the week but I did notice that having two days of school, a break, then two days of school meant that my students were more excitable than usual.

On Monday after school our little group of new teachers went over to another compound that a lot of the school's staff lives on. We were invited over by some colleagues and spent the evening by the beach - my first adventure to the beach here. The water was a nice lukewarm but very salty. A few of my teacher friends decided to swim and they said it was really nice, but they definitely wanted to shower off the sticky saltiness when they came out. The sand was soft and as I stood by the water's edge, the waves slowly caused my feet to sink into the sand. It was quite humid but we put up with it because it was a weekend evening on a Monday! We sat around in plastic chairs, watched darkness descend very quickly (as I've noticed is pretty normal around here), chatted, and then enjoyed a feast prepared by our hosts. The evening ended at a host's house with tasty desserts and a search for speakers for the stereo.

I spent my day off as I spend any day off - planning lessons and house chores. School went well the rest of the week, as it has been going. On Thursday I did feel like Sunday was ages ago because the holiday had broken up the week. I'm still really happy with my class, team, and school overall. I definitely think I'm spending more time on planning lessons than I could be if I typed less, but until I trust myself I'm going to keep planning the way I have been. It is working, it's just a full weekend experience. I enjoy planning, don't get me wrong, but I'm putting a lot of time into it. There's also a repetitive quality to planning because you can't reuse plans. You might be able to tweak them in later years, but once they are used, they are used. It's like spending several hours making a delicious, homemade chocolate cake and then in 5 minutes it's devoured by your cake-loving family. You now have to go make a new cake. I did look back at my Grade 1 plans from when I was student teaching and noticed that I wrote much less in those than I write today. But I think that's because the stakes are higher with my own classroom and I've gotten used to writing in a certain format over the past month. Perhaps I'll pare the writing in my plans down as my schedule picks up in October.

So in October I will start coaching an after-school activity - Kindergarten and Grade 1 soccer. Honestly it will be magnet ball, but I'm hoping that because the weather will be cooler we can get outside and run around, a lot. Plus I love this age group and some of my students might sign up, which would be fun because I'd get to work with them in a different environment.

Speaking of weather, it's late September. If I was back in Virginia I would probably be starting to wear jackets, leggings (under dresses because they are not pants), boots, and scarves. All the cute fall clothes. I'd also be seeing all the fall foliage, smelling pumpkin spice lattes every time I'd walk into a university library, and enjoying the last warm remnants of summer. But I'm not in Virginia. I had that weather realization when I left my classroom one afternoon to go pick my students up from a special. I walked outside and a blast of hot air meet me square in the face. Honestly, it is still summer-hot here in Saudi. So it's going to be a while before I trade my sandals for boots, if at all.

I do miss parts of fall. This Wednesday one of the teachers had a couple of us over to hang out and her house smelt of gingerbread and nutmeg. It was delightful. There are trees here but they don't seem to be adhering to the norms of the autumn equinox. Alas, I might have to wait to wear my cute cold weather clothes over winter break.

We do have a break coming up, next week actually. Eid Al-Adha is the first full week of October and we don't have school. I've already got travel plans and I'm really excited. You'll hear more about them after the fact.

Oh yes, so my day-to-day life here in Saudi Arabia. Well since I teach Sunday-Thursday that takes up the majority of my time. I'm usually up at 5, which actually works because it gets light here really early so by 5 it's light enough to fool me into thinking it's like 9am. After teaching I usually just come home and either plan lessons (depending on how much I accomplished over the weekend), grade, or relax and watch educational shows on YouTube - shoutout to Crash Course. (Yes I am so in love with learning that I relax by learning.) There usually comes a point in the evening that I realize I should eat food, at which point I make food, consume it, and resume whatever task I had been doing. I'm usually in bed by 9:30/10 which I established last year during student teaching as the key time to consistently hit the hay lest I want to be sleep deprived forever. Occasionally after school I'll go with teacher friends to run errands such as going to the bank (we went too many times this past week) or grocery shopping. I have to plan these excursions ahead of time because 1) I'll need to remember to bring my abaya with me if we are leaving from school, 2) we need to book a driver. The booking a driver part isn't just because I'm a woman living in Saudi Arabia, it's also because none of our little group have cars yet. The men just purchased cars but, as I understand it, they are coming from Jeddah so it will be a few weeks until they arrive. Additionally, the school and compound have buses to take us to do these errands so it only makes sense to use them.

Overall my living habits haven't changed since I moved here. I still only go grocery shopping maybe once a week but usually try to make it two weeks before a trip. I also spend about the same as I would in the States on those groceries. (Though it is kind of fun handing over 220 SAR at the supermarket since it sounds like a lot to my USD-brain though it's just $60.) Though I certainly have the space I haven't bought much for my house besides some basic necessities (door mat, shower mat, paper towels, spatula, oven sheet, etc.). I did FINALLY start putting up my collection of travel photographs. (If you've ever seen my previous bedrooms you know what I'm talking about.) So far I've only got high school/college and Australia photos up, but I'm hoping to finish the rest this week. Pictures when it's finished.

So it may be a combination of the feminist YouTube videos I was watching last night, the 6 seasons of How I Met Your Mother I managed to consume in a month, and the non-existent dating scene in my current location, but anyway I've determined that I'm more than okay with not checking off anything on the relationship to-do list for a good while. I'm truly focused on my career and I don't feel pressure to get into a romantic relationship anytime soon. I've determined that my 20s are about me, my career, and my ambitions. I applaud friends who have found their soulmate and are going to be spending their 20s, 30s, 40s, etc. together, but I'm sure that that permanency is not for me yet. I know I want a Ph.D. before I want a family and I think that knowing that now will help me focus over the next decade. I'm writing this for me, but I thought I'd share it in the event that some random reader is following me and expecting to hear about potential dating adventures. Can't count it out, but I'm not looking.

To wrap up this picture-less and as always, lengthy post I'll say this: This Thursday I celebrated being a real teacher for a whole month (Woohoo! I'm not failing miserably!) and that is a big milestone right now. My first year of teaching has only just begun and I've got years to go before I sleep (citation: Frost). I'm fully invested in learning everything I can this year about how to actually be a teacher and I'm shutting out distractions because this is really important to me. Of course, travel adventures are necessary to my sanity and happiness so those don't count as distractions, haha. Expect a blog about my travel adventures over Eid to be posted around mid-October. Until then...

Happy teaching and traveling,

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