Tag Archives: cars

Yoga, Wheel Alignment, Stuckness, & Parenting part 1

19 Sep

Ricky’s Theme-The Beastie Boys, As Daylight Dies-Killswitch Engage, Oblivion-Maastodon, Another Brick in the Wall Pt. !-Pink Floyd, Where it’s At-Beck, In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth:3-Coheed & Cambria, 100% Dundee-The Roots, Paint It Black-The Rolling Stones, Don’t Follow Me-Cody Chestnutt, How Heavy This Axe-The Sword, No Surprises-Radiohead, Tight Brain-Dig, Set Phasers to Stun-Taking Back Sunday, Heard it on The X-ZZ Top, Battlestar Scralatchtica-Incubus, Shameless Little Monkeys-Crash Kings, Worry-Public Image Ltd., Cult of Personality-Living Colour, R-Evolve-30 Seconds to Mars, Hummer-Smashing Pumpkins, Red Barchetta-Rush, Tearjerker-Red Hot Chili Peppers, Pride and Joy-Marvin Gaye, Solomon’s Gold-Mr. Blotto, Lullaby-The Cure, Shadow-SOJA, Yes I Will-Michael Franti & Spearhead, Hello Like Before-Bill Withers, Temptation-New Order, Round and Round Remix 9-Jonell, Method Man, Kool G Rap, & Pharoah Monche, Too Fast for You-The Church, New Slang-The Shins, Come on Back-The Freddy Jones Band, Don’t Owe You a Thang-Gary Clarke Jr., Listening Wind-Talking Heads, A Beautiful Lie-30 Seconds to Mars, Wonder (Live)-Freddy Jones Band, House Rent Boogie-John Lee Hooker, Hard as Stone-The Steepwater Band, Bombtrack-Rage Against the Machine, Hot Sex-A Tribe Called Quest, The Show Must Go On-Pink Floyd, One Rainy Wish-Jimi Hendrix, Blank-Galactic Cowboys, Big Me-Foo Fighters

Hi...I know...it's been a while. Welcome Back!

Hi…I know…it’s been a while. Welcome Back!

Ok, Hi! Yes, it certainly has been a while.

Two Things:

  1. One of my best buddies in the world told me my blogs are too long to keep his attention. Jimmy, this two-parter is for you.
  2. I once had a writing professor who told me that writers often throw away their best material and keep their “shite”. A comment I immediately dismissed because he wasn’t British, and his using “shite” sounded stupid. So, to Professor Anglophile, “Bollocks to you, ya minger, and Bob’s your uncle!”

I’m going to split this blog in two…frankly, if I don’t you may perish in the middle of this endurance test across the Desert of Stuckness and Solution. Bring water, or wine, or a double IPA (which I would KILL for—someone get me a craft beer! How do hipsters survive here? No flannel, no craft beer, no Pabst Blue Ribbon, and no clove cigarettes!)

My ever failing attempt to get a good picture of the sunrise while traveling at 120kms per hour.

My ever failing attempt to get a good picture of the sunrise while traveling at 120kms per hour.

SO! First! Before I drop my excuse for not writing these last few months let me tell you why the universe provides for you IF you allow it. This is crazy cool! Two quick real life stories.

Story #1 Saved by the Yoga Bell

It is no secret that my personal life has been…ummm…challenging the last few years. Big changes, lots to learn, so much growth it often hurts like that heartburn-eye squinty-headache-tightness in your chest-lump in your throat-strained neck and shoulders thing…you know, life pains. Things have been going better, but sometimes when you connect with part of that past, the wounds reopen. Especially, when you learn things you didn’t know and it’s causing new turmoil. I hope that is vague enough, and clear enough at the same time. Either way, it’s enough for what follows.

Two days ago I received more new bad news about something I thought had been settled. It drove me crazy all through the work day and into the evening. Needless to say, I had a hard time focusing at work. I even shut my office door (which I very rarely ever do) for 20 frequently interrupted minutes to “think” it out. Yeah, did not work.

Just outside my office window...always.

Just outside my office window…always.

A large part of my return to physical and mental health, has been Yoga and meditation. Sunday night is my hour long Yoga core strength class. I mostly love it, except when the Ashtanga punisher teaches. (Balance this, lady…I kid, I kid… :l) I can do yoga at home all week, but the class dynamic and having a teacher, or two, live in front of you really helps.

I didn’t want to go because, darn it, I was going to pace and argue with myself about something I could do nothing about. Maybe, I’d punch a pillow or get angry and stub my toe while pacing futilely. I had big plans to ignore every piece of advice the Serenity Prayer has to offer. Thankfully, I decided to go.

They know how to do their parks in the Dhabi!

They know how to do their parks in the Dhabi!

As I sat on my mat in the crowded, candle lit room listening to “soothing” sitar music, I waited for class to start. It was the largest group I’ve seen. Good, I can hide. Of course I was obsessing about my bad day in that dangerous neighborhood known as my head. Suddenly, the teacher approached me. “Lee would you demo tonight? My wrist is injured, there are some new people here, and I’ll need someone to show them the sun salutation vinyasa flow.”

Ya know? I just blurted “yes”. No thought control, just immediate yes. If I could have shot myself a look it would have been to say, “Heeeeyyy….Hellllooooowwww! This is your Desire-to-stay-in-the-past speaking! We’re obsessing here, there’s no time for that!”

I moved to the front of the class, dead in front of the mirror I neurotically avoid, and sat padmasana (almost), facing a sea of waiting faces. Crazy. Totally out of my comfort zone, and I had propelled myself into it without thought. What was driving this? Had I thought about it more, I could have come up with perfectly logical reasons to say “no”. “Ya know, Sasha, this is soooooo crazy, I hurt my wrist, uhhhh, ummmm, jogging…yeah, jogging.” I didn’t, though. Thankfully. Somewhere, somehow, a rescued-by-faith decision occurred. That’s all I can figure.

It was the best class I’ve ever had, not because I’m good at yoga (my crow is really just a set up for the inevitable face plant—every time. My tree is a nervous bush in gale force winds.), but I learned the real reason for focusing during yoga. Through the breathing, the flow, the concentration, and being tuned in with the class and our awesome teacher, I was restored. I felt lighter than when I began.

This is me doing a really poor triangle pose way back in May. We yoga'd under the full moon (that's not the actual moon behind us). #reluctant yogamodel

This is Kristina & me doing a really poor triangle pose way back in May. We yoga’d under the full moon (that’s not the actual moon behind us). After 8 months of yoga I feel stronger and my balance is so much better. #reluctantyogamodel

Why? How does that happen? I walk in there, same as every week, totally preoccupied, half-looking forward to yoga-ing in my dark corner (physically and mentally), and suddenly I’m in a situation where I must devote my concentration fully to my health (physically and mentally).

My blurtestation (Hey new readers, I make up words. You understand.) of “yes” was me giving myself over to something else, something bigger, a better purpose than what I was fulfilling at the time. Wanna be practical? Ok, I was serving the class. I offered my knowledge to the class. Wanna be spiritual? Through serving others, I served myself. The expression of love through yoga for myself, informed the class, and healed me. Lumpy throat. Sorry. I am grateful for everything I learn. Everyday.

“Yoga is…useful to learn how to be in a tough place, and be really relaxed.” Quote from the Documentary film “Yoga is…” I’d add…and to be strong, as well.

Eye-opening…really. We can restore ourselves, if we are open to the contributions from the universe.

The moon one morning. Pretty.

The moon one morning. Pretty.

Story #2 Mussafah! I apologize!

I’ve been dreading getting new tires and rotors and brake pads for Brown Sugar (my intrepid Toyota Land Cruiser). Why?

Brown Sugar with her new shoes.

Brown Sugar with her new shoes.

A: It’s not always easy in the Dhabi, and my local mechanic doesn’t speak English. Well, he kinda does. I say shock absorber, he says “jumper”. So, at times we don’t communicate well. Trying to charade in English why I think I need new rotors and pads for the third time gets…embarrassing. A six foot one, well fed man, drenched in sweat in a suit and tie, standing on one foot to show I’m braking, and shimmying like a drunk hula hoop mime. Not pretty…and I’m pretty sure his employees speak English, but would rather watch me do the sweaty dance.

B. Money. Of course it’s expensive. At a local Service Station (yes, Midwest America they still exist—they pump your gas, wash your windows, and smile…crazy way to employ more people, huh?), I was quoted around $1700 (that’s about 6000 dirhams, which is a shocker) for tires and parts…not labor. So, there’s some mental preparation for that. He looked at one wheel and spit out that number so I thought, “Forgive me, Arnav, if I seek a second opinion…uh, buh bye!”

C: The best place for this kind of work is not under the bright lights, glitter, and rich Oud scented air of Abu Dhabi Island. (Yes, it’s an island—water and stuff—geez, I can’t teach geography, too! Google, after this, please.) No, the best place to get the best prices, and the best workmanship is the much maligned, traffic and trash infested, scent of a hot wet swampy sock filled with bleu cheese that lies in the sun scaring away even the hungriest of varmint and parasite, Industrial City. Yes, my new favorite place: Mussafah! OK, so in past blogs I’ve used a little poetic license to get some cheap laughs at the expense of Mussafah. Forgive me, Mussaphans, I knew not of what I spoke.

That Camaro was not happy when the guy in the rental rubbed his from right wheel well and quarter panel. Too may cars for one spot. Ho-hum another night in Mussafah.

That Camaro was not happy when the guy in the rental rubbed his from right wheel well and quarter panel. Too may cars for one spot. Ho-hum another night in Mussafah.

So, I bounced that first estimate off one of my Emirati friends. He sighed this exasperated sigh. I thought he was going to (get up on a stool) and pat me on the head (Ali is a wee shorter than me.), as if to say, “Silly expat, everyone knows you don’t get your car fixed on the island”.

131

Ali trying to soften me up with fresh dates…no fresh, like off the tree that day fresh.

Mind you, this is at school. So Ali, who has two classes left to teach that day says, “Go Mussafah now! I get good price for Mr. Lee.” After spending 15 minutes trying to explain to a local, who speaks very little English, why the only administrator in the building can’t make an impromptu trip to get his car worked on during the middle of a work day, he disappointingly relented. Oh yeah, he couldn’t leave, either. That’s how I see it. The Arabic teachers, not so much. A car appointment (which you don’t really make—I don’t think they know I know that) is treated with the reverence of seeing a specialist at the Mayo Clinic.

We agreed to go at night. After all, Mussafah is much prettier, and even busier, at night. It is where ALL, as in EVERY ONE OF THEM, the locals go for vehicular entertainment. The sirens of the car accidents light the sky, the leaking fluids from multiple rear end crashes glisten on the humid roadway, the exhaust smog casts magical stripes across the moon, and the night breeze blows the heavily scented air by you in waves of reality. Ahhhh, Mussafah…ack ack…lovely.

Ali and his apprentice negotiating like bosses in Mussafah. (Ali asked to stand on the running board for the pic.)

Ali and his apprentice negotiating like bosses in Mussafah. (Ali asked to stand on the running board for the pic.)

I’ll skip the driving around and listening to him get fake angry at the prices we were quoted as he’d turn and wink at me. Finally, we settle at a place. They put on brand new tires (for road and sand!), re-align the wheels and camber, and tighten the tie rods. The truck runs so smoothly, it feels new. No need for rotors or pads. Ummm, yeah, I knew that…

Sonar alignment...very cool.

Sonar alignment…very cool.

Ali steps away during the alignment process to speak to one of his wives (again people, it’s cultural, Google! Hello?). During that time I agree to an extra charge because the wheels are so out of whack. Basically, an extra $50, which seems reasonable considering I’m saving so much money. As I go to pay, Ali grabs my hand and forces it back into my pocket and with obvious disgust starts in on the innocent guy behind the counter with a tirade of Arabic that would shame any angry Hispanic woman. Something about the kandoora; once donned, it’s as if they feel a real superpower of persuasion, regardless of how far off the spectrum of logic the argument might be. It is a true belief in who they are. It is the national dress and, despite its intended humility, it is powerful. It also makes it kinda tough identify a particular guy in a crowd.

The sales manager, a large Syrian sweating out of his Rip Curl cholo shirt and dickies shorts (longs, really) with a gelled, spiky flat top, who quoted the price returns to the shop. He sees Ali yelling at anyone who will listen (employee or not). Ali is gesturing at me, and waiving his hands up and down at me like a game show presenter model nervous on her first day. Afraid of embarrassing him, I tell Ali I knew about the price. I agreed to it. He looks at me like a father trying to sneak a 16 year old into an amusement park for an “under 12” price. Little Ali and Large Yousef argue somewhat politely for about 15 minutes.

Here’s how it ends. Yousef, who speaks English very well explains to me that yes, he and I agreed on the higher price, but Ali explained to him that I am a good man who deserves to be treated like a brother. That I always treat Ali and his friends like a brother. Because Ali and Yousef are brothers, according to their religious beliefs, and Ali is my brother because he loves me (his words—flattering), then Yousef is my brother, too. Since he would always give his brother the discount; it’s the right thing to do. I tried to explain to Ali that I agreed on the price, and then Yousef stopped me. He said, “My friend, this man wants you to be treated the best. I can see how much he means it. Because of this, I give the discount with no problem or regret. You are my brother, too.”

Touched, even now as I recall it. For all the pomp and yelling, and banter, the sincerity between the men of so many different countries here is impressive. There is a hierarchy with the Emiratis at the top, but there is also an understanding among these men. They don’t need to be reminded, it is automatic.

I saved $1200. I learned so much more.

The universe takes care of you, if you’re willing to let it. Period.

Love these. There are lines of help, everywhere. You must be open to them.

Love these. There are lines of help, everywhere. You must be open to them.

Ok…so, where exactly have I been?

Here’s what happens…life! That’s no excuse or copout. Life just happens. For me, I observe and participate and spend time in my head (all gurus would say way too much), and I get ideas for writing, but then I don’t sit down and do it. Then, this pile of ideas becomes a mountain, a scene in the distance. The colors and chutes and faces of the mountain look like trees, or clearings, or jagged rock, but there is no detail in your view…just a mountain.

The mountains in Fujairah. A truly beautiful place about 2 1/2 hours away. Beautiful from afar, treacherous up close...read on.

The mountains in Fujairah. A truly beautiful place about 2 1/2 hours away. Beautiful from afar, treacherous up close…read on.

The problem is…it’s your mountain (mine in this case), and it always seems easier to approach someone else’s mountain than it does your own. Why? Duh! You know what’s in your mountain. You can’t be objective and rational with your mountain. Objective and rational with someone else’s mountain is much easier than dealing with your subjective mountain. When you self-talk about the ideas in your mountain, your sentences are full of the word “but”. “Hmmm, I really need to talk about this, buuuuut…what will people think, but is it interesting, but do I really want to explore that, or but does anyone really care about the difference between a Wendy’s Frosty and a chocolate shake?” (By the way, a Frosty is NOT a shake and NEVER try me on this. EVER!)

See what I mean? Those ideas full of detail, start to blur for a lack of objectivity. The more you amass them, the less definition they have, and that mountain seems much more beautiful, or manageable, from afar. Most do, right? How many pictures of a mountain close up do you own? You don’t! That’s a picture of a rock or a tree branch. Big pictures can be beautiful (or they can be ignored); details can get messy.

The Guardian of our campground in Fujairah. Do you see the face?

The Guardian of our campground in Fujairah. Do you see the face?

The reason you started that little pile in the first place is because you were stuck on what to do with your idea. That idea has details. Details seem synonymous with problems, work, and tedium. So, chuck that “oh yeah” idea under the bed, put that “I can’t believe this just occurred to me thought” in one of your three journals (yeah yeah, I have three…No! I don’t know why. Seemed like a good idea at the time.), or put that waking revelation in the voice files on your phone…yeah, that’s smart! It will always be with you, you can revisit it, and you look cool recording it. Smart guy…smart phone. Not really.

Anyway, as you stockpile your ideas you get further from the original inspiration. Walt freakin’ Whitman wrote about leaves, yes LEAVES of grass. Imagine the focus that idea took at the beginning. Sure, he expanded to include…well, everything, but the grasping of the idea is amazing.

So, you have these scattered ideas and notes (digital and otherwise) cluttering your life and your brain. There is no organizing principle. Well, that’s not true. YOU are the organizing principal (See what I did there? I’m a Principal…dork.)

Then, one day, it comes to you. You already know about stuckness. You read about it years ago. You understand how necessary it is. You know that stuckness is the goal of Zen masters. It’s the stopping on a thought and staying there. You also know how hard it is.

So, I went to the source of the revelation. Zen & the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig. I’ve taken that book everywhere I’ve ever gone for the last 25 years. Why didn’t I think of this months ago? I picked it up, flipped right to the chapter (24) that involves stuckness and found all my familiar underlining. Then, there it is, and you make the face that Sheriff Brody (Roy Scheider) makes the first time he sees the shark. (Ya know WE call the shark “Jaws”, they call it “the shark”.)

The Novel! The Chataqua. The Continuous Teacher.

The Novel! The Chataqua. The Continuous Teacher.

“…stuckness is bound to disappear. Your mind will naturally and freely move toward a solution…Stuckness shouldn’t be avoided, it is the physic predecessor of all understanding.” p.257

Voila. I have been so stuck, that I stepped away from it. When I examined the stuckness, the solution appeared. So, here I am writing my blog. I tell ya…this brain thing. Someone should study it…Stuckness isn’t bad. It’s your mind telling you to keep thinking about this issue. You have the answer, you just might be looking at it from a traditional angle that can’t fix your stuckness. Keep trying.

That’s why I haven’t written. I was stuck. Something had me stuck. That something, is the next and TOTALLY different part of today’s blog. The very obstacle that blinded me from progress, I had already worked out. I’ve already written it, but you’ve never seen it. So, I’m taking a huge leap of faith here, and I’m going to bare a pretty large portion of my soul, and present you with:

A Loving Parent’s Open Letter…That’s part 2…coming soon. Enjoy your day….here’s something to think about

Change...put your hand up. Get involved with what you want to change.

Change…put your hand up. Get involved with what you want to change.

Everyday a New Day, School Improvement is Real, or Life is Ordinary; add some Extra.

6 Mar

(No Playlist this month…I’ll reinstate it, if you’re interested  Please enjoy!)

If I could be the leaves, then like jade I would stay evergreen

and Spread my limbs out wide and pull love so close to me

and If I could be the roots, I would dig deep like ancestry

and If I were the fruits, you’d make the sweetest cherry pie from me

and If I could be the night, my moon replace all electric lights

and Magic music would transmit from outer space on satellites
If I myself could be the ocean, you would feel the motion all the time

and If I were the words, then everything that everybody said would rhyme

Michael Franti – What I Be

Too many shadows in my room
Too many hours in this midnight
Too many corners in my mind
So much to do to set my heart right

Oh, it’s taking so long
I could be wrong, I could be ready
Oh but if I take my heart’s advice
I should assume it’s still unsteady
I am in repair, I am in repair
John Mayer – In Repair

Through excessive reliance on thinking, reality becomes fragmented.” Eckhart Tolle

So much contradiction in my day today, I don’t know where to start. (Can’tcha tell from the lyrical selections? Hey, it’s been an interesting day. Gotta love that!)

Typical Day in Mista Lee's office.

Typical Day in Mista Lee’s office.

See! PLCs are fun!

See! PLCs are fun!

I am writing on 14 February (that’s how long I’ve been in The Dhabi, I’m inverting dates), Valentine’s Day. I woke up with a sadness. Normally, I spend the day, or night, with my girls. We cook their favorite meals, pick up a few bottles of bubbly (sparkling grape juice) and have a “date night”. I love it. I miss it. I miss them. I love them.

I love the architecture here. This is the pool at the Intercontinental in Chicago. I stayed there with my daughters over winter break for a Christmas shopping trip.

I love the architecture here. This is the pool at the Intercontinental in Chicago. I stayed there with my daughters over winter break for a Christmas shopping trip.

The John Mayer lyrics came to me before I even turned on my music this morning. There were shadows in my room, there was a darkness feeling that lasted too long. I was spending too much time in the corners of my mind (umm, I think I still am)…and I am working really, really hard to set my heart right.

The Michael Franti lyrics fueled a really good walkabout the other day and they stuck with me. He is really adept and pointing out the Whitman-esque beauties in the world that we tend to overlook. I am really grateful for Michael Franti’s music. (Check him out if you haven’t yet, you will love it…no matter who you are.)

So, back to my brief, heavy heart from this morning. I felt some homesick pangs today. I have many, many more good days, than bad, but there are some holidays that get to you when you’re 7700 miles from home. School (work, as some might call it) is awesome. It’s an amazing challenge every-darn stinkin’-day. Our school is seriously improving by leaps and bounds. The teachers are banding together and bringing us up to competitive heights. We have solid lesson plans, learning centers in classrooms, visible behavior management systems, testing strategies, PLCs…yes, the Al Bawadi Unicorns are on the brink of legendary improvement. THAT, is a serious source of joy for me.

Yes! Grade 6...in a line...without their teacher! THAT is amazing!

Yes! Grade 6…in a line…without their teacher! THAT is amazing!

PD Gallery Walk, outside. A luxury when it only rains 5 days a year.

PD Gallery Walk, outside. A luxury when it only rains 5 days a year.

Senior Leadership Team--doin' some strategery.

Senior Leadership Team–doin’ some strategery.

However, there are setbacks…for me, away from school. There are struggles. There are obstacles to growth. You know who puts them there? I do. I find that my resistance to things happening stops me from learning. I rarely ever say “sh*t happens”, but it does. There’s nothing you can do about it. You can resist, put up a fight, complain to anyone who will listen, tell people “should this/shouldn’t that”…but, it still happens, so acknowledge it, have your emotions, but see it for what it is. This is so basic to how we learn.

Not as strange as one might think.

A lesson in adaptation.

Recently, I watched a TEDtalk by Tom Wujec (Build a Tower, Build a Team—see it!) I won’t give it away, because he does a much better job of explaining this phenomenon…you will never get everything right, the first time you try it. Children know this. They build, and play, and make up games, and they don’t always work, but children don’t focus on the failure, they focus on the process…the game…the creation. This is why project based/inquisitive-based learning is so important. Tell them to memorize the right way to do something and they’ll have to succeed at it a number of times before it is perfected. Let them discover their own way to learn it, and it becomes their practice. This should be applied in all arenas of our lives.

Our Current PD Project. Do what we do...better. Use our expertise to help each other raise the bar.

Our Current PD Project. Do what we do…better. Use our expertise to help each other raise the bar.

As adults, we sometimes fail, and we let that failure discourage us. Really, that failure is a way of getting a mistake out of the way. Or, we use something that happened to us to stop us from attempting something. Imagine as a kid, if when you fell off your bike for the first time, you never got on it again. “Hey, well that didn’t work…so much for bikes!” Ever see Adam Sandler’s “Mr. Deeds”? There’s a scene near the end where he reminds a room full of millionaire stockholders that as children, we believed in our dreams and nothing (but growing up) could stop us from believing in them. As adults, though, some of us let “what happened” stop us from getting back on that bike, or from the beliefs we once held. John Mayer also writes, “Is there anyone who ever remembers/changing their mind/from the paint on a sign?” No, belief is stronger than that.

No Old-Timey Horns! These are around the hospitals in the Dhabi.

No Old-Timey Horns! These are around the hospitals in the Dhabi. I wonder if the paint on this sign makes people change their mind?

So, what happens? Life happens. Things out of your control slow you down, create problems, create resistance. Sometimes, we focus on those things, and we let them slow us down. (Ego…again.) If you resist what happens in your life then you put yourself at the mercy of it, and you let something, or someone, else determine how you feel. I’m talking about things that happened, not future choices. Of course, we can’t just let go of making good decisions. That could be disastrous.

What’s my advice…for me? Sometimes life presents you with limitations. Like physical distance from loved ones, or impossibly small budgets, or…ya know? I’ll spare you the advice. To each his own, correct?

One of our boys expressing his freedom to choose....incorrectly.

One of our boys expressing his freedom to choose….incorrectly.

Soooo, I wrote everything above this paragraph 14 days ago. Here’s what’s strange. I don’t really like it, but I’m sticking with it. The other strange thing is I saw “Boyhood” today. If I had seen it 14 days ago, the first half of this blog would have been totally different. Well, not totally different, but from a different perspective.

You see, I think the advice I held back was to live each day as it’s own, to stay present, to appreciate what you have in front of you, right now. In fact, that advice is doled out in the movie, as well. Here’s the thing, though…balance. I need to balance my thinking. Yes, today is…well, whatever today is, but chances are, today might not be memorable. It’s a string of todays that really become a life…many non-memorable, though we’ll characterize them as “good”, days. Life really is dominated by good days.

TED Talk The Case for Emotional Hygiene. Please watch this. It’s really good. 

Anyway, as I watched “Boyhood”, I went through it all. I watched as a boy, as a brother, as a boyfriend, as a student, as a son, as a husband, as a father, and as a father away from his children. Needless to say, there were some tough moments. However, I can’t put my finger on any one of them and I just saw the movie today. Why? I know I went through the emotional spectrum watching it, but I can’t recall any certain scene and the emotion it evoked. None were remarkable or extreme, but all were special. There’s that balance.

The need for...

The need for…

...balance

…balance.

I kept watching and waiting for some tragedy to befall the family. My instinct as a parent, and as an avid watcher of films, was to look for the cringe moment when something really bad happened to anyone. Ya know? That urge to protect the kids as they grow. Yes, some bad things happened, but there was so much more life around than the bad things.

So I asked myself…”Hey Lee, I have a question for you?” (Yes, I answered. Yes, I know that’s an issue.) The question is, why was I waiting for something bad to happen? Why did I expect it? Does a story about life require a tragedy in order to be life-like? Has my lifelong study of literature boxed me into formulas? Do we assign the word “tragedy” to life events that really should be called “learning opportunities” or, just “life events”. Really, that’s all they are…events that happen during life. So, change of thought for me. Life is not like in the movies…even the really good ones. So, the next time someone says, “…ugh, my life is like a movie…or soap opera…or bad sitcom…” remember, you’re making it that. It simply isn’t true, unless you let it be.

Love the architecture and the landscape architecture here.

Love the architecture and the landscape architecture here.

Symmetry.

Symmetry.

I know you've seen this before. Sun Tower on your left, Sky Tower on your right.

I know you’ve seen this before. Sun Tower on your left, Sky Tower on your right.

Ok, so, that one question became 4 questions…that I can remember. Do we require tragedy to “begin” the life we’re really looking for? I don’t think so. Certainly, we’ve all had our tragedies. I could list the loss of people and events that were traumatic, but did I require them to grow. No, I didn’t. I don’t.

You see, we have the freedom to start the life we want right now. There’s risk in that. There is fear; self-generated. What’s the alternative, though? Living the life you don’t want? Is that an option? In my past, I didn’t take the emotional risks, or make the changes I needed to make. So, the problems stacked up, and so did the obstacles to happiness. The obstacles I made. However, I wasn’t expecting them. I didn’t feel they were necessary; they were definitely part of the plan. However, problems are not the definitions of your life. You face them, you breathe, you live.

Space to breathe. The Campers of Abu Dhabi ride again.

Space to breathe. The Campers of Abu Dhabi ride again.

That’s the beauty of the film. With a scope of 12 years as the setting, the tragedies and their impact seem to diminish in emotional damage because, frankly, life is too busy and too short to cling to them. Watching these lives as they grow over 12 years creates an emotional balance. Life is bigger than the tough moments; they fade and life gets more…more…more everything.

Ya think these dudes are focused on tragedy? I doubt it. They climb over the top of a 76 story building, then slowly work down it hanging by two lines of knotted together rope. Yes, connected by knots. That's trust.

Ya think these dudes are focused on tragedy? I doubt it. They climb over the top of a 76 story building, then slowly work down it hanging by two lines of knotted together rope. Yes, connected by knots. That’s trust.

So the family in the film they just lived. They weren’t extraordinary people, they didn’t fight some Goliath, there were no severe, extreme measures to take in order to survive. They just lived. No typical story arc, none of the stuff I forced my poor English students to remember that every story had…just life. That’s why I think I liked it so much.

So, where’s the balance? Life is long, but made up of moments that are characterized by the choices we make and the labels we attach to them. If we take the tough moments and pick and pull at them like skin on a hangnail, they will get bigger and bleed. We run the risk of making those short bad moments into a life. Then one day, a switch flips and you say, “…life’s too short to hold this or that grudge…” But really, life is long, and you chose to string short bad moments into one long one. I’m choosing to balance my perspective today. I will appreciate the extreme moments as catalysts for growth and change. I will keep in mind that life is long enough to get over anything…as long as I choose to get over it.

AWOD-dhabob=fog. It can be so thick that school is delayed or cancelled. Don't dwell on the fog, appreciate the clarity that follows.

AWOD-dhabob=fog. It can be so thick that school is delayed or cancelled. Don’t dwell on the fog, appreciate the clarity that follows.

Thus the Tolle quote way up at the top. Analyzing a moment over and over again suspends you in that moment, and you lose reality. I bounced the first half of this blog off a friend who is a writer and extremely intelligent. She said, “It’s like you’re not even here!” Six words that stopped me. She was right. All this “now” talk and I was sitting here discussing the past. I felt it, I acknowledge it, and today is a new day. Thanks for the kick! 

Sunrise and Snoopy. (Fujairah, UAE) A new day...everyday. What will you do with it?

Sunrise and Snoopy. (Fujairah, UAE) A new day…everyday. What will you do with it?

Do you know the Serenity Prayer? I do, and I still forget.

We are an impressive work in progress.

Peace and love to you, my friends.

Love, Lee

Speaking of Hygiene-yes, there are sporks here. I am not going to tell you that this boy did not and will not wash his hands. Licked clean and dried on his pants. Eat well, my friends!

Speaking of Hygiene-yes, there are sporks here. I am not going to tell you that this boy did not and will not wash his hands. Licked clean and dried on his pants. Eat well, my friends.

Giving Thanks, The Blinged-out City, and Making faces in Parking Garages

30 Nov

Playlist: Michael Franti & Spearhead 11:59, John Legend Little Ghetto Boy, Coheed & Cambria Crossing the Frame, Crash Kings Six Foot Tall, Foo Fighters Breakout, The Talking Heads Once in a Lifetime, Bill Withers Lean on Me, Michael Franti & Spearhead Hey Now Now, Coheed & Cambria Radio Bye Bye, Pepper FKARND. Beastie Boys Futterman’s Rule, The Roots Do You Want More?, Deftones The Passenger, Radiohead Exit Music (For a Film), Tool Schism, Buddy Guy Give Me My Coat and Shoes, Jet Take It or Leave it.

Sometimes in our lives
We all have pain, we all have sorrow
But if we are wise
We know that there’s always tomorrow

Lean on me when you’re not strong
And I’ll be your friend, I’ll help you carry on
For it won’t be long
‘Til I’m gonna need somebody to lean on

Bill Withers – Lean On Me

And don’t let mistakes be so monumental
And don’t let your love be so confidential
And don’t let your mind be so darn judgmental
And please let your heart be more influential
Michael Franti – Hey Now Now

Go back and read those. C’mon, I know you scanned it. Read them…..did you say “Yeah” in agreement to yourself? I was on a walkabout today and these verses hit me VERY hard. Normally, I skip Lean on Me for a more soulful Withers song, but today, the day after Thanksgiving, the day after a really tough conversation from home, the first time in 45 years I have not been with blood family, today I needed someone to lean on. Those who know me well, know I am the post, you lean on me. I am happy to be that, but I forgot that I may need it, too. Life has a way of reminding you of these things. We all need someone to lean on eventually, and I have been very lucky over the past year to have many of you who have held me up. I got a little ahead of myself over the last few weeks. I had a bit too much of a strut, and I was feeling strong. Then, the Thanksgiving holiday hit me right in the gizzard (sorry, too easy, I know). The bottom line is, I miss my family…really, my families. That’s the beauty of growing old; life builds families around you (if you allow it), and those families provide strength when you feel weak.

The recruiters warned us we’d feel homesick, eventually. Well, it’s here. I have denied it, but once again, some things are out of our control, and as Michael Franti says, “And please let your heart be more influential”. You have to allow the feelings to come. I spent years burying them to prove that I’m tough. Sure, my students saw me get emotional when they fought each other, or some other injustice occurred, but I didn’t take time to examine how I felt. I was a raft springing tiny holes, and patching them up desperately so I wouldn’t have to admit that some maintenance was necessary. I’m not sure where else to go with this metaphor other than to say, I am allowing others to help with the holes, and for the first time in a long time, I see that we really do all need to lean on each other once in a while. It’s refreshing and relieving to accept.

Shall I lighten this up a bit? Here’s a sign that 7000+ miles from home, isn’t that far…

Well Driven!? Really?

Well Driven!? Really?

I was behind this truck for 3 consecutive red lights (at the same g-drned, frickin’-frackin-other bad wordin-intersection) in a town called Musaffah. No relation to the Lion King, but definitely the King of something…something horrible. What they’ve done is created industrial cities. So, if you need a mechanic, or a contractor, or heavy machinery, or anything that requires grease, smoke, loud noises, or anything that requires Lava Beaded Industrial soap, you go to an industrial city to get it. The problem is, EVERYONE needs that stuff in a city that is expanding like a waistband after Thanksgiving Dinner (sorry, had to). Abu Dhabi is adding thousands of people a day. You can’t get a visa without a job. There are hundreds of thousands of jobs in labor here (’cause ain’t no locals pickin’ up a shovel-trust me) and while the pay and living quarters are abominable by western standards, it’s a better living than some are getting in India, Pakistan, and the Philippines. (By the way, the tragedy in the Philippines hit hard here. It was nice to see the relief efforts start almost immediately. This country is rich, but not selfish. I like that.) So, the industrial cities are filled with laborers literally flooding the streets, in cars, trucks, bicycles, on foot…everywhere. It’s also Used Car City, so I HAD to go there. Wanna see my new car? (cue the music, 50 Cent-P.I.M.P.)

Abu Dhabi-20131128-00434

The price was VERY nice, and the guy I bought it from will do all my service and specializes in jaguars. Much love to my main Jordanian, Samir!

Anyway, my place is really coming together nicely, but I’m not prepared to show it just yet. The walls are bare, but I’ll be home soon with an empty suitcase for art. So, no pictures, yet. What? You want a sneak peak? Ok…here.

Don't look at the reflection in the window...ugh, that didn't work.

Don’t look at the reflection in the window…ugh, that didn’t work.

Those who know me, know I’m a floor dweller. I love to be on the floor. So, I’m lovin’ the Majlis set against the window. Great for reading, or, well everything. I have a 10 foot couch, and I’m on the floor most of the time. Go figure.

Work is going well. I’ll be honest, it has taken some adjustment. The language barrier can slow things down. Also, everything here is patriarchal and top-down. Everything. I prefer to empower teachers and stakeholders to get involved and change according to what they need. We’ve had a few conversations like that with the staff. When I asked the Arabic staff about what they “believe” about our students and their potential you’d think I was speaking a foreign language—ahem, well, I kinda was, but I have an interpreter. Here he is…

Umm, I'm sorry Mr. Lee, did you just ask a group of Arabic men about their feelings?

Umm, I’m sorry Mr. Lee, did you just ask a group of Arabic men about their feelings?

LOVE this guy. Sometimes when I talk all feelings-ish to the teachers he looks at me like “…are you sure you want to say that?” Yes, I am. Regardless of the atmosphere, or culture, in order to learn kids have to feel safe. They must feel as if they can open their mouths and say something without being ridiculed or belittled. This will be my struggle here. Our school is 54 male teachers and 3 women. The women are westerners who wear full abaya and shayla (headscarf) and teach first grade. They have their own teachers lounge and they are awesome. We have excellent men teachers, as well, but men are men. We don’t talk feelings, we don’t discuss if we care for the kids, we don’t admit that we are teachers because of the pull in our heart. (Sorry for outing all you guys; it’s ok, they pretty much knew.) So, when I ask them about their feelings and beliefs about the boys, there’s a pause for translation, then the low grumble ensues. That’s how I know that Khaled said what I said. Eventually, our conversation has softened and I think the teachers are ready for change. Here’s me working with a group of them.

PD time is happy time with Mr. Lee!

PD time is happy time with Mr. Lee!

The guy in a tie is from Egypt (we have many Egyptians and Jordanians on staff). The fact that he is there and engaged is a minor triumph.  He’s a bit….um…gruff, yeah, gruff.  I tease him about it and he has no idea what I’m saying.  How many kittens have you hugged today Mr. Sayed? Two, fantastic…why does he anger smile at me?  (I have been holding on to this picture for fear of posting it. That shot of me looks EXACTLY like my brother, and I know a few of your hearts jumped. This will be hard for some. I’m glad you’re thinking about him. I often do).

Ya know how Professional Development is met with a grunt and a sigh in the states? Yeah, well it’s the same here…here’s how they offset that…

If you feed them, they will fake interest...

If you feed them, they will fake interest…

Nice spread, huh?

So, what else would you like to know? Here’s part of my everyday life…

I have to brace my arm against the passenger seat I'm going so fast...gee I hope the rental company doesn't have the internet.

I have to brace my arm against the passenger seat I’m going so fast…gee I hope the rental company doesn’t have the internet.

 

The object in this mirror are larg-uh, they already passed you! Step on it!

The objects in this mirror are larg-uh, they already passed you! Step on it!

It's really not dark, but these mega-buses drown out the sun.

It’s really not dark, but these mega-buses drown out the sun.

The first is the spiral from hell I must take to get in and out of my building. Actually, I’ve made it a game. Can I hold the wheel with my knee while texting and driving fast enough to make the 14 inch wheels on my Aveo squeal? Also, what bizarre face can I make at the oncoming traffic so they can get just a glimpse of something really freaky and change their day a bit? Going down is fun…how many spirals before I brake (is that a Frost poem?) is the game. The next pic is the sign on the sideview mirror in Arabic. It says, “Why are you looking at this, no one else here does, go faster ya tourist!” The third is a bit more grim. I live in an amazing building over looking the coastline and part of the gulf. Further out on the island in a not-so-well kept secret is a work camp, uh, labor housing, um, dorms for working people setting. There must be about 5000 people out there because everyday I am surrounded by these mega-buses packed with workers. Another fun game I play happens on the way to work. At a makeshift bus stop along the highway I take to work there is a place where the workers gather to catch a bus. The traffic whirs by at about 90mph. I honk at them everyday. It took about 4 days before they started waving back at me. Kinda fun. Hey, it’s a 35-45 minute drive to work, and I’m in an AVEO! Ya gotta do somethin’!

You may have heard that Dubai just earned the spot as the host to the 2020 World’s Fair. The first ever for the Middle East. What? You haven’t!? It wasn’t front page news for you? Not every digital traffic sign was converted to a congratulations message? People didn’t take to the streets dancing and shouting about it? You didn’t have a day of school canceled at 10pm the night before an already long weekend? Where have you been!? It’s huge news…in 2020.

Yeah, so we had Thursday off, and we also have Sunday and Monday off for National Day. Now, I love America, and I’m sure you do, too…but, and this may hurt for some, the way they do National Day here makes our 4th of July look like a lame practice run. Here the buildings are adorned in humongous flags, the kids have been wearing the colors of the country for weeks, the cars are decorated in flags, silk screens of the Sheiks, and “I LOVE UAE” hearts, and the lights, OH, the lights. Everything, everywhere is bling-ed out in sparkly lights. You have Google, google it! Here’s a smidgeon of the flavor…

YES, those are toy guns they are throwing into the air! So? Guns are patriotic, right?

YES, those are toy guns they are throwing into the air! Metal toy guns. So? Guns are patriotic, right?

By the way, these aren't even the good ones.

By the way, these aren’t even the good ones.

IMG-20131130-00443

This has been up for a week. It’s a lighting and interior decorating store…a business that thrives on selling its wares through the windows. Interesting.

That light is the WHOLE FRONT OF A HOTEL lit up. "Ummm, front desk, my room is, uh, as bright as the sun! Can you turn them off...no? Uh, ok. Good night."

That light is the WHOLE FRONT OF A HOTEL lit up…from about a mile away. “Ummm, front desk, my room is, uh, as bright as the sun! Can you turn them off…no? Uh, ok. Good night.”

The little projects are just offerings the parents spend money on. I think they think we think the kids made them. Yeah,…a-no. Look at the Majlis set to scale…from a second grader. If he did that, the kid’s a genius, get him to architectural school NOW! He can’t tie his shoes, or aim anywhere near the toilet, or wash his hands for that matter, but he can use an exacto knife and sew. Who am I to judge?

Again, this does not do it justice. So, school will resume on Tuesday (Insha’Allah), and we will have a really short week. The scuttlebutt is that the kids won’t show up until Wednesday as they have gone on mini-vacations, and we’ll only have Wednesday and Thursday next week. That’s cool, as long as we get our PD in! Right, teachers? No limit for better, right? Anyway, I digress, sometimes my love for schools becomes distracting from my point…which I’m not sure I had, anyway.

Here are some random pics for those who wish I’d write less. (and probably aren’t reading anyway…which is cool, no judgment.)

Pretty. Big. Building.

Pretty. Big. Building.

The guy at the bottom of the frame did a well-being check on me. "Uh, yeah, what? No. I'm cool, it's good, wow, huh?"

The guy at the bottom of the frame did a well-being check on me. “Uh, yeah, what? No. I’m cool, it’s good, wow, huh?”

Hmmm, I haven't spent enough on this, I'll paint it...yeah, great idea!

Hmmm, I haven’t spent enough on this, I’ll paint it…yeah, great idea!

Butternut Squash and Saffron Risotto with a bit of goat cheese for added creaminess. They told me it was good, but they're really polite people.

Butternut Squash and Saffron Risotto with a bit of goat cheese for added creaminess. They told me it was good, but they’re really polite people.

The Burj Khalifa. I can’t even explain the size. I took that pic from about 400 yards away. It is amazing. Below it is a huge pond/lake (yes, man-made) that has a Bellagio-esque water show every half hour. The lights on the building sparkle in syc with the music. Very well thought out. The next is the INDOOR, yes, indoor waterfall at the Dubai Mall with the diving men sculptures. There’s something surreal about it. I literally was mesmerized and stood agape at it for about 5 minutes. (Of course, I am still mystified by mulching lawnmowers and their power of re-fertilization, too.) The next is a Rolls-Royce with a custom paint job…I don’t know, if you’re dating Natalie Portman, do you ask her to wear a prettier mask? The last is my contribution to an amazing Thanksgiving Dinner that helped me immensely.

It’s not easy being so far away from you…and it wasn’t easy when I left. We all have our stories here and we all support each other, as well. It’s interesting how the human spirit craves human spirit. To be obvious, we cannot survive in a vacuum. We need each other, and we need to know there is something in the universe watching over us and helping us handle…well, everything. On Thanksgiving, my plan was to cook for myself, sit at home with some fermented grapes, and be sad and glad. Instead, I was lifted up and had an amazing evening. I didn’t orchestrate that, heck I was trying to avoid it…but somehow, somewhere, someone or something, knew exactly what I needed. Life has cautioned, (hell, more like bludgeoned)  me about being the Master. It was a very hard lesson. Knowing everything is a very dangerous and completely foolish position. I am thankful for learning that. I am thankful to have my vulnerability restored. I am thankful for all of you, for my family, and my families. We can live amazing lives if we remain open…open hearts and open minds…open heart and open mind…repeat it to yourself…your words have power.

Love one another, please. Life is too short not to. 

Love,
Lee

Flexible, frantic, food, fashion, and men singing Journey into each other’s faces.

8 Oct

Playlist–Jack Johnson “Crying Shame”, Zero 7 “In the Waiting Line”, Wax “We Can’t All Be Heroes”, Cage the Elephant “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked”, Incubus “When It Comes”, Tool “46 & 2”, Jane’s Addiction “Mountain Song”, Rush “Working Man”, Rage Against the Machine “Bulls on Parade”, Agent Orange “Voices in the Night”, John Mayer “Who Says”

Hi!

Say “Hi” or “Hello” out loud…now…go ahead, no matter where you are, do it. Why the fear? Did you look around, first? Isn’t it strange how very simple things become strange when we spend too much time in our heads? I’m learning this lesson everyday. It’s interesting being in a city where I know NO ONE! I’ve never had that before. It’s a bit freeing, yet a bit foreign (duh, Lee), as well. The beauty of building relationships with no prior knowledge is you get to be you, do your thing, and the only judge is you. Now, many of you might say, “I’ve always lived that way, Lee!” Really? Then ask yourself why it’s so strange to say “hi” out loud to your computer screen. What filter have you developed that automatically edits your behavior? (If you’re still reading and didn’t say it out loud, challenge yourself now…go ahead, you can do it…Hi, Lee…well Hi to you dear family and friends. I send you my love from the future—9 hours ahead—from….THE DHABI!) Sell the brand, people! Only three of you have repeated the words, do it now! THE DHABI…then pay me for my idea. T-shirts soon! They’ll say, “THE DHABI—Hurry up, and wait, you must be patient.”

Enough of the dreck (or Dweck—Carol, read her! “Mindset”, good stuff). SOOOOO, it’s been over a week and I have been busy. My blog notes are too long and totally random, so here we go…

Last blog I hinted about the candy displays here in the Dhabi, at the Hypermarket, remember? There are three huge aisles of sweets and junk food as you walk in, then two aisles of coolers of ice cream and treats on the way out…hmmm?

In the Gulf News last week there was an article about “Lifestyle Diseases” growing to epidemic proportions in the UAE. Mostly, they’re talking about obesity and diabetes. In the schools it’s evident. The kids eat bread and chocolate with Mountain Dew or Juice boxes for breakfast and lunch—yeah, yeah it’s Nutella, but remember Nutella was sued for claiming it has health benefits…SO not true. I was going to show you the teeth, or more like the gums of our students, but those who are reading this and have seen them are thanking me right now for not showing you. I was also going to show you the STICK, yes, the stick some use to clean their teeth…another bad idea. Seriously, 1st graders with rotted baby teeth. Not kidding. GIANT, beautiful almond-shaped, brown eyes, and their poor, awful mouths. Develop a chocolate tooth scrubbing chewing gum and you’ll be rich…(pay me for my idea, too!)

Then, I saw this….

005

Yeah, throw fake meat in a pita and you have McArabia…Ronald, are we that dumb? Uh…apparently.

Let’s talk about the beauty of the variety of people here…and food. Those of you who know me know I’m a bit of a foodie (which is a stupid phrase, but I’m going with it), and that I worked in restaurants most of my life. There are so many to enjoy here, lets have a look…

004

Yeah! So good. About 30 dollars, and yes, I ate it all, and my skin was shiny and radiant for a day. Umi is the restaurant. Not a fancy place, but good food. Also served to me was this…

002

How old are you if you remember this type of opener? I remember it well. Also interesting in this picture is the by-line behind the can. Karl-Heinz Ruminegge (the German footballer—soccer, people, soccer) is still in the game. Not playing, but as an executive. A double whammy blast from my past. (Any Chicago Sting fans will remember Karl-Heinz Granitza—google him, I don’t have this kind of time!)

Now, to confuse you….look at the pic below. What floor am I on?

005

If you said third floor, you are correct and incorrect. If you can count, you see three. If you need directions to a store, you count Ground, One, Two. Lee is on the Second Floor. Good to know when you’re starving and the info guy says the GIANT food court on the Second Floor and you feel like an idiot because you can’t find it…because it’s really the THIRD!

I went on boat cruise with some edu-types last week. It was fun, but OY!, the shop talk. What’s with us!? Can’t we leave it alone for a few hours…really, we can’t. It’s hard to explain to non-edu-types how much we love our job, even when it seems nearly impossible. Educators love their jobs, we take it personally.  Pics from the cruise…

001

That’s our vessel, with Al Reem Island (man-made) in the background. Eventually, I’ll be living there…Insha’Allah…get comfortable with that one…it’s a very pleasant reminder, that all things happen in God’s time. Your watch and calendar, and deadlines? Silly person, those are jsut so you don’t go crazy…and to ensure that sometimes, you do…

005

This one is interesting for a couple reasons. The undermount of the bridges are decorated with lights all year. Why? Why not! “We gots the money! Light it up!” Also interesting are the cranes in the background building another island for another sky scraper. It occurred to me today as I almost squashed underfoot some poor Filipino fellow in the Hypermarket, that maybe the reason they all seem to wander is that they are genuinely new here. There’s that many people flocking here, that everyday in the Hypermarket is the first day for about 1000 people…did I mention it’s HUGE?

004

Isn’t that beautiful? Sunset, and a million volts of electricity buzzing over your head…ahhh, nature. Interesting to note, we cruised for about two hours and never hit the open sea…not allowed in our little boat. Plenty of newly built marinas to cruise around, though.

Back to food and style

004006005

Tabouleh (like you don’t know that by now), hummus, baba ghanouj (sorry, my family, I can’t spell our name for it.), Marinated in yogurt Lamb with Saffron Rice (kinda—not impressed), and the “Super Deluxe Delicious Fruit Cocktail”, which was awesome…apple, banana, strawberry, watermelon, and avocado…really good.

Now, some fashion…

008

Yeah, SOLD OUT. Red Leather Living Room. Cue that special disco funk music, turn on the lava lamp, and chill, baby, just chill…Honestly, it seems to work here…and, oh, this is on sale at the Hypermarket…did I mention, it’s huge? I did. So! It is.

From the files of bat-shit crazy, I had to post this

007

Yes, that’s Al Pacino as Phil Spector…even though he looks like A bleached Bill Cosby circa 1974. I keep waiting for him to throw down some pop & lock. If you don’t know that…google it. Then learn it, then thank me later for the compliments you get on the dance floor. (By the way, the movie is terrible. Really bad, really, seriously, bad—go watch it!…isn’t that like smelling sour milk and asking someone else to try it so see for themselves? Strange humans)

More fashion…

002

Ummmm, yeah, remember I talked about how a sign about keeping your shorts on in the male sauna and steam room and jacuzzi would be nice…and that I learned that the embarrassing way?  Remember how I didn’t see a sign? Yeah, found it. Didn’t take a picture, but there are these. Complimentary men’s paper spa and locker room shorts. Yes, paper. Um, no, not happening.

More food!

001002004

Fried Naan, and spicey chutney stuffs, Corn Shorba (the soup) with a cornbread dumpling, and Jhinga Biryani cooked in a pot with a sweet potato and VERY spicey crust. So freakin’ good! If I EVER get a kitchen, I’m making it! In the meantime, I ate this tonight…

006

Zeee Spiceee Hypermerkeet Cheekin wiss zee Veggie-tubble birrrrrrryani rrrrrice carefully layered in Le Toooperrrr-warrre.

Last fashion pic, then some school stuff.

005

I was going to brag about my man, Pratha. He’s the little brown head balancing on the counter there. I say balancing, because if you know people from India, they shake their heads side to side rather than up and down for affirmative/positive reactions. Like I said, I WAS going to brag about how awesome his business is and how great he treats me… I mean, 6 shirts, dry cleaned and pressed for $4.90 cents? Nice! However, Pratha didn’t have my shirts tonight! Damn him!….just kidding. There are dry cleaners every 50 feet, it’s like Starbucks in the states; however, they all have tiny little storefronts. Which leads my super-brilliant mind to deduce that he sends them out, too. Which also makes me wonder, if it’s that cheap for me and the middle man, how much is the poor super-sweaty bloke that actually cleans the clothes making? Not much, I’d say…BUT, enough to leave his country to do it here. Let that float around the noggin for a while. Complain not westerners…life ain’t so bad.

was going to call this next one, Sunrise with Cranes as a not-so funny, dad-joke kinda way play on words, but I couldn’t snap a good one.

003

It’s tough to get a good pic in packed traffic, slouching because your head is rubbing the ceiling of your mini-mobile, and doing 85 miles per hour (yes, mom, 85mph…what? Everyone else is doing it! Un-huh! Yes, they are!).

In truth, I am inspired to take a pic every morning. The sun is so large, so orange and beautiful, as it rises above the mangroves each day. Then as you wind through the (man-made) coast, it hovers over Sheik Zayed Mosque (google it! 40,000 capacity, but something tells me from the way people drive here that they stuff about 100k in there), and you have to think…there is beauty everywhere, there is no one man, or group of people, creating this beauty, but it’s there every day, not random, not planned, but there, every day…one just has to be open to it.

One school pic before I go…

002001

Yeah, made by third graders…un-huh, third graders…no, not their mom and dads, or nannies…third graders. Ask ’em, they’ll tell you. They made them. By the way, there is real glass in some of them…cut to size…and, the day after I took this pic, all of those creepy bald mini babies were staring at me. No pics on that, I didn’t want to capture their souls on my iphone…it has enough issues! Back to iOS 6!

So, Eid al-Adha is coming up next week. (Wikipedia, people! I can’t do everything for you. Discovery learning). It was supposed to start on Monday for schools, but the Sheik just declared Sunday off for everyone, too. Remember, my week starts on Sunday. So, we have 9 days off, and from what I hear, the families stretch it into a full two weeks. Should be interesting as we have a huge push to do continuous assessment of our students and we’re basically out of school for the next two weeks.

Speaking of…I had an interesting Monday. After getting a bit of a run around about where I’ll be living…(Roll your r’s if you haven’t figured that out yet) “Shuuuurrrrrrre, you move in theeees week”, then finding out the condo is full. “No problem, I tell them I turrrrrrrn of water and lights.., they go fast.” Then hearing nothing (with all due respect to Mohammed in housing; he’s going the extra mile, uh kilometer, for me) for two days, I returned to school around 11 to find out I had to presenta= a 90 minute workshop on the new assessment policy at 1:30. “Wh-What!?” Yeah, I was stunned. 55 educators, I’ve been there two weeks, I have to present on a policy I have barely read, with a translator, in two hours…fun! However, it went well, although, my boss told me I needed to smile more or the teachers will think I don’t like them. Hey, if that’s the only criticism, I’m good with it. Actually, this is a very prideful society marked by practiced humility…does that make sense? What I mean is, he told me “good job” twice afterwards, then told our big boss, I did a “great job”…I wasn’t expecting that. Men don’t really do that much.

Which brings up my last point. Men are much more affectionate here. The practice of shaking hands while rubbing noses and an air kiss is commonplace. Men holding hands, commonplace. Men talking into each others eyes, commonplace, and a sign of respect. Don’t confuse it with what I saw at the hotel bar last week…two totally loaded Scandinavians shouting, “Don’shtoop beleeeeevin’, hold on to zha feeeelin…” you know the rest. If you don’t, google Journey, but tell no one.

Interesting that comes up now, though. The cool thing about this new adventure is one has to believe in one’s self. I love what I do. I am here because of that love and dedication of over 20 years of my life to it. I’d be lying if I told you I wasn’t scared, that I had doubts about my ability to affect real change. Yes, I’ve done it before, but I felt I knew some people and that would help. I’m learning, that is wasn’t the people I know. It’s the things I’ve learned and held on to that give me the skill and ability to do my job. I didn’t believe that fully, until after that professional development session, and I believe it more and more each day. Many of you have told me that for years, but I wasn’t open to it. I’m open to it today. I’ve had great teachers, in all facets (a non-word, I should use “arenas”) of my life, and I thank you for it…I’m putting it all together and making something original…as I’ve always done, but seeing it that way and being happy with it…believing it…that’s new…cue the music… “Just a small town girl…” (Tell no one I referenced that song twice! They’ll kick me out of the Public Enemy fan club!)

Thanks for reading…really, thank you!

Love,

Lee

Arrested! Or, Lost in the Hypermarket, or These are a few of my favorite Thinks, or, A SIGN WOULD BE NICE!

30 Sep

Music, The Clash “Lost in the Supermarket”, Radiohead “Paranoid Android”, Michael Franti & Spearhead “Oh My God”, John Mayer “In Repair”, Tool “Lipan Conjuring”, Coldplay “Don’t Panic”, Colin Hay “I Just Don’t Think I’ll Ever Get Over You”, The Roots “Proceed”, Michael Frnati & Spearhead “Pray for Grace”, The Roots “The Lighthouse”, A Perfect Circle “The Stranger”, Julie Andrews “These are a few of my favorite things” (Kidding, you know I don’t do show tunes).

Hi! I’m back! I’ve been very busy. Our School Improvement Plan has to be reformatted, edited, and a new Vision must be written…like you care…I’ve been busy. However, I’m here now, so, let’s talk.

My plan was to highlight the ordinary things we take for granted, and note how they’re different here, in The Dhabi! (Remember, when “The Dhabi” goes international and you hear that little shrimp Ryan Seacrest say it, you’ll know, you heard it here, first! The Dhabi! Yeah!–oh, by the way, Seacrest’s radio show plays on local radio here; some things are inescapable…death, taxes, and Ryan Seacrest!)

In my expose’ on the ordinary things in Abu Dhabi (meaning Many Gazelles—of which I haven’t seen one!), you will learn some strange things…so please enjoy.

The idea was to make the Abu Dhabi (the capital) an oasis, while making the roadways and neighborhoods blend with nature. So you have bridges on super highways like this.

Image

Beautiful work, right? No doubt done by the ten thousand busloads of non-Emiratis that block my way to school every morning. Let’s just say, certain groups of people should now be allowed to drive. If you’ve ever driven in Michigan, you get me. They’re all here. Highways are lined in 4 lanes, but drive in 6. Most cars have scrapes on the sides.

Here’s what I see every morning

Image

Sorry for the blur, I was shaking with excitement that traffic was clear. (Check the reflection on the hood of my bad ass whip, THE LANCER!)

Image

This is my school! Cool, huh? More like a compound. All the schools are surrounded by 12-18 foot walls…not a bad idea, really. Also, just inside that gate is the security guard post. Once inside, I seek out the elixir of all educators…coffee. However, it’s a bit different here! Here’s how I get it, every morning, without a word, perfectly mixed, and with a smile.

Image

Yes, coffee, tea, water, juice…He’s kinda shy, so I had to trick him.

Here’s some of the boys…

20130929-003-1380455924-1

the little one in the distance to the right of frame with his head cocked is like Uncle Hector from Breaking Bad; he doesn’t say much, but when his bell rings, there’s trouble. They can wear those kandooras to school or each class is color-coded, as well. By the way, “Baniyas” the town where I work, is loosely translated to “countryside”, so the fact that these boys still have shoes on is a minor miracle…thank you very much! Wanna see a country-style home here? I don’t know why I ask, of course you do.

Image

Image

Ummm, yeah! Those are modest country houses. If you work for the Army or Police, you get a house and a car. If you graduate from high school, you get a stipend of about $100,000 to build a house. If your family has money—which, it does—you finance another half a mill to build a palace. However, the money, like the oil, won’t last forever…which is why we’re here.

How about more kids? Here’s tabor (tuh-boor, roll that r! Do it!), kinda like Reveille. We meet every morning and the whole school assembles for some half-hearted exercising, the singing of the national anthem, and prayer…did I mention it’s like 90 degrees at 7:30am?

Image

Notice, picture taken from the shade…as if it matters… “Mistah Lee, why you so wet?” Read the note to self, that sarcasm and wit are not really appreciated here… “I’m kinda hot, Shokran.” Wow, that pic is bad…maybe it’s the heat. Did I mention…

Here’s a sign of the struggle we face. Tell me what’s wrong with this assignment?

Image

Um, yeah..this 5th grader is hunched on the ground, booted from class, in utter brain clench…NO idea what to do. Let’s remember he’s an English learner. It’s hard to make out, but the words to find at the bottom are in lower case, the words in puzzle…all caps. Kid is totally lost. Once we worked through that, Ali Hassan Omar Ahmed Rababa Alsayed was really happy. (Not his real name, but close—almost everyone in the family is honored in a name here.)

Image

So, I punch out…yes, EVERYONE punches in/out…and, after a day of that, here’s me.

Image

Frazzled…so, back to normal things not so normal…an outlet

Image

individual switch for each one. Cool! 220, lick it, I dare you!

Ping Pong, we have….

Image

Ping Pong Premier League Championship with Ping Pong Arena and spectators…I’ve never been..it’s at the mall…

Homework…I have lots of it

Image

My home office, 31st floor, by the pool…Just so you don’t think it’s all fun and games, I found the only self serve laundromat in a city of 1.7 million….

Image

Actually, you put your clothes in and he’s so busy, he doesn’t wait for you if you should happen into the nearby Sheraton for a beer to put you stuff in the dryer. Did I mention he’s the only one? Why? The Emiratis do dry cleaning, or pick up and delivery, and everyone else does their own.

Speaking of the Sheraton, Happy hour.

Image

EIGHT hours…really? Is that necessary?

Here’s a bank waiting room. Not different, except that when they need to deliver mail, they call your mobile, and then come find you…seriously…creepy.

Image

So, the customer service guy let me keep this pic, but warned me strongly against another.

Here’s the house of a lucky young lady who’s getting married…she didn’t pick him, daddy did, so the party is huge…

Image

There are no birthday celebrations for Emiratis, due to religious beliefs, so the wedding is rather stellar. I have two daughters…let’s go with birthdays. (Of which, my baby turns 16 this Thursday. To say it’s not hard to see and hug her is an understatement for which there is no superlative and I have nothing clever. I just love her so much…so, so much. Happy Birthday, my beautiful, brilliant girl! I love you everyday, with every breath, forever!)

Ok…gimme a second to recover.

So, fountains! There are many of them…here’s one

Image

Gas station…except they’re all full service, and gas is about $2.10 a gallon, which would explain why the V8 Four wheel drives here rule the road….and the supercars.

Image

Ever pump gas in full pants, shirt, and hat in 106 degree weather, and hope you get tipped? Stay in school kids, study hard.

Oh, guess what!? I found shoes!

Image

Not funny. Guess who found guys to play basketball with and has no shoes for it? Yeah, me! Back to the Gepetto to get some shoes made, I guess.

So, the supermarket…the LULU HYPERMARKET! If ever there was a name for what this place is, HYPERMARKET is perfect. It is NEVER slow. Some people in an extreme hurry, some just wandering around in the air conditioning. Whole families of short people stopping right in front of you to gaze at candy bar displays. “They’re candy bars! Walk!”…kidding, you know me…never a word.

So, I started snapping pictures to show you how this place makes Walmart, no Sam’s Club/Costco (whatev!), look like a 7/11…and suddenly while jamming out and nodding my head to the music, I get tapped on the shoulder by a security guard.

“Uh, sorry, was I singing?”

“No.”

“Dancing?”

“No.”

“Ummmm, I don’t understand.”

“No pictures here!”, then he points to the huge sign above my head. A sign I’ve walked under a dozen times since I’ve been here. No pictures in the super-, uh, hypermarket. It turns out the ones I got were lame anyway. It’s huge, just believe it. It’s a hypermarket.

Here are the scissors in the school section

Image

(10-inch blades…$9.53) Pray that the kid who buys these breaks his wrist hoisting them into his backpack in the morning, or maybe the nanny will…sorry, educator humor can be dark.

One cool thing at the hypermarket is the live pasta guy—so much better than dead pasta guy! He makes it to order right in front of you. So, I did four miles on the treadmill and tortured my hamstrings with kettle bell squats, so I thought I’d ruin it all with this…

Image

Fed me for two days,….for $6, hey, it’s veggie? Nice!

From the “Oh, a sign would be nice” category. There’s a beautiful health club here. Weights, cardio, sauna, steam, jacuzzi, etc. However, it would be NICE to post that the sauna and steam room preferred dress is shorts…yeah, learned that the embarrassing way. No pic, ’nuff said.

Now, for the visually stimulated…hotel “Arabic appetizer plate”

Image

And, of course, for the slow of wit…hey, it’s an Equal Opportunity Blog!

Image

Doin’ Z.A. Butt! (You know you just sang that song in your head…and yes, “sang” is correct as there is no helping verb—you people, yeesh!)

So, I posted a quote on Facebook earlier in the week, “If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you”. Change? We need it. Growth, it’s the same thing. If we act as if we know everything, we can never change and grow. If I had acted the master about this opportunity and not trusted the universe to take care of me, I would have never done it. The old Lee would have said it was a bad idea and spent a lot of time trying to convince you why I was right. I wasn’t. It took me a long time to learn that there is no valuable experience in life that doesn’t require a little fear and discomfort. I’ve had plenty of both since embarking on this journey, but it pales in comparison to the growth I am experiencing. Today, I sat in a room full of Arabic educators looking to me to help fix their issues when they don’t believe they can be fixed. I was comfortable in saying, “I don’t have that answer, yet. I only know that we’ll try and we’ll learn from that. If it works, we move on. If not, we try again.” Their response; a scattered, thoughtful chorus, “Insha’Allah!”…then, silence. Translation… “God willing.” Isn’t that the way? I am touched. Everyday.

I love and miss you,

Lee

❤ TMD, my child.