Tag Archives: porsche

Fancy vs functional-views, blues, bucs, and bidets

17 Sep

September 16 & 17, 2013 

Music– 30 Seconds to Mars “From Yesterday”, The Roots “One Time”, Smashing Pumpkins “Mayonnaise”, The Beatles “Golden Slumbers”

 Hi! So, the last two days have been eventful! On Monday, I was informed at 3, that I had to pack up and move at 4. Yes, pack an apartment (no furniture, thankfully) to move into a sky-rise super fancy hotel. Sounds great, right!? Well, it’s a “be careful what you wish for” situation. Truthfully, I’ve been holding off on this blog because I really have no reason to complain, and I don’t want to sound ungrateful. I am now living (temporarily) at the Grand Millennium Al Wahda. It is everything the name suggests! Magnificent. Look!


That’s the view of the sunset from the rooftop open air pool on the 31st floor. There are bar stools in the pool (if you want a $9 dollar beer—can’t afford it right now), and a VERY attentive staff with towels who are CONSTANTLY squeegeeing the deck. (Yes, it’s a word—yeesh!) The room is beautiful and the staff is beyond polite. It’s listed as a 5-star hotel and I believe it—the bathroom has a bidet…with it’s own soap dish, and separate towel ring. You don’t get a pic of that. If you’re confused, google it.

The hotel is connected to the Al Wahda Mall, the biggest mall…ever! I wrote about it last week. However, today I found a store that answered my Abu Dhabi dreams! A shoe store that carried size 13! The salesman (from Bangladesh) smiled and said, “Why, of course sir, of course we have size 48!” I almost hugged the little guy, but when I showed my excitement and moved near to embrace him he cowered like Dracula at sunrise. (Vampires aren’t real–bloodsuckers are.)

Now, let’s not get crazy, they didn’t have my first choice, or my second, but I’m persistent, patient, and resilient. I will not be discouraged in my quest for casual brown shoes. Wanna see ’em? (Interesting, you just said “yes” in your brain—a few of you, out loud! Thanks for playing.) Here they are!


Yes, they’re Timberlands! I’m hip…right? Super-comfy and a little more dressy than I was looking for, but this new hotel requires it (no Birks allowed in the restaurants and bars), and I can wear them to school…when I finally get there, that is.

Speaking of, I’ll be at the Al Bawadi Model school for boys. It’s a mixed use school, which does not mean co-ed in this case, it means, there are two buildings; one elementary, one middle. I have both. I met one of my teachers today. He’s from Ireland and his name is Nile. He’s way too cute to post. I can’t have you stalking the poor guy. Al Bawadi school is in Baniyas East, which is about 20-30 minutes outside the city. The location allows me the choice of living in the city or between the city and Baniyas where I can get much more for my dollar in terms of living space. Sorta like being closer to Chicago, working in Chesterton, and paying Michigan City prices…hey, that’s kinda cool!

Speaking of living spaces, wanna see my former hotel? I’ll post a few pics so you don’t get too jealous. It was truly a one bedroom/1.5 bath with a full kitchen, washer/dryer (in ONE machine—crazy!), master bedroom and built-ins.

View upon walking in door. Half bath and couches.


 Living room and dining table…entry hallway from above pic is right of frame.



Kitchen… 😦 Miss my kitchen…note the washer/dryer combo…cool!





Master bedroom (huge built-ins not shown) Room is in state of panic packing…



Master Bath



No bidet, but really, can’t you do without one? Really? 

Farewell, LouLou Asfar Hotel Apartments. The drawback there was location. It was a serious trek in the hot, wet, wool blanket heat at night to find a restaurant, or groceries, or shopping. At the Grand Millennium, it’s all here…at my fingertips, and a few footsteps.

So, here’s my honest feeling. I’m here to live and work. My old hotel felt like living. I was shopping for food, doing laundry, ironing, and the breakfast buffet was modest, but we all knew each other there. Also, I had a bunch of food in my ‘fridge (which is a word NO ONE knows here), and only a mini-bar ‘fridge here. (Major mistake—I had a frozen steak from the old place. I read that the hotel service staffs are usually Indian (Hindu) and make very little money. You guessed it, I offered the guy who cleans my room the steak. He was so gracious he didn’t even call me on my ignorance. About 30 minutes later, I blushed and called myself an idiot…silly American)

The new place is so fancy I couldn’t figure out how to turn the room on. You just wave the card key in front of the door, then you slide it into the wall and the room powers on. Then, everything is powered by this…


Very cool, right!? Here’s the drawback. Everything around a five-star hotel is geared for people who stay at five-star hotels. I am not people who stay at five-star hotels. Sure, I know how to blend in, but I don’t have that kind of scratch. When the driver pulled up on moving day, we were behind a Bentley, a Porsche Cayenne S, and a Maybach…I said, “THAT is a nice car!” He said, “You no want that…it’s sheet!” That’s an argument I’m not interested in…needless to say, I let it go. (On a side note, the breakfast buffet here is like an All-Star episode of Anthony Bourdain’s Fanciest Breakfasts from EVERYWHERE in the World. Yes, it’s that good!)

One big draw to this place is the blues bar in the basement (Porter’s). It’s an Irish pub run by an Irish guy who loves the blues. Every pic is of Chicago blues greats…all the blues posters and “original” performance pics you’ve seen in every blues bar are in this place. The house band is English and about a third of its sets are blues. Call me a snob, but it ain’t the same thing we see in Chicago. It’s a very sterile, touristy, blues versions of very popular songs…perfect for the mixed expat crowd. The other issue is it’s basement bar and, holy yellow hat-wearing bears in the forest is it smoky! Wow! After an hour, my eyes were dry and creaky. Apparently, the rest of the world missed the memo…smoking is bad for you.

Anyway, back to work. I should be in my school next week. The middle school assignment is exciting because the reform movement here has not reached the high schools. So, I’ll be helping faculty implement the curriculum, and introducing new pedagogy…very cool! I love spending time in the classroom, and the only way to monitor and evaluate the change is to be out there in the schools with the teachers and students. That’s exactly what every administrator wants! I feel lucky for this opportunity, and I have many of you to thank for your guidance and advice. 

I sat with the teachers tonight as they received their contracts. One young teacher got her assignment in Al Ain, a metropolitan area about 90 minutes from here. She immediately started crying. She’s never been here. She’s never been there. How does she know she won’t absolutely love it? Expectations are dangerous things. You can set them, but getting emotional about an outcome you have no control over can lead to a pattern of disappointment. If you try to control your adventure, then you’re not having an adventure. Travel the road and adapt to its obstacles, don’t try to be the master of it; you’ll never enjoy the journey. Needless to say, I reserved this opinion. I don’t think she wanted to hear it. Frankly, it isn’t a lesson easily learned and if you don’t want to hear it, you won’t. I didn’t, for a long time. 

I’ve always wanted to feel like I’m changing the world. I believe this work is just that. This year, the Abu Dhabi schools have record enrollment. That’s a good problem. The people see what is happening, and they’re bringing they’re children to it. Exciting, isn’t it!

Say it with me…Abu Dhabi Al Bawadi! Abu Dhabi Al Bawadi! C’mon, even the cool kids…Abu Dhabi Al Bawadi!

Life. Live. Love. Lee


Patience is a virtue; so are small feet, apparently!?

15 Sep

Saturday September 14 and Sunday the 15th, 2013

Music today– “Groove Holmes” by the Beastie Boys, “Hand in Glove” by the Smiths, and “What I Be” by Michael Franti & Spearhead, and “Soil to the Sun” by Cage the Elephant.

Sorry, I messed up the dates during my travel. My first day here was the 10th, not the 11th

As if any of that matters…boy, our desire to be right can really be distracting, huh? 

I met some other educators today, which is always interesting. Regardless of the setting, the issues are usually similar. For me, it is, how do we make the system the most effective for the students? Of course, “the system” means you and me, whatever our capacity as a human might be.  We ALL have a responsibility to education…even if your kids are out of school. Schools make our families, our communities, our cities, our world…so support them, actively.  More on that later.

So I set out on day 2 (cue the dramatic music) “IN SEARCH OF…” size 13 or 14 shoes. I checked every shoe store in another mega mall, which is redundant, because everything is mega here. I even went to a place called “Shoe Citi”! Well, the mayor took one look at me when I said, “…size 48” and he banished me! In fact, even the Brit trying on shoes looked at me like I was out to smash Tokyo! Can I guy get a pair of brown casual shoes anywhere in this place? Not this guy, yet…I’ll hit Zappos up once I get a permanent address.

Speaking of shoes, here’s something I must get accustomed to…


That’s desert on my shoes…and in the spirit of full disclosure, my big feet wear big shoes and, at times, I kick myself in the ankles. After a day in my suit in the sun, I’m starting to really appreciate the dish-dasha, the traditional white robe-like garb the men wear here. From what I can ascertain through research, they wear only underclothes under it,and it’s WAY cooler than a suit. Here’s me, back in action, before the sweat…


Do not attempt to adjust your screen, it’s blurry…and yes, I still have some bags to unpack (sorry, poor pun). It is strange to start the work week on Sunday. (It’s also strange to reckon with how hard it is to post a pic of one’s self. If you really look at the underlying fear, you’ll have a heck of a conversation with yourself.)

After heading to ADEC Headquarters, we learned that we will not be allowed in the schools until the full health screening is completed, and we go through a full orientation. I’m almost finished with my screening, except for the whole “…in the cup, sir” thing. Not stage fright, technical difficulties…not on my part, by the way. Hopefully, on Wednesday it will all be completed. So God is teaching me patience…in work, and in shoe shopping. Thank you!  Here’s HQ….


Note the Porsche Panamera in front (on the right). Around here, they’re like Pintos in the 70’s–ahem, with all due respect, I’ll take one. Here’s another view…


The BMW 7-series…like an AMC Pacer…kinda…yeah, I’ll take one of those, too. 

Anyhow, I’ll be assigned right here in Abu Dhabi City in a mixed-use school, which means Co-ed…kinda. Same school, but they can’t share bathrooms, or eating tables, or recreational areas. Some of the schools have a bathroom in the classroom, but boys and girls can never use the same bathroom, so among the challenges for a principal is how to organize that issue. One more pic from HQ…


This is an indoor water feature…kinda cool. About 20 feet long and 10 feet high.

Last night I had dinner at a “tourist” restaurant with educators from England, Ireland, New Zealand, Atlanta, and Houston. A few of us are here for the first time. Others have been doing this for years. Nonetheless, it’s refreshing to talk to people in the profession and understand that we all face similar problems. It looks like our problem here will be to obtain and analyze an honest assessment of what’s happening, then begin to ease in the reform. We walked and talked in the hot, wet, wool blanket, night air about how to speak honestly to parents, how to empower teachers, and how to engage students. Honestly, that’s typical conversation for educators (and rather boring for everyone else), but it was our first time together and we’re in the polite stage. Real conversations come with time…is that good or bad? Tawk amongst yah-selves. Why must we wait to jump right in when you meet someone new?

On our walk along the Arabian Sea we wanted to put our feet in the water. The beaches are attended to throughout the night for various reasons. The workers are very helpful and we learned we couldn’t go to any beach. Some beaches are family beaches and only for people with children. There were 7 of us and we hardly looked like the Brady Bunch.  Of course, there are separate beaches for women and men, as well. Here’s a pic from the beach…


 The water is bathwater warm and the beach is pristine…and man made, so no rocks or large waves.

Two more interesting pics, and I’ll leave you alone.

I watched this sport on TV this morning….


 That’s camel sprint racing. They look like freakish greyhounds and the little thing on their backs is a remote control operated by the “jockeys” in the cars in the background. Interesting. The camels get to about 40 miles an hour, and frankly, the cars look like their in way more danger than the animals.


For about $4,500 you can buy this tub and chill. Delivery extra…this is not the deluxe model. Others had multiple pop up screens, extra massagers, and a coffee maker…kidding, most have servants for that…not kidding. Saw this in the mall—there was a whole showroom. For some reason, not one salesman approached me. Was it the khaki cargoes and Rage Against the Machine T?… Yeah, people go to the mall to buy this.

So, I messed up the schedule by not posting last night and including today, but we’ll all get over it. (I’m 9 hours ahead, btw.) I may be moving apartments as my bosses discovered we weren’t in executive suites and thought that wrong. How do you play that one humble? Nevertheless, I’m looking forward to showing you my school and my new place. Keep the comments coming and feel free to ask questions.

I miss and love you, thank you all!