Spring has sprung

It is officially spring, today is the two year anniversary of my blog and I am in the final trimester of my final year teaching in the UAE. I am looking forward to what may come in the next few months, but now is a time for reminiscing. Reminiscing about the two fabulous weeks I spent in Europe! Again, I returned to Germany to see my long-time friends Liz and Aaron and to see my new friends I’ve made on my last couple of visits. But this trip included two side trips, Spain and Austria!

Week one started out with a perfect opportunity to wear the dirndl I bought on my last trip, Starkbierfest (click for more information). Starkbier is a strong beer that is brewed during Lent and is celebrated with drinking, dancing and signing in the beer hall. So we put on our dirndls, recruited some friends and headed off to the beer hall.

Dancing on the benches!

Dancing on the benches! (Liz, Erin and me)

Had to borrow some steins for this picture (no starkbier drinkers here)!

Had to borrow some steins for this picture (no starkbier drinkers here)! (Liz, Eva and me)

It was so much fun! Dancing on the benches, signing classic American party songs (think YMCA and other such tunes) and being entertained by the people who had drank a bit too much starkbier.

The next day we were on our way to Spain. When I was in Germany last December I attended a phenomenal dinner party at the Yoder’s (friends of Aaron and Liz) and was invited to join a girls trip to Spain during the spring. Lucky for me, the trip they had planned fit into the time frame of my spring break. Heather was an amazing host at her home in Salobrena, Spain (she also has a blog Heather Yoder Writes). Not only was the home gorgeous and the host gracious the views were spectacular.

Salobrena, Spain

Salobrena, Spain

The beach in Salobrena.

The beach in Salobrena.

Love the Spanish bars!

Love the Spanish bars!

Tortialla, croquettas and wine, some of my favorite things!

Tortialla, croquettas and wine, some of my favorite things!

Granada

Granada

Touring the Alhambra.

Touring the Alhambra. (Liz, me and Julia)

Great views at the Alhambra.

Great views at the Alhambra.

We had a lot of fun relaxing around the pool, in the hot tub and touring Granada. We also had a visit to the Alhambra which is in Granada. It was a relaxing, fun and delicious five days in Spain. Oh how I love Spanish cuisine!!

And that was just the first week!

 

No such thing as too much tennis!

The last three weekends have been busy, but very fun. They included tennis, lots of it, and my first ever mile swim in the ocean. The fun began on February 14, also known as Oregon’s birthday, with the Lumineers concert in Dubai. It was a very good show! I had no idea they played so many different instruments. They had tiny keyboards, accordions, xylophones and so much more. They were wonderful. If you have the chance to see them, you must.

The following day I headed to the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Center for the first day of women’s qualifications. I specifically went to see Flavia Penetta and Bethanie Mattek-Sands, who were of course playing the first and last matches, respectively.

Flavia is a solid player and made it to the quarter-finals where I got to watch her again, unfortunately she was beat by Venus Williams.ARS_2593 ARS_2610

Bethanie Mattek-Sands is easy to identify with her “rock star” persona. You won’t see many people on the tour with purple hair. (By the way, if anyone knows where I can get some tops like Bethanie’s, I would really love to know!)ARS_2681

I returned the following weekend to watch some more tennis. This time catching both Williams sisters, Caroline Wozniaki and a few others. There were some amazing matches.

Venus played beautifully, she went on to win the tournament. IMG_5560

I was lucky to be sitting close enough to hear Serena scold a line judge for not calling a ball out, when it so very clearly was. IMG_5577

The women’s matches were great! I have a new favorite player on the tour as well, Alize Cornet–keep your eyes out for her, tennis fans!

The following weekend (also known as weekend #3) saw the men in action. I was excited to be able to see both Jo-Wilfred Tsonga and Roger Federer play.

Tsonga has some great ball handling skills, I was lucky to catch this shot as he was bouncing the ball on the rim of his racket.ARS_2968

Federer was flawless, played a classic game of tennis. He was just too good, and went on to win the tournament. ARS_3159 ARS_3160

To cap off these three amazing weekends, I participated in the Mina Mile. You may recall, if you’ve been reading this blog for a while, that I did this race in the fall. But due to a conflict I was only able to swim the 800m and 400m races. This past weekend however, I skipped the shorter two races and only swam the 1600m. I set my goal time as 35min. But, when I saw everyone was wearing wet suits and I decided to wear long sleeves too, I thought I may not make that time. But I did! 34min 19sec was my official time. It was a good race.photo-19

It’s the little things

This job has challenged me in many ways, but one of the things that has been hardest for me is not being able to connect with my students. First, you have the language barrier. Then there is the school culture. Students come to school just before school starts and leave as soon as school ends. There aren’t after school activities or other things for teachers and students to be involved in together.

Last year, this really affected me. I felt like I couldn’t get to know my students they way I did at home and I believed that hindered my ability to teach to the whole student. This year, things are a bit easier, because I have grade 10 students and they seem to love everything about me, except when I try and make them do school work and because I’m a year wiser. 

I am writing this because, recently I have had two wonderful experiences with my students outside the classroom that have helped renew my faith in this job. On Sundays and Thursdays I have supervision duty on the playground (just a big courtyard) and my grade 12 students have been bringing a soccer ball to school and we’ve played a few times. It has been wonderful! They are hilarious and playing soccer in skirts and sandals on cement tiles isn’t easy!

And this evening, I met up with three of my grade 10 students at the park near our school. They are making a commercial for our Media and Society unit and wanted my help (they needed someone to record the commercial). It was so fun to help them, to see their creativity, their shyness and their teamwork. 

These are the moments that keep me going, that help me to remember why I love working with young adults. 

Not a Mirage

Things are not always what they seem to be, and  yesterday I visited a new place in Al Ain that might confuse many people. Just outside the city there is a lake, or you might call it a collection of pools. Either way it is a body of water, seemingly, in the middle of the desert. If you happened to be riding a camel through the desert in the middle of August and came upon these pools you might not believe your eyes. But this, my dear camel riding friend, is no mirage. It is real water. I wouldn’t, however, drink it if I were you.

These pools are made of treated sewage from the nearby water treatment facility. None-the-less, it is a great place to visit, see some nature and enjoy the outdoors. There are shelters set up for picnics, access for 4-wheeling adventure and lots of birds. Apparently, people do fish here as well, though I didn’t see anyone yesterday. The lake has many names, Zakher Lake, Zakher Pools, Tilapia Lake, but despite the many names and the “keep away” signs, people still seemed to have no problem finding it. Here are some of the pictures I took yesterday.

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Birds, Birds, Birds

Last weekend I joined another Al Ain Weekends trip, this time to see some falcons and flamingos in Dubai. After meeting with the group, we set off to Dubai. Our first stop was at the Falcon Souq. Inside this souq there are shops that sell all types of outdoor equipment from falconry supplies to camping supplies and tons of other things in between. You can also buy live falcons there and there are a few veterinarian offices inside. Here are some pictures from the souq.

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Falcons for sale.

Falcons for sale.

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Waiting for the vet.

Waiting for the vet.

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After the falcons we stopped at the Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary to see the flamingos. Just a quick stop, as the hide is small and we were a large group.

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Al Ain at Night

Andrea:

Every year the UAE gets decked out to celebrate their National Day (like Fourth of July in the US) and the decorations are very festive. I wanted to take pictures, but I am not too comfortable with night photography yet, or being alone at night in the city, so I never got around to it. But these lovely folks did, fellow teachers and neighbors, they have posted some great pictures of what Al Ain looks like for National Day and the lit road on Jebel Hafeet.

Originally posted on hayya bina:

Last week the Emirates celebrated their 42nd National Day! Like last year the whole country went all out – decorations, fireworks, and the biggest UAE flags you’ve ever seen! The best part is all the people that go crazy decorating their car with national day things. The Rands posted a bit about National Day here and it has some great pictures of those cars. My favorite part about this time of year is that in Al Ain they decorate all the round-abouts with huge light displays and town center is all lit up. One evening Scott and I went around our town of Al Ain to try and capture these light displays for you . . .

DSCN0027DSCN0105DSCN0109DSCN0095There is a restaurant in town center called Leisure that Scott and I went to with our friend Jennifer. They have very good Arabic food and the atmosphere is the best! It’s all…

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Touring Bavaria

Since our wonderful Christmas I have been seeing some of the sights in and around Munich. The weather has been good, cold but clear (no rain) and one very lucky day of snow.

On 26 December I met up with my friend Krista (she is an ADEC teacher in Abu Dhabi) at the Munich train station and we headed off to visit Germany’s most famous castle (for tourists). The castle at Disneyland (and on most Disney things) is based off of this castle, Neuschwanstein. It was very foggy and cold when we stepped off the bus and headed toward the castle, but within a few minutes it was snowing, so we were happy! We hiked all around the castle, but didn’t go inside (we didn’t want to wait in the very long line for tickets). We even crossed a barrier and walked to the “best view point” called Mary’s Bridge, which was a bit dangerous but worth it. (Sorry for the snow on the lens!)

First views of the castle.

First views of the castle.

The treacherous (on ice) walk to Mary's Bridge.

The treacherous (on ice) walk to Mary’s Bridge.

View from Mary's Bridge.

View from Mary’s Bridge.

Leaving town in the afternoon, enjoying all the snow that fell. For some reason, this building reminds me of the Gingerbread Village on the way Florence.

Leaving town in the afternoon, enjoying all the snow that fell. For some reason, this building reminds me of the Gingerbread Village on the way Florence.

The following day, my hosts (Aaron and Liz) and I bundled up and headed for Germany’s longest sled run at Wallberg Mountain. Unfortunately, the run was closed when we got there!  Not to be dismayed, we opted for plan B, which was wonderful. We stopped in Tegernsee for a nice roast pork and raclette lunch with delicious gluwein and a walk around the lake.

Me and Liz at Tegernsee.

Me and Liz at Tegernsee.

Yesterday, Liz and I set off for Regensburg, a cute little town about an hour by train from Munich. Regensberg is an UNESCO World Heritage City. We walked around, saw the sights and even enjoyed some tea and dessert at Germany’s oldest bakery.

Regensburg

Regensburg

The cutest shutter holder I have ever seen.

The cutest shutter holder I have ever seen.

Cute table setting at lunch at Wurstkuchl.

Cute table setting at lunch at Wurstkuchl.

David and Goliath

David and Goliath

Germany's oldest bakery

Germany’s oldest bakery

Today, Liz and I visited two of Munich’s modern art museums. The draw was two-fold, an Andy Warhol exhibit and entry for only 1 Euro! The Andy Warhol exhibit was really good, it was mostly focused on the books that he produced or was a contributor. Now we are making plans for tomorrow!