Nick's Adventure in the Middle East

Monday, October 12, 2015


Yes, that picture to the right is a quick selfie I just took to show off my orange tie for the special occasion. Sadly, we don't have today off, so I am trying to get through the day not trying to think much of my family and friends celebrating my favourite holiday back home. A group of my Canadian friends and I did get the opportunity to celebrate together on Friday night. I met them all in the city and we had a potluck style dinner. It was great to feel that traditions can still exist here in a place where it feels like everything except the Muslim culture is repressed.

I know I've been quiet lately, but I want you to know I am doing ok. Just ok... Things here are very, very different from the life I walked out of just over two months ago. The adjustment has been intense and not the friendliest. People who have been here before and experienced the growing pains describe the process as the feeling of drowning, trying to keep your head above water and always just getting a little breath before going back under. They say this will go on for about 6 months before things start to normalize.

The students here are completely uncivilized. I know it's a harsh word to use, but it's the most fitting. My day consists of complete insanity, and no learning. I have small, very small, doses of them actually listening and participating in a lesson. It's beyond me how we have gotten to this point and they still know 0 English. They have had 6 years of English classes (English, Math, and Science) before me and they still can't even comprehend the simplest English when I am speaking, or string together the most simple phrases and sentences when speaking and writing. This isn't a big deal, I can work with it... but the students aren't willing to learn. ADEC (the company I work for) requires us to do group work and collaborative activities and you can imagine how that goes with a group of rowdy 12 year olds who have no language to discuss or think critically. There is a total misalignment of expectations and where these kids actually are.

It makes coming to work every day really, really hard and less and less enjoyable. I often walk out of this place every day thinking... can I really do this? It takes a lot of self talk and positive thinking. I am very passionate about what I do and I typically thrive off of my students and their uniqueness and working with them, and getting through to them. These kids though, are a whole new ball game. Dodging water bottles flying through the air, ignoring Arabic phrases being yelled at me, attempting to talk when nobody is listening, breaking up fist fight after fist fight, and it goes on.

Sometimes I wonder if this would be more tolerable if I had been placed in the city of Abu Dhabi and not in the middle of the desert. I get little satisfaction at work, and the rest of my days are pretty lonely too. I have a nice routine that works for me but the authentic connections to others is missing entirely. I spend hours at the gym, napping, making meals, playing my ukulele... Once it cools down I hope to get outside more do some exploring, learn how to kite surf, maybe get a kayak.... who knows? Something just to survive.

Every now and then I get a glimpse of hope in my head and heart. I remember the phrase I told many people when they had tears over me leaving... "It's only two years, it'll go by fast!" I have seem to forgotten that because time cannot pass fast enough. It seems really, really slow sometimes.

You know what I'm grateful for though? All these feelings of loneliness and isolation come from somewhere. They come from a heart that is completely full from times when I wasn't alone and completely surrounded by people I love. I know how many smiling faces I'll have waiting my return, I know the type of community I am a part of when I get back, I know that there is so much goodness in my life. I'll get back to that, and that's my greatest motivation.

Things won't always be a struggle, but you know me, I can't sugar coat anything. I wanted to send an honest letter home expressing that, yes, I have been quiet... I am just trying to survive. Sometimes looking at pictures on facebook or instagram just makes it worse. I've thought about packing up and leaving several times, but I can't give up on myself, I've been through so much and this is just one more thing I'll look back at and be proud of myself for getting through.

I love you all very much. I will send another note home soon. I have about 4-5 videos and pictures to send from my Mirfa life, Abu Dhabi adventures, and Oman vacation!

Have a great Thanksgiving, eat lots of turkey, and please feel me there with you... don't let my presence fade away in my absence.

Talk soon,