Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Past 5 Months: Brace yourself...it's a long one!

I always knew I wouldn't blog unless I had something really great to write about...that, paired with the craziness at ASD added up what you see here: the last 5 months of my life all in one neat package :) 

December/January- Before I'd even left for Christmas break, I was already dreading coming back. Upon coming back to Doha in January, I knew it would be a long four months until our next vacation; the same amount of time I'd been in Doha when I'd had two breaks. It would also mean 6 more months until I got back to the States again. Getting on that plane in Paris, I was so close to being home I could taste it! (Paris was amazing, but I'll never delay my trip home again.) Words can't describe what it felt like to step off that plane in Chicago and hear, "Welcome home". It would've been special even if I'd only been returning to the States from a vacation, but I was returning from my first little adventure and those words sounded a thousand times better than what I'd imagined. My first stop? McDonald's for a real crispy chicken sandwich with bacon :) I got my food, found my spot at the gate, updated my facebook status, and then proceeded to take out my State-side phone (how I missed it!) and call everyone I could think of. It was a great moment.

More and more wonderful moments followed: landing in Bismarck and walking out of the gate to see my best friend standing there with the big Kristin smile I know and love, seeing a text from Jeromie that said, "Forget your bags and get your butt out here!" (he was waiting at the curb), the longest (& tearful) hug I'd ever gotten from my parents, the list goes on and on. What I loved most about coming home was how normal I felt. I wasn't out of place, I wasn't waking up and randomly wondering, "How did I get here?", there was carpet on the floor, pork in the fridge, I was home.

When we all went our separate ways after the New Year, I began to realize that I wasn't dreading going back to Doha the way I thought I would. I had a life there to get back to. Students, friends, a job I love... this realization was a huge blessing.

February- It's been mostly life as usual with the occasional historic moment woven in. To be in this area of the world when Egypt claimed their freedom, to speak with the mom of one of our students who's Egyptian and hear her relay what her family back home was seeing, hearing, praying for, going through, was an honor. The honking from the streets went on for hours and it's a day I won't soon forget.

March- This month was filled with both great joy and great sadness. The great joy being that my best friend, Kristin, popped up on facebook and told me the long-awaited moment had finally come. She was engaged!!! The next morning, I woke up at 6:00am to talk to her on the phone (now, THAT is love) and I was smiling the entire time!
Unfortunately, this month also brought tradgedy. Being international means that the horrible disasters in Japan and New Zealand hit home in a big way and make the world feel so much smaller. The former director of ASD, along with many other friends, family, and collegues of ASD teachers and students are in Japan now. We have many staff, families, and students from New Zealand as well and the effects were felt throughout the school. In typical ASD fashion, the awesome kids stepped up and asked "What can we do?" and that question resulted in ASD Compassion week: a week filled with fund raising events like Compassion Walk (pics on facebook). I'm proud to say that of the little more than $15,000 that was raised by all of ASD, almost $10,000 was brought in by the elementary school. Woot-Woot! 

April- Two words: SPRING BREAK! Spring break for me meant going to Thailand and attending the wedding of two great friends, Sanam and Jimmy. This could've been an entire blog post (that was my intention), but the pics on facebook pretty much tell the story. Click here to see videos depicting the the most amazing wedding event I've ever experienced. 
April also meant Easter and living in Doha, I was curious to see what Easter would be like. Friday morning is when I attend church here. It's the "Holy Day" in Qatar so I've had to grow accustomed to going to church on the first day of my weekend. That's odd enough, so now try celebrating Easter and getting into the "Easter spirit" on Friday morning...weird. Long story short, my Easter ended up being me singing some praise music on my ipod and listening to the Easter sermon from Bethel online and I've gotta say, it was pretty fantastic. My friend Alli's mom made us an amazing Easter dinner and suprised us with Easter baskets! Il felt like a kid on Easter morning and I thank God daily for putting people like that in my life. April also brought the biggest change of all...my parents finally sold their house and will close at the end of May. It's still hard to wrap my head around all that this means, but I'm also grateful that my parents have finally sold their house after so long and pray that God will show us all His plan for this new stage in their lives. Please keep them in your prayers as they have three weeks 'till closing, a new life to start in many ways, and a house to purchase in Bismarck. Ohhhhh the craziness!

May has finally arrived and I officially have a little over 4 weeks left. There will be lots going on here at ASD so hopefully there will be some fun things to share soon. I have no intention of waiting another 5 months to blog, so no worries! Thank you to those who stuck it out and are now reading this last line :)

Friday, December 10, 2010

So, funny story...

I go to a church called Grace Fellowship here in Doha. It's a wonderful place run by fantastic people who love the Lord and want nothing more than to serve Him. I'm blessed enough to have a wonderful friend  Kristin who not only goes with me, but drives me too since I have no car :) On this particular Friday, she also presented me with a task that anyone who knows me knows is pretty much the most difficult/impossible thing for me to do: trying not to laugh/stop laughing once I've started...

Round about the time the offering basket gets passed around, once of the men of the church got up to make some announcements. He starts talking and I'm only half paying attention...after a little bit, I here him kind of holler out a bit...sort of a, "whut! whoa hahaha" sound. I should probably let you know that I'm way against the wall and can hardly see more than the guy's head. Right after I hear him, I notice that my chair is shakin a little bit. See, we sit in these plastic garden/picnic chairs. They're really close together and the arm rests touch. I realize that my chair is shaking because Kristin is sitting to the left of me and she's laughing! At this point, I can maintain a little control since I have no idea whatsoever what is so funny...I should have left it that way. But of course, I want to know so I ask. Anybody who knows me can imagine Kristin saying what she's gonna tell me. Just picture me, laughing hysterically but trying to be quiet, all the while trying to get actual words out. That's how she sounded when I heard her choke out, "His pants fell down...his pants fell down!" What? Yup, I heard her right. She then proceeds to tell me through her quiet laughter that he went to leave the podium and his pants just fell down! As in--past his butt--fell down. She then told me that after they fell, he mumbled something like, "wow I guess I've lost a little weight"---at this point, I'm dying. Thank the LORD, the music started again and we could get it out of our system. All should have been fine...but then the Korean dude got up to give the message.

The only reason I mention that the speaker was Korean is because his accent is the reason for this story. The sermon was funny enough to begin with because this guy had his power point goin like none other. He was speaking about Paul's journey as he spread the gospel. He had maps, routes, you name it...and he's speaking a mile a minute. That, in and of itself is incredibly amusing. Not long into the sermon, he starts talking about some passages in Acts and a man named Aristarchus. Aristarchus accompanies Paul on his 3rd missionary journey and was a fellow prisoner of Paul's. The problem arose when Korean dude spoke Aristarchus' name---due to his accent, it came out as "octopus". I kid you not. So after the first few "octopus"s come out, I notice the all too familiar shaking of my chair. Unfortunately, this time I know exactly what Kristin's laughing about. I was doing fine as I hear him say "octopus" over and over again---well not fine, but not laughing. But when Kristin starts laughing, it's all over. I bent my head down and the next 20 minutes were long and torturous. Just when he stopped saying the name long enough to get control of ourselves, he goes back and mentions "octopus" again. Then there's the conclusion right before the end of the sermon. Again---thank the LORD for the closing song! It was over and we were saved. And now, unfortunately, I will never again think of Paul and his incredible life's work without thinking of his pal and prison partner, Octopus.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Qatar Wins FIFA Bid!

Unknown to many of you, my current country of residence has been bidding for the 2022 FIFA World Cup. The World Cup takes place every four years, in the summer, and lasts for about 3 weeks. There were many challenges facing Qatar in their fight to win the bid, the most concerning being: the heat, the size, and the whole no-alcohol thing :) Qatar put together a great campaign and their hard work paid off. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DcAi3GLQyOI Last night I had the privalege of being in Qatar when the committe announced that Qatar won the bid! I was watching it on SlingBox, talking to my mom...all over Doha, the horns were blaring! Car horns honked for a good 30 minutes after the announcement that the "Expect Amazing" proposal would in time become a reality. I wish I had been at Aspire sports park or in the Souk watching it with the rest of the nation, but it was still a proud and special moment. Many say the voters were crazy to pick Qatar, a country smaller than Connecticut with temps that reach higher than 120 degrees, a place where many fans won't exactly be excited to travel ... and honestly I'd have to agree. But I also believe Qatar can and will pull off an amazing World Cup and I'm glad the world will get to see a totally different side to this region of the world. My wish is that I won't be here during the preparation & building because I'm not sure my sanity could take it :) Mabrouk, Qatar! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7T8fBzZxRHw

Friday, November 12, 2010

International Week

I had the privilege of experiencing International Week at ASD for the first time these last few days. I knew this week was a big deal after hearing so much about it from the kids and teachers, but I had no idea how crazy it was all going to get! International week include many events: opening/closing ceremonies, music presentations, artwork, an international buffet, dress up days and much more! Since ASD didn't think that was quite enough for us to handle, they decided to throw in some more good times such as: report card deadlines, hosting military guests (more on that later), maturation talks for the 5th graders (ohhhh don't get me started), and special guest to present to us on writer's workshop. And did I mention this is all in the week before our November Eid break? Cuz it is!  No joke...I should post a picture of my planner for this week. Let's just say, it's pretty stinkin colorful & not much teaching happened.

The opening ceremony was an awesome experience. The HS gym was packed to the brim with every student attending ASD from pre-K up through 12th grade, and of course all the staff memebers. Once we all got settled in (it took a while, but I was impressed with the effienciency of the system), the speakers began to present and the choir/band performed a song. After that, the Parade of Flag began and this was the high point of the entire program. During the Parade of Flags, two students carry their country's flag down the center aisle of the gym. The two students are the oldest and youngest students representing that particular country at ASD...this ended up making for some fun combinations. Sometimes it was a preschooler with a HS school kid, a middle school student with a 1st grader, or my favorite, a 2nd grader and a kid in kindergarten...my principal's kids since they were the only students at ASD from Paraguay :) They were all in native dress and after their country was announced, a slide for that country was put up on the projector with a fact about it. 72 countries in all! The annoucer would read it to all of us while the students carried the flag and the rest of the student body cheered. It was really fun watching how excited every student got about not just their own country, but of each other's countries as well. The most touch moments came when the last two flags were carried down: first the USA flag and then the flag of Qatar. I can't put into words all the emotion of that moment, but you can get a great sense of it by watching the video! I've posted the link to my facebook too, but I'll try to put it here also. The first student carrying the Argentinian flag is from my class...her little brother was too shy to carry it with her :) http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/10696758 It's kind of long, but you can also skip to the end if you'd like.

I will be posting pictures soon. The rest of the week was crazy with hat day and international dress day. I had a naval officer in my room as a guest on Sunday and they so appreciate being able to get off base, come in their civilan clothes, and hang out with our kids. My students loved asking him tons of questions and being able to show him everything they're learning. Later on in the week we had the internatinal buffet. Parents from pre-k to 12 brought in food native to their countries. These foods are presented in one of the largest buffet tables I've ever seen...and I've lived in VEGAS. The tables took up the entire space in the HS gym and were arranged by continents! Crazy fun and crazy good! My plate was slightly loaded. I had some of the best cheesy potatoes and apple crisp I've had in a while...as well as some other food that I'm sorry I just can't pronounce :) 

Closing ceremonies ended the week with a guest speaker from the high school and musical performances from the elementary, middle and high school. Our director ended the day with a fantastic speech and for the last 30 minutes of class, my students and I reflected a lot on the week and they had some great things to say about what they learned. At the end of the discussion I asked them to promise me one thing: that they will never take for granted the privilege of attenting a school like ASD where they can experience weeks like this one. I have 21 students in my class, representing 17 different countries...I told my kids to cherish that and never forget how amazing it all is. I feel so blessed to have this job and teach these incredible children!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Trick or Treat!

Last week, I discovered that we measly people from the States have NOTHIN' on my peeps here at ASD when it comes to celebrating Halloween. Pardon the expression, but the last few days of my work week were something akin to Halloween on crack! These people aren't kiddin' around...

First off, the fabulous room parents came around to talk to us about how we wanted our doors decorated. Door decorating is big around here during Halloween so my kids and I took inspiration from the book I read to them this month, "The Legends of Sleepy Hollow" (the Wishbone version :) ) and I must say, it looked fabulous! It's also great to be able to walk around and see all the dirrerent themes, but I think my favorite was the door across the hall from me. A skeleton...in a coffin...3D....and the "eyes" light up! Too cool. 
My class' Door

Now we move on to the insanity that is "The Pumpkin Patch". Now I'm guessing that when you hear "pumpkin patch", you're thinking of a nice field of vines with big plump pumkins laying around, drinking cider, and hay bales. You're almost right. Here, the "pumpkin patch" is a room-sized corner in one of the common areas in our school. In the far back corner are hay bales stacked up with pumpkins and scarecrows sitting all over. Around the outter edges, there are tables set up and LOADED with every kind of store-bought or home made Halloween goodie one could ever imagine (scratch that...sadly there was no candy corn). So here we have a school full of kids, ages 8-11, and they have at their disposal tables and tables filled with treats and goodies. Holy sugar-coma, Batman. Thankfully, there are rules and set times regarding the Pumpkin Patch, however, this creates MASS hysteria when those set times roll around. I practically had to peel a 3rd grader off me when I went during break to get myself a cupcake...something akin to going into battle. What we will do for a little suga... 

Last, but not least, there's the Halloween Carnival. Kids can buy tickets prior to the carnival and come to ASD to play games and trick-or-treat in the halls. I wasn't here for it, but boy did I get a good preview! The pics say it best, so check out my facebook. However, the halls are lined floor-to-ceiling, wall-to-wall, with autumn and halloween backdrops, props, and other hanging decor. Every corner was made into a "scene", depicting something different with each turn. In wall hallway, you had to go through a stringy black "curtain" to get to the other side and there were hay bales EVERYWHERE. 

In a nut shell, the parents, kids, and staff at ASD rock socks. I could never have fathomed something like this and the kids were lovin' it up...I especially enjoyed seeing everything with the kids who were new to ASD. They were just as pumped as I was. 

The kids and I had a great time. It was no 3rd grade in Las Vegas Halloween shin-ding, something I totally rocked out if I do say so myself, but it came in a very close 2nd. With my kids, we watched the movie that accomonied our "Sleepy Hollow" book, had some popcorn, and played "Who Are These Little Monsters"; a game where they had to guess which students from our class, were in the pictures. I had the kids bring in a picture of themself in a Halloween costume when they were 1 or 2.  I put them on display all week and on Thursday they had to write down their guesses. It was simple, but they loved it! (Usually the way it goes, huh?) 

Happy Halloween all! Enjoy the changing colors and crisp autumn air for me. This is the time of year I always miss the most :)