Friday, February 13, 2015

Pooping Where You Eat- Or How I Feel About Living with my Colleagues

The Ladybug, Sprout and I have just come from a birthday party down the street.  Three doors down the street, to be precise.  The birthday girl is the daughter of my principal and our school's librarian.  Their house looks exactly like ours except everything is flip-flopped.  When you walk in our front door, the stairs are on your left and the bathroom is on your right.  When you walk in theirs, the bathroom is on the left and the stairs are on the right.  But it's the exact same stairs and the exact same bathroom.  It is both comforting and disconcerting. A bit like living on the same street as your principal.

In two of the five schools I've worked at, the staff have lived all together.  In Kuwait, all the foreign hired staff lived together in two apartment buildings.  Here, we live on The Street- a long row of townhouses that back up to the school.  There are some definite pros and cons to this type of living situation.

- Someone always has milk.  Or eggs.  Or sesame oil.  Or extra pillows, an air mattresses, toothpicks, toilet paper, bread, money, wine, ice, bleach, glitter, internet, or detergent.
- Someone always needs to go to the store for one of those things.
- We are lucky because we work with a lot of families with smallish children right now- that means birthday parties and play dates are happening right out your front door.  The older kids run back and forth to each others house.  Randomly, kids will knock on your door and ask to come in to play or ask if your kids can go out to play.  It's all very kid-friendly and social.
- All of your neighbors understand your lifestyle and you don't have to try and explain that you will only be there for a couple of years.
- Impromptu bonfires and barbecues.
- Thursday afternoons (our Fridays) mean a slow walk home, stopping at whoever's house you get to first for a weekend beverage.
- If you need to grumble to a coworker about work, you can just walk next door and do it.
- You almost always have someone to walk to or from school with.

- You almost always have someone to walk to or from school with.
- It can be slightly stifling at times.
- You usually know when something is happening that you haven't been invited to.
- You feel guilty for not going to an event when it's within walking distance to your house.
- You can't get away from it- many topics of conversation revolve around school.
- It's challenging to make non-school friends.

Our house, in the middle of our street
For me, honestly, it's okay.  In Kuwait, when I only had myself and then the Rugby Star to look after, I was constantly bored.  There were often too many hours in the day and I found myself seeking out friends and neighbors just for someone else to talk to.  It was frustrating at times to see and hear parties or other gatherings that you weren't part of.  Here in Bahrain, because we are spaced down the street with concrete walls serving as the backyard fence, it's really easy to separate yourself from school and school friends when you need to.  By the end of my school day, I only have about two hours of time with the Ladybug and the Sprout.  I don't mind shutting my front door and being with just my family for that time.

Some days, though, it's nice to walk down the street and let them kick a soccer ball and climb a tree while I have an adult conversation.

International friends- which do you prefer?  Living with your colleagues or not?  Why?  

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Five Reasons We Won't Go Home... Yet

*First off, I know it's been almost a full year since I've written on this blog.  We're just going to go ahead and move past that, like it never happened...*

An amazing opportunity presented itself to our family not too long ago.  The Rugby Star and I had decided to do a 'soft search' for jobs for the 2015-2016 school year- that is, we would get our resumes together, get some updated references and just tell a couple of perfect schools that we were interested in moving on.  We had a couple of good leads at great schools, but the jobs weren't perfect, mostly because of me.  At one place, there wasn't actually a position for me.  In another, they wanted IB Theatre and I don't have that experience.  We were slightly bummed but not really.

Then a rather Fantastic School came knocking- THEY wanted to interview us.  We had two amazing interviews but, because we were only doing a soft search, we had a deadline to let our current school know if we were staying or going.  That deadline just didn't work for the other school.  We all had to say 'thanks but no thanks.'

And it was hard.  The jobs at Fantastic School would have been perfect for us, the kind of things that only come along once in a blue moon for specialists like us.  We (read: I) had also just managed to wrap my mind around packing up, saying goodbyes, not being here next year when the decision was made that we would be staying.  It was disappointing.  There were bitter feelings.  It made us think about what we really wanted out of our lives in this profession.

We started wondering if we should go home.  And then we very quickly came up with the five reasons that we won't be going home anytime (real) soon.

1. It's all just so exciting.  It was a definite whirlwind of emotions as we hoped and prayed to stay and go, all at the same time.  It was frustrating and disappointing to not get a job that felt so right, that seemed so made for us, but it was also really exciting.  To plan out the adventure of the next place.  To not really know what country you'll be in next, who your friends will be, where you'll buy your groceries.  I imagine the whole process of job hunting is like a really slow version of jumping out of an airplane and waiting for the parachute to open- terrifying, exciting, and then, relief, no matter which way things go.

2. We're not financially ready.  We've got to save a heckuva lot more money before moving back to the US of A where stuff like gas costs money.  And we have to have two cars.  And pay for day care.  And the RS may or may not be able to work, since he's a foreigner.

3. I want my kids to remember some of this experience, too.  We get to meet so many cool people and see so many awesome places- I want the girls to remember some of it.  I want them to be shaped by the different people they meet from the different cultures and be open-minded and kind to everyone.  And it would be pretty cute to hear them speak a few words of Arabic.  In'shallah.

4. The traveling.  I'm going to Italy in eight weeks.  Yep.  That's happening.  I'm also going to Dubai in a month.  Over the summer I plan to hit New York, England and France.  Because I can.

5.  This is so not me... and I'm not ready to be me again just yet.  No one is more surprised than me that I'm living this life.  I miss home, I miss my friends and family, but it still feels like I'd be giving up if I went back now.  Like it was all just a tiny experiment or a semester abroad.

It's a couple of months after the Fantastic School interviews and, truthfully, we're still a little disappointed.  But there's a comfort in knowing where you'll be next year.  There's no packing or planning to be done, just the same ol' same ol'.  Visions of 'home' dance through my head now and again, but, for now, we're pretty happy with our lives.  It's good to be home.

Have you ever had to make a big decision about moving?  What made you stay or go?  Are you happy with your choice?

Expat Life with a Double Buggy