On worker bees

This weekend marks my one year anniversary of Abu Dhabi life! It went by far too quickly and my writing discipline definitely didn’t win out during my culture shock adjustment period. Goals: re-examined. New bars set. Why am I here if not to tell the story?

Here are a few things I learned this past year:

Expat life seems to operate on a circuit. People who choose to be expats move between a few hundred cities around the world, constantly gathering information from others about where they’ve lived, how they liked it, and how they learned to navigate. The UAE is just one stop on the road – many have lived in more than one place other than their home country and will move on to the next when “It’s Time.” Everything feels temporary when you’re an expat, which can be pretty unsettling.

Being a worker bee: Expat communities function on a sort of hierarchy that has a lot to with one’s chosen profession. Newsflash: There are a lot more English teachers than there are other kinds of professional expats, so we are pretty much sent to the back of the line when it comes to social networking. Am I here doing something interesting? Yes. I’m teaching English. Is that remotely impressive to anyone who is here doing business in any other industry? Not really. They’ve already met a few dozen of women just like me – to the extent that I’m a walking stereotype. That bends my precious little nose out of shape. I need to step up my game and do interesting things so I can talk about something other than work.

Letting the light shine through my thick skull: it was, at first, disorienting living in a place where the taxi drivers know more about world politics than I do. That has motivated me to really step up my game and get wise about all things not-USA. Americans – the ones who don’t travel much, anyway – tend live in an “America is the center of the universe” kind of bubble and have very little idea about . . . EVERYTHING . . . that is going on outside our borders. International news is not a two-page spread, and I have taken to reading as much as I can to catch up. I have also learned: There is no catching up. And: It’s not good to assume that someone wants to give me a history lesson. And: Being seen as ignorant is embarrassing. And: Oh, I hate admitting how selfish and myopic we Americans can be but DAYUM you guys. Read more international news. There’s all kinds of stuff going on out there.

Asking questions: Expats travel a lot, so my conversation starter tends to be: Where have you been? What did you love about it? They also love to brag about having traveled. I would brag more about where I’ve traveled, but I haven’t been doing this long enough to have much to brag about. My default setting is Wide Eyed Wonder, Lots of Questions, and Trying Not To Be Offended When People Scoff At My Inexperience Even Though I Am a Grown-Ass Woman Who At Least Bothered To Ask You A Polite Question. In other words, I’m totally asking for it. *sigh* Still learnin.

I could do without the scoffing. See previous comment about being sent to the back of the line. I’m not over the idea that my place in the social hierarchy is so modest. It’s kinda like: Say there is a big zoo with all kinds of fancy, exotic, impressive animals: Zebras, lions, giraffes, camels!, elephants, and all that. These are all animals that everyone will come to the zoo to see, to take pictures of, to draw, and to buy in the form of plush toys that will be noozled and covered with yogurt from the face of a two year old in the back seat of the car on the way home. In my experience, the social dynamic is such that many expats see themselves as an impressive, fancy, majestic, photo-and-plush-toy-worthy beast — and they see the English teachers as the prairie dogs: critters thrown into a big empty space no one else wants, digging little holes and popping up their heads every once and awhile, trying to figure out what’s going on in the Rest of the World.

But then – that’s just my surface impression, and I’ve barely scratched past it. And if I have a modest, worker bee, prairie dog kind of life: I’m still pretty happy with it. I look forward to a year of more writing and networking and making new friends. There are lots of non-scoffers out there, I just haven’t met them yet.

The Next Big Thing: Elizabeth Fletcher Guest Blogs

Thank you to Alison Morse for inviting me to participate in The Next Big Thing. Thanks also to Michele Campbell for loaning me her blog. If string theory is right and there are eleven or more parallel universes, she’s definitely living in one reality that I want: a free-spirited woman making her way in another part of the world. I can’t wait to see what creative work her adventures inspire.

I haven’t had luck finding a second writer to participate [Michele, sure you’re not working on anything?!] (OK, I’ll post something here this summer! -M), but I am thrilled that Elizabeth Jarrett Andrew accepted this mission.

Elizabeth Jarrett Andrew writes, loves, teaches and urban homesteads in South Minneapolis. When she’s not chasing her gregarious four-year-old daughter around the neighborhood or dancing with her partner Emily, she’s doing her best to support the spiritual life of writers. Her books are Swinging on the Garden Gate: A Spiritual Memoir (Skinner House Books), Writing the Sacred Journey: The Art and Practice of Spiritual Memoir (Skinner House Books), and On the Threshold: Home, Hardwood and Holiness (Westview Press). You can connect with Elizabeth at www.spiritualmemoir.com and www.elizabethjarrettandrew.com. You can find Elizabeth’s contribution to The Next Big Thing at http://www.spiritualmemoir.com/heart-and-craft/.

What is your working title of your project?

The title is Heartland, and my working subtitle is: An Unlikely Story of Marriage, Magic and the Maya.


Where did the idea come from for the project?

I had been working on a collection of short stories set in Guatemala for two years. Then soon after I returned from my last long trip in Guatemala, I was in shamanic journeyspace. While in that altered consciousness, I was told to start writing a memoir about my physical and spiritual travels and I was given the title of Heartland.

I felt stunned when I came out of journeyspace. First of all, I rarely if ever received “thou shalt” commandments in my journeys. Second, I had always seen myself as a fiction writer and I valued the privacy that fiction offered. It took me some time to loosen my grip on that identity. After a month of avoidance, I shelved the short stories and began working on Heartland. I came to see that many of my real-life experiences in Guatemala were remarkable…definitely stranger than fiction.


What genre does your book/project fall under?

I describe it as part travelogue, part spiritual memoir.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Hmm. It’s much easier to think of actors to play characters in my fiction than it is to contemplate stand-ins for real-life people, but I’ll give this thought experiment a go. When I think of people to play my persona, I have to consider age since it factors into the issues I’m facing in the book. I also have to find someone who doesn’t take herself too seriously. We don’t share many physical characteristics, but Jennifer Garner seems like someone who could pull off serious and silly, as well as anxious and exuberant, really well. I’d have to pick someone who can play a kind but skeptical foil to Jennifer Garner. My husband is a Star Wars fan, so I think he’d be pleased with me casting Ewan MacGregor.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

A thirtysomething woman juggles life between Minnesota and Guatemala during a five-year period, blurring the boundaries of reality and testing the bonds of her marriage, as she searches for her home in the world.

Will your project be self-published or represented by an agency?

I’m at least one deep revision away from sending it out, but I hope to find an agent to represent it.


How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

To be determined. I started writing Heartland in late 2010, and I’m edging closer to the complete draft. As an aside, I wrote the last page months ago but I have yet to write the first chapter. My goal is to have the draft finished by the end of 2013.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

I cringe when I use this book as an example because it was such a raging phenomenon, and I have no delusions of grandeur that I would receive an iota of that success, but Heartland shares similarities with Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love. Other influences include Traveling Souls: Contemporary Pilgrimage Stories by various authors, Hope Edelman’s The Possibility of Everything, Peter Mathiessen’s The Snow Leopard, and Robert A Johnson’s Balancing Heaven and Earth.


Who or what inspired you to write this book?

The duende of Guatemala inspired me to write this book. To be more specific, I’ve been inspired by the pastel colors of colonial buildings that hide courtyards of heaven or hell, by the raucous laughter of children chasing a soccer ball on a dusty road, by bees humming in golden stalks of maiz during the rainy season, by the drunken man laying in a pool of his own blood at the roadside, by the wind that washes sin away, by the soft-spoken midnight shaman who cured my heart arrhythmia, and the ghosts, both good and bad, that reside on a strip of geographically and politically unstable land.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Guatemalan ghosts, shamans, spirituality and magic.




Thanks, Elizabeth, for the inspiration! If you’d like to follow her on Twitter, here’s a link: @esfletcher

Things that are true and help me believe that I’m actually a real live expat now

• I’ve gone through an entire full sized tube of toothpaste – one that I bought new the week I moved in to my apartment.

• Local cucumbers are amazing and I don’t know if I can ever live without them again..

The cucumbers here are so fresh, they still have blooms on them and they are never waxed.

• I wake up at the same Oh My God Thirty hour every day, even when I don’t have to go to work.

• I’m wondering how I ever lived without a housekeeper. My bathrooms are always clean! Whaaaat? That never happened before and now I realize how totally gross I am without someone to clean up after me.

• I’ve done a freelance writing project for a big publishing house and suffered gloriously through the writing process. It was curriculum writing. I missed all my old resources and knew in my mind’s eye exactly where the books I wanted were on the old shelves of my classroom and former office. I started longing for the books I gave away.

Project takes over the dining room table – that’s how you know it’s legit.

• I’m starting to think about errands as adventures instead of confusing and frustrating chores that involve getting stuck in traffic. I may even blog about them soon!

• Reading about far away places like Turkey and Sri Lanka and Morocco sends me directly to SkyScanner to investigate airline ticket options for my next holiday. Some of that travel is even affordable! Then, I go directly to the Lonely Planet Thorn Tree Forum and start creeping on everyone who’s ever written about going there. I am rediscovering my love of research. Istabul betta watch out. Ima be all over her within the year.

• People at The Club remember my name and I’ve forgotten my phone at one place or another so many times, the staff just hunt me down and bring it to me.

I pretty much get to go here whenever I want.

• I’m considering this Ed. D. program once I’m done getting out of debt. I can totally see myself living here for the next ten years. I love and hate the idea of going back to school – but it must mean that I’m feeling more settled, even if I don’t think I feel that all the time.

• Paris is waiting for me – heading there on June 10 and will be in France for 3 weeks. This will be a “farewell for now” excursion – I’ve got a whole lot of world to explore, but I booked this trip as a let me see all the things I love just one more time and without students thing. I can’t really afford it, but I’m doing it anyway because I want to reward myself for not getting stuck in fear and anxiety for the last year. See previous item about debt. Parlez-vous Visa? This excursion is also legit because I’m also working on a collection of essays about travelling with students that will hopefully come together on this trip. Writing! In Paris! There are things that suck a lot more than that. Life is pretty awesome.

I’m pretty sure I’ve taken this same photo at least 25 different times. It’s still my favorite.

Stay tuned: Blog overhaul and more posts about random Abu Dhabi adventures should be coming soon. Have you ever been date tasting? There are things to learn! Dates – the kind you eat – are a big deal here. . .


Oh, hello April!

A catch up list.

* My trip to Jordan was remarkable. Petra is definitely a thing you need to see if you’re anywhere in the Middle East. Vast. Mountain city. With lots of Bedouins hanging out and trying to sell you stuff. I’m working on an essay about it. I don’t even know where to start blogging about it, so here is a photo of me on a horse. There are a few more pix on my tumblr blog. I post a decent number of photos there – and it’s easier to post pix and reblog – which means I’m turning into a lazy blogger, I guess.

Not if we don't adjust those stirrups.

The next Indiana Jones?

• Travel in the Middle East is pretty restricted right now, so I’m not anticipating any more trips until June – Paris and July – USA and Canada.

• I’ve been reading a lot, thanks to the amazing friends who have sent me books to fill my shelves. I read at the beach, I read in my comfy chair, and I even have started listening to audio books in the car. Latest book I’ve totally fallen in love with: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. It . . . just . . . moved me in a way most books don’t get anywhere near my heart. Other authors I’m currently obsessed with: Neil Gaiman and Bill Bryson.

• Speaking of Neil Gaiman: the man is all over the internet and I adore that he answers all sorts of questions from his fans. His tumblr blog is lovely and friendly and accessible, as is all of the Twitter flirting between him and his remarkable wife, Amanda Palmer. From what I can tell, he really likes his fans. He is always gentle with even the most random questions, and when I read him, I just want to give him a hug. The thing I love most, though, is when he hands out book recommendations. He’s one of the contributors to this cool blog: What Is Culture, Coach? wherein a person who feels like they’ve missed out on reading and listening and watching all the things that “everyone” has read and watched and listened to asks for suggestions on how to Get Culture. So basically, what I’m trying to say, is that whenever Neil says “You should read this book.” to anyone on the internet, I get my hands on the book. My reading stack is bigger than ever, and I’m really glad I’ve finally gotten over my post-MFA dear god keep those books away from me I think I’m going to die slump.

• Getting acclimated to Abu Dhabi has been using up a lot of my bandwidth. I’ve finally gotten past the feels like vacation stage of being an expat, and I’m smack dab in the middle of holy crap, I actually live here now. This is my home. Now what? stage. To cope, I spend far too much time on Facebook and Twitter and tumblr. I’m rattled to the core. Did I really do this? Am I really living in the desert? Is my home in Minneapolis being inhabited by someone who is not me? Whose idea was this? When will I get used to it? I haven’t been blogging because I don’t want to whine or cause anyone to worry. But since we’re all here, I’ll just let you know – sometimes this is still really scary — the REAL of this. Those times, I don’t feel so brave. So that’s a thing.

• I read the newspaper every day and I’m trying to learn more about contemporary world history and global politics. Newsflash: Educated people not from the USA tend to know a lot more about the whole world and how things fit together than educated, white, middle-class, American me. Let’s just say it can be very embarrassing when someone you’re talking to knows a lot more about your country than you know about his or hers. I hate feeling ignorant, even when said someone is nice about it.

• I am halfway through my PADI open water dive certification and I got to swim in the Indian Ocean last weekend. It was pretty awesome. SCUBA is really physically demanding, and I’m now working on getting into better shape so I can swim comfortably and not wear myself out when I’m in the water. Also: dive gear is REALLY HEAVY. Plus: Oceans are cool. And big. Swimming in them reminds me that I’m really really insignificant: a nanosecond in the life of the sea. Helps keep all the feelings in perspective. There’s an essay in the works there, too. It feels good to be amazed by things and want to write about them. I haven’t been amazed for a while.

• A date would be nice.

• I’m really happy to be in Abu Dhabi. I still haven’t had a camel ride. Making friends is going pretty well. I miss my posse back in Minneapolis. I miss improv and HUGE Theater. Comedy class in Dubai didn’t go so well. Temps are in the upper 90s already and I’m about to find out how well I handle extreme heat on a daily basis.
• I miss you, I love you, and thanks for reading.

The Treasury was actually a tomb. A very fancy tomb.

The Treasury was actually a tomb. A very fancy tomb.


Winter Sunshine and Other Miracles

I love you, Minnesota, but I have to admit that not wearing socks during the month of January is pretty spectacular.

Sunset on Christmas Day, at The Club.

Sunset on Christmas Day, at The Club.

Plus: No SAD. This is the first winter in at least 13 years that I haven’t had a terrible case of the winter blues, feeling like the month of January was something to survive instead of enjoy.

I would love to report to you all that my expat experience has led to a complete and miraculous life transformation. I would love to report that my teeth are gleaming white, that I’ve lost 25 pounds, that I’ve paid off all my debts, that I’m dating an international superstar with a sexy accent who plans to take me on vacation in Greece, that I’ve won a new car, that I’m constantly going to swanky parties in fancy ball gowns, and that I’ve found the solution to world hunger.

But! I live in the real world, albeit far from my country of origin. Life is extraordinarily ordinary here. I wake up, go to work, come home, eat food, chat with friends and family online, sometimes write or go out for a drink, then go to bed. Moving overseas doesn’t make you into a new person. It just lets you know how YOU you really are. So here is a list of the Michele-sized miracles that make up my daily life.

  1. I’m making friends who are genuine, earnest, and quirky as hell. During a happy hour the other night, I realized that my comfort level still resides with other misfit toys. Be yourself, keep it positive, and eff them if they can’t take a joke.
  2. I have a housekeeper who does my laundry, cooks most of my meals, and keeps my apartment clean. She’s a gem whose efforts afford me time to finally work on those creative projects I have always wanted to work on but haven’t been able to manifest. I’ve never lived in such a clean house or eaten so well. No wonder everyone wants a housewife.
  3. I’m working on creative projects again. Some of them are even collaborative. Jumpin Monks on Pogo Sticks, watch this space.
  4. I love my job. My students are pretty great and the stress level is about 1/3 what I used to have. It makes me feel like I’m getting away with something. All things being equal, my supervisors are pretty pleased with how I’m doing, as well. That doesn’t stop me from suspecting someone is going to pop out from behind a curtain and tell me this is all a dream and that I have to go back to -28F and shoveling snow and sorting through Senior Photos and quotes for the Yearbook again.
  5. I’ve signed up for an improv/stand up comedy class in Dubai that will (hopefully) help me meet more people and get into some performance something around here.
  6. I broke down and signed up for cable TV – because they offered it to me for free – and because evenings at home alone are really darn quiet. Basic cable still sucks, in case you were wondering, but I really like crime shows. I’m evidently a creep.
  7. I went to a Burns Supper at the British Embassy. It was the swankiest party I’ve ever attended. Unfortunately, none of the men in kilts asked me for my number. *sigh* It was a good time.
  8. I haven’t turned into an international jet setter yet, having kept myself firmly planted in the UAE since I arrived 6 months ago, but my sister is coming to visit in March! We are going to visit Petra and The Dead Sea in Jordan. That’s pretty darn exciting.

That’s about all I have for now. Wanted you to all know I’m happy, I’m thinking a lot and I’m trying to stretch my wings a bit. Things are coming together slowly. I’m trying to be patient with myself when it comes to dealing with the inevitable chaos that is Abu Dhabi, and waiting for some perspective before I write too much about what it’s like here. I don’t want to whine. That’s annoying. Once I have the brain space to tell my experiences as funny stories, I’ll fill up the blog with them. Deal?

Miss you all. What’s your latest everyday miracle?

Enough. Just enough.

This is a list of the worst school shootings that have happened in the USA. How many more of them need to happen before we change things? Thanks to the Daily Mail UK.


1. Virginia Tech – 32 dead plus the shooter, 16 April 2007, Blacksburg, Virginia

Student Seung Hui Cho, 23, killed two stuidents in a dorm and then went through building of classrooms armed with two handguns, shooting at random before killing himself.

2. University of Texas – 16 dead plus shooter, 1 August 1966, Austin, Texas

Former Marine sniper Charles Whitman, 25, armed with an arsenal of weapons shot victims from the observation deck of the campus tower.

3. Columbine High School – 13 dead plus two shooters, 20 April 1999, Littleton, Colorado

Students Eric Harris, 18, and Dylan Klebold, 17, opened fire outside the school killing students and one teacher before shooting themselves in the library.

4. Red Lake High School – 9 dead plus shooter, 21 March 2005, Red Lake, Minnesota

Jeffrey Weise, 17, goes on a shooting spree at Red Lake High School killing nine people, including his grandfather, before shooting himself.

5. University of Iowa – five dead plus shooter, 1 November 1991, University of Iowa

Gang Lu, 27, a graduate student from China killed five with a .38-caliber revolver. He was apparently angry because his doctoral dissertation had not been nominated for an academic award.

6. Amish schoolhouse massacre – six dead plus shooter, 2 October 2, 2006, Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania

Charles Carl Roberts IV, 32, executes five girls aged 7 to 13 before killing himself in a small Amish schoolhouse

7. Jonesboro, Arkansas – five dead, 24 March 1998, Jonesboro, Arkansas

Mitchell Johnson, 10, and Andrew Golden, 8, took seven guns to school and pulled the fire alarm and shot students as they headed for the exits. Four died plus a teacher. The pair were sent to a juvenile detention center and released in 2005.

8. Cleveland Elementary School – five dead plus shooter, 17 January 1989, in Stockton, California

Patrick Edward Purdy entered a schoolyard and opened fire with a semiautomatic rifle at Cleveland Elementary School. Five children died and 30 others were wounded including one teacher. He then shot himself.

9. University of Arizona – three dead plus shooter, 28 October 2002, University of Arizona

Robert Flores, 40, a nursing student shot an instructor in her office before entering a classroom and killing two more teachers before committing suicide.

10. Kent State University – four dead, 4 May 1970, Kent State University in Ohio

National Guard troops killed four students who took part in anti-war protests on the campus of Kent State University in Ohio.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2248983/Connecticut-school-shooting-Adam-Lanzas-survivalist-mother-obsessed-guns.html#ixzz2FHo9QzA8
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Everyday moments.

The days pass by so quickly for me here. I can’t believe it’s already freezing back in Minnesota and that Christmas preparations are in full swing all across the US. All the sparkly lights around Abu Dhabi are for the upcoming National Day holiday this weekend, and it’s pretty rare to see a Christmas tree. Can’t say I’m missing the carols every time I walk into a store.

I feel really disjointed and out of focus right now. I’m struggling to find my old self-discipline and any sort of comfortable routine. All of my previously well-honed planning skills are useless in the new city dynamics, as is any sense of accomplishment for completing small tasks. I get tired more easily than I used to.

So here is a list of moments from the last couple of weeks:

  1. My face has been compared to both a flower and the moon. Charming.
  2. I have learned how to get out of the way of incredibly fast moving vehicles on my crowded highway commute.
  3. I helped an 8 year old with her grammar homework. According to her mother, this made me a hero.
  4. I celebrated Thanksgiving on a Saturday with my favorite American expats. I ate an entirely irresponsible amount of food.
  5. I cooked green beans that were as long as my forearm. I brought them to Thanksgiving. We forgot to eat them.
  6. It’s never quiet here in Abu Dhabi – there’s always stuff going on, traffic noises, fighting cats, and the ubiquitous horn honking. Yesterday morning at about 3:00 am, the Glorious Cat Leader of the Parking Lot Revolution smacked down at least three neighbors.
  7. I intend to learn how to cook a duck. Suggestions welcome.

Don’t have much else to share, and will hopefully start more sentences with something other than “I” in my next post. Enjoy the Billy Collins TED talk – some really great visuals to go with his poetry. My favorite poem is the one he reads at the very end of the talk: letter to a 17 year old girl.

Love letters to strangers

Hannah Brencher’s mother always wrote her letters. So when she felt herself bottom into depression after college, she did what felt natural — she wrote love letters and left them for strangers to find. The act has become a global initiative, The World Needs More Love Letters, which rushes handwritten letters to those in need of a boost.

Hannah Brencher believes in the power of pen and paper, and has started a global initiative that encourages strangers to exchange love letters.

This TED speaker is so adorable – and I am a huge fan of mail. So if you want a love letter from me, send your address! I love stories, and I will tell you one with my own hands.

Michele Campbell, PO Box 36859, Abu Dhabi, UAE

Improv saves lives: expat edition

I haven’t had a chance to perform any improv on stage for the last two years, but I wanted to share with you how much the improv I did with the Brave New Workshop Student Union and HUGE Theater changed my life path and made things imminently more awesome.

  1. Yes, and. The basic foundation of an improv scene is that one person makes a declaration and the second person builds on it. Then the first person builds on that – and off you go. As a new improvisor, I believed this meant that I should learn to stop saying, “No, that isn’t true.” As a human being, I take it now to mean this: whenever I am flexible of mind enough to understand that the perspective of my conversation partner is a valid world view, I can affirm that position even if I think s/he is wrong.
  2. Embrace a collaborative world view. In an improv scene, the world that is created is necessarily determined by the input of everyone on the stage. Just like in real life, you don’t get a say in how the story around you develops if you don’t open up your face and add something. While practicing improv, I learned to practice fearlessness and let go of self-judgement while exercising my voice. These qualities are essential to surviving as an expat: when you don’t speak up for yourself, you get steamrolled verbally and socially and live in a world that someone else created for you.
  3. Laughter is as essential as water. During my first weeks of class, I laughed harder at myself and the silly things we did and said than I’d laughed the entire previous year. Ridiculous became reality for minutes at a time and I had the chance to look at my assumptions and prejudices in a different space. I am ridiculous: my world view is limited as are the world views of everyone around me – we are shaped by our experiences, and those experiences limit our vision. You can’t see what you don’t know exists — until someone throws it in your face and you have to respond to it somehow. And then laugh because – wow. That’s there. That’s a thing that happened. As an expat, all I can do is laugh sometimes because the constrained rules of living abroad require patience and good humor unless you want the stress to kill you with an aneurism, an ulcer, or a leap from a tall bridge.
  4. Listening is more important than speaking. In all sorts of comedy, there’s this thing called a callback that’s basically remembering a small thing someone mentioned earlier in a scene and using it as a punchline again later. Here in Abu Dhabi, I’m the punchline if I don’t remember all the little details going on around me – and information about how things get done is passed on in snippets of conversations and hints from people who’ve done them before. People want to share information, but don’t explain themselves the way I’m used to. All feelers have to be out for anything to make sense.
  5. You can be scared, but there’s nothing to be scared of. Being the center of attention during a scene for the first time was kind of terrifying. I had no idea what I was going to say. Then I opened up my face and said things, then my scene partners said things, and we just kept going – and then the audience laughed. It was magic. The first time I went shopping to buy fabric for a new dress, I realized that I had to haggle with the vendor over price and quality and I had no idea how to do it. In the US, price is price and the person at the cash register has no control over it. In Abu Dhabi, the guy behind the counter can make any deal he wants and can spot a newbie walking in the door. Arabian confidence and bluster can really rattle a girl! I was raised to be polite! And even though I’m opinionated, I didn’t want to be rude and say no! But then I realized I didn’t have to give him my money if I didn’t want what he was selling – and I opened up my face and started haggling. I got what I wanted, he got what he wanted, and the floor didn’t open up and swallow me because I was doing something I’d never done before. Then I got to haggle with a tailor and get a pretty new dress. I’d call that an all around win.

So, yeah: Improv. You should try it sometime. Today, November 15th, is Give To The Max day in Minnesota – the biggest fundraising day of the year. If you’ve got a spare 10 bucks to support the people who bring these life lessons to anyone who shows up, please go see a show at the Brave New Institute or HUGE Theater. OR: click on over to these donation pages and support the venues who keep the funny performances and life changing classes happening all year round.

HUGE Theater: IMPROVATHON – 24 hours of improv. $20,000 goal.

Brave New Institute: adult classes for school teachers (like me!)