Category Archives: list

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.

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

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.

Continue reading Winter Sunshine and Other Miracles

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.

A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE: AMERICA’S WORST SCHOOL MASSACRES

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
Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook

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.

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!)

Things I miss: A list

A lot of my FB friends have been asking what it’s like here, and I always have a hard time coming up with a good answer – thus this month’s Abu Dhabi blog theme. However, today’s shipment of an incredible FOUR packages from the USA made me think a lot about what I’m missing about my homeland.

PACKAGES. Yes!
  1. I miss my old bookshelves full of books. I still don’t have a bookshelf here, but I sent out a missive to my list of FB friends and assorted family asking for books. I have eight more books today than I did yesterday, and now can go back to IKEA and buy a shelf for them.
  2. I miss knowing how to get things done. Like – at the post office, for example. They don’t sell stamps in Abu Dhabi. When you’re trying to mail 160 letters to 5 countries, they will say things to you in Arabic that you really hope aren’t rude, and then go get a manager who will bring you around to the back room behind the counter, through a hallway, past the loading docks, and into a cubicle that looks like it should be air conditioned but isn’t because the loading dock doors are open. He will then do something on a computer that looks very similar to what the person at the desk was doing and charge you 860 Dirhams to send your letters. He will then let you know that they only accept cash.
  3. I miss being able to have a beer with dinner and be trusted by local law enforcement to drive myself home. Because of the progressive attitude of the Sheiks here in Abu Dhabi, alcohol is available in the UAE at limited outlets (hotel restaurants, private clubs, and restricted sales liquor stores) but only with the possession of an alcohol permit – which basically states that the holder is a non-Muslim and understands that the UAE has a zero tolerance policy for driving after the consumption of ANY amount of alcohol. People who disregard this law end up either in jail or facing huge fines and possibly losing their residency visa. Good thing taxis are abundant and inexpensive.
  4. I miss my friends. Big time. I’ve had the amazing fortune to connect with a lot of compassionate, intelligent, and interesting people in Minneapolis and elsewhere: actors, writers, teachers, nurses, business people and God knows what all else. Each of the friends in my community added something to my life and I can only hope I did the same. I suspect I was on the receiving end more often than giving, and I’m grateful for their indulgences. Having only the first seeds of community here is encouraging, but challenging.
  5. I miss my students at SHS. They were funny, independent, vigorous group of heterogenous learners who always challenged my teaching skills and perceptions of the world. I enjoy my students here as well, but they are much more alike to each other than they are different. Maybe I say that now because I don’t know them well enough yet.
  6. I miss my massage therapist, my acupuncturist, and my support group meetings. Self-care in Abu Dhabi requires an incredible amount of self-advocacy. I’m used to finding immediate assistance if I need to process something or don’t feel well – haven’t worked out how to access that here yet.
  7. Nothing is easy in Abu Dhabi. An errand I think should take 15 minutes takes an hour. A drive across town could be 15 minutes one day and take an hour the next. Finding a store that’s “right across from the Abu Dhabi Mall” but on a different block than you were directed to could take four hours and two runs across town in different directions. I’ve learned to never get into the car hungry or without an extra bottle of water.
  8. I miss American accents. Most of my colleagues are British and Canadian. They talk funny. That’s code for they don’t get my sense of humor, my enthusiasm, my openness to talk about anything, my colloquialisms, or my understanding of the world. There’s also the words that come out of their mouths that I really don’t get. We’re working it out.

That’s about it for tonight. I could think of more, but I’m getting a little sad and don’t want to be a whiner. It is what it is. You take the good, you take the bad…

The moments during which the author’s writing ambition far outweighs her capacity to write clever blog posts

I’m here! I’m in Abu Dhabi, UAE and I’m officially an expat for at least the next three years! Today marks one month of residency and the beginning of my third week of work.

I really wanted to write leagues of details about my first few weeks, but . . . instead I’ve been busy setting up and getting to know people around here.

Concrete and green glass.

Abu Dhabi is a fascinating city. It’s located on an island and it’s very densely populated. There aren’t any “residential” areas that have been separated from “business/commercial” areas like there are in the states. Almost all of the apartment buildings are 5 – 12 stories, with a ground level that has shops, restaurants, and small businesses inside. There are a few condominium-type residential compounds scattered around, but they are much smaller than I’m used to seeing.

I have a really cute apartment. It’s near the Al Wahda Mall if you want to Google Earth my neighborhood. Tile and concrete everything, lots of IKEA furniture, and a kitchen that is waiting for me to start throwing dinner parties. Pix of that are on Facebook if you’re curious.

Hot weather is hot.

I’m working for the Higher Colleges of Technology, but will not be posting anything about work online. I’m enjoying the job and my coworkers, teaching my little heart out, and stumbling on cultural differences every 15 minutes. There are essays about cross-cultural communication in the brewing! Since I know lots of you are curious, here’s the answer to your unspoken question: I don’t have to cover my hair or wear an abaya to work, but I do dress conservatively – knees and elbows covered, high-ish necklines. Wearing long and loose clothing feels comfortable in the morning and sticky and heavy on the days I decide to walk 2 – 3 blocks to the mall at 3 in the afternoon.

Nobody ever said I was the smartest girl in the desert.

I’ve been making a list of random observations that I think would be fun to write about, but haven’t really gotten that party started. So I’ll finish up by telling you a little bit about being new.

  1. I never thought I’d have to buy another can opener.
  2. There are bidets or extra spray nozzles in all the bathrooms here. Washing up is key!
  3. All of the restaurants deliver. Dangerous. But! Making sure my order is understood over the phone is a little more challenging than I’m used to.
  4. There are still lots of little shops that specialize in specific things here. Mobile phone shops, stationery shops, chocolate shops, curtain shops, electronic shops. . . You name it, there are at least a dozen stores that sell just that. Personal service is easy to find.
  5. Communication around the city is primarily in English and Arabic. I have not needed Arabic to function, but sometimes have difficulty communicating with non-native speakers of English since the number of other native languages (Urdu, Tagalog, Hindi, etc) and the proficiency level is so varied. It’s always a situation of “I know what I’m saying and s/he knows what s/he’s saying – but somehow we’re not getting anywhere!”
  6. I’ve witnessed numerous Western/native English speaking expats do that thing where if they aren’t being understood the first time they say something, they just get louder. I get stabby when I see that. Seriously. Being loud and frustrated at someone who happens to have a different native language than I do doesn’t give me permission to be a jerk. It just means that neither of us are from here.
  7. The word patience is taking on a new meaning. More on that later.
Michele Campbell, P.O. Box 36859, Abu Dhabi UAE

One more thing. I’m working on a snail mail letter for all the friends and family who sent me their addresses over the summer. I’ve got an Abu Dhabi PO Box now! I also have a huge snail mail addiction. SO if you’d like to receive a letter from me and I don’t have your address already, send me a letter! I’ll write you back. I promise.

Missing the USA, but glad to be away from the political TV ads. I am planning to cast my absentee ballot for the November election, of course, so I’ll soon be registering with the American Embassy here. Know that I’m well, I’m having fun, and my brain is totally saturated with logistics and errands and endless phone calls to service providers as I set up. I’ll get back into a regular blog routine soon and make this a blog worth reading again.

Sending love from UAE!

xox, Voix