Shoot! I forgot to have something interesting to say this weekend!

Well, my NaBloPoMo streak is broken. Got distracted over the weekend by life, fun, etc. and totally blew off my blogging. Whoops!

Things I’m digging today:

  1. The idea that Third Culture Kids – children who grow up as expats, outside of their parents’ home country/countries – are “quick to think outside the box and can appreciate and reconcile different points of view.”
  2. Cute clothes from Mark’s and Spencer – a British department store that is the closest thing to Macy’s I can find here.
  3. Eight books and a handful of handwritten letters showed up in my PO box this week. If you are looking for a penpal, I’m always game for more.
  4. The Humans of New York Hurricane Sandy relief fundraiser. Photojournalism and community activism at its best. Check it out.
  5. Knowing that there is snow falling in MN and I’m not there for it.

 

*swoon*

Just saw Skyfall and I’m totally in love with Daniel Craig’s James Bond even more than I was ever in love Matt Damon as Jason Bourne. What a spectacular movie.

Someone bring the smelling salts!

I’m wishing I could get to Netflix from here, because I’m totally in the mood to do a James Bond marathon. I might actually even start digging into the Ian Fleming novels because I’m pretty sure they have a full collection of those at The Club.

That’s all I have for tonight. Stayed out way too late last night and have to catch up on the sleep that’s punching me in the back of the eyes. Bummer about blog challenges – they get me writing every day, but it’s rarely my best stuff. Don’t have time to think before it’s time to post something else… Hmm.

Thursday is the new Friday

Hey friends! I have a whole bunch of super smart ideas to blog at you. They are simmering in the back of my brain pan at the moment and won’t let me live with the fact that thinking and the beginning of the weekend are totally incompatible. So I offer you this:

Carol Burnett and Harvey Korman were some of the most awesome sketch performance writers and actors of my childhood. I can’t tell you how much I wish I could get a complete DVD set of all the seasons of The Carol Burnett Show. Here’s a great example:

I don’t know what I don’t know.

Now that I’m finally making more friends among the expat community, it’s come to my attention that there are so many layers to the Abu Dhabi and expat experience that I have no idea what kind of roller coaster ride has begun. It got me thinking about the Conscious Competence model that I learned in teacher school, wherein the stages of learning a new skill are articulated:

Unconscious incompetence

As an unconscious incompetent, you do not know what you do not know. You are lack knowledge and skills in the area in question and are unaware of this lack.

In this state, where you can exist for a very long time, you are not as competent as one or more of:

  • You think you are
  • You actually could be
  • Other, more competent people

In this state, you may be in one of two positions. Ignorance is bliss, as they say, and you may well be happily naive, not realizing that you are not competent.

You also may be in a faking state, where you believe you are competent, and either do not realize that you are in this state or are covering up your incompetence (in which state you may be in the next stage).

Conscious incompetence

As a conscious incompetent, you realize that you are not as expert as perhaps you thought you were or thought you could be.

The transition to this state from being unconsciously incompetent can be a shocking and sudden realization, for example when you meet others who are clearly more competent than you, or when a friend holds up a metaphorical mirror to your real ability.

You can also exist in this state for a long time, depending on factors such as your determination to learn and the real extent to which you accept your incompetence.

Conscious competence

Becoming consciously competent often takes a while, as you steadily learn about the new area, either through experience or more formal learning. This process can go in fits and starts as you learn, forget, plateau and start anew.

The more complex the new area and the less talent you have for it, the longer this will take. The good news is that many people have achieved remarkable feats of learning through sheer persistence.

Unconscious competence

Eventually you reach a point where you no longer have to think about what you are doing, and are competent without the significant effort that characterizes the state of conscious competence.

Source: Changing Minds.Org

I’ve written a little bit about the things I’ve struggled to learn how to do here in Abu Dhabi, and those are things that fall under the category of “conscious incompetence” – I am aware that I don’t know how to pay my gas bill, for example, and have to make some effort to develop that skill. I don’t know how to navigate Abu Dhabi that well. I couldn’t program a stereo system to save my life and I’m terrible at Sudoku and Crossword puzzles. I’ve gotten quite comfortable with the things I know I don’t have a natural talent to perform and take on my challenges judiciously.

But now it’s more obvious to me than ever that there is a whole desert, region, continent, world of knowledge and skill of which I was totally unaware before living somewhere other than my home country. Not that it’s all about me (wait a minute, yes it is – my blog, my rules) but it was pointed out to me that Americans are always the first to assume they’re the center of the universe in all affairs, personal and political. I’ve heard this before, but this time it really sank in a deeper recess of my brainpan: It has never been about me, but I’ve lived in a bubble that hasn’t challenged me to think otherwise.

What other Americanisms, world views, prejudices, and bias are hiding in my daily thoughts and actions? What good will moving from blissful ignorance to uncomfortable awareness of my myopic knowledge and skills create? I can only hope something good. Given that I’m about as non-elitist as they come, I love learning new things, and community is one of the most important things to me, I want to embrace my new society and find a comfortable way to call Abu Dhabi, UAE home. Knowing that many aren’t that interested in Americans because of our typically narrow world view makes my job all the more challenging. I won’t force myself on anyone who isn’t interested in friendship. As I settle into making friends, I’m sure the patient ones will enlighten me and I’ll be able to take my time discovering what it is I’d like to move from the ignorance column to the competence column.

 

View of the parking lot

One of my former students would call this a hot mess.

This is what happens outside my bedroom window every night. It wouldn’t be so bad if everyone didn’t use their horns to express their feelings Every Five Seconds. This tangled “which way do I go” is the only visual I could think of to relate how I’m experiencing being far away from the USA during this incredibly vital Presidential election day. I am beside myself, and it’ll be hard to tear my eyes off CNN and wait for results in the morning.

If you’re a born or naturalized US citizen, please exercise your right to vote today. Your voice matters.

The eleventh hour

I voted ages ago, but I’m really really nervous about tomorrow’s election. Please, all you citizens of the USA : go rock the vote. We American citizens experience a freedom that is completely unfamiliar to many, and it’s not an entitlement. It’s a privilege.

I’ll be watching this while I chew my nails all day Tuesday.
 

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…

Tough to be far away.

I haven’t heard anyone say it better than this.

One of my college friends, Sarah Becan, has a comic called I Think You’re Sauceome that’s all about food, how delicious it is, and how food and body image issues dance around each other in sometimes self-destructive ways.

Thankfully, she’s let me share today’s comic about the very real effect of Hurricane Sandy on the daily life of people in the affected communities. I’m heartbroken over all the photos of flooding, fire, and destruction.  I am incredibly grateful for the emergency first responders who have been saving lives and also to the Red Cross and other community organizations for always being there with blankets, food, clean water, and emergency shelters. Please consider donating if you’ve got electricity in your home and food in the fridge. Love up your countrymen, you guys. They deserve it.