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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Oregon Trail

Well, my patience and a well-timed follow up email to the program director paid off. We'll be heading out on The Oregon Trail the first week of June. We are super excited to see such beautiful nature and seasons.

We'll still be far away from our families, but they'll just have to visit! My dad has been to Oregon and loved it, so that's a plus. In one week's time we'll have a lot to do before moving out there: renew my driver's license, buy a car of some sort (this might be a possibility), and move our storage items to a U-Haul. After all that, we'll drive out to Oregon with the U-haul, new car, and our two cats.

In more exciting news, I was granted early leave from Qatar so that we can settle in Oregon before my start date. We'll be leaving Qatar (forever) on June 1st, 2011. We've got just about 49 more days!

Until Next Time,


Thursday, April 7, 2011


At first, I was afraid to apply for such an amazing intensive program like program X. I had seen their faculty listed as presenters many times at TESOL conferences. The location of X program is pretty much heaven on Earth. It is in the US, but not very close to our families. Why am I being so secretive about program X? I don't want to have to prepare a rejection speech for each person (from friend to complete random co-workers) who asks weeks from now, "Hey, did you get that job with program X?"

The process has been long. I've been watching the job advertisement websites since January, about the time I handed in my resignation. Actually, I'm always looking at job advertisments just to see what else is out there and which programs are expanding and therefore need more instructors.

After a few months of looking, I started to notice things. For example, program A hires each semester. 'Why?' I wondered. Are they really expanding as the job advertisement states? Going home is not a move like going abroad. This job I'm looking for needs to sustain our future family. It needs to support our future home mortgage. And if I find the program is not expanding, but rather running off good instructors for whatever reason, then I have just moved home for a dead-end job. That's what's so tricky about this. We're both looking for a good fit: the program hiring and me.

You also become learly of university Human Resource website information that looks a little different than the job advertisement website. How did I become learly? I embarrassingly managed to apply to a job that was not even available anymore. In my own defense I need to clarify that the job on the HR site did have dates that had already expired, and the job advertisement on the TESOL organization website did not state exactly when the job would start. Furthermore, many large programs simply copy and paste old job openings and from what I can gather - simply do not edit them for future start dates. I had long admired program X from afar, but never thought they would consider me. There are so many other applicants with so much more experience. I've got a good amount of international experience, but when it comes to working in the US I've got just a bit. In fact, I have had just two years of teaching at an academic intensive program while in graduate school, and then just two semesters between Korea and Qatar as US academic intensive program experience. Therefore, I was not too incredibly surprised when program X finally rejected my full-time instructor application. There was no invitation to interivew and no reason given. After speaking with some colleagues I decided to email and ask what I could do to make my CV more competitive. Boy, am I glad that I did! One administrator took the the time to relay that the other applicants simply had 1. more professional development experience in presenting at conferences (I've only done one at TESOL in 2010), and that 2. others had a developing area of professional expertise (I'm all over the board - technology, writing, etc.). The best part about her reply was this: "we strongly encourage you to apply for a full-time adjunct position"

While I was happy to get solid feedback for the rejection, I wasn't sure about applying for adjunct. I didn't know what that meant, "adjunct". And I assumed the worse. Did it mean minimum wage, and no benefits? I found out that the adjunct position at program X is one that can lead to a full-time position after some semesters or a few years. I also found out that the adjunct instructors are given full-time hours with benefits. Whew! Not knowing this cruicial information is hard. The second most difficult part about job searching is the waiting. Here's the breakdown of the time I've spent applying for jobs:

    • January 11th, 2011 - applied for full-time instructor position at program X

    • January 14th, 2011 - applied for full-time instructor position at program Z, on their university HR website (later I discovered the univ. HR department simply removed the job advertisement- that was frustrating)

    • January 2011 - I emailed program X's cooridinator to let her know that my school was on mid-academic year break and therefore some of my references might be unavailable

    • February 10th, 2011 - rejected for full-time instructor position at program X

    • February 17th, 2011 - applied for adjunct instructor position at program X

    • March 15th, 2011 - Skype interview for adjunct instructor position (starting June 20th, 2011) at program X

    • March 24th, 2011 - Followed up with program X's interviewer and was told program X would be contacting my references, but to follow up again as program X was soon to start their spring term

    • March, 2011 - Program Z advertised an opening again, but for the first week of April start date (this was just too early)

    • March 29th, 2011 - I emailed program X's reference checker to state that my school was on Spring Break and therefore some of my references might be unavailable

    • April 6th, 2011 - I received notice from university academic intensive program Y (near program X, and therefore next to "heaven on Earth") would like me to interview

    • April 7th, 2011 - I emailed program X's reference checker the contact information for all my references, hoping to speed up the process (I need to give notice to leave non-teaching days early if I get the summer start date!)

    So, after nearly 3 months of stalking this job at program X I sure as heck hope that I get it. If not, there's also program Y. And if neither want me, there's teaching hours at my hometown university's program where I did my MA. Needless to say, this whole process from January to now is teaching me a lot about patience.

    Until next time, WW

    Saturday, April 2, 2011

    Stupid Things Expats Say When You Decide to Go Home

    Most expats complain at one point or another about living abroad. It is just a fact of the lifestyle. Nothing is exactly as it was back home. Some things are better - salary, healthcare benefits, vacations, etc.

    However, we all complain - lack of personal space, lack of freedom, foods we cannot find, beverages we cannot legally drink, call to prayers interrupting sleep after 4AM, missing friends and family, culture clashing because of different (strange) expectations and communication styles, etc.

    We decided to move back home for two basic reasons: my husband would like the opportunity to seek a graduate degree, and I would like to start our family of non-furbabies in the US. We also miss our freedom. I am a runner and I have only ran alone once here. It was not relaxing mainly because of traffic, cultural expectations that demand women be chaperoned by a male family member and fully clothed. My elbows, kneecaps and shoulders were all too round and sexy for the drivers and passerbys to handle. I wore my baseball cap pulled down low and kept my sunglasses on despite the sun setting. I was annoyed, but safe. Here they don't mess around with punishing criminals and that made me feel safe....but I was still incredibly annoyed and vulnerable. I miss my freedom!

    Anyway, this post is not about what we miss and why we are going home, but about the reactions we've had from others once they find out we're leaving the sandbox.

    For starters, I kept our decision a secret for quite some time before I had to give my 6 months of notice at work. I did not want my employer to feel like I was happily screaming from the rooftops "We're outta here!" to everyone. However, I did tell a few close friends because I felt badly misleading them into thinking that we would be around again next year.

    Once I told my employer I felt a huge sense of relief. Then I had to deal with the rumor mill at work. I remembered a friend who had left before also feeling annoyed at others' reactions to her leaving. I have been annoyed mainly because people assume things and they make judgements about my life without having been in it at all over the past 18 months.

    Here's the stupidest reaction from someone who heard from another that I had turned in my resignation:

    I was sitting in a common area at work and he approached me, kneeled down next to my chair and said with a lowered voice and cheshire cat's smile, "I just wanted to congratulate you on your resignation." I calmly replyed, "Oh, thanks." Even though I have not spent any social time whatsoever with this person, he continued with, "Hey, let's get together some time and we can talk about it." I know my face was probably saying, 'what the hell for?' but I calmly said, "Well, we're busy checking things off our list, so I don't know when that would be. However, if you're going to X's dinner on Friday, then we could talk about it there." He said he was busy. I can only guess that he wanted to hear some sad, dramatic, story about us hating it here and running home. He most likely wanted first hand knowledge of our private lives to spread around. (First hand knowledge in this part of othe world is rare, and prized.)

    What he did was 1. approach me as if we were friends, 2. assume that there were some terrible news about why are leaving. Wrong. Wrong.

    A few others made stupid comments like:

    I just don't understand why you're going home when the US economy is so bad.

    [Guess what? The world economy is bad. And hey - remember we are in the ESL/EFL field. And if you didn't know this before, that means that rich foreigners send their children to the US to study. If I were a car salesperson or a realestate agent, then I'd rethink leaving this stable job in this place that we don't really like to live.]

    So you're quitting? Are you tired of the heat?

    [It isn't quitting if you're giving notice (of 6 months!) and it ain't just the heat! There is a list of about a hundred things that are calling us back to the US.]

    What will you do?

    [Gee, I think I'll go to med school. Why are people so stupid. We've all got graduate degrees in what we're doing here. Why would I change my career just because I was heading home? Again, people send their kids to the US to learn English in intensive programs. And in all fairness the people who have asked this are either not from the US or they got their MA from online, so they do not know about the intensive programs.]

    Hey, so I heard you were leaving. What will you do? Do you have a job yet? Where will you go? Are you worried? Why are you leaving? I've heard others are leaving and you know I just wonder. You know, you can out grow a place .... So, did you not like it here? . . . . [5 minutes later] . . . Wow! This is the longest conversation we've had.

    [Yes, this is the first time we've had a conversation over 10 seconds. You're asking a lot of personal questions that you need to ask yourself. For example, why are you still here? What are you hiding from in the Gulf? And, who are you again?]

    Do you have a job yet?

    [Most asked this in January. I found myself thinking: What do you think? No, I don't and I think it is interesting that you are so concerned about my personal life when you never were before. Oh, wait. You are asking this to make yourself feel better about being trapped in this sandbox by not taking a risk and competing for a job back home. FYI: some US university intensive English programs do not hire teaching staff until 1 week before classes start, which might be late August for a fall semester job. No, I'm not worried, but thanks for sharing that you are worried for me.]

    We'd probably move back, but we don't want to pay income taxes.

    [Well, more power to ya! I would love to pay US taxes knowing that it builds and sustains our great nation. I love that our taxes will go towards roads, schools and other things that make life enjoyable instead of the government throwing money at projects in sandbox where people do not appreciate what it given to them.]

    Will you guys live in the same place?

    [I know we got married after I moved here, but I'm not done being married to my sweet M! I mean, even if we have to work as Wal-Mart greeters or Starbuck's as baristas to live in the same town and same apartment, we will. I think this question was asked by that particular person because he and his wife could not find jobs in the same place.]

    Basically, some expats have been abroad so long that the thought of having to live in their home countries brings up a lot of fears. People don't want to pay for housing, pay taxes, pay for healthcare (Americans), or have to do their freaking job. In my opinion, there are a lot of people here that get too comfortable with a lifestyle that they really do not deserve. We've never hired a housemaid nor paid a man to wash our car. Yes, we've saved a lot of money here because of free housing and our tax-free double income. However, we have not lived above our American means. We've even managed to save as if we were paying utilities and rent back home each month. In addition, we're putting most of our savings towards our future home down payment and college education funds for our future children. The stereotypical expat lifestyle of wining and dining, hiring help, and doing the minimum at work (in my field of teaching anyhow), is just not who we are.

    The other expats who are aghast that we're leaving the security and high salaries of the Arabian Gulf are those who have a lot more to lose if they went back home. We know people who are hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt, who live well above their means (even in the Gulf), who haven't filed US taxes in years, who seem to buy whatever they want (why not buy a year membership to a hotel beach club for $5,000USD or more/year?), and who seem to simply not follow a budget regardless of their salary. We only have my $19,000 student loan as debt, which we pay every month. We know we will have to buy another vehicle once we get home, but we will not be buying a brand new luxury car. Also, we will continue spending based on our budget. Basically, money and buying crap isn't who we are.

    We're going home. And we're excited about that. There's no salicious story. There's no drama. We aren't terrified of having to pay for housing or taxes. We'll do it because the trade off for us is well worth it. I'll get to run around our neighborhood in shorts and a sleeveless shirt, M will get to BBQ pork bacon on a grill in our backyard while we sip margaritas, and we'll eventually have children who will be closer to their grandparents and our culture.

    Until Next Time,