To start off, I just found out that I won't be teaching English like I was brought over here to do. Instead, I'll be teaching Math. I will say that this is a good thing. I was hoping to get into teaching Math here eventually and it seems that it happened a bit fasted than I'd hoped. Because I have my masters in teaching English along with the experience the school was looking for, I was hired for that. However, because I have my teaching qualification in both Math and and ESL, they were more than happy to give me the Math classes, especially with their shortage of Math teachers. From what people have told me, I'll be teaching fairly simple math for students who don't understand it due to either language difficulties or because they are simply not good at math. I'm pretty excited about the opportunity to get into Math. It also doesn't hurt that I've ingratiated myself to the administration by filling a need. It's a little further out from my comfort zone, but it'll be different and will help me go in the direction I want to.
On a completely different note, I've wanted to mention the driving here for a while. I don't have a driver's license yet, but from what I hear all I have to do is transfer over my American license. For the time being, we've been relying on taxis and rides from friends. My friend Gary lives across the hall and has been helpful in giving me a ride to work in the mornings. He works in a different school, but there are other people in our building who work for my school who may be able to give me a ride in the future.
I see a lot of people driving SUV's and the reason people give is "safety." While in the U.S. I always took that as a lame excuse for people to buy the biggest car they could afford, I think it holds true here. The driving tends to be a bit crazy. In the 60 kilometer per hour zone (about40 mph) people are able to drive up to 99 kph (about 65 mph) without getting a ticket. They take full advantage of it, too. Also, I see a lot of people suddenly changing lanes without signaling.
I see a lot of nice cars here, too. I see Lambourghinis parked on the side of the road. I also see a lot of cars that have been clearly parked in one space for a long time cover in dust. At first I thought it must've been because of all the construction. Then I realized that it was because I live in the middle of a friggin' desert. Parking here is a bit crazy here, too. People park wherever they can find room. There doesn't seem to be too much monitoring of parking. That suits me fine because I'm pretty good at finding illegal places to park.
For the most part, the taxis are pretty cheap (about $2 for a 3 mile ride) so taxis aren't too bad. It's starting to add up, though and is making the prospect of getting a car as soon as possible look like a good idea. They cabs are clean and it seems like they're monitored pretty carefully to keep people from getting ripped off. Also there is the problem of actually getting a taxi when you need one. Yesterday after a long evening of shopping with my son Lucas, we had to wait for 15 minutes in a line to get a taxi. That's in front of a shopping mall where taxis are constantly coming an going. Sometimes it takes about 10 minutes to flag one down in front of our building after waiting in the hot sun with two small children.
I think this is a fairly good example of the taxi experience of Abu Dhabi. I was able to flag down a cab outside my school right away (which I'm told was extremely lucky). After describing where we lived about three different ways, we eventually got to my apartment building. I paid, hopped out and realized that I had forgotten a package that had been sent from Japan in the back seat. The cab was already a good ways down the street. I started chasing after the taxi in my suit in 90 degree heat, hoping he would get caught in traffic. A guy on a bicycle rode past and said, "I will help you." He chased down the taxi and they were waiting for me two blocks away around the corner. The driver apologized and drove me back to my apartment. I got the feeling that he would have brought it back once he discovered it. I don't know how typical this was, but I find the taxi drivers and others to be very helpful and courteous.