Abu Dhabi Weather

Saturday, October 31, 2009


Yesterday, a friend of mine told me he had won tickets and a parking pass to see Jamiraquai and asked me if I wanted to go. Later that evening, four of us were on our way to the show with me driving. The show was part of the whole F1 celebration and they must've been giving a lot of tickets away because I knew a lot of people that had got free tickets. Thursday Beyonce played, tonight The Kings of Leon are playing, and tomorrow after the race Aerosmith is playing. In all honesty, I would rather have seen The Kings of Leon or Aerosmith, but you can't complain about a free concert.

The show was in a pretty impressive standing room only venue on a beautiful night. I wasn't sure if you'd be able to buy drinks but as it turned out, they had alcohol for sale on the premesis. Because I was driving, I couldn't drink so instead I had six Red Bulls which pretty much had the same effect. The Red Bulls got me in a wandering mood so while my friends stayed at the back of the venue, I pushed my way to the front and got a fairly good view.

Getting home was pretty smooth and surprisingly well organized. The worst part of it was the 45 minutes it took to drive the last kilometer home and get to where I knew I could park my car because of the concerts a few hunders meters from my apartment including lesser know artists like Ragheb Alama and Timbaland. Luckily, because I live right next to the Higher Colleges Central Services building which contains loads of parking for employees,, I could park there. The only problem was getting there.

Today after the Red Bull buzz finally died down, I started getting my part in the Halloween party organized for tonight. My friend, Gary organizes Trick-or-Treating, in my building. Usually there's a party afterwarts for the kids ao me and two of my coworkers were recruited to help organize it. We loosely divided up duities and were able to get a few games going. While I was happy with what we did, I didn't think it was anything extra-ordinary. Still, I had people say that they have been coming to this event for a few years and that we really raised the bar. Knowing that the kids had a good time made it worth the effort.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


I've been asked to write about how much things here cost compared to Japan and North America. The short answer is about the same as the U.S. and cheaper than Japan. Of course, it isn't as simple as that. It depends on how you live and what you spend your money on, but I'm finding that things here seem pretty cheap. I'll do my best to give prices of things that I've found here and to compare them to Japan, but as for the States, I haven't lived there for a while and don't really know what anything costs anymore.

The obvious one for me personally to start with based on the past week is cars. I would say that cars and trucks are about the same as in the States, both new and used. Compared to Japan where you can get a decent 10-year-old car for free, they're expensive. Upkeep here is a different story. Parking is free if you can find a space. (Though I heard only today that there will be a charge for parking in the center of town. I need to find out more about that later.) Around where I live, parking isn't a hassle yet. Gas is pretty cheap with gas being sold for about $1.70 a gallon and unless I'm completely mistaken (I probably am) about 40 yen per liter. A speeding ticket is 700 dirham or $190 and I think that running a red light is the same. Considering that those seem to be the only moving violations that people are concerned with, overall owning a car seems pretty cheap.

One thing that I should have an idea of but really don't know is housing. The school I work for provides housing. After a year, I can apply for a housing stipend and move into another apartment. From what I've heard, due to skyrocketing rental costs it won't cover the cost of rent anymore, so we have to stay in the apartments provided by the school. Since no one I know in my building pays rent, I don't know what the rent is, but I did a search and for apartments in my area and found that 250,000 dirham ($68,000 or 6.25 million yen) a year for an apartment was on the low end. It's a good thing housing is included.

Unfortunately, utilities aren't. I've heard that they're not too bad, but no one can tell me exactly how much I can plan to pay. It's not the monthly cost that is the problem, it's the surprise lump sum that comes at random times. The housing company sends a bill every nine months or so, when they feel like it.

The next big one is alcohol. Depending on where you go, a 24-pack of standard beer like Beck's or Heinekin will be about 100 dirham ($27 or 2500yen). I think a 24-pack of Guiness is about 230 dirham ($62 or 5700 yen)A bottle of liquor can be about 90 dirham ($25 or 2300 yen) with not much difference between low quality and top brands. From what I remember, Vodka was the same for a bottle of Stoli as it was for generic brands. In bars, there isn't much beer selection with your standard lagers like Corona, Fosters and Heiniken or nicer beers like Kilkiney and Guiness. I think a pint of Kilkeney or Guniess typically runs about 30 dirham ($8 or 750 yen) so it ends up being a little more expensive with the current exchange rates.

I bought a Starbucks coffee for the first time since coming here last night and paid 16 dirham ($4.35 or 400 yen) for a grande sized latte so that seemed about the same. We went out to eat a Chilli's and paid 32 dirhams ($8.70 or 800 yen) for a bacon cheeseburger which seemed expensive at the time but looks incredibly cheap now that I look at the converted price. I tend to have lunch at Subway and can get a footlong sub with potato chips and a soda for 28 dirham ($7.60 or 700 yen). For the most part fast food seems to be about the same as the States.

Soda and other western comfort foods are way cheaper than in Japan, too. A can of soda like Coke or Sprite at the hypermarket is 1 dirham ($0.27 or 25 yen). If you want to get fancy with something like root beer, Cherry Pepsi, or Vanilla Dr. Pepper, expect to pay 2.5 dirham ($0.68 or 63 yen). Pretty much any kind of cereal is available for a range of 10 dirham ($2.70 or 250 yen) to 30 dirham ($8.10 or 750 yen). That range can even apply to the same brand, depending on the store and whatever is on sale. Decent frozen pizzas will cost about 35 dirham ($9.50 or 870 yen). Bread is pretty cheap compared with Japan. You can get a really nice loaf of fresh baked bread for 6 dirham ($1.60 or 150 yen) and while I don't remember prices, freshly sliced deli meats and cheeses are cheap, too with a good variety. Pork products, on the other hand run about twice as much.

Electronics seem to be about the same as Japan, too. Blackberries are way more common than i-phones here. I didn't look at how much Blackberries cost, but was intent on getting an i-phone until I saw the 2500 dirham ($810 or 75,000 yen) pricetag for an 8 gig phone. Add to the restrictions they put on them and my miscalculating the conversion rate when I first got here, I couldn't justify it so instead bought a phone for about 600 dirham ($163 or 15,000 yen). We're planning on buying a Nintendo Wii which cost 1150 dirham ($313 or 29,000 yen) including Wii sports.

We just hired a cleaning lady to come in once a week for three hours. She charges 30 dirhams an hour plus 10 dirhams cab fare for a total of 100 dirhams ($27 or 2500 yen) a week. In addition, I hired someone at my school to wash my car every day for a cost of 100 dirham a month. Washing it every day might seem excessive until you see how filthy my car is after two days.

Lastly, Daiso has a nice presence here. For those from the U.S. who are reading this, Daiso is a chain of Japanese 100 yen stores. My wife can get her fix of cheap Japanese products there but instead of 100 yen, things cost 7 dirhams or 175 yen ($1.91). Still, that's not bad and it's nice to know that my wife and kids can easily get things that remind them of home, too.

Sunday, October 25, 2009


I bought a 2006 Chevrolet Trailblazer today. It has 25,000 kilometers on it (about 15,000 miles) and with buying it from a dealer included a year warranty. In the past, I've used the words "car" or "truck" to refer to the vehicle I've intended on buying. This has only caused confusion. I've been corrected on this several times, but I have a hard time saying "I'm buying an SUV."

I gave up on the car loan even though I was about a week away from qualifying. I had a bad feeling that even though I almost qualified for the loan, I was a few weeks away from actually having the money to exchange for the car. Instead, I transferred some money from savings. As it was, even that was painful with all the getting accounts set up for transfers and exchanging money. This was a process that I started about three weeks ago. The most difficult thing was the ridiculously short hours at the bank meant that I could only go on Saturdays. At least now my accounts are set up to move money easily.

The whole process leading up to me driving the car off the lot has been so painful that I was pleasantly surprised with how smoothly things went over the past few days. It seems that while banks will pretend that they want to give you the money for a car, they make it difficult to actually get the money in hand. Car dealers, on the other hand, will make it very easy and convenient for you to give them money in exchange for a truck.

First I had to call to arrange insurance last night. They didn't know what a Japanese gold license meant, but when I explained that it means no citations or accidents in the past five years, I was able to get a pretty good deal on insurance. (2590 dirham, about 82,000 yen or about $700 for 13 months) They checked it out then I was good to go.

Once I had the insurance, I could go pick up the car. The dealer sent someone to take me to get it registered. Once there I got my license plates. I was even given a choice of plate size. While I was waiting for my plates to have holes drilled through them so they could be fitted on my truck, an Emirati asked me how much I paid and told me I paid too much. When I told him about the low mileage, another guy said, "Well then it sounds like you got a good deal because it's like new," while giving his friend a look to tell him to shut up.

I drove it home and wasn't used to driving on the right side of the road and really not used to driving a big car. I stopped for gas and had no idea how much it would cost to fill up so I gave the attendant all the money I had on me, 60 dirhams (about $16). I was happy to see that it filled it about three-quarters of the way. While the fuel mileage probably isn't that great, gas is only 5.75 dirham a gallon (about $1.55) so it won't be that bad.

When I got home, I handed my wife the key and told her to try to find it. Even though she had a general idea of where it was, it was funny watching her from the balcony as she walked in the opposite direction, then watching her jump as she pressed the alarm button and it started beeping at her. Then she couldn't figure out how to turn off the interior lights.

All in all, I'm pretty happy with it. I've had about three weeks since I put the initial non-refundable deposit on it to come to terms with everything. I'm just happy to not have to rely on taxis anymore. I figure if we did pay a little more, it was for the low mileage and the year warranty. I've had people either tell me I got a good deal or that I paid way too much for it. The worst is when people say, "Well as long as you're happy"

Saturday, October 24, 2009


I've gotten a few questions regarding the area I live in. Most people associate the name Abu Dhabi with "the middle of nowhere." Believe me, it is a big city. The other side of the island is pretty crazy, where I live is presently a nice area with a lot of green space and places to take the kids to do things. You can click here to get an map of where we live. The marker on the map is directly in front of our building (right of the marker if you're following the road to the beach). You can zoom out on the map to see our relationship to the rest of Abu Dhabi, the UAE, and the world. I'll be referencing it in this blog.

Last night we went to see the Pixar film "Cars" at an outdoor screening on the beach. All weekend they are showing racing related movies in conjunction with the F1 being held here next weekend. The beach itself is a five minute walk but because the beach and facilities have been under construction since we moved here, this was the first time we went there. It was about a 20 minute walk away on the beach walkway. When we got there, they had big bean bag type pillows on the beach. Before the movie, one of the sponsors of the event (New York Film Academy) gave a green screen demonstration with some volunteers. The organizers projected Lucas (in the blue shirt), Tia (in the pink and white dress) and some other kids flying on a magic carpet on the big screen. The weather was nice and it was a well-organized event. That was the first time I considered doing anything outside and made me realize that the weather is actually nice enough to take advantage of the things around the neighborhood.

Because of that, today I took Lucas and Tia to a park that is right across the street. Even though last night the temperature along the beach was just about right, today at 1:30, it was still a little too hot to be comfortable in the sun. We went to the grove of trees next to the main road on the map. I was impressed with all of the green space so close to my apartment. There are nice walkways, plenty of trees for shade and loads of benches and covered tables to relax by. The grass was landscaped well and there were fenced off ponds which I can only assume are meant to house wildlife in cooler parts of the year.

Unfortunately, the playground equipment was a disappointment. While there were a variety of things to play on it wasn't well-maintained. It looks like it was nice when it was new. In the picture you can see an example with the platform before the slide completely missing. I've heard that happens pretty often here. The government shells out big bucks for shiny new public works but doesn't maintain it very well. Maybe it's a seasonal thing. Hopefully, they just didn't bother trying to fix things when it was hot and no one was playing at the park and will do repairs now that it's cooler and more kids will be out playing.

The exception is landscaping. All the grass, trees, and shrubs are watered and groomed. I cornered a guy walking around with hedge trimmers under the assumption that he worked there and showed him the broken equipment. He said he didn't speak English but seemed to understand. I'm pretty skeptical that it'll get fixed on the basis of that, but you never know.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


A couple of months ago I was having some drinks with friends in Abu Dhabi and I mentioned that while growing up it was the most natural thing for me and my friends to leave a movie theater and just leave all of our popcorn buckets and empty sodas in the seats for the ushers to clean up. Everyone did it and in fact, we would leave our seats with garbage by them in front of ushers who were completely accepting of cleaning up after a movie. It wasn't until I went to Japan and my now wife yelled at me for leaving my popcorn bucket in the seat that I started picking up my garbage in movie theaters. I quickly realized that not picking up after myself was unacceptable. As I was telling this, the two friends who were with me looked at me like I was an inconsiderate slob. Whether is was because they were from different cities or because they were a half-generation older, they claimed that they had never left garbage in a movie thearter and never would have considered it. When I thought about it, it seemed odd to me that while my friends and I would never have left garbage in a park or a fast food restaurant, something about a movie theater made it open game.

That's all changed now. Here, everything is meant to be left for someone else to pick up. Why? Unskilled labor. In fact, it is so inconvenient to clean up after yourself, that I get funny looks and scowls when I try. "That's what those guys get paid for!" I've always felt that it was a lame excuse in the States because people were really paid to do other things and only had more work to do picking up after people. Here, they really are paid to pick up after people. In the cafeteria, the garbage is full and trays unstackable. Let "those guys" get it. Just leave the tray on the table and it'll be gone within a minute. Just don't get up to get some napkins with half a sandwich sitting on your tray or that will be gone, too.

One day when I was leaving work, I was in a hurry and left my mug on my desk. The next day, it was washed and in the cupboard in the breakroom. I wasn't sure if I'd put it away without remembering, but sure enough, the same thing happened a few days later. If you want to be environmentally friendly and reuse plastic spoons or cups, hide them away or they'll be in the garbage in five minutes. Want to make a cup of tea and come back after making a few photocopies? Don't count on the tea still being there. At least your mug will be freshly washed. There's always a fresh pot of coffee brewing, too.

I wanted to take some books to my classroom one day and someone who works at the college yelled at me and told me to get one of the helpers to get a cart and bring them out for me. Normally, I don't have any trouble finding them , but it was the time of day when they're all busy washing the teachers' cars (for a minimal fee) so there were none around. I ended up taking them to the room myself, but I had to do it kind of sneakily.

A lot of people complain about what slobs the Emiratis are and how they're pampered and never learn to do things for themselves. In some ways it's true, but you can't really blame a person for never doing anything for themselves when there's always someone around to do everything for them and none of their friends has ever done anything for themselves. Sure, at some point, the locals will have to stop expecting everything to be done for them. Even I learned to clean up after myself at the movies...until afew months ago, that is.

Friday, October 16, 2009


I went bowling with my students Thursday during school. This was an organized trip for all the basic level classes. Since I teach only basic level classes, I figured I might as well go to assist with crowd control. As the bus wasn't leaving until 10:15 that meant that my 8:00 to 9:40 class was in session for that day; or so I thought. When I walked in the room at 7:55 I smelled trouble when there were only two students in the room and neither of them had books or any materials for class. I walked around to the other classes and asked the other teachers if they were having class. The general consensus was, "Yes, but I made sure to remind them they still had class before bowling."

In retrospect, that would've been the thing to do, but I hadn't considered that in the students' minds "any irregularity in the schedule = no class". When I got into the room at 8:00, there were a few more students, but not enough to make it worth my while teaching a class. I figured we could do something on the internet with the SMART board, but it turned out that coincidentally, at that moment the internet was out campus wide. After further consideration, I marked the people who were there as present for both classes and everyone else as absent. The supervisor confirmed that I made the right move and that she would deal with the people who didn't show up.

When we got to the bowling alley, the organizer of the event got the students into their lanes and we began to bowl. I hadn't been given a group beforehand and as it turned out, I was put in charge of the class that likes me the least. I get along with most of my classes, but this is the group that refuses to listen and argues when docked for coming in late. For the most part, the students were pretty good and only got yelled at by the manager of the bowling alley a couple of times for things like bowling in sandals and smashing the ball into the barrier. I a decent warm up game (120) and a better tournament game (139) which were pretty good for me. Apparently, they were really good scores for the students. I had the third best score of our group and we won the tournament. That's not to say that there weren't good bowlers. The top two scores of all the students were 225 and 178. It's just that most of the students sucked at bowling and didn't even have the stamina for two full games.

After bowling, there were the standard burners in the parking lot. I was quite impressed with the amount of rubber laid by a small hatchback. My supervisor wasn't as impressed and noted that it was someone from the winning team. I found that out when I went into her office today to complain about a particular student who continually disrupts class. She seemed particularly interested in my description of the guy. While she wasn't excited at the prospect of issuing a written waring to the guy, she seemed happy to have the matter of the squealing tires and a disruptive student wrapped up in a nice neat package. That's one thing I honestly appreciate about our school: the support of the supervisors.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


A few days ago, my wife noticed that Tia had something stuck in her ear. After jamming it further into her ear, we figured that we should take her to a hospital. It didn't seem too serious, but knew that we would only continue to make things worse if we kept trying to remove it ourselves. As far as I could tell, it was a part of a Styrofoam bead from some packing material.

Mineko has a booklet from the Japanese Embassy with information on living in Abu Dhabi so we made an appointment with a children's hospital listed in there. Because my wife has a hard time understanding other non-native speakers of English, I was in charge of taking her to the hospital. It wasn't until I noticed the the photograph of Sarkozy, the president of France that I realized why it was called "Hospital Franco Emitaten." Luckily the language choices were French, English, and Arabic.

The doctor was friendly and really helpful. She got the piece of Styrofoam out of Tia's ears quickly and much more skillfully than me or my wife. I was really happy with the service and only had to pay 50 dirham or about $15 deductible on the insurance. It's funny when you get used to everything foreign being in English. Living in a capital city, it's not the case.

Saturday, October 10, 2009


Usually I don't have to work on Saturdays but today there was a conference that all of the teachers from all of the schools in the Higher Colleges of Technology had to attend. Even though most people had a fairly negative attitude about it, I didn't mind it that much. After talking with a few people, I started to understand why. Usually this conference is held on a work day at the beginning of the year before classes start. This year because the year started with Ramadan, they couldn't really have a conference and provide refreshments. Also, this was the first year that the conference was held on at Dubai Men's College instead of a nice hotel. Even so, I didn't think it was that big of a deal.

After arriving and meeting old friends from Fukuoka that arrived in the UAE the same time as me, all of the new employees were herded into lines and grouped according to school. We were asked to wait for about 30 minutes until the Sheik, who I believe is the big boss of HCT, arrived so we could each shake his hand. I was pretty honored.

Then we sat through a series of lectures. While some were pretty good they were hit and miss. With the theme of "The Way Forward," they talked about how it was our responsibility to use technology to teach students. While I agreed with the lectures and thought that they were well meaning, they didn't take into account that I'm teaching students who need to be reminded to bring a calculator to math class. At some point in between two of the speakers we were treated to an impressive laser light show with a pumping techno soundtrack that while fun to watch, didn't seem to fit. Still, it was pretty cool. After the speakers, we were given a good buffet-style lunch in crowded caffeterias.

Like I said, some of the speakers were pretty good, but I was dissappointed for a couple of reasons. It was touted as a chance to network with your fellow teachers from other schools, but there wasn't really any time or planning given to that. The speakers would have been much better suited to motivate the students rather than motivating teachers to motivate the students. Something that I did like is that they introduced some former students that had really made something of themselves. Usually our graduates get easy government jobs but these men and women had done well for themselves in the much more competitive private sector.

One interesting note was that even though the conference fell behind schedule, they still attempted to keep things on track. When we were dismissed for coffee breaks, they would give us a time to be back which was before the actual time we were being dismissed for example we would leave for a coffee break at 12:25 and they would tell us to be back by 12:15. At first I thought it was the difference between the pronunciation of "fifteen" and "fifty" but it happened again later.

Now I can get ready to go to bed and start another week of work tomorrow.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Field Trip

Despite the advice of experienced teachers, I took my students on a field trip on Thursday. One of the advantages of teaching at the one of the main schools in the capital city of a country that likes to throw money around is that we get invited to a lot of things. With the F1 coming to Abu Dhabi, there were presentations over the past few days.

It seem like only the new teachers signed up their classes to go which was the first hint that something was up. Reports from the teachers who took their classes on Wednesday was the second. Because it was a big deal to reserve the space and have the buses come, I couldn't really cancel. I had heard that the level of English used was above the students' heads and that there weren't enough videos with explosions and violence in them.

As we were on a bus that decided to leave the college parking lot out the narrow entrance with cars coming towards us, I made a point of telling the students that the way they behaved reflected on the school and that they were "ambassadors for the school."

We arrived just in time for the "Men's registration and had to wait a few minutes while the organizers of the event registered the ladies and sat them on the other side of the auditorium. I sat down and examined the swag bag that everyone got which included a pretty high quality cap.

The presentation began with the MC, a well-known local sports commentator, chatting to the students in Arabic. There were basically people from the business side coming out to chat with us including the CEO of the Abu Dhabi Motorsports Management, and a few representatives from Renault. They showed a few good clips from the Dubai Road Show and of an F1 car on snow to keep the students interested. They even had Adam Khan, an F1 driver there for some Q&A.

Overall, I thought that the students were pretty well behaved and the presentation was really worthwhile. While I'm not a fan of F1, I think it's pretty exciting that it's coming to the city I live in. I'm looking forward to all the exciting events right outside my apartment!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Car Loan

Today I was talking with one of my students who was complaining that he doesn't like college because it's boring. He went on to say that the things he was learning weren't useful at all. A lot of my students have this attitude because they're being asked to work for the first time in their lives, so I thought it was pretty typical and figured that he was just another spoiled kid bitching. He went on to complain the the material was too easy. This too, is a common complaint with students who will then ignore what I'm teaching and make mistakes with basic arithmetic. The thing that was different was that he explained that he had studied engineering at a university in London for a year when his father asked him to come back to Abu Dhabi. He was accepted in another engineering program in the UAE but the university was co-ed and he found it too distracting studying alongside women. He transferred again to my school but somehow ended up in the beginner program. He told his supervisor that he wanted to go into the bachelor's program but was told he needed to get all A's to get into it in one year. It's nice to know that there are some students in my classes that seem to have a really good head on their shoulders but I feel sorry for the guy for having to study such basic stuff.

Part of the reason that I haven't been writing in here very much is that I've been dealing with banks and car dealerships to get a car loan. There's been a combination of me switching banks so I can transfer money easily and finding the banks that will deal with the car dealership. Because the laws change so frequently with no notice, no one really knows what's going on. An example of this is a friend of mine who came here in January couldn't get a car loan until he had been here for six months. Most who came here before him didn't know anything about it. I'm guessing it had to do with the large number of people who skipped town during the financial crisis. Now there's no such law and I can get a loan fairly soon.

The frustrating thing about the process is not that people put roadblocks in your way so you can't get a loan. It's the exact opposite. All I've been told is "No problem!" the whole way through until there is a problem. By that point, I've been so far into the process that it's a pain in the ass to back out. In that respect, it's the exact opposite of Japan. When I wanted to do some formal process there like renting an apartment, it seemed that all I was told was reasons it couldn't be done until it was eventually done. Here, the people involved try so hard to keep your hopes up that they don't listen to the reasons you're giving as to why there might be a problem.

Add to the whole thing that banks are only open until 2:00 and that it takes a good hour or hour and a half to get anything done at a bank and the whole thing becomes one big ball of stress. Basically, I haven't been writing here because I've been so pissed off by the end of the day that I haven't felt like doing anything.

Without getting into too much detail, I worked it out where the car dealership will reserve the car I want to buy for thirty days (until I can get a loan) if I put 15% of the total cost down to reserve it. I had to go down to the dealership for the thrid time to do that today. The annoying thing is that the dealership is a little out of town and taxis are hard to come by, especially leaving the place. I'm finding that most people who go to a dealership to buy a car don't leave by taxi.

After putting the deposit down, I started on my half-mile walk to the nearest place to catch a taxi. Just after I had started walking, an Emirati guy pulled up next to me and offered me a ride to the main road. I figured "Why not?" and go into his car. I was happy to say that his car had really good pick-up as he pulled away. He told me not to worry about the seat belt as he went around the corner on two wheels. He very kindly pulled up behind a taxi and flagged it down by flashing his lights and honking his horn until the driver stopped. While it was a little frightening, I was grateful as there seemed to be a lot of people waiting at the taxi stand I was walking to. Also, his driving was nothing compared to the taxi ride.

I'm guessing that the taxi driver wasn't ready to take a fare because he spent the first ten minutes of the ride having a very animated conversation on his mobile phone. I wasn't quite sure if he was angry or not. It sure sounded like it but then he would burst out with a big laugh. While I wouldn't normally watch TV while riding in a taxi, I thought it would be a good time to watch "Curb Your Enthusiasm" on my i-pod. At the best of times, this show makes me squirm in my seat. Riding in a taxi with a driver who was swerving through rush-hour traffic while shouting into a mobile phone, I found it oddly soothing.

As often happens, his phone conversation ended and I felt the obligation to stop watching TV when he started talking to me. Because it's common to ride in the front of the taxi next to the driver, it was harder to ignore him. Most drivers are pretty friendly and this guy was no exception. His English wasn't great but I don't mind speaking to non-native English speakers as much since I stopped teaching English. For the most part taxi drivers are interested in where I come from (or at least pretend to be) and like to ask me questions about the U.S. and my family. That said, I can't wait until I get my own car and don't have to bother with this crap as much anymore.

Monday, October 5, 2009


Today was the first quiz for the students. Without getting into how basic the math on the quiz was (we're talking elementary school math) I have to say that a majority of the students really have no idea how to behave in a quiz given in an academic setting.

All 300 or so students in the "Diploma Foundations" group took the quiz today. I wrote three versions of the same quiz to be given at three different times today and had to be present at all three. Luckily, I wasn't the head invigilator so I got to watch the other teachers yell at the students instead of me getting worked up over things.

The first one was well organized and managed by a Lebanese woman who was good at intimidating the students. The quiz began at 8:00 and even though one of my classes usually begins at 8:00 on Mondays, a majority of my students were late. About 5 or so tried to get in after the quiz began and were denied access.

Overall things went well the first two quizzes. The third quiz was the largest group and contained my worst class. I especially enjoyed watching that class wind up the head invigilator. While I had no desire to have blood pressure go through the roof, it was gratifying to see that I'm not the only person they piss off. Instead of having some of the worst offenders say, "Teacher, why are you so angry?" I got to have them ask me, "Teacher, why is that woman so angry?"

While seeing students see how far they can push teachers is nothing novel, I did see a few things that qualify as not really understanding what school is about including:

Not bringing a pencil.
Bitching over and over that you want a pencil even though you only brought a pen.
Not bringing a calculator despite being told over and over the week before that you aren't allowed to share. (While I think that this particular point can be a bit pedantic, I completely agree with it in it's capacity in teaching a lesson.)
Asking for a calculator every five minutes until the head invigilator threatens to kick you out of the exam.
Not making sure that you're on time because the teacher told you that you can't take the exam if you're late.
Bursting into the room 35 minutes late and announcing that you were there to take a test.
Not looking at the review materials or even looking over the book before the quiz.
Getting upset when you don't understand a question and insisting that this was never covered in class and telling the teacher that you were "going to take this upstairs."

The quiz was not only their first Math quiz, it was their first quiz as college students. As I've said previously, the schools here have let the students down and they are pretty low academically. In addition, they have never really learned how to study. Whereas Japanese University students can be pretty lazy, at least they have a base set of skills of how to study if they are required to. For the most part, my students are pretty good guys but unfortunately no one here calls them on the stuff they pull. It's part of our job to mold them into upstanding citizens. That doesn't mean that there aren't a few real pricks in there.