Thursday, July 29, 2010

Late breaking news...

We still have no visas.

Shocking, I know.

As the Mister has already mentioned, we weren't able to drop off his visa paperwork till the Friday before we left DC. That translated to our wonderful friend Matt volunteering to go by the Saudi embassy on Monday to pick it up. Sounded easy enough but we should have remembered we're dealing with Arabs here, and expedience is not their middle name.

So Matt went to the embassy, and their computer system was down, so he was told to come back later.

So Matt went on Tuesday. He was told the visa wasn't ready yet and to come back later.

The Mister and I owe Matt copious amounts of love and adoration because he's going back again today to hopefully pick up the stinkin' visa! Here's hoping they can stick to the 24 hour waiting period promised on the embassy website when we return to DC to get my visa next week.

Oh, and here's hoping the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs can get me the only piece of paperwork I'm missing before we return to DC to get my visa next week.

Meanwhile, the school has already asked us for our travel information so they can go ahead and book our flights (!!!). OhmygoshIcouldn'tbemoreexcited!! We requested to leave the States on/around September 9 and arrive in the Big Sandy on September 12th. We're going to spend those few days in between in Amsterdam soaking up the last bit of female independence I can get.

Until then, we'll just be forced to go to DisneyWorld with the Mister's family (it's a hard knock life for us) and hang out with the fam in Nashville. le sigh

Monday, July 26, 2010

Brooklyn, Brooklyn, take me in...

So, perhaps I'm not off to a great start with the blog...since I've only posted once...but here I am to bring our experiences to the masses (okay so I might be using "masses" a little liberally).

Anyway, I should probably catch you all up to us and where we are in our "farewell tour". We had a wonderful time in Charleston. I'm not normally a beach guy, since it involves sand everywhere and sitting in one place for a long time, but the weather was perfect and just being able to sit in the ocean and float was pretty awesome. There's nothing like that feeling of going to bed still feeling like your floating in the ocean. We've decided to spend every anniversary we have on a beach somewhere...

Then it was off to our nation's capital. We got to stay with our friend, Matt, who was the most gracious of hosts (and offered to be again, for which we love him). There, of course, our main purpose was to get at least my visa for Saudi. This was filled with crisis after crisis.
First: we have to fill out an online form...fair enough. However, the online form requires a photo that is only 4k-5k. For those of y'all that don't speak computer...that's really freakin' small. Like can't see it small. It is almost impossible to get it that small. I say almost, because Matt somehow figured out how to do that...I think it involved his iphone and several google searches and loads of patience. But crisis #1 averted.
Second: I want to preface this by saying that I checked and rechecked that I had everything I needed to send in my diploma to get authenticated by the Saudi cultural mission. But I am an idiot. I took a look as we were about to head to the embassy...I did not put my transcript in like I was supposed to, but a recommendation from my first 8th grade team leader at HMS. Apparently, my sparkling recommendation was not enough, and we had to take my stuff back to the cultural mission to get my stuff authenticated before we went to the embassy for the actual visa. Now I want to make sure people know how nice the gentlemen at the cultural mission were. It took about 15 minutes and they even walked us out to make sure that we knew where the embassy was. Great guys...crisis #2 averted.
Now, one 90s dance party later, and we were off to NYC. By bus. Behind Mr. "I'mgoingtotalkonmyphoneloudenoughforeveryonetohearbecauseI'mreeeeeeeeallyimportant". Seriously...that was his name...moving on.

Fast forward to the present and I'm writing from Washington Heights in New York City. We've been able to do a lot of cool stuff including going to Brooklyn, which was just as hip as they say. The Brooklyn Brewery was pretty awesome though. The entire experience was made awesome by Eric and Lu. We are staying with them and they are definitely on the list of people I will be missing like crazy when we are off to travel the globe. It is so great to see people that are as smart and as fun as those two. We are able to make horrible puns that we sometimes have to explain (Lu's first language was Portuguese, though her English is just as good as mine) and then discuss educational reform all over dinner. It is also nice to see a couple at about the same stage in their relationship/marriage as we are. It is wonderful to know that you're not the only ones. Whether it's a cute thing or a fight happens to couples. We were actually talking about that people quit so early in their marriages because it gets hard. Money gets tight, families have issues that seem to pop out of nowhere and every choice has to be made understanding that it affects another person. That stuff isn't easy or fun. But the key is doing that with someone who is worth it. Eric and I are lucky guys. Our wives put up with us not closing the shower curtain or an affinity for really depressing movies about South America. I can't imagine what makes me worth it.

But this brings me to the last thing I wanted to write about tonight...Amber and me. I've noticed that I'm not as freaked out by this whole thing as I probably should be. And I really think that's because Amber and I are going to be okay. On this trip we have been together pretty much every moment of every day since we left and it's been great. We get to continue building on the relationship that we've had since high school every day. This only gets better with things like this trip. I mean between the burping Hertz guy, pizza & halal meat at the Watergate, the great cardigan hunt of '10, and negotiating the NYC subway carrying a laundry hamper, we've got stories. And not just stories, but a shared experience. I always love hearing "he's been with her longer than he's been without her" when discussing older couples. That's incredible. Think of how much they've shared and how they've grown alongside each other. I look at this adventure in teaching internationally as doing exactly that but our way. I don't know about you, but I'm excited.

Vicariously Yours,

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Not to be xenophobic...

I'm usually very much against the whole English-first way of thinking. But as I'm trying to fill out visa applications and figure out what exactly we need to bring to the Saudi embassy so we can get our visas, I'm starting to see where total fluency in the English language might come in handy.

Example A: "Follow the visa authorization number from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs when choosing between single or multiple entries." Normally I can follow directions well, but the number from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is written in Arabic, so I've got to trust an online translator to tell me what that number is. Insh'allah, the translator will get it right.

Example 2: "In the religion section, enter either Muslim or Non-Muslim (Other)." Again, normally I would have no issues with that, but "Non-Muslim" ISN'T AN OPTION! But Christian should I just put that?

Example 3: "Medical reports should be used within three (6) months from the date of issuance." Uh, you're a little vague there. Is it three, or six months?

Another personal favorite: where I put my name on the online application. There's a place for "last name", "second name", "other name" (other name!??), and "last name." Let's just say that the last name box isn't even big enough for the cursor, much less letters...


Vicariously yours,

Monday, July 19, 2010

Ah, glorious South Carolina

The Mister has promised that he will finally create a post tomorrow, so we'll see if that actually happens...

We're on our big farewell tour at the moment, and it has been so wonderful to see so many family members in just a few days.

We started out our trip with an over night stop in Atlanta. We had a quick visit with my cousin and her husband in Alpharetta and it was really great to just sit and talk to them. Because my family pretty much just gets together at Christmas time, the house is usually really loud and busy and there's not much time to just have an adult conversation. I literally don't think I've heard my cousin's husband say so many words consecutively, and it was really great to get to see them both.

We then went to stay the night with my college roommate and her boyfriend. We stumbled upon a trivia night, and Court and Shaun refrained from mercilessly making fun of us when we gleefully exclaimed that we are proud trivia team members and could own everyone in the place.

...Then we proceeded to embarrass ourselves and our trivia teammates by not even placing in the top 3...

But I digress. There literally was a moment when I was talking to Courtney in her apartment and I just squealed with delight because we were actually standing in the same room and carrying on a conversation. It was so wonderful to see her and I wish we had gotten more time to just sit and talk and catch up. Those few hours only made me miss her more and wish that we lived closer to each other.

From ATL we moved on to see my grandparents, and you people would not believe the amount of reading a person can get done when there is no internet and your grandfather's main selection of television viewing is Fox News and John Wayne/Chuck Norris films! Actually, he didn't watch too much TV because I was so busy riddling him with questions about his childhood and such.

I felt like such a boob asking Granny and Grandaddy questions like, "Did you have indoor plumbing growing up," but I realized that I really don't know what their childhoods were like, and I wanted to know more about who they were before they started their family. I absolutely loved hearing them talk about the games they played, the friends they had, and their courtship when Granny would go with Grandaddy as he made his delivery runs for his father's grocery store. At one point Granny just chuckled and said, "This is fun!" It's genuinely a moment I will cherish.

The Mister and I have now dined with just about every member of my extended family thanks to our yummy lunch date with my aunt and uncle and cousin, who were our mid-point on the way to visit ANOTHER aunt and uncle. Suzanne and David were gracious enough to buy us lunch and give us some great tips for places off-the-touristy-path to visit next week when we're in New York. Again, we hardly ever get to REALLY have a conversation with them at Christmas because everything's so crazy, so it was nice to get to know them better.

Then it was off to Chez Dixon where it's business as usual for Becky and Bill. We were whisked away to the bustling metropolis of Pageland, South Carolina where they were having their annual Watermelon Festival. According to the website, "thousands of people" flock to Pageland every year for this festival, and let's face it, everyone should experience a real Southern watermelon festival at least once.

I would recommend that you find a watermelon festival that actually has WATERMELONS! At one point we asked someone where all the watermelons were hiding and she goes, "Oh, I dohwn' noe! I haven' seen none today, come ta thin' of it!"


The Mister rocked the Dixon's world last night when he whipped them up his mom's recipe for fajitas and his grandfather's recipe for guacamole. My man can cook!

We were sad to leave, and considering the waterworks that I produced after leaving my grandparents' house, I decided to just tell myself that I was going to be returning to the Becky and Bill's house later today when we left this morning. That way I didn't cry and my husband didn't have a chance to make fun of me for being such a sap.

Had dinner tonight with the Mt. Pleasant cousins (both generations), and it was great to see them. I think the Mister and I have really gotten our spiel about all the why's and where's and when's down to a science, and the cousins really heard the best version of the answers to all those questions tonight.

Now we're in Charleston and I couldn't be...well, I don't know how to describe how I feel about it. The best comparison I could give Tyler was it's like running into an old boyfriend. See, you don't just go to college in Charleston, you enter into a relationship with the city. I literally sobbed like a baby for 2 hours when I moved away after graduation. My heart ached. It was like breaking up with a boyfriend.

"Do you mean a boyfriend that you had a bad break up with, or was it a mutual decision?" my husband asks as I'm trying to explain the emotions I'm having as we walk through the Holy City.

"A good break up kind of boyfriend. You know, I've moved on with my life, I've found someone new, and we've just run into the old boyfriend on the street."

I'm flooded with happy memories every time we turn a corner or I take in a breath of that wonderful plough mud stink. Houses where friends lived and we had great parties. The Customs House where I spent so many mornings running the stairs with the rowing team. The College Lodge. Classroom buildings, the Cistern, and of course our old Spring Street house where the ghosts of my past still live.

But so much has changed. Favorite restaurants are no longer in business. THERE'S A FREAKISHLY INVASIVE APPLE STORE ON KING STREET NOW! New dorms, a state-of-the-art math and science building, and a fantastic new art building all stand in places where parking lots and old stores once stood. My old boyfriend has moved on as well, and he's thriving without me. It's just weird. Nice, but weird.

Anyway, my hubs and I celebrate two years of marriage tomorrow in a similar way we began this crazy ride: on the beach.

Sullivan's Island, here we come!!

Vicariously Yours,

Monday, July 12, 2010

More questions answered

Now that summer is definitely in full swing and we're seeing some friends/family for the last time for a while, we're getting a lot of the same questions. I thought, in the absence of any news on the visa front, we should take some time to answer those questions for those of you we don't get to see face-to-face:

1. When are you leaving? This one's a frustrating one, because the answer is still "We don't know." It's JULY. Why don't we have a departure date!? I've been pestering our new boss for any sort of news about how the process is going, but I just get the same answer: no news. We're still hoping to leave by mid-August so we have the chance to travel around some of Europe before we arrive in the "big sandy," as our friend Kimmie has dubbed Saudi Arabia.

2. Where in Europe do you want to travel? Well, since nothing's for sure, we have not really solidified any plans for Europe either. We know we'll be going to Amsterdam, a city I've never visited and the Mister has only seen the airport. We'd like to spend about a week there doing the touristy stuff, and then head to Belgium. I think Belgium's one of those random countries that isn't really high on anybody's lists of places to visit before they die. At least, that was its status on my list before this whole process started. The Mister wants to visit some WWII battle fields and historic sites. And of course we have a few Trapist breweries to visit, as the Mister keeps reminding me.

3. Are you getting scared or excited? I'm DEFINITELY getting excited. I think restless would probably be a better answer. Now that we're in temporary housing mode, I really want to just get on the plane and go. My teacher friends are starting to get their classrooms together and I've usually got at least the first week of school planned by now. But this year I'm just kind of waiting for paperwork to process. I have no idea how to begin planning for this school year, and I won't have even left the country by the time America goes back to school. So yes, I'm excited, and restless, and only moderately scared.

4. How are you getting all your stuff over there? Well, here's the beautiful part: The school is providing us a furnished apartment, so we don't have to bring any furniture, kitchen stuff, and general household items. We've got all our worldly possessions whittled down to 16 rubbermaid tubs and 4 suitcases. We'll be taking 5 tubs and all the suitcases with us and that's ALL! We'll hopefully be able to put the tubs on a cargo ship bound for big Sandy, because that'd save us a lot of money. But if that doesn't work out, we'll just FedEx the tubs and pay baggage fees for the extra suitcases when we leave.

5. So wait, what made to choose Saudi Arabia?! It's not like we set out on this international job search hoping and praying for a position to open up in Saudi. Really, our only preference was that the school not be in North America. Saudi really wasn't on our radar, but after the interview back in February, we really felt like this was the school where we were meant to be. We didn't search out the school, the school found us. We're registered with Search Associates, an agency that staffs international schools. I describe is a being similar to, but for international schools. When we went to a job fair organized by Search, we were able to interview with lots of schools, and the experience was GREAT. We quickly figured out that a lot of schools wouldn't even consider talking to us until we had some international experience, and a lot of times international teachers have to start in the "less desirable" locations. Thus, of the job offers we got, Saudi won! Who knows where we'll go next.

6. So, are you going to just make boatloads of money? The short answer: not really. We'll pretty much be making the same amount of gross income as we made in the States, but the big advantage is there is ZERO tax. And since our housing and utilities will be paid for, we'll have very few expenses. We'll be putting one salary directly into a savings account, and living on the other one, so we'll be set up for a while if we decide to come back to the States after our two years in Saudi.

We leave on Tuesday to visit friends and family and then we head to DC to ::fingers crossed:: work out at least one visa and then continue up the East coast. Here's hoping for safe travels and few delays!

Vicariously yours,