Teaching Overseas, or where did it all begin?

So here it is 2018.We started teaching overseas in 2009. I couldn’t really figure out how to do a blog. I still don’t know. Maybe none of this will save! We were sitting in Vancouver airport January 2009. Dave was reading a book called “Hot,Flat and Crowded”, by Thomas Friedmann. Dave says to me “Charlotte, we will go anywhere, but we will never, ever accept  a job in Saudi Arabia!”

ISG schools had been sending us lots of emails, asking us for interviews. We were interviewed by Jana and Bill Stapp. Initially they said sorry, no jobs for us.Jana gave me her two drink tickets as a token “sorry”.Well I celebrated! I gave one to Kari Provencher and said “let’s have gin and tonic because we CAN!” We don’t have to go to Saudi-yippee!

Famous last words…….

At 130am I was interrupted by my mobile going off.My cousin sent me a photo of Etta James. Frances was at the concert.  Those were the very early days of mobile phones too! Then I went back to sleep.

At 6:30am the phone rang, this time the hotel room phone.It was Jana. She said “sorry to wake you but I have two jobs for you.Can I come down with contracts?”

Was this really happening?She came down to our hotel room at 9am and we signed the contracts.That afternoon we saw the play MEDEA with Kirsten. I cried and cried, mostly because I was terrified of going to Saudi Arabia, with good reason! We ended up in a dump called Jubail, but it was there that we met the most wonderful people!

Leaving for KSA

I remember being terrified. I remember Louise’s boyfriend at the time telling us we could easily change our KLM flight to first class. We asked.Yeah it was $4000.00 each. right.  Anyway…..

KLM: on the flight Amsterdam to Dammam we saw Saudi girls gearing up-getting into their black tents. Hilarious. But at the time we didn’t understand it.

Image result for Saudi women in niqabI didn’t understand why the stewardess was trying to offer me tons of liquor. She knew. I was heading into KSA and it was dry. Yikes. What a place.I noticed a couple and their two kids.They were on the same flight as us. Their parenting astonished me. Turns out they were headed for the same school as us.

Meanwhile another young couple were on the same flight as us, Tara and Jamie. Tara and I were pulled over by the Dammam airport police for walking without our husbands. Ridiculous. What was the point of it?Welcome to KSA.We weren’t wearing abayas and, as Dave said, we both looked like “deer in the headlights.” Some old Saudi clerk reprimanded the young guy and off we went. Ridiculous. Welcome to KSA.

We were picked up by our Principal Mark and off we went in a bus, up to the fires of HELL. Jubail. OMG what had we gotten ourselves into?It was insane.The Principal began by giving us a run-down on certain staff members. We told us not to bother talking to Lisa because she was a recluse. All of us were staring at each other, dumbfounded!!But in reality, he was right!

I remember saying goodbye to Lisa in 2014.It was our very last day in Jubail. We had driven up there to say goodbye to the staff, having been in Dhahran for three years.

I think we must have spent the night at Meg’s.

I tried to say goodbye to Lisa and she just blew me off saying she had to teach, or give a quiz or something.Just such strange behaviour! I mean, I would never see her ever again and she couldn’t even say goodbye!

The school was a dump.The staff were nice though. Taxis?Didn’t exist in Jubail.

We were stuck either at the school or at the compound:Red Sea. Our first night we were greeted by a spirited young Canadian named Cory. He raged that the people living in our new flat, were, or used to be his best friends until they betrayed him .Nice rant at midnight. My thought?Get the hell outta here at any cost! Ridiculous.

But we soon met some GREAT people: Meg and Matt. Meg’s story was effusive. I don’t know if that is the right word. Couldn’t figure out what was going on there.

Turns out she was, and is a GREAT lady. How on earth has she survived all the things thrown at her?Truly a living saint in my opinion.

Matt: God love him. Just a wonderful, kind guy and a friend for life.

Mary: an Irish gal. Adored her.She made every day hilarious!

Steve the band teacher: great guy and unique situation. He and his wife keep having or adopting kids.

There was no curriculum.There was no plan. No one checked on our work. I just taught like I was in Canada. I imposed final exams. I taught responsibly. And no one cared. No one checked  on me.

Awful situation:we planned a fabulous Christmas concert. We were shot down by the VP. Bad decision on his part. The Principal let us perform it the next day. Islam versus Christianity. Again, a ridiculous situation. The show was basically Frosty and Rudolph.There was no Jesus in the house. Such a poor decision by the VP. Oh well.

One final note about Cory. I often joke to Dave that every airplane trip I take, the incredible Hulk is always sitting in front of me.The Incredible Hulk, within 5 minutes of cruising altitude, usually “slams” his seat right back into my lap. One time,half way through a flight,  my coffee went splat, all over me, thanks to the Hulk. This was when I used to fly economy. I can no longer tolerate economy but I can only afford premium economy. Well, on an Egypt air flight to Athens, Cory was in the seat in front of me. Imagine my shock when Cory said “Oh Charlotte, is it ok if I lower my seat back?”

“Sure Cory” I said, rather flabbergasted. That just goes to show ya, people can surprise you with their ability to be cordial!


Tonight, January 8th, 2020 I just found out that Damman and Bahrain airports have been closed due to the Iran Crisis with the USA, aka Mr Trump. 10 years later and things are very different!




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