Monday, 30 January 2017

My Riyadh experience - Part 2

so I finally managed to get part one of my Riyadh experience up on the blog. If you happen to be new here, you may read it over here! I received such an over whelming response to that post that it makes me feel awesome to know that there are people out there who support my journey. It truly warms my heart.The second part of my experience I'm going to cover 4 categories: The benefits of teaching abroad, which qualifications are required for teaching abroad, some useful tips on applying and lastly what it's like to teach international students and how they differ from South African students.So listen up fellow and future international teachers! 

What are the benefits of teaching abroad? 

Some of the cool benefits of teaching abroad is the great remuneration package. This includes a tax free salary, fully furnished accommodation (this may vary), transport to and from work, medical insurance for yourself, your spouse and up to 3 dependents (this varies too!) and one round air fare ticket to your country of origin during the summer break which is about 2-4 months long! And not forgetting the amazing travelling experience that comes with teaching abroad. Impressed? Read on ... 

Who is eligible to apply? 

Most international teaching jobs are aimed at experienced teachers although this doesn't discredit those of you who are still starting out. In terms of age group, positions are usually open to all ages, although some companies may have an age restriction due to visa purposes. If you are currently working as a teacher that's great. It means that you more than likely have a B.ed (Bachelors of Education degree) or a B.A degree with a specialization in English or Linguistics. Being qualified in this will totally get you into the program. If you don't, do a TEFL or CELTA course. Most companies that I have researched look for these qualifications in addition to a degree. 

Apply apply apply!
I've had countless emails of people inquiring about how I got 'into' the program of teaching abroad, as they have applied to numerous schools and recruiting sites with little luck. Firstly, I urge you to critically analyse your resume and ask yourself how you can improve it. You are probably in competition with hundreds of other applicants. Secondly, if you have applied, do follow-ups to recruitment agencies AND ASK if they have received your resume. Remember, you have to be persistent. In the end you have more to gain than what you have to lose. In addition, make sure that you meet the criteria of the post BEFORE applying. Often times, I found myself just clicking "apply" and forgetting the next day what exactly I applied for. So keep track. Lastly, don't give up on applying.  As my mom would always tell me 'You never know where your luck lies.' 

The differences in teaching International kids & South African kids 

In my first few months of teaching I have summed up some of the obvious differences between teaching kids from an international background and those from South Africa. First off, children from an international background are more tolerant and accepting. I suppose this stems from the fact that everybody comes from different parts of the world. I remember having a student who needed a walking aid to assist her and I recall how the children in my class would assist her by packing her books in the shelves after a lesson and head to the cafeteria to buy something to nibble on. This showed me tolerance and a deep sense of care. In comparison to South Africans students who will emotionally break down someone by making fun of them before lending a hand. And of course, this does not go for everyone as I recall a semi-handicapped student at my South African school who was helped by many students at the school by holding his bag whilst he climbed the stair. So I suppose in some light the tolerance level varies between international and South African students. 

I've often been asked about the type of students I teach abroad. I look at prospecting teachers scratching my forehead and asking what they mean by type (Laughs). 'They are kids..' I'd exclaim. 'But are they respectful?...' Aha! That's what this type is. Without a doubt, kids and their parents who are from an international background realize the importance of Education and once this is realized the respect follows to those who deliver the Education. At least this goes to the older group who I have taught. In my opinion, I think that South African parents and kids are slowly starting to realize the value of Education in their lives especially in the light of #feesmustfall situation. It has made it even more difficult for kids to 'get out' of the vicious cycle of poverty. In addition, we can't rule out that kids from SA face different 'issues' compared to kids from an international background. Internationally, the worse case scenario one would get is the child who comes from a divorce parent situation. As opposed to SA kids the situation varies greatly as children are exposed to different social ills of society like drug and alcohol abuse, teenage pregnancy - the list goes on! Naturally, kids who are openly exposed to the social ills become "survivors" very early on. With this being said, I found that those who are less exposed like the ones in Saudi Arabia, are way more sheltered than South African kids. In other words, drug abuse, prostitution, rape and sexual abuse are all terms that are not openly discussed in the classroom or even at home. 

Useful recruiting links 

That's all from me! If you have any comments or questions leave them down below and don't forget to follow me on Instagram & Facebook. Thank for taking the time to read. 

Enjoy my photo gallery down below:

Strolls through the desert // Chilling with Zaneb // Getting ready for some bowling // Mandatory outfit selfie // Mandatory desert selfie before we hike // Fav lip color selfie // Best pancakes ever!! // Soul sistas // Farewell cake // Best Coffee bar //  Sistas chilling // Natures beauty //  The real MVP's // Sunset at a Compound

Monday, 23 January 2017

My Riyadh Experience - Part 1

Image: Taken at Thumamah Desert, Riyadh, KSA 
About 6 months ago I decided to take my career over seas. The school that I applied at was  based in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Before arriving at King Khalied International airport, I knew nothing about Riyadh. In fact, I knew very little about Saudi Arabia besides what the net was telling me. And we all know what a GREAT source the internet can be! Two things that it didn't fail to mention -this may shock us liberal Westerners- is that firstly,women are not allowed to drive and secondly when heading outside your door it is mandatory to wear your Abayaa (traditional black thobe). Do I hear a sudden gasp of surprise? So let me back track here a little...
The first thing that you need to know is that The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) is governed by Islamic law known as the Shari'ah. The Shari'ah is the Islamic canonical law based on the teachings of the Koran and the traditions of the Prophet Hadith and Sunna- and should be followed by all people living in the country.

 Initially, we thought that it would be a hassle to throw the Abayya over our "normal" clothing in EVERY encounter with the outside world. After giving it a month, we just didn't feel right leaving our apartment without it. Even popping over to your friend next door, we unconsciously knew that we had to throw the Abayaa  over our clothing.When I tell some of my friends that the Abayaa is mandated upon women but wearing the Hijaab (head scarf) or Niqaab (face and head covering) isn't, they find it pretty strange. And who wouldn't? 

 I mean, I literally wore Khloe Kardashian braids with an Abayaa. There's no problem at all. It's just that you'll get weird stares and it kind of singles you out as a foreigner. It seems that Saudi Arabia is the kind of country that you'll feel more comfortable "blending" in rather than standing out. Standing out usually attracts the locals- which are pretty friendly by the way- the endless "Oohs.." and "Aahs.." after finding out I'm from South AFRICA is often quite amusing. Locals usually point to their face in utter shock miming to the fact that "I am not black..". This then leads to a lengthy explanation about how not all people in Africa are in fact black, and NO lions do not roam the streets. (Laughs)

The bottom line is that we can choose to view woman living in Saudi Arabia who are restricted in their dress code and not being able to drive as primitive, outdated, stereotypical and sexist (these are just some of the adjectives that I imagine a Westerner saying; in fact this is something I might have said myself!). As difficult as it may seem, the truth is that it's pretty pointless fighting an entire Shari'ah (Laughs) but rather to seek the positives in what we perceive as draw backs. 

I mean, the Abayaa in some ways is a total time saver. If I was ever late for an appointment, I could literally just go out with my PJ's beneath my Abayaa. Similarly, getting to a restaurant and mall hasn't been easier. By ordering an Uber or Careem, your ride is there in under 10 minutes and I can just depend on these reliable forms of transportation to get me to where I need to be. In some crazy odd way travelling with a cab was so liberating that it developed my independence in a lot of ways. Being on my own helped build my self confidence especially in the work place. 

For one, traveling home from the mall required me to get a taxi one way or the other. Myself and friends would bargain with the drivers for the best price. If they didn't budge, we would walk away and say "Ah! it's okay.." "Leave it.." waiting for the driver to reluctantly beg us to use his service after we go on searching for another taxi. The crazy paradox is that women may be seen as "oppressed" by Western culture but let me tell you, women are so protected and liberated in their rights that men will never want to mess with you. If you just raise your voice in protest about something that didn't suit you, you'll have an army of men by your side defending your honor (Laughs). On a serious note now, you are protected and so are your rights. I have never been to a country as safe and secure as Saudi Arabia. When people say that they can sleep with their doors open, the KSA is def a place where that is the reality. 

With every right comes a drawback. In a social setting, women are often the most restricted. With about 70% of coffee shops, restaurants and chill out places reserved for men, women are often left to be home with kids and so on. But that doesn't stop these ladies from having the most decked out pamper parties wearing the most glamorous gowns. Arab woman know how to do glamour and entertainment in the confinement of their homes. There are a few restaurants and chill out places reserved for women. For example Kingdom Tower (also known as Mamlaka, one of the must see tourist destinations in Riyadh)  is a mall housing all your luxury brands, has a section where only women are allowed to shop and dine. 

Often times I get asked what there is to do in Riyadh. People view Riyadh to be somewhat boring. Prior to my travelling this was a topic that interest me as well. When I looked up the topic on the net, I remember seeing someone exclaiming something along the lines of "Riyadh?... social life? what social life?". Being a free spirited person, this really shoved me up the wrong way. But what I want to say is ... You can go out every single night of the week if you know the right people. I mean, its pretty damn good hanging out with like-minded people. People who are expats like yourselves who share more or less the same experiences as your'll is amazing.

 I suppose where you will find solace in a social life is getting in touch with compounds. But note: these compounds are by invite only. Therefore, it would be a good idea that when you get into the compound, you make friends with restaurant managers and people who are residents in the compound. Get on that list and you'll be able to have a fun night every night. The "fun" includes Smoking Shisha beside the pool and eating some of the best Arabian and Western cuisines. If you like a little bit of adventure the way I do, opt for a hike to "the edge of the world" or a BBQ under the stars in the desert! 

I hope you enjoyed reading the part one experience of Riyadh. Don't forget to like and share this post. Thank you to everyone who has supported me through my journey. I am so grateful to you. Stay tuned for part 2. 



Selfie with students on my first day//Sunrise in the desert//Sabiha sleeping next to the fire in the desert//Sabz and I//View of a beautiful compound//View from my hotel room// First day of school and also my birthday//In my element with the kids//Smoking shisha//Pictured in the desert (back in my Abayaa 'cause we were heading home)