Today is Friday, August 18, 2017

Local teacher off to Abu Dhabi

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A map shows the United Arab Emirates and its surroundings. By ZACK OWENSBY The Wilson PostShe is not in a “Garfield” cartoon, but one local educator will soon be packing her bags and slapping an Abu Dhabi sticker on them.Kristi Galligan of Lebanon will soon be in a different world – half a world away – as she is soon to fly to the United Arab Emirates to teach English to 12th grade girls for the next two years.“Yeah, it wasn’t really thought out. I didn’t expect much to come of it,” Galligan laughed about her applying with an international teaching agency and having her life take a sharp turn in a new direction. “It was just meant to be.”Galligan, mother to Zak, 13, and Alex, 8, taught sophomore English and Theater at Wilson Central High School last year. She said she always dreamed of teaching overseas.Her wish was granted just a few weeks ago after she was offered the contract to teach in Al Ain, UAE, a medium-sized Arabic city about 90 miles east of Abu Dhabi City. Al Ain, located in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, is home to about 300,000 residents. Galligan will teach in English to the Emirati students. The Abu Dhabi Education Council has committed to switching from a majority of Arabic instruction to a majority of English instruction because of the prominence of English in the modern business world.She was hired through Teach Away, Inc., a Toronto-based international teacher placement agency. They place teachers in several locations, such as Hong Kong, Japan, Thailand, Brunei, Saudi Arabia, China, and Mexico, among others, to teach English to the nation’s students.“I will be teaching the students to speak and write English,” Galligan said, “as well as proper grammar.” At the end of the school year, they will be expected to write an essay over a given topic.According to recruiters for the agency, Galligan said the country wants to improve their college students’ English proficiency in the international community. The students have only limited English proficiency currently.United Arab Emirates, located on the Persian Gulf between Saudi Arabia and Iran, is one of the wealthiest countries in the world due to its oil and natural gas reserves. It is believed that Abu Dhabi and Dubai are two of the wealthiest cities in the world.Life changes quicklyIt all happened in the blink of an eye, she said, from applying online on a Sunday, getting an email on Tuesday, interviewing by phone on Friday, to boarding a plane to Atlanta for an interview just a few days later and being offered the job less than a week later.Life took a turn for the worse several years ago for her and her husband, Devon, when he was diagnosed with a brain tumor while she was 8 months pregnant with Zak. He died seven year ago when their youngest son, Alex, was two in 2003.“Life is so, so, so short. I don’t want to get too comfortable or want the boys to get too comfortable with their lives,” Galligan said.“You never know when a headache is going to turn into a brain tumor.”Galligan and her sons will be leaving between Aug. 8 and 15. One of the reasons she chose UAE over other locations was because of the family-friendly accommodations provided by the Abu Dhabi Education Council, which will be her formal employer.The job comes with many interesting perks, she said. She plans to make about double what she made at her previous job, tax-free, as UAE doesn’t have an income tax, be provided with free housing and free insurance for her and her sons.Her contract also includes a furniture stipend for furnishing her three-bedroom, three-bath apartment and yearly flights back to the U.S. during the summer break.“The cost of living is a lot less there than it is here for a lot things,” she added. “A live-in nanny is only $300 a month. So, we are definitely getting a nanny,” she laughed.And she plans to travel. Due to the proximity to many of the world’s most stunning locations, she hopes to spend many of her weekends seeing sites such as Egypt, Turkey, Isreal, Europe, and hopes to spend their first Christmas in Prague, Czech Repeblic.Adjustments to a Muslim nationAlthough UAE is predominately Muslim, Galligan said there are several different faiths in the country as freedom of religion is observed there.The Emirati school week starts on Sunday and ends on Thursday, as the Muslim holy day is recognized on Friday. “Teachers have a dress code but I won’t have to wear a hair covering or anything like that,” she said. When she is not working, modesty still takes precedence as women are not to show their shoulders, thighs or stomachs in public.“There’s no way anyone was seeing this stomach anyway,” she blurted.However, when she first flies into the country, it is expected that women wear skirts that sweep the ground and a shirt that covers to the wrists and neck.Alcohol use is somewhat taboo, as well, she said. Although there are many European-style bars, drinking in public is not generally accepted.“I’ve been eating my fill of American cheeseburgers and beer while I can,” she added.Interestingly, the family will land in UAE during Ramadan, the Muslim holy month. No one is allowed to eat in public during the month of fasting.And her oldest son, Zak, will technically be the head of the family in the eyes of many in their society, as women are not usually recognized as such.But he is more worried about getting his X-Box shipped safely and skiing indoors at a huge facility built in nearby Dubai.There will likely be a definite culture shock for the family, but Galligan said she is definitely looking forward to it.“I am very excited me and the boys will be able to learn a new culture and help the girls (she is teaching) learn something that can help them in their lives, too.”To stay updated on Galligan’s travels, you can subscribe to her blog she will be using to keep in contact with family and friends at 730an.blogspot.com (short for 730 Arabian Nights - 2 years). If the current posts are any indication of the tales to come, readers will surely be entertained. Staff writer Zack Owensby can be reached at zowensby@wilsonpost.com.
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