Online Again

Upon our arrival our kids were transitioning to Gem’s American Academy in person school. The school is beautiful, and the staff is friendly, as well as helpful! The teachers work hard to connect with the kids, and some have a bit of a language barrier if you are an American English-speaking student.

Transitioning to a school out of the country can have its challenges, but when you add Covid on top of it all transitioning becomes even more complicated. Teachers and staff are tested every two weeks and the students were tested upon entry to school. The society at large moves freely to the mall and restaurants with masks and social distancing. At restaurants once you are seated at your table, your mask can be removed. The staff and kids then filter into a school that have more strict guidelines to adhere to, as well as enforce.

At Gems this week, a teacher or staff person has tested positive and all students were moved to online distance learning from home for 14 days. The school itself is new and highly technical already so the transition seemed easier than what I have witnessed in the states. The teachers are more organized and well versed in interaction with their students online at home. Every student was already required to have a laptop and was operating paperless in person at school. Teachers were utilizing the superior technology they were already amazingly comfortable with to bring to online platforms.

Tuition is exceedingly high but is often partially paid or completely paid by the employer here in the UAE. We have six kids, and some have or are currently enrolled in college back in the states. The Gems tuition feels like college tuition. But I must say for the quality of what my kids are receiving as compared to public education, it also feels well worth it.

I am a strong supporter of public education, but our teachers have not been able to keep up with technology in many of our classrooms. Part of the problem is simply the technology is not available for schools struggling to stay funded by the community and keep enrollments up for federal funding. The other issue is training. How can you train and use technology confidently if it isn’t available to practice and use regularly? Covid has forced the issue, at least it did in our little rural community.

As a parent, it becomes a real difficult decision to keep with what feels like a sinking ship by having our kids in public education and on top of that in a rural school that experiences even more difficulty. The technology gap is just too large now to be ignored. Adaption is key! These kids in rural schools are getting caught in the middle; especially for those who are forced because of financial issues to stay in a less technologically equipped system. Outdated technology is not the answer and does little for the rural kids having to compete in the real world with kids who have more advanced technology available and updated consistently.

For expat families, I consider the education a reason to be here. Your kids will have an advantage above the majority of publicly educated kids in the US and even around the world. Education is no longer a memory game for college and testing, it has become a race into teaching your kids how to work and be productive in a technologically advanced world. The world will not wait for your public-school kids to catch up! Education is another example of the UAE doing things right!

Laws are Changing

For many Americans looking from the outside in, the UAE may have seemed repressed and unsupportive of women. I often hear this complaint from American women. Culturally the shift has been happening quietly in support of women. Honor killing crimes were not prosecuted and unless laws concerning women were blatantly broken, highly ignored. Now the laws are catching up with a culture that existed anyway and largely supported women. This could have interesting implications on the society.

It may make the service women who try to attach themselves to lonely working men struggle harder for support. These men are either here without their families or single (in a culture with very few women of their economic strata). Culturally it is customary to support the service women who become live ins with a monthly subsistence payment. It is how service women offset low wages that do not compare to skilled or western women. It was essentially a black market for lonely men.

These women work ridiculously hard to make these men attached to them to keep the money flowing. Now they are no longer considered underground or illegal because cohabitation laws have changed. If these women are no longer technically illegal it becomes similar to what laws have done for marijuana in Washington State, or prostitution in Nevada. Black markets exist when there are legality issues or a lack of supply. The supply is not lacking in this service worker/desperate woman market and now the live ins are no longer illegal (provided the man isn’t married).

All in all, I once again applaud the government as they adapt the laws for personal freedoms and to protect women! It removes exploitation and sets the stage for real reform with human rights by exposing many behaviors that have been underground anyway. Customary support is no longer illegal for the live ins and if caught the risk of deportation or a fine has been removed. Laws now have a chance to make some difference and protect these desperate women, by acknowledging that the cohabitation is so prevalent.

Time will tell what happens with this market, but it is important to note that since the culture is changing for many personal freedoms; it only makes sense that the laws will also adapt.

Restaurants and Covid

The UAE is like most of the US in that restaurants are hungry for business. The shut down hit the hotel and restaurant industry hard. Take out (or take away as it is referred to in UAE), as well as delivery has been the go-to for most of us. Our family uses Zomato (Picture from Zomato) and Deliveroo most often.

Just like the states it is accepted behavior to wear masks to enter the establishment. Once at the table masks can be removed to enjoy the items served. In some parts of the US, there are maximum allowances of people per table. The UAE is no different and sets guidelines at eight per table. Often sanitizing wipes and or liquid sanitizers are offered at the table. Restrooms are serviced and cleaned well.

Restaurants offer a bit of normalcy for many of us who felt isolated in our homes with only our screens to socialize with others. As a tourist, restaurants and hotels are necessary to travel. The more open, inviting, and accommodating the establishment, the better the experience.

Live music is beginning to make a comeback in the UAE with some restrictions. It may take some time to revive, but live music is a much-missed part of the dining or clubbing experience. Collectively, many of us have learned to appreciate the ability to enjoy hospitality in public and long for those freedoms to return completely unrestricted by Covid. All in all, most Americans will feel comfortable as well as familiar with the new Covid etiquette of dining out in Dubai.

Covid on the Beach

After flying into Dubai, our family is required to quarantine for two weeks before going to our Villa in Abu Dhabi. This is the case even with a negative PCR test that allowed us to get on our flight to enter the UAE. By choosing this option we do not have to wear a tracking device that would keep us confined to our Villa for two weeks.

We have chosen the vacation responsibly option with social distancing and masking in Dubai. An Air BNB was acquired by Jumeriah Beach for the two-week quarantine period. So far this has been a welcome reprieve from the conditions in Washington State in the United States.

Tourists can enjoy the beach without masks. Amazingly, the social distancing is an advantage as families are not fighting for space on a crowded beach. Restaurants and fun tourists’ attractions are open.

The UAE was already an exceptionally clean country. Attendants were at the ready to tidy up, clean and sanitize bathrooms and public places the second one vacated a table or bathroom stall. It was always very impressive to me that so many workers in this country are employed just for sanitation purposes of public space even before Covid. The good news is they have upped their game, if that could have even been possible.

Dubai is open for tourism and they are doing it responsibly! So, come enjoy Dubai as a tourist or to wait out a quarantine. The weather is great this time of year and the water is warm and inviting! The cuisine is the best in the world and your kids can even count on their American standby’s being delivered right to their door.

Our family for one is thankful to begin living an even better version of normal life with the care given towards cleanliness and hygiene! Dubai is waiting for your family!

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