Monday, January 02, 2006

I am thankful

I am thankful for each day here in Dubai. Whether we spend the day in training at DWC or touring around the city, I learn, I laugh, I relish the new sights and experiences.

Today was our major day of teaching leadership skills. Each MHC student faciliator taught a 45 minute workshop on communication, elected representation, structure of student government, or motivation. And then they taught them a second time, since the group was split in half to change up the format and create a smaller, more intimate learning environment. It was a long day of being "on" followed by five hours of fun with our Dubai friends.

Witnessing these MHC women in action is amazing....they are articulate, poised, confident, thought provoking, and caring. Clearly their experiences in 3 & 4 years at Mount Holyoke and in work opportunities have shaped them to be confident women, women who will set their goals and be fully capable of achieving them. I am truly honored to be the one who gets to witness Emily teach the fundamentals of democracy in an engaging manner; and watch Molly teach the students to vote using parliamentary procedure; and hear Nicole enhance their communication skills with relevant content and her remarkable public speaking skills; and see Katie create a safe space for typically private students to reveal challenges in their life then realize the personal strenths that help them succeed.

The partipants of this program are engaged and activily participate in EVERY minute of the training. You should see them...bright eyes, leaning in to soak it all up, challenging questions, honest answers, laughing, teasing, appreciating our presence here. I am thankful for this positive experience that is turning out to be better than I ever could have imagined for us. I am thankful for their attentiveness and dedication to this experience.

As for me, I am enjoying my role in giving structure to the program, and 'training the trainers,' not that they need much. Each day is so full they we are always exhausted by the end, yet the students persevere and give their best effort to debrief and prepare for the next day. Chinese yo-yo's and a stuffed animal friend named Marty seem to keep their spirits up in my meetings with them. I am thankful for the chance to use my favorite skills in a fascinating new culture.

I never imagined that the leadership skills I learned throughout my life from camp counseling, student government, residence life, event planning, and in student affairs would have prepared me to lead a group of women across the globe and guide them through a process of empowering women in the middle east. I just never saw it coming...barely realized I was ready for it. I am thankful for the unexpected twists and turns life has in store for us, if we just ride the waves that feel right.

Yes, tonight I am thankful. For my upbringing, my mentors, the challenges, the lessons learned, the long and winding path that we co-create with fate. Tonight I am thankful to be an educator.

Fantastic night

... before I crash and burn for the night. Which is going to happen all too soon... being on your feet all day teaching is such a great way to put yourself to sleep at night!

Tonight after we ended for the day we went with some of the girls from Dubai and two of their advisors to see more of the city. We went to Dubai museum, which is in an old fort and shows a lot of the history of the city, via statues of people in traditional outfits (I ♥ wax museums!) I took a picture of Beth being kidnapped to become a camel jockey (the jockeys in camel races are frequently kidnapped or sold into slavery from nearby countries) and bought a camel pen in the gift shop. Even though it had a lot of things that were *much* classier.

Then we rode a boat across the Creek, the major river that runs through the city and that made Dubai a center of commerce even before the oil days. The UAE is fairly unique in that all of the money that the country makes selling oil is divided up evenly among the citizens--even the small children have bank accounts in their names. (Or so I heard from someone on the plane with me) (Of course, only the Emirati, less than 20% of the population, are citizens) Talking to the girls on the bus, I learned that a lot of them come from familys that once were in the more traditional professions, like farming and pearling, up into their parents' generations. But now their fathers have given up those jobs to be bankers or work in the government.

Dubai is so amazing, with the old and the new frequently side by side. We rode across the Creek on what looked like traditional boats, except they had advertisements for products on the roof. Looking out, I could see the minarets that broadcast the call to prayer five times a day right next to skyscrapers.

We got off the boat and went to the gold suq, or marketplace. The suq is primarily filled with jewelry stores that sell fabulous jewelry by weight, but there are also other, smaller shops mixed in. Beth bought some belly dancing regalia for an event that student programs is holding next semester, and I haggled for postcards (I spent 3.5 dirhams on three. I probably could have gotten them for less if I tried harder, but the shopkeeper was laughing at me)

Then we went to heritage village, a more traditional suq, and had dinner at a lebanese restaurant. I had a fantastic meal, full of really interesting conversation with some of the girls and Katrina, one of their advisors, who is from Australia. We talked about going abroad for education, and why different people move to Dubai, and some of the differences between being educated here, where the government provides free education, and in other places.

and then FINALLY we came home for the night! Now it is time for me to run to my bed and sleep soundly until I get up, bright and early tomorrow morning!