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  • Liz Totton

School’s Out For Summer




Alice Cooper now, please (I provided the lyrics in case you are too young to remember the song…sigh, I’m not!) Sing along. “School’s out for summer. School’s out forever.” Well, that’s a lie. School’s out only until the end of August, August 31st to be exact, details, details. Okay, many of you reading this, who are elsewhere, have been out a while, so this tune is, well, maybe out of your head, but not for us. Today was the last day of school here in Abu Dhabi for many kids. Late? I know. Hot? You betcha–Blazing HOT. It was a sad day. And, there were SO MANY TEARS.


This year has been such an intense experience. We had so much to learn with our move here, so fast and we were mostly self-taught.That’s right! We figured this whole place out on our own. We had no guides, knowledgeable estate agents, no relocation specialist; we did it our way! Our learning curve was exponential. There were aspects of the school and Abu Dhabi that I thought I would never get used to and/or tire of seeing, like the Grand Mosque at sunset or the exotic, mostly chaotic, atmosphere of down town Abu Dhabi. Now, it all feels so familiar as if we were from here. All aspects of life here in the Middle East that might have fallen under the umbrella of “Exotica” a year ago, no longer seem foreign: the traditional dress, the over-the-top everything, the architecture, the smell of the Oud Perfumes, smoky incense burning in malls, the Pink Shops, the grocery stores, everything—even the crazy roads and no addresses; we’re good now. We know our way around and perhaps most importantly we survived the round a bouts! (This is where one knocks on wood, or marble maybe?) We understand so much more now. Even the heat doesn’t feel so oppressive. Okay, that’s easy to say when you are typing in a cool, air conditioned apartment. 106 °F (41°C-ish?) with about 50% humidity is really unpleasant—there I said it–maybe I am not actually used to the heat?!

In a few days, we return home for a month. I could use a break from the heat. My kids are excited for family & friends, shops & treats they cannot get here and, believe it or not, rain and clouds. What a difference a year makes?! Who would have ever thought a few Pacific Northwesterners could ever–and I mean ever—miss rain and clouds? But we do. I am eager to compare cultures in reverse, if that makes sense. I compare the UAE to the USA all the time. Every outing, conversation or simple exchange offers some life lesson if you are in the moment, actually listening and open to learning it. I am also really looking forward to something truly unexpected: Systems and order. I love chaos and disorganization; they are my natural “order” honestly. But, I’ll admit that after having said that, this place challenges, even me, when it comes to order.



For anyone else freshly out of school, have a great summer! Approach it with eyes open to all possibilities. Cherish your friends. They will float in and out of life, but the very best kind of friend is tethered to you in memory–they will not forget you. Godspeed to all the wonderful GAA kids leaving Abu Dhabi for now. Godspeed, as well to those who have decided to stay; we need it as much. 

#celsiusvsfahrenheit #OudPerfumes #GEMS #Expatlife #AbuDhabi #Goodbye #GEMSAmericanAcademy #InternationalSchools

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