I have some good news to share! In January of 2014 I will be moving to Doha to teach within the Graphic Design Department at Virginia Commonwealth University in Qatar. I am absolutely thrilled to begin working with the talented and dedicated faculty at VCUQ, but at the same time, it has been extremely difficult to say goodbye to some of the most loving students and wonderful friends I could have ever hoped to meet while living abroad.
During my last few weeks in the UAE, I was showered with parties, food, flowers, and gifts. Needless to say, I was beyond spoiled. In honor of my dear Dubai friends, family, and students – here is a whirlwind glimpse into my series of surprises (along with a heartfelt thank you for all the support).
On the last day of ZU’s 10-week courses (allotted to Seniors going on internship) I had a busy day planned, including a final critique and exhibition hanging. Little did I know that as I stepped out of the classroom to get labels for the exhibition, a plan was being hatched for my return to the room. As I entered the studio, all the students were standing with cameras and big smiles on their faces: SURPRISE they screamed! I was in shock as they presented me with a delicious cake, karak chai, gorgeous flowers, and an assortment of local pastries. It was such a wonderful way to spend the morning celebrating both my time at ZU and the course outcomes. Thank you Type II!
A week later, Shefa and Sherina invited me to dinner at the Al Fanar Restaurant, located on the waterfront of Dubai Festival City. I thought it would be a small intimate goodbye dinner, but when we arrived, there was a looooong table filled with the smiling faces of approximately 20 or so students. They had planned the dinner all week, coordinating with Alumnae and Seniors for an evening filled with delicious local cuisine. How sweet!
We spent the evening enjoying the flavors of some of my favorite dishes in a restaurant that recreates “old Dubai” with authentic Emirate cuisine.
Three essential ingredients make up a large portion of Emirati cooking and include dried preserved lemon, spice mixture, and native thyme (loomi, baharat and zaatar respectively).
Balaleet is a sweet, thin flavoured noodle served with scrambled eggs. It’s my absolute favorite!
Jasheed is flaky spiced shark meat served with white rice.
Luqaimat are deep-fried dough balls often served with date syrup.
At the end of the evening, I was given yet another surprise – flowers, gifts, and cards – I felt so very loved!
Two weeks later, as the days began to slip away from me and the worry about the move began to creep into my subconscious, I walked into the Senior Studio to find it filled with decorations, flowers, balloons, cake, and sooo many goodies. It was the last day of classes before break and I actually let out a few tears as the emotions rolled over me and the reality of the forthcoming transition began to set in. My colleague Stefan jokingly chanted “tears, tears, tears” knowing that this lovely celebration might just put me over the top. He was right!
A few days before the Winter break officially began, the Art & Design faculty gathered together for a full day of meetings between the Dubai and Abu Dhabi campus. Wouldn’t you know it, the faculty surprised me with a cake and tickets to Ferrari world (so cool!).
Later that evening, my friend and colleague, Adina, offered to take us out for the evening. My Mum and brother had just arrived to Dubai to celebrate the Holidays together as a family and I had a feeling we were going to Global Village (a first for me). But, what I wasn’t expecting was to be greeted by a group of faculty and friends ready to share the evening walking around this cultural festival together. Talk about a wonderful way to say good-bye to ZU and hello to a family-filled vacation all at the same time!
A genuine thank you to everyone who made me feel feel so loved and supported during this transition. Thank you for the wonderful surprises, the late night talks over Skype, the supportive emails – it made all the difference in the world to me.