Wise or Grumpy - Neil looks back

I started to write my autobiography; six years later it is still a work in progress. Author’s block, long working days, a busy family life, old age, a waning enthusiasm, or the realization that it will never spotlight me in literary circles beyond a workshop session with a group of Year 6 students in my son’s school; a little of everything I suppose. Maybe I should drop the ‘auto’ part but who would have the energy to keep up with our exciting Middle Eastern adventures? Most stories start at the very beginning but I opted to begin 25 years later when I first ventured to Kuwait as a newly qualified teacher, everything before this was rather mundane!

Preparing for a move to the Middle East can be quite a lengthy and complicated affair, putting your domestic life in order, researching your new lifestyle and attesting all of your documents. Now imagine doing this without the support of an agency and without access to e-mail or the internet. Life on Mars! However did we survive? The only tools for the job to help us navigate was good old letter writing and phone calling from a landline! Museum pieces! I had to research Kuwait in the local town library; they had one book!

My son finds it amusing when I buy Christmas cards from the charity shop, write with a pen (but not with a pot of ink) and use a post office! But there is something personal and special when you send and receive something real in the post; e-cards and e-vouchers are so easy to buy and send. Facebook, Twitter, You tube, LinkedIn, Skype, e-mail, all sorts of quick mobile communication applications and of course the mother of them all, the internet; our life has become so technological dependent I refuse to entertain most of these platforms and crave for remote locations when I holiday every summer. When I go to the library to find a guide book my biggest concern is the proximity of the closest cell tower! The world is shrinking fast!

My message to the younger generations of teachers thinking about a career in the Middle East is this: use all of this technology wisely and effectively to make the transition as seamless and hassle free as possible. It took me forever to find the dialing code for Kuwait! You have so much information at your fingertips that you should be an expatriate expert by the time you arrive ready to confront the challenges of culture shock and the reality that you will not be paid for a whole month! Good solid preparation is key to a successful transition and if I can do it with a paper and pen you can do it even better with a finger and a keyboard.

Edvectus offers a wealth of literature and videos to help you with the big move. Ask your local advisor for more information. I never thought I would sound like my father; he just broke his VHS video recorder and then phones me (he does not have a computer) and complains that he cannot find a replacement! Bless him! Not far behind you Dad!

- By Neil Ollier, Business Development Director, MENA

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