Monday, January 31, 2011

It's a long one, but it's a good one. Grab a coffee and come back!

Yes, it's true. It's official. The Epp family will be leaving Canada mid-August to live in Qatar. Jeff has accepted a position as a grades 5-7 math teacher at Qatar Academy, Al Khor campus. It's incredible, really. About half an hour after I wrote the last post, the night before we were to leave for the weekend, I went back to the Queen's TORF site and realized that, hmmm, wait a minute, the list of 70 schools had become a list of 69. So, which one was missing? Who had dropped out? After a quick scan of the schools, my heart dropped into my stomach. And not in a good way. The American School of Doha, one of only three schools attending the fair from Qatar, had pulled out. Now we were down to two. Two schools. And yet, with these crazy odds, and in the end, only one scheduled interview, Jeff landed a job.


However, our story is not complete without telling the story of our friend, Dave. You'll see that the two stories come together quite beautifully, providing confirmation for all of us of this decision to move our families abroad.

Our friend Dave's story has, in some ways, a much shorter time span than ours. But in others, a much longer one. About ten years ago, Dave applied to teach at a school in Dubai. Nothing came of it, so he and his family continued on in their St. Catharines' lives, more or less putting it out of their minds. Fast forward to Christmas 2010. Dave and his wife suddenly decide that yes, it's time once again to apply, and hopefully this time to actually GET to Dubai. Plans are hastily made to go to the Teachers' Fair at Queen's, and sometime in January, Dave and Jeff cross paths and share stories, leading to our fateful decision to go to the TORF as well.

On Friday, after some very informative sessions, it was time to sign up/beg for interviews. Picture this: a gymnasium full of tables with representatives from 69 different schools from around the world. Take your pick. Find a position that matches your qualifications, line up, and hope for the best. You'll either be given a yes, no, or maybe. Three hundred fifty teacher candidates, and about 800 jobs. All over the world. What a thing of beauty! It gives me goosebumps just thinking of it!

For Jeff, it was a relatively simple procedure. There were now only two schools he was interested in. He lined up first for the International School of London and was given a resolute NO. Not even a hesitation. The director was 100% firm on his desire for applicants with IB experience, of which Jeff has none. Take a deep breath and carry on. Jeff had luck with the second school, Qatar Academy, but he admits that he doesn't think he made the most favourable first impression, as the director hesitated a bit before granting him an interview for Sunday, 11:00am. After that, Jeff called it a night. It was only 8:30pm.

For Dave, the process was not so simple. He made a beeline for the many Dubai schools represented. One NO after another. "Oh, you have a non-teaching spouse? No." "Yes, you sound interesting. Oh. Fourteen-year old daughter? Sorry. No." And on it went. By the time Jeff had left for the hotel, Dave had managed to secure only one interview... with a school in Thailand, a location he had little interest in.

The next day didn't begin so well for Dave either. While Jeff spent his day going to various school presentations and talking with taxation consultants (and schmoozing the director from Qatar Academy), Dave went to his interview with the school in Thailand. As he waited outside the door with a few other candidates, the recruiter came outside to say, "Sorry, but we've found who we need. Your interview is cancelled." Crushed, yet again.

But there's a crucial part of the story I'm leaving out here, one that makes the puzzle pieces start to come together.

Prior to the fair, Jeff had advised Dave that if he and his wife were interested in Dubai, they would surely also enjoy Qatar as well. He encouraged Dave to look it up, think about it, and consider it as a possibility. After Jeff left the gymnasium Friday night, Dave, in his desperation (Dave, I take a bit of artistic liberty here with your story! :) ) went to stand in the Qatar Academy line. When he got to the director and requested an interview, she said, "I wanted an interview with you and gave you a blue card, but you turned down my request."

**Brief explanation required: Prior to the fair, recruiters had the chance to look through the candidates' files. If they saw a candidate they liked, they could "blue card" them, meaning that the candidate would receive an interview request from that school. The candidate could then either accept or decline the request. Jeff got a blue card from a school in Egypt. Thanks, but not this time around. :)

Back to Dave...

Dave was astonished. "I never received a blue card from you..." And they found out that his card had mistakenly been placed in another candidate's file, someone who had quickly checked "Decline" without reading the name at the top of the card!

And that is how Dave got an interview with Qatar Academy.

As his interview on Saturday afternoon was coming to a close,the director informed him that she very much wanted to hire him, however two of her colleagues were presently at a similar job fair in London, England, and had found a candidate they were interested in. This would require some discussion. Could he please come back tomorrow at noon?

Dinner that night was an excited, pins-and-needles affair. "What a ride!" "Can you imagine if...?" "No way, that would be just too crazy!!"

Sunday morning. We are all checked out of the hotel, and Kaiya and I are left to entertain ourselves in the main area of the fair. While I'm trying to distract Kaiya with My Little Pony, I myself am ridiculously distracted by the conversations floating around me... "Guess what?! I got the job!!"..."I've been offered a contract by a school in Italy and another in Mexico, but I just can't decide."..."Ya, I decided to go with the one in Dubai because it offers better professional opportunities."

I was starting to feel sick to my stomach.

Jeff's interview was scheduled for 11am, but he went at 10:30 just for good measure. When I saw him at only 10 minutes past 11, I was sure they had already found a math teacher and had cancelled his interview. But he gave me a thumbs up. I was confused. "She was ready for me at 10:30. It went great! She wants to hire me. But her colleagues in London are currently interviewing a teaching couple. If they're any good, they're going to offer them the job." He was told to return for the answer at 12. The same time Dave was due to return.

I was about ready to scream. Let's read Jack and the Beanstalk, shall we Kaiya?

Dave and Jeff both disappear around 12. I continue reading, literally checking over my shoulder after every sentence I read. Dave appears. "Hello, neighbour!" he says, shaking my hand. I literally jump up and down for joy, squealing like a schoolgirl. I quickly realize at least half of my nervousness has been for him.

Jeff comes back shortly after 12, to tell me that they have offered the job to the teaching couple in London, but that the couple has asked for a 24-hour period to discuss the matter. I'm slightly disappointed, but still over-the-moon elated for Dave.

And you know the rest of the story. The couple turned it down, and on Monday at 3, the director emailed Jeff to offer him the position. And that is how Jeff and Dave Giesbrecht came to be fellow teachers at a school in Al Khor, Qatar. And that is how our little Qatari community has continued to expand.

How crazy is that????!!!! What an amazingly rewarding roller coaster ride!

We couldn't have planned this any better, I tell you.

There's so much more that was amazing about the weekend... how great and easy Kaiya was, how much fun we had in the pool, what great family time we had, but the essential story is the one above. The rest is just the nice, warm and fuzzy details.

It really was a great weekend.

Looking forward to a fantastic adventure with you, Dave & Tracie & Honour & Darren & Larissa & Caleb. Now we've just got to get Kate on board. :)


Anonymous said...

Beautifully told. Yes - the weekend was quite a ride. I could likely write a blog post of the crazy communications that went on from the conference to home. In the end all is well. Incredibly well!

As I said in my comment to your last post - we look forward to following your 'little Epp lives'. Now every knows the double meaning of that...following you LITERALLY!


lovetolaugh said...


Not going to lie.. slightly jealous!!! I love Tracie!

Suzanne said...

Amazing, amazing, amazing! That is going to be an incredible journey together and how awesome is it that you have each other. Wow!
Also, just to give credit where credit is due, Brent called the Giesbrecht hire as soon as he heard there was an "unnamed individual". He's amazing.

Anonymous said...

Hi Kathy. Every once in a while when I should be prepping for LINC 6 (yup, still there 3 days a week...) I check out your blog. I love following your adventures and now a great big one is set to unfold. Congrats to all of you, but I guess this means I won't be bumping into you at TESL conferences for a while....

Marg H,

gypsy said...

Marg! So great to hear from you. LINC 6 is still one of my best teaching memories. You've got a good gig, especially with 3 days a week. I might just have to steal it from you one day when we come back!

robyn said...

"Epps in Qatar"
August 2011 - ?: Qatar postings

Yay Again!

p.s. I would like more posts, please!