Life as an Overseas Educator: Kids, Camels, and Cairo

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Wondering about what life is like, teaching overseas? Global Educator Jill Dobbe (read our #teachabroadbecause interview with here here) has penned a fascinating, intriguing book that details teaching in Egypt, called Kids, Camels, and Cairo. In this book, she reflects honestly about moving a family abroad, teaching in a different country, and cultural adjustment. 

Life as an Overseas Educator: Kids, Camels, and Cairo

What I loved about Kids, Camels, and Cairo is the genuine love for students, learning, and intercultural interaction that Dobbe shares on each page. Life in a different country can be difficult, as can teaching in a different culture. Why do international educators choose to teach abroad? Because they thrive on live overseas, they love the new, they are always learning, and because they love these challenges, and working with students, all over the world.

That’s my takeaway from this, and why I was so happy to read this book – it’s honest, caring, interculturally sensitive, and clearly shares why international educators continue to do what they do, for years on end. Highly recommended.

We were lucky enough to catch up with Dobbe, and ask her about her book, inspiration, writing, joys and challenges of teaching in Egypt, and more. She also shared photos from many different places where she's taught overseas! Here’s what she had to say…

Life as an Overseas Educator: Kids, Camels, and Cairo - an interview with global educator Jill Dobbe

Please tell us about your book, Kids, Camels, and Cairo...
My book was written about the two years I spent with my husband and daughter living in Cairo, Egypt, and working as an elementary administrator in a Muslim school. It was our first experience living in an Islamic society and we had to deal with Sunday through Thursday work weeks, attempts to learn Arabic, and being awakened each morning at sunrise bythe chanting of prayers over the neighborhood loudspeaker. Working at a school that was entirely Egyptian, and Muslim, was different from anything I was used to. Students studied the same core subjects as other international schools I had worked at, but time in their day was also set aside for studying the Quran, the Islamic Holy Book, and reciting noon prayers in the mosque. While in Cairo, our daughter, Ali,completed her senior year of high school and attended another school which was also predominately Egyptian and Muslim. Ali had a difficult time and was not readily accepted by most classmates. She made it through the year though, developed some friendships, and joined a citywide female basketball team where she was the only player without a veil.

Life as an Overseas Educator: Kids, Camels, and Cairo - an interview with global educator Jill Dobbe

What inspired you to write this book?
As an international educator who lived and worked in seven countries, I found that I enjoyed writing about my experiences. Egypt was one of the truly unique places I lived and worked, and one that I knew very little about. While there I learned about Islamic traditions, dress, celebrations,food, and more, which gave me a lot to write about. I also wanted to explain what it was like to teach in a Muslim school and what Egyptian students and families were like. In addition, I wrote about the many cultural faux pas I made when I first arrived,and knew very little about the Muslim way of doing things.

What were some of the joys and challenges you experienced when teaching in Egypt?
My husband and I were thrown into the Egyptian culture without having any prior knowledge. This led to a few cultural faux pas for both of us. After lightly touching one of the conservative teachers on the arm and watching her shocked expression, it didn’t take long for him to learn that it was forbidden for men to touch Muslim women. Devout Muslims were forbidden to listen to jazz, and other types of music, which Dan also learned after a teacher walked into his office, heard jazz playing on the computer, then turned and walked back out.
Working with Egyptian studentswas always a challenge. The boys were especially boisterous, talkative, and unruly. Disciplining them was difficult and parents made excuses for their negative behaviors.
It was also unsafe for women at times and Egyptian men ogled western women and made rude comments. Women were also groped, touched, and spit at in broad daylight, for nothing more than being female.
My two years in Cairo was a fantastic experience. Despite the many challenges we faced,I grew to enjoy the ancient history, the beautiful architecture, and mingling with the local Egyptians. I rode a camel for the first time to the Giza Pyramids andGreat Sphinx, went snorkeling in the Red Sea, and flew in a hot air balloon over Luxor and the Valley of the Kings. Most importantly, I made lifelong friends at my school and keep in touch with them today. 

How did you decide which parts of your time in Egypt to include in your book?
Authors want to write books that are entertaining and interesting to readers. Memoirs are not for everyone, and it can be difficult to make someone’s life sound exciting. Through my writing, I hoped readers would experience Egypt right along with me, almost as if they were there, so I included descriptions of the famous sites, and wrote about everyday life, the noisy taxis, the women in burkas, the different shops in my neighborhood, and the animals that roamed the city.
Since my book also included information about working abroad, I wrote about the process of getting hired as an overseas educator, and what we went through before we were hired at an Egyptian school. Non-educators may not find that part interesting, but I wanted to include it for those educators out there who were also interested in working in overseas schools. I do hope however, that my book will appeal to a variety of people-travelers, and armchair travelers, educators, readers interested in other cultures, especially Egypt, and readers of travelogues and memoirs.

Life as an Overseas Educator: Kids, Camels, and Cairo - an interview with global educator Jill Dobbe

Life as an Overseas Educator: Kids, Camels, and Cairo - an interview with global educator Jill Dobbe

What is your best advice for educators looking to teach in Egypt?
Egypt and Cairo are very different today than when I was there in 2007-2009. As a result of Arab Spring, the plane that went down in the resort of Sharm el Sheikh, and suicide attacks in the Middle East, tourism has plummeted. I still have expat friends and family living there and they enjoy it, so I would just tell anyone traveling there to be safe and only go to places frequented by others, and always check with the American Embassy for travel alerts to different parts of Egypt. I would also remind people interested in Egypt that it is a Muslim country and they must be respectful of the culture and dress modestly, especially women. Anyone traveling or working in Egypt should do their homework ahead of their visit. Go online and check the latest news.

What's up next for you?
I have begun writing my third travelogue about living and working in India, where my husband and I assisted in opening a new school. I hope to publish in two years.

Life as an Overseas Educator: Kids, Camels, and Cairo - an interview with global educator Jill Dobbe

I also continue to work as an elementary administrator in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. I have begun my 6th year here and it now feels like a second home. I enjoy the school, the people, and the country.I like the hilly landscape, the jungle, and small villages. The weather is always gorgeousin Tegucigalpa and I love traveling throughout Latin America.Someday I hope to write another memoir/travelogue about my life here.

Life as an Overseas Educator: Kids, Camels, and Cairo - an interview with global educator Jill Dobbe

Life as an Overseas Educator: Kids, Camels, and Cairo - an interview with global educator Jill Dobbe

Is there anything else you'd like to share?
I am happy to share my experiences and information with any teachers out there interested in learning more about teaching overseas. Please feel free to contact me with any questions or concerns you may have. If you are an educator and want to see the world, teaching overseas is the best way to do it!

Life as an Overseas Educator: Kids, Camels, and Cairo - an interview with global educator Jill Dobbe

For more information:

jdobbe[at]hotmail.com
www.facebook.com/jilldobbeauthor
Amazon 
Goodreads 

 

Life as an Overseas Educator: Kids, Camels, and Cairo - an interview with global educator Jill Dobbe

 

 

All photos courtesy and copyright Jill Dobbe

 

 

 

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