Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Global Teacher Prize Trip Report – Dubai - Day 1

With the long flight and the time change, I’m not quite sure where yesterday ended and today began, so I’ll pick up where I left off with yesterday’s post.

The flight was great. All of the things that I had heard about Emirates being a great airline were true.  Good service, decent food, comfy seats. It helped that the back of the plane was empty and Melissa and I both had our own rows to stretch out and sleep. I got about 6 decent hours of sleep, watched Bridge of Spies (really good movie), and felt pretty good when we landed around 2. It was cool to wake up, look out the window and see the desert mountains of Iran.

We got through passport control, baggage claim, and customs rather quickly, I hit the cashpoint/ATM to draw out some UAE Dirhams, and we hopped a cab to the Hilton Garden Inn at the Mall of the Emirates where I am staying for one night before moving to Atlantis the Palm.

It was exciting to see the Burj Khalifa off in the distance as we drove past.  Melissa and I both looked eagerly out the window to take in as much as we could on the drive.

As soon as we dropped off our bags, we headed out to explore.  First, we walked across the street to the Mall of the Emirates.  We went to Ski Dubai to see what it was all about, and noticed that there was a penguin encounter available. We bought tickets and got into our loaned jackets, pants, and boots. Our ticket was for 5PM, but the nice penguin guide allowed us to join the 4:30 group.  There were two short films, followed by a meeting with a Gentoo Penguin.  She was still in training, so we got to take pictures with her, but not touch her. There was also a cool window into the area with a pool and the other penguins that we could view from this first room.

From there we moved into a section where Wally, the King Penguin was waiting to meet us. After learning a bit about king penguins, each of us got to touch the different types of feathers on Wally, feel the oil from his preening gland that allows him to stay waterproof, and take some pictures.  

After that, we hopped in a taxi to the Dubai Mall.  By the time we arrived, we were both hungry, so we found a Middle Eastern restaurant that looked cool and ordered a few small plates.  The falafels were amazing, and the other food was very good.

From there, we went to check out the giant aquarium in the mall, which was 4 stories high and filled with sharks, stingrays, and all kinds of other fish.

Then, we went outside to catch the water fountain show outside the mall and at the base of the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building.  The show was short, but very cool.  The Burj was massive and so much more impressive up close than it was at a distance.  The fact that it stands somewhat alone makes it look even bigger.

After the show we walked around the outside of the Burj to explore a bit and then took a cab back to the Hilton so that Melissa could pick up her bags.  Being a gentleman, I was happy to ride with her to see her safely to the Atlantis (which looks amazing!) 

As I’m writing this post I got to talk to Lori for a few minutes before bed, and I did a live Skype call with Tanya Cunningham’s 5th grade class back home to share some pictures and answer some of their questions. I had sent pictures and messages to several classes via Skype during the day. 

The wifi here at the Garden Inn has been wonky, so yesterday’s post and this post will have to go live tomorrow.

Tomorrow, I’m heading over to Atlantis to check in when I wake up.  I’m really looking forward to meeting some of the other Varkey Teacher Ambassadors, and spending some time learning and exploring with them.