One week in Oman. We have survived two flight delays, a rerouting that resulted in a 34 hour travel experience on very little sleep, lost and found luggage (Mine was only missing 24 hours; Dave managed for four days without his clothes), and the first four days at the school. This latter experience really wasn’t a matter of survival, though; classes don’t start for another two weeks on top of this first week of inaction. Omani business is guided by “bakra,” which technically means “tomorrow” but really means “later” when it comes to things happening. The other phrase that I hear amongst the constant Arabic dialogue is “In šāʾ Allāh” (Inshallah) – “what Allah will bring” or “as Allah wills.” In other words, if it’s meant to be, it will happen.
My expat officemate says to be happy if you get one thing accomplished every day. More than that is a bonus. My Omani officemate, who utters Inshallah frequently, says that nothing will happen if you don’t ask for it and set expectations. Not quite as Allah wills, but perhaps more effective. Perhaps. For now, I try not to worry about it and each day I learn to slow down that much more. I can’t imagine this pace will continue into my teaching days, but you never know. Inshallah.
Home life isn’t much different. With the sun beating down on us at well over 100 degrees there isn’t much to do when you live on the outskirts of a small town whose only claims to fame are the fact that it was the capital city back in the 1600s and there’s a restored fort to prove it. We rented a car on day four in order to provide some entertainment and the necessary trips to the Hypermarkets (think Walmart). Without a car, our only access to food would be a run-down convenience store with shriveled vegetables, questionable refrigeration, but plenty of potato chips.
But thankfully, we do have a car and so we drive. We have already taken the Toyota Yaris rental out on a winding dirt road near our house which provided us a mini exploration complete with goats, beautiful mountain scenery, and lots of desert. It was too hot outside to stop to take pictures, even though the views were worthy of several. Dirt roads are quite common here and I read that in 1970 – two years after I was born – this country only had 5km of paved roads. There are plenty of paved roads and even a small highway system now, but it’s baffling to think about how recent all the development here is.
Another short work day took us to the ocean – no beach yet, but it was nice to look out onto the Gulf of Oman while our AC hummed along to a radio station we found which is partial to Omani bagpipe (habban) music. It’s a great listen.
Thanks to the car we have also eaten. Though my cooking skills are still minimal, and it’s really too hot to use the stove, the rice cooker, as it was in Korea, continues to serve us well. Basmati rice is the norm here and today we paired it with steamed okra (done in the cooker), turn chicken (they’re small here, but just over one Rial, so under 3 bucks), and jarred spices. I chose Omani Marsala while Dave went with a more traditional Indian kind. In our fridge we have pears from Jordan, tiny bananas from southern Oman, a Thai mango, and a Ugandan avocado. The carrots are from China. A lot of produce here also comes from Iran – Oman seems to have made few, if any, political enemies, so food comes from as many places as do the people. I’m sure I’ll write more about the population and people later, but the country has just over 4 million residents: just under 2 million are expats (only 5% of whom are Westerners, primarily from England).
But essentially, there isn’t much going on here. School only takes a few hours of our time, and most of that is waiting around for things. The nights are filled with reading and playing games downloaded onto my iPad. Since the internet is pretty expensive here, surfing is kept to a minimum and watching videos is out. I did find a couple of English-speaking television stations with tolerable programming every once in a while. Today is Friday, the holy day, so nothing was open. We stayed home and lazed about, the prayer calls signaling the slow passage of time. It’s a strange feeling to not have that much to do.
It’s only been a week and so far I’ve accomplished so much yet so little.