Why am I teaching English in Oman? Why did I leave a perfectly good job, a home, and wonderful friends to embark on this journey? Most of the time, I don’t really have a good answer to this question. The trite and profound “Because it’s there” cliché comes to mind, but even that doesn’t reflect why I am doing what I’m doing.
What I experienced this weekend may be the answer. Eight of us from four different countries driving 30 short minutes away from my house. It didn’t take long for the paved road to transition to compacted dirt. Then, as we veered off the “main” path, hard earth gave way to softer sand and a steep hill – one of the reasons we got Horst, our beloved (when it’s not breaking down…) 4-wheel drive transportation. We parked and set up under a full moon. The landscape looked as though we landed on Mars.
A campfire was built using scrap cardboard and pallets pinched from the many constructions sites in town. Canvas chairs were set in a circle. Drinks were served and conversation was well underway. One female (myself), and seven men; four teachers, including me, plus one retired. Three Omani men were part of the gathering, their acquaintances made because cars need repairs and friendships quickly formed thereafter.
Two of the guys went off to hunt scorpions. When the fire grew hot enough, “hobo pie,” potatoes, garlic, and eggplant were wrapped in tinfoil and roasted for dinner. Someone had brought rye bread and sharp cheddar cheese for a pre-dinner treat; these are both rare delicacies in Oman. I think this was the first real bread I’ve had in three months – chewy crust, fluffy yet dense inside. The mighty hunters returned with news of three buried nests and no stings. A successful venture indeed. Then, there was some somewhat ill-advised experimentation with fire-walking. Again no injuries!
A miraculous night that only got better, for minutes later one of the locals brought out his bagpipes and began to play. Musical wails bounced off the surrounding mountains. We clapped along, used coolers as drums, and there were some attempts at dancing. When the fire died down, so did the night. It was well into the next day and we all drove back.
That night could not have happened if I didn’t travel to the other side of the world. I experienced invading an alien landscape, an offering of rustic bread and cheese as special treats, dancing in front of a campfire to the sounds of bagpipes, sharing an evening with unlikely companions from across the globe. This is why I do what I do.