This week has been jam-packed and bitter-sweet, knowing that each of our activities is the last time we will do it all together. I leave tomorrow at noon and cannot believe that it is really happening. It makes you really understand how time moves at its constant pace, whether you want it to or not; because though I wish time would go by slower so I could have more time in Oman, the hours keep going bye regardless of this wish.
So what have I been up to this past week?
Sunday we met with an AMIDEAST staff member with whom we had met in Washington DC and who ran our orientation sessions. This was her first time in Oman and it was great to hear about her first impressions. We met with our Arabic teacher and had reflection on our Arabic class (I’m going to miss her class so much– it was one of the best classes I have ever taken and she was also one of my favorite teachers). It was so exciting to think of our Arabic levels when we arrived in Oman (aka, none) to our level now (though not fluent, we are mostly conversationally fluent!). From about 5 words each when we arrived to a board full of words (and more), we have come a long way!
After lunch we reflected on our women’s studies class (another amazing class) and our teacher even brought us dates and coffee! In the evening, we went to one of our favorite Turkish restaurants and it was absolutely delicious.
Monday morning we went to Souk Al Ghod for our reflection Omani Arabic class. We got to practice our Arabic bargaining skills, I bought another Omani house dress, and got my ears pierced (similar to my ear piercing experience in India; it was in a jewelry store that we passed on the street). After lunch and another reflection class at AMIDEAST, we went to Souk Muttrah (so much shopping!) and got a chance to pick up any last minute souvenirs and gifts. We then ate dinner at an Indian restaurant in the area.
On Tuesday we had another reflection session (about re-entry into the US and reverse culture shock) and then a reflection Middle East history class (another great class!). In the evening, we went to Al Maida, a traditional Omani restaurant where one sits on the ground and eats with one’s hands. We ate there the first week and loved it, so we wanted to return there before we left. As usual, it was delicious and we ate rice and chicken and then bread with honey on it.
On Wednesday, we went to Oman Dive Center (hamduhlillah I did not have an allergic reaction this time) and got to swim and hang out on the beach as well as have our last reflection session. We came here our first day in Oman, so it only seemed fitting to come back during our last reflection day.
Afterwards we went to Sarah’s house (Sarah is the head of AMIDEAST in Oman) for dinner with all of our teachers. It was a fun dinner and it was nice to see everyone. When I came home, I went and got henna done and when I returned, my host family was waiting because they were throwing me a small surprise party! We had a barbecue (I was so full though) and then we went into the sitting room, and I was surprised to find balloons on the ground and a cake that said “Rachel, we will miss you!”. They even gave me presents. It was lovely and so nice of them!! I am so lucky to have such a great host family.
Today (Thursday) we hung out at AMIDEAST until noon and then presented our Capstone Projects to the Arabic-speaking staff at AMIDEAST (our Capstone Projects are a requirement of NSLIY: we have to write a research paper and do a presentation (all in Arabic) on a topic of our choice. My topic is Oman’s economy and its diversification from oil to other sectors). After that we went to the US Embassy to present our Capstone Projects to our host families, AMIDEAST staff, and Embassy staff. The Ambassador even came for the beginning and presented our certificates to us! I have to say, however, it was a big relief to finish the Capstone Projects and present them, since we had been stressed about them for the past few months. Then we had to say bye to our teachers, which was so hard because most of them have become more than teachers, but mentors and friends. If this was hard, I don’t want to think about saying bye to my host family and the NSLI-Y girls.
I leave tomorrow and it doesn’t seem real at all. I am so excited to go back but at the same time, I don’t want to leave at all. I am, though, excited about this summer and starting college, so at least I have lots of things to look forward to!
From today! The dress I am wearing with Kirby is a dress that I got made from the fabric that my host grandparents gave me.