Dubai

Ahh so excited!! My host family is taking me to Dubai this Thursday! We are going to stay there until Saturday, and then on Sunday I’m going back to Dubai with the NSLI-Y girls and the YES girls! Can’t wait!!!

IMG_4401

Liz and I are pretty excited

 

Stray Cats

If you know me, you are probably aware that I am afraid of most animals– big and small– except of course, elephants. So my list of animals/bugs to watch out for includes and is not limited to spiders, big dogs, ladybugs, rats…

So imagine my surprise to find out that my host family has a new pet: a small grey stray cat. They wouldn’t exactly call it a pet. It scratches at the door and tries to sneak inside only to be kicked out by one of my family members. It meows loudly (it literally sounds like a small child crying at the top of its lungs) and swishes its tail on you as it circles around you while you sit outside. On the bright side (for the cat and I suppose, me), it is not a violent cat and seems to tolerate the abuses it sometimes receives from my younger brothers. It also gets food from my host mother, so that is probably why it is so docile. Nevertheless, he (or maybe it’s a she) and I are not likely to be friends in the future. Every time I see it, I casually run away. Ask Liz; the first day when I was giving her directions as to how to reach my house, I was shrieking half of the time that the “scary cat” was after me and about to pounce. It didn’t but that’s beside the point.

My point is that Oman has a lot of stray cats. I haven’t seen too many other stray animals, but then again I don’t know if the random goats walking alongside the road belong to anyone. They probably do.

But these cats are plentiful in my neighborhood. They seem to be calm for the most part but that’s not going to stop scaring me as they baby cry– meow– at me and try to follow me around.

Homemade Cake

“My name is homemade. Like homemade cake,” said Homeid, our Arabic instructor as he introduced himself. We would later learn that his name is pronounced a bit different from homemade, but at least it’s a start.

When NSLI-Y said it is an intensive Arabic program, they should say intensive Arabic program. Maybe underline ‘intensive’ too. We have 3-5 hours class each day and then have Arabic practice in the afternoon. That isn’t even including our homework time. I had 5 hours of homework our first day of class. Homemade replied that we should have 3 times the amount of homework than class. 9 hours of homework?? Luckily, I don’t think we have that much but the program is still very intense. That’s a good thing, though, because I am starting to slightly understand some of the Arabic I hear. Note the slightly.

Our class, however, are fun and interesting. Arabic is a beautiful language and it’s exciting when I master a new topic. Homeid is a nice and patient teacher and it’s fun to be in class with my friends. We do different activities to practice, so it has not gotten boring so far. And AMIDEAST has a tea and coffee machine so that is a big bonus!

IMG_4259

Don’t Forget About Breakfast Time

This morning we ate Qrus! This is like a pancake except it is flatter. We had it with fresh honey drizzled on top and then rolled it up to eat it almost like a tortilla. It was delicious. I’ve included a recipe below for how to make a similar version of qrus.

IMG_4352

You need:

  • 1/2 cup of white flour
  • 1/2 cup of brown flour
  • 2 Tablespoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 Tablespoons of sugar
  • 1 beaten egg
  • 1 1/4 cups of prepared milk
  • 2 Tablespoons of cooking oil
  • Honey

To do:

  1. Mix together the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar.
  2. In another bowl, mix the milk, eggs and oil. Mix this with the other mixture but do not mix too much. Only mix until it is a bit lumpy.
  3. Pour about 1/4 cup of batter on a hot and greased pan.
  4. Cook until bubbly on the top and the bottom is golden brown.
  5. Flip and cook until the other side is golden brown.
  6. Put a bit of honey on top and roll like a tortilla and eat! Yum!

Family Gathering

(Written September 27)

Today my host family and I drove to Manah (a small town 1.5 hours from Muscat) for a house opening party. My host mother explained to me that in Oman when someone buys a new house, they invite their whole family over for house warming party. In honor of the new house, they kill an animal (like a lamb). My host father’s full family was there and there was a lot of people! (He was about 10 siblings so imagine that plus their kids plus some of the elders in the family… wow).

The drive over was interesting because we passed many small towns, factories, and wadis (dried up riverbend). I saw lots of mountains, sand, and areas of only a few spread out houses.

The house that we went to was quite big and we ate in different circles on the ground around a plate of chicken biryani (Indian spiced rice dish). After lunch they served Omani coffee (a weaker version of American coffee, served in small porcelain cups), dates, and chocolate cake. Unfortunately I was feeling sick during most of the party and so I did not have the best time as I almost fainted and had to go lie down. Probably a combination of heat, new foods, stress, and a new place. Hopefully the family does not think I’m too weird.

Something that I thought was interesting about the party was again the separated genders. I am used to having everyone mingling; men and women talking with each other. In Oman, however, it is very separated, so the men and women were in separate parts of the house. The women sat around on the couches and talked with each other as the little kids ran around outside. I met a girl my age studying engineering at a nearby college and practiced my Arabic with two young girls who found my accent amusing. I was pleasantly surprised to find that many spoke English so communicating was not too difficult, though I tried to practice my Arabic when possible.

I covered my hair since all the other women did too. A lot of the women there wore black abayas, but once inside the women’s area, they revealed beautiful brightly colored and elaborately decorated Omani traditional outfits. I have to buy one before I leave!

Not too much happened that I noticed since I was sick the whole time, but next time I will hopefully feel a lot better.

Ice Skating… In a Desert?

(Written September 26)

Today is Thursday, which means it’s time for the weekend! TGIT? That’s going to take a while to get used to. In Oman, the weekend is Friday and Saturday instead of Saturday and Sunday. One of the reasons is because Friday is an important day for prayer for Muslims

We finished class early and went home at 2 instead of the usual 6 or 7. We were a bit disappointed though because we had been looking forward to Internet time at the AMIDEAST center and hanging out with each other. Oh well, next Thursday.

I came home and had mindi for lunch (the rice dish previously described) and then watched TV and talked with my family.

In the evening we went to a place called Fun Zone, a favorite place of my host brothers. Fun Zone has lots of things to do. One of the things is ice skating! I never imagined I would be ice skating in a desert, but this big building had an ice skating rink! Yazan (my host brother) and I rented the skates and ice skated for an hour. It was basically the same experience ice skating in the US, except that girls stayed with girls and boys stayed with boys (unless they were siblings or family). I am used to seeing lots of people on dates or mixed friend groups, but that is not the custom here. It will take a while for me to adjust to this change. It was also the first time that I have not gone ice skating with friends so it was a new (and rather lonely) experience ice skating by myself (since Yazan would dash ahead to go fast). At least I could focus on not falling!

IMG_4339

Fun Zone also has bowling (where Ali (host brother) was), cafes, jewelry and electronic stores, and small ride. A zone of fun indeed!

IMG_4327

By 8:30 we left and then drove to Pizza Hut! I have never eaten at a pizza fast food restaurant (I’ve always ordered), but this Pizza Hut was a regular restaurant—there was even a salad bar. We got shrimp pizza, and I was surprised to find that it was quite good. I was not expecting it to be all that great because in India, the pizza is normally not good and a bit uncooked, so I had similar expectations. The pizza, however, though not as good as the fast food pizza in the US, was decent.

IMG_4333 IMG_4332 IMG_4329

We then drove back home and along the way, drove on a road full of car stores/rentals. My host father told me that this road is known for its car stores, but I was still surprised at how many stores there were. I have never seen so many car dealers at once.

IMG_4335

Tomorrow I will spend my first full day with my host family, and for that matter, the first weekend with them. I am a bit nervous but excited to see what we will do.