Early Halloween!

Written October 30, 2013

Today, in preparation for Halloween tomorrow, we decided to dress up for school. We didn’t go all out in our dressing (that’s for tomorrow), but it was fun! We dressed as cat lady tourists. In the evening we threw a surprise party for Mac’s birthday (which will be tomorrow) and had a Halloween party! Our party was held in the evening and we painted pumpkins (except they were small white pumpkins…) and ate candy and pizza. Then we brought out the cake and sang happy birthday. It was a great day and a nice relaxing break. Yay for AMIDEAST for being nice to us!

Cancer Walk

Yesterday was one of the best days yet in Oman. I did three things I’ve wanted to do for a while: eat cheddar cheese, go running, and go to a dance party. The cheese part was simple: I bought it yesterday, so that was an easy accomplishment.

The first half of my day was uneventful; we had class as usual and then lunch. At around 3, however, we met up with the YES girls and drove to a park to go on a walk for cancer.

In the park, I felt almost as though I left Oman. It was a big park surrounding a lake with GRASS. We actually lay down on the grass to touch it. I didn’t realize how much I missed grass until I was surrounded by it. The park had paved sidewalks and was so beautiful, extremely clean, and looked quite new. We also passed a rather large man-made waterfall. I felt like I was in some of the enclosed parks in India, where people go to escape everyday life.

The walk for cancer may as well have also been named an “expatriate convention”, as the majority of the people there were expatriates. In fact, I say many girls my age wearing shorts (tisk tisk) and heard lots of English. It was nice to have a quick escape and to be able to talk freely in English and run around.

Before the walk started, there was a quick “warm-up”. American pop music started blaring and Kirby and I had no shame and started to dance. A Zoomba teacher came on stage and the crowd started to follow along. This was short, unfortunately, and Kirby and I were some of the few dancing. Oh well, it was worth it!

We went on the walk (which was only about 1.5 miles), but luckily by then it was 5, so it had cooled off quite a bit.

We got back to the start area (where there was free water!) and they called out raffle prizes. They were giving away dinner passes, gym memberships, and even flat screen TVs! Unfortunately, none of us won anything.

Then the fun started. I would have never though that a cancer walk in Oman=a huge party. The pop music started blaring again (I was surprised at some of the music choices, though if there was any cursing in the song it was beeped out), and this time it was dance music! Of course we started to dance (we’ve been wanting a dance party for ages) and slowly other members of the crowd started dancing too. A crowd formed around some guys doing all kinds of dance moves and though initially no girls were in the crowd, some joined in so once a group was watching, we joined in as well. It was dark outside by now and everyone started dancing. Some guys were sitting on the shoulders of other guys and it was a huge dance party. It was so much fun; we did not want to leave. It was so great to dance not in a room by ourselves, but to be in a big crowd of people, and to sing loudly in public and scream when they played a song we liked.

We ran back through the park to the car (check off the running) to go home. Yeah it was only 6:45, but who would have guessed that the young expatriate crowd (and some Omanis) goes to cancer walks to party?

Sorry I’m so Awkward

Just remembered 2 more awkward moments to add to my awkward list. Don’t worry, the list will keep extending. Both of these happened in Bahla during my Eid break.

1. People kept asking me if I spoke Arabic and I would respond “Shoowa shoowa”. Now there is a big difference between “shoowa” and “shweya”, the later meaning “a little”. “Shoowa”, however, is the meat that one eats on the third day of Eid. So you can imagine everyone’s confusion to my response of “meat meat”. Note, this happened multiple times.

Just to emphasize the importance of pronouncing things correctly. Think the two words below mean the same thing? Wrong. One means pigeon and the other means bathroom. Imagine the confusion as you run around looking for “pigeons”.

2. Not too bad, but when a bunch of us were sitting in the living room, one of the uncles was teaching me how to say a word I didn’t know. I repeated the word and after a few shocked expressions, everyone started to laugh. Apparently (though the words sounded the same to me), I said a not-so-nice word in Arabic. I laughed it off and it wasn’t a big deal since I didn’t mean to do that and everyone found it funny, but whoops!

Exercise Time and Other Exciting Happenings

I haven’t really had culture shock yet, apart of course from adjusting to a new family and having siblings for the first time (that, however, has been very fun). The only real culture shock I have experienced so far has been about exercising.

When I arrived in Muscat, I was thrilled to find out that there was a gym just down the street from my house (the main chain of gyms here is called “Horizon Gyms”). To my extreme dismay, however, I found out that they are only open to women from 8 am to 12 pm and closed all day for women on Friday (men get the rest of the day since this gym is not a mixed gym). I’m at school from 8 to 12, and have Fridays off, so this gym was not an option for me. I tried to find out about other gyms (which have rather expensive membership, but I was willing to invest in the gym membership), but then there was the problem of getting a ride there and back. Every driver I found asked for over 50 Rials (some even asked for 100 Rials) per month! This price, obviously, is way too much. Taxis were not really an option either as it is not as safe. And I can’t go running outside because A) It’s too hot outside B) No one runs outside C) Especially not women D) It’s hard to find appropriate running-wear E) Where I live, there are no sidewalks. For the past month, I have been pretty upset about the lack of exercise I have been getting and hated the thought of that continuing for a year. So finally I decided to buy… a treadmill! Strangely, it is cheaper and easier than going to a gym.

I wasn’t sure when I’d be able to get a treadmill/if that would be ok with my host family, but I talked to my host mother, and she was all for it! In fact, she said she wanted it because she wanted to exercise as well! So today we went to Carrefour and I ordered a treadmill! It should arrive tomorrow or the day after (they deliver and set it up). I’m so so so excited and relieved that I have finally found a solution. Alhamduhlillah!!!

While at Carrefour, I managed to pick up some more tea and cheddar cheese– something I’ve been missing! Seriously, Oman has everything here. So you could say I’m pretty thrilled right now.

To talk about the last of the “other exciting happenings”, today after I came home from school, I went with my host mother to a neighbor’s house. The mother of the woman living in the house had just gotten surgery, so it is considered polite to visit the mother after to say hi. A few other neighbors were there and we sat and ate fruit, dates, coffee, and cake. The women made sure I tried everything, and kept trying to feed me even though I wasn’t hungry! The important trick is to eat slowly. Extremely slowly. They were all very friendly and excited to learn about the US. They were also surprised to learn that I am learning Arabic. Many of them had never heard of Americans learning Arabic and were pleasantly surprised.

Right now, I’m waiting for some brownies to finish baking as my host brother wanted to eat some, so I tried cooking in my new home for the first time. Besides having to convert all the measurements, it was a simple task. They will be done in 3 minutes; yum!

Perfect Day

Today was perfect. At noon, we drove to the beach and it was so beautiful! Beaches are one of my favorite places on Earth, so I was very happy to be able to go. When people say that Omani beaches are gorgeous, they are not lying! So far, the beaches I have seen here rank as being the 2nd most beautiful beaches that I have ever seen (Brazil takes first place). The sand was white and fine with a few colorful shells and the beach was lined with palm trees that provided shade. There were some people at the beach, but not enough for it to be unpleasantly crowded. The water was the perfect temperature and so blue and clear. I could actually see right to the bottom of the water, and there were a few small fishes in the water. Sounds like paradise? It was.

Once we arrived at the beach, my host brothers and I went straight for the water. I was surprised that I was able to wear a bathing suit without a coverup, but my host mother assured me that it was fine. A big part of this was due to the large number of expatriates on the beach. It was nice to splash around with other people, because as I’m an only child, when I go to the beach with my family, I’m the only one in the water. After a while of swimming (yep, I finally got to swim some laps!), we went to sit with my host parents on a big mat under the palm trees to eat lunch. They brought a grill, so we ate freshly grilled chicken and beef with a side of pita bread, humus, and salad. Delish! Then we went back to the water and swam for a bit more before coming back to have melon before leaving the beach.

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The only downside of the beach was that it did not have a bathroom or shower area. I guess that’s what you get at a free beach. But the beauty of it is definitely worth it! I also found it interesting that they brought their maid with us. I guess she helped with the lunch cooking, but I felt awkward having her watch us while we ate and not having her sit on the mat with us. I think having a maid is one of the biggest things that I have to get used to, because it is so different from the culture that I am used to.

Now we are watching Toy Store 3 and Arabs Got Talent comes on soon! Overall, a fabulous day!

Omani dress!

Just to provide an image (literally) of what I was describing at the engagement party, here’s a picture of an Omani dress. It is belted at the waist with a bright orange belt. Of course not everyone wore something like this, but here is one example.

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