End of vacation in Bahla

This won’t be an exciting blog post, unfortunately. But I had a lot of fun in Bahla, all the same. It’s fun to practice my Arabic with everyone and meet new people. I think the theme of this past trip is “bonding” because I got to know a lot of family members a lot more and made some new friends.

Yesterday I hung out with family members (in the living room of course!). I talked a lot to some of my host aunts and helped my cousin with his English homework. One of the uncles showed me pictures of his office and explained his job to me (he’s a public prosecutor!). I spent the day hanging out in the living room, talking to people in a mixture of Arabic and English. So yep, a day of bonding!

Today we left Bahla and around 9:30 and were in Muscat by 11:30. We hung out around the house and I caught up on some reading. In the evening, one of my host mother’s friends came over and she brought me an incense burner! It was so sweet, and she wrapped it up and put dried rose petals on it! I talked to her a bit in Arabic (finally I can start to talk to people!) and we hung out around the house. Arabs Got Talent is tonight!

National Day Holiday

November 27, 2013:

I have a vacation from today until Saturday! A lot of people have asked me why my vacation celebrates National Day, yet National Day was last week. The reason is because if there is a long break, many people leave Oman to visit other cities outside Oman (like Dubai). So to make sure everyone stays in the country during National Day, the vacation is the next week. I really like that idea, because I’m normally not in the US during the 4rth of July as it is in the middle of my summer break.

We left Muscat in the morning and drove to Bahla. The whole family came to our house as my host grandfather hosts a yearly National Day lunch. This year it was an even bigger occasion as one of my host father’s brothers is getting married, so his wife’s family was there too. Additionally, my host grandfather was in the hospital last week (he’s ok now though), so the lunch also celebrated his recovery. There were so many people there, and as usual, men and women sat in separate rooms. We ate fruit and dates, then huge plates of rice with chicken on top were brought out, and then we finished with fruit, dates, and coffee. I met a lot of new people and got to know some cousins my age!

In the evening, we just hung out in the living room. Most people went home, but a lot of the immediate family stayed. I talked to some of my host aunts for a bit and tried to practice my Arabic. It ended up being a mix of English, Arabic, and hand motions, which all together must have looked quite amusing to an onlooker. Not much else to report.

 

November 28, 2013:

I woke up and went to the living room to eat breakfast (same as I do every day in Bahla). I talked to my host grandparents as I ate breakfast (Omani bread with feta cheese and tomatoes– a surprisingly delicious combination). Most of my host family wasn’t there (as in the only people at home were some children, my host grandparents, a host aunt, and a cousin). I hung out with the cousin for most of the day. I had barely talked to him until then (since boys and girls are normally separated), but as he was the only person my age, I decided to get to know him moreI I helped him with his English homework and practiced my Arabic, though unfortunately, I pronounced a lot of the words wrong… typical. Some of the uncles came over too and talked to me for the first time as well. Were they scared of me before? I was so surprised that they talked to me! I think they just didn’t want to make me feel uncomfortable (again, men and women separation), so they waited a while for me to get used to Bahla before I talked to them. I’m really not sure, but at least I got to know some more people!

In the evening, we sat outside and it was surprisingly, kind of cold! I didn’t expect Oman to go below uncomfortably hot, but I’m being pleasantly surprised. My Thanksgiving dinner (almost forgot today was Thanksgiving!) was certainly the most different from any Thanksgiving meal I have eaten (I ate krus wa-asle and laban), but it was delicious so who cares? Also, Happy Hanukkah! Almost forgot about that too, as I will not be celebrating that this year :(

Happy Thanksgiving!

(Written November 26, 2013)

Happy Thanksgiving! Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday of the year (besides my birthday, of course). I love getting together with my family, eating the most delicious food of the year, not having school, and the fall season in general. So I was a bit apprehensive of this day in Oman, knowing that it won’t be a typical Thanksgiving for me and that I will probably get a bit homesick. Well, I was a bit homesick, but not too much since I had one of my coolest Thanksgiving meals yet (of course, seeing my friends’ pictures on Instagram and Facebook of their holiday reunions didn’t help!).

Yeah, I know it isn’t Thanksgiving yet, but I’m going to have a holiday for National Day starting on November 27 until November 30, so our celebrations had to take place prior to the vacation. So Thanksgiving on a Tuesday it is! And I didn’t even miss out on turkey, stuffing, and pumpkin pie, because I celebrated my Thanksgiving at the house of the Ambassador of the US, which is not something one does everyday. We got a formal invitation which certainly made us even more excited. Except for the part where we were told to dress “smart casual”. Who even says that?

All of the NSLIY and YES girls were invited to the dinner as were two members of each of our host families. In addition, our teachers and AMIDEAST staff were invited as well as some people who work in the embassy. Of course the Ambassador was there, and I am so thankful that she held this event for us. Her house is huge (she lives there by herself since her family lives in the US—so lonely!) and is located on Embassy Road, so it is surrounded by other ambassadors’ houses and various embassies. Not bad.

The dinner was lovely. We sat in her garden (there were many round tables set up) and at one end was a covered buffet area. Small lights decorated the area and American music was playing in the background. Waiters walked around with trays of juice and everyone was dressed up. My host parents were the first to arrive and I got a bit frantic: do I sit with them or do I hang out with my friends (like I would in the US)? I decided to sit with them and a few of my NSLIY friends came with me. Soon, other parents came and it became less awkward. We ate dinner (all the Thanksgiving usuals: turkey, stuffing, mash potatoes, green beans, bread, cranberry sauce, dressing, salad, apple pie, and pumpkin pie). It was not as good as my family’s cooking, but hey, not going to complain, I’m eating Thanksgiving dinner in Oman at the Ambassador’s house. And I thought I wasn’t even going to have Thanksgiving food this year!

The Ambassador came around to greet everyone (she hugged us!) and then a few people went to the front to give short speeches. I also got to meet everyone’s host family, which was exciting.

One of the highlights of my night? Kirby and I had to use the bathroom, so we used that as a way to get into the Ambassador’s house! It is beautiful, but looks as though no one lives there as everything is so perfectly placed. We only saw two rooms but the rooms were very fancy!

Then we went to take group photos with the Ambassador before going home with our host families.

Get ready for my inevitable cheesiness: this was certainly the most interesting, awkward, and exciting Thanksgiving I have had yet! Even though I do miss my family at home and most of all, the familiarity of being with my real family, I am so thankful for the experience I had tonight. I am grateful for the opportunity to live in Oman and learn Arabic. I am grateful that I have such a welcoming and kind host family (my host mother put her arm around me for a picture and called me her daughter—definitely the highlight of the night). I am grateful for my amazing Arabic and history teachers who make school fun here. And finally, I am so grateful for the other NSLIY girls who have helped me so much so far and have made the past 2.5 months so amazing. So though I am going to be a bit homesick, I’m glad that tonight allowed me to reflect on how lucky I am and what an amazing experience this is. And I’m so glad that I was able to share some of my culture with my host family.

Shopping Therapy

(Written November 25, 2013)

Today we (NSLI-Y) girls went shopping! We needed a break and some people were going through culture shock, so we figured that the mall would be a good place to go. It was so much fun and I got to buy some new clothes, get a bunch of things I’ve been needing at Carrefour, have frozen yogurt, and hang out with my friends. The best part was finding BERRIES!!!! I’ve been missing berries (raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, and strawberries) so much and everyone has told me that you cannot buy them here. Ladies and gentlemen, they are WRONG! In a little corner of Carrefour, there is a shelf with berries!!! Liz and I almost walked by it, but then I stopped to check. I think we almost had a heart attack and spent a while looking at the berries with immense happiness. I think people were a bit concerned about us or thought we were crazy. Well, I’m used to that anyway; anytime I go to Carrefour or Lulu, I get a slightly crazed look in my eyes as I hurry to try to find everything that I’ve been needing.

It was a fun evening. Besides, where else would you be where they sell kumas in the mall and you can run into the people who did your nails for a photoshoot?

ONTM!

Yesterday was our photoshoot!

I got picked up in the morning and was taken to the woman’s salon. It is in the process of being set up, so we only worked in certain areas. They painted my nails, straightened my hair, and then put on some makeup.

They put on A LOT of makeup. My eyebrows were heavily done, my eyes had a lot of eyeliner and eyeshadow (and fake eyelashes!), and my skin was so heavily powdered, my skin was a different color! Basically, I didn’t quite recognize myself.

Then the hairstylist called me and she curled and bumped up my hair. I put on my traditional dress from Bahrain and was given tons of rings, a thick necklace, and a headpiece. By the end of the 5+ hours of preparation, Kirby, Miriam, and I were ready!

A photographer came to take our pictures (first time being photographed by a woman in an abaya!). They told us to be serious and I had such a hard time keeping a straight face! Needless to say, I had a great time with my first time modeling! Never would have thought I’d be modeling in Oman!

Here’s some of the pictures from the photoshoot:

After that, Kirby and I went back to Miriam’s house for our first NSLIY sleepover!! We hung out with her host sisters and walked to the store in abayas! It was my first time wearing an abaya and I absolutely loved it! Definitely have to buy one to wear here!

Rain and Playdate!

Today was a good day! In the morning we went to see some of the wadis created by all the rain. Just near our house, a big wadi had formed. The water, though, isn’t safe to swim in since it has a strong current and was brown from the mud it flowed over. We drove by a few more wadis and then drove to the top of a mountain to see the view. It was still drizzling, but the view was breathtaking, It looked like a scene from a painting when the sky opens to reveal Heaven. There were many other people looking at the view as well as all the wadis we went to. I guess since it hardly rains here, it is exciting for people to see the aftermath. And it was pretty spectacular. Except for the part where many places flood… like my host father’s school. And the souk. And my host cousin’s school… And many of the houses. So the rain can actually be pretty devastating. Luckily, it wasn’t too bad where I am living.

It was also very interesting to see the media’s reaction to the rain. For the past 2 days, all the news has talked about is the rain. It is a bit amusing for me since I am very used to rain. So a small storm doesn’t mean very much to me and I’m not used to seeing rain being constantly reported on the news. But then again, rain is rare here and can wreck havoc on many of the people living in Oman. I was, however, to once again smell rain and see gray skies! It’s been a while!

In the afternoon Mac came over. My first playdate in Oman! I felt like a little kid, asking permission from my parents, waiting for her to ask permission, seeing if she could get a ride, planning an end time… We hung out and then decided to bake a cake!

Cooking here is very different from cooking in my house in the US. For starters, my family here does not have measuring cups and spoons, so everything is estimated. We also couldn’t find a cutting board and had to leave out a bunch of ingredients because we did not have them (like butter, vanilla extra, confectioners sugar, and milk (we used powdered milk instead)). We had to, therefore, improvise a lot. We made a coffee chocolate cake, which turned out pretty well, but then decided to be adventurous and make frosting. Too bad we were missing a lot of the ingredients! It turned out to be a very liquid-y glaze. So we had the genius idea to add orange! We poured in orange juice and then squeezed fresh oranges until it started to taste good. We basically made up the glaze recipe as we went. Then I poked holes in the cake so the glaze would soak through. It looked kind-of gross, though, so we sliced oranges and put it on top to cover up all the holes. It was really fun and tasted pretty good! So after 2.5 hours of baking, pouring fish oil on the ground, and sniffing at a suspicious yellow spread we found in a cabinet that resembled melted butter, we created a coffee chocolate orange cake!

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The Rain is Coming!!

Today was pleasant. Homeaid let us sit outside during our class and it was fun, especially since the weather is starting to cool down. We spent the day just practicing our Arabic by talking about where we want to travel, what we want to see, and the weather in general. It was a relaxing way to get back into the swing of things.

Speaking of weather, the rain is coming!!! We had to leave school early today because they were afraid the rain would start early and the wadis would flood, making us unable to reach out houses. The rain hasn’t started yet (it’s 6:04 PM), but there’s lightning outside and lots of thunder. It started raining in other parts of Muscat, so we are waiting for it to come here. In fact, in other parts of Oman, it is hailing! I’m glad we do not live near a wadi because they frequently flood when it rains, but this means I can’t go outside this weekend since driving is dangerous. I’m hoping it won’t rain too much, though. Mac is supposed to come over tomorrow!