Weekend in Bahla

January 23

My host father picked me up from school and we drove to Bahla. I hung around the house in the afternoon. In the evening, one of my host cousins asked if I wanted to go to a wedding with her. Woohoo!

The wedding was really interesting and quite different from the weddings that I have been to in Muscat. This is because it is a traditional wedding, which now typically only happens in central Oman (as it is one of the most traditional parts of Oman).

The wedding was really near our house and was in an outside gravel area by the road (though some fabric walls were put up so that people could not look inside the area. Green matts covered the floor (so everyone left their shoes outside the ‘walls’) and green Christmas-type lights decorated the ‘walls’ as well as the walls of a small building next to the area.

All the women were sitting on the floor on the matts and everyone, except for the immediate family of the bride, were wearing abayas and had their hair covered. I was glad to have my abaya on to blend in, but people still stared at me a lot, probably because most people knew each other and were wondering who this unfamiliar girl was.

On the matts were a few platters of fruit for people to eat and incense burners were burning throughout the area. At times, women came around hanging out small containers of water.

At the front, the bride (wearing a white dress with lots of makeup and hair piled high) was sitting on a small elevated platform with a simple background decorated with some lights. Some members of her immediate family were dancing in the small area in front of the platform to the Arabic music (which was playing on a stereo that the girls would use to skip or choose songs).

After a while, her family came up to cover her hair with a white fabric (like a fancy hood) and give her a bouquet of flowers since the groom was about to enter. He walked in and removed the fabric and after greeting her family, they posed for pictures. People were standing to watch, and we found a good perch on the steps of the small building there (where some men were sitting inside). We left shortly and on the way out passed a decorated car in which they would leave in.

 

January 24

After hanging around the house in the morning, we drove to Al Hamra for a lunch party at my host uncle’s (the one who worked at the embassy in Algeria) house. The party was for one of his sons who was just accepted to become a policeman. The women sat spread out through a few rooms (since there were so many people) and we sat on the floor, talked, and ate rice and meat, dates, and fruit. It was mostly my host mother’s side of the family, so I know them a bit less, but they are all really nice and welcoming. Too bad I can barely talk to them because of the language barrier.

After coming back to the house in Bahla for a few hours, we drove to Nizwa for an engagement party dinner. This part of our family is from Zanzibar, so some of the food was from Zanzibar (different types of bread). We sat inside a room, but many women were sitting on matts outside since so many people were at the dinner.

After the dinner, my cousins and I stopped at the doctor’s office since one of my host aunts was feeling sick (it was in a private hospital (though public hospitals are free for everyone here), so I got to see what that looks like in Oman: it was kind of old, but looked very clean, though the walls were all a sterile looking white with no colors or comforting decorations. It was late at night so not too many people were there, but the visit involved a lot of waiting and walked to different rooms in different ends of the hospital).

After that we decided to make an impromptu visit to a wedding (another traditional one). This one was in a small hall (it looked like a small arena) with a small stage at the front where the bride was sitting with the groom to pose for pictures. Rows of chairs were placed facing the stage. At the front was a small area under the stage where a few women were dancing. Most women were wearing abayas and almost all the women’s hair were covered. We only stayed about 15 minutes because it turns out we went to the wrong wedding! So now I can check off crashing a wedding off my bucket list!

 

January 25

Didn’t do too much today; just hung around the house and then left Bahla in the afternoon. 

This Past Week

Sorry, lately I’ve failed at posting on my blog. Here are some updates from my past week.

Last weekend (January 16-18):

Thursday evening some family members came over for dinner so we hung out in our living room and talked (again women in a separate room from men) and then sat on the floor to eat dinner. After everyone left (at around 10 PM), my host cousin my age and I went for a walk around my neighborhood for an hour. We stopped at another cousin’s house and walked with them for a bit.

On Friday we hung around the house during the day. In the evening, my family (and my cousin since she was spending the weekend with us) went to Muscat Grand Mall. My cousin and I walked around and looked at shops together. It was a lot of fun!

Saturday my cousin and I went to an AMIDEAST activity—paintballing! We were supposed to bring someone from our host family for the activity. Paintballing was fun! We wore camouflage suits and were in an arena with small forts, rocks, cars, and barrels to hide behind. The downside was that those paintballs hurt! After we all went to a delicious Turkish restaurant for dinner… with bread that stretched as long as the table!!

 

January 20, 2014

I got my abaya! It looks so cool and I cannot wait to wear it!!

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January 21, 2014

Today was Anna’s birthday! We had cake at AMIDEAST, but in the afternoon wanted to do something special for dinner. We met up with two Omani girls our age (I know, so exciting!!!) (Our teacher taught them, so he gave us their email addresses and we asked to meet with them) and went for dinner (to a place with yummy American food) and then bowling. They speak English (and an added bonus, have a cars) and were really nice. It was great to go out with Omani girls and we had a great time!

 

January 22, 2014

My host mother and brothers went to Al Hamra (my host mother’s village) yesterday morning so it was just my host father and I (we will go tomorrow to Bahla and meet them). After school we went to Carrefour, then to some other stores, and then to a fresh seafood restaurant. Bonding time with my host dad!

Past week

What a busy week! I haven’t posted in quite a while, so I’ll give a brief overview of this past week.

Last weekend 

On Saturday I went to Liz and Anna’s house to hang out with them for the day. We played Scrabble with their host sister and hung around the house. At lunch, we went to one of their family member’s house for a family lunch. Their family is Rwandan Omani, so it was interesting to see minor differences between their family lunches and my family lunches.

For example, all their family lives in Muscat, so they do not have a village in Oman where other relatives live. The lunch was a barbecue (mishekek) and we sat outside and ate on a matt (my family has never done this). The men stood by the barbecue while the women sat on the matt, but these were very close together. The men and women division, then, was less than that in my family.

Anna, Liz, their host sister, and I wandered a bit around the rocky desert and climbed up a small hill to see the surroundings. It was very beautiful.

On the way back, we saw a man riding a bicycle (a first!!) but he was wearing a blanket to keep warm while riding. Only in Oman! We also saw a lot of goats. Casual…

 

Monday

In the evening, we went to the Opera! We listened Sufi music performances from various countries (like Oman, Iran, Pakistan, and Turkey). Sufi music is music of the Sufis (Sufism is a branch of Islam, emphasizing an enlightened inner being). The music was wonderful and my favorite was definitely the music from Pakistan. The drummer for the group was awesome!

 

Tuesday

Liz and Anna slept over Monday night and on Tuesday, we went back to the salon since the other girls still had to take their model shots. Miriam, Kirby, and I had already finished, but we were treated to a manicures and pedicures!

The salon is so nice now (I’m glad I don’t live near it; I would spend all my money there) and the Filipino women who worked there were so sweet and taught us some words in Filipino!

Only in Oman…

Only in Oman does your bus driver buy your car a packet of dates and then once you cannot open the packet, he proceeds to open the packet while simultaneously driving the car. And only in Oman do you sit in the bus eating dates while your bus driver decides he does not like to take the real road, but take a short-cut off-roading through the rocky desert landscape. And only in Oman, because you’re not on a real road, do you spill the tea your bus driver bought you, creating an in-car personal wadi.

Goodbye 2013, Hello 2014

Today marks my halfway point in Oman and also marks the start of 2014 (plus a few days). 2013 has been such an amazing, stressful, and surprising year and I would have never guessed a year ago that I’d be sitting in Oman right now. So a throwback to the highlights and big moments of 2013!

January– Second semester senior and finished all college applications! Definitely was a lot less stressed. Hosted our school debate tournament!

February– Harvard debate tournament… can’t think of anything else

March– State debate tournament and college weekend interviews!

April– Spring break (and a final group trip) with my friends to the beach! Heard back from all my colleges and found out that I got the MLK scholarship to Emory! And heard back from NSLI-Y!! Definitely a great month.

May– College decision making (Emory!!), graduated from high school, and went to graduation parties!

June– Went camping with some friends, went to Morocco, and travelled in France with Isabelle and Lucy

July– Travelled in France and England with Claire!

August– spent time in France with my family and started packing for Oman

September– saw some friends in Atlanta, finished packing, and left to go to Washington DC for orientation!

October to December– a crazy and amazing whirl of excitements in Oman!

For this coming year in Oman, I have made some resolutions: speak more Arabic (especially with my host family), to really enjoy the remaining time in Oman, to meet some Omani girls my age, and to try to further form deeper relationships with my host family.

But for now, masalama senna 2013 wa salamaleequm al senna al jadeed! (goodbye 2013 and hello 2014)

Store Opening

Today I went to a shop opening party! My host aunt’s stationary shop just relocated to a bigger store, so they threw a party for its opening (which, I learned, is pretty typical to do here, though the size of the party depends on the family and the store size and type).

We arrived at the shop a bit early while they were setting everything up. The finished product? A red carpet leading from the side of the road into the store, a balloon archway in front of the store door, flickering blue lights shining projected onto the front of the store, a table with sweets, coffee, and juice to the right of the store, and on the left, a small elevated platform covered in silky green fabric with vases of flowers on either side. Next to that was a table with a microphone and a stereo system that was playing music. Quite the shindig!

People started to arrive (a mixture of family and friends) and the men stood on the left side of the carpet and the women on the right.

The event began and about 5 men (one of them my host uncle (the husband of my host aunt who owns the shop), another an owner of a newspaper in Oman, and another, the head of Oman’s organization for small businesses) walked up on the carpet and stopped halfway as one of my host cousins gave a speech. Then another man gave a speech, pictures were taken with a trophy, and one of the men cut the ribbon to the door of the store entrance and they walked in. After they came back out, the rest of the men watching from the side got a chance to look around and pick up a complementary gift bag (containing a USB device). After the men finished, the women got to look around and got gift bags too (yay free things!).

The store was very nice and new-looking, with all kinds of school supplies from backpacks to paper to paint. They were even selling notebooks that my cousin designs and creates (apparently she has a business making notebooks).

Then people ate food (the men ate while we looked in the store and then we ate when we came out) and another speech was given. The fun part came next which was a performance from a guy who did tricks with a soccer ball (apparently he won third place in an international competition in Italy!) and a magic show from a man who comes from the same village as my host family. His tricks were really cool and he finished by producing Oman’s flag!

Overall, it was a fun party and a cool experience. I found it interesting that the second half of the party was mainly catered to children and that though it was my host aunt’s shop, she did not take part in the ribbon cutting activity and such. Regardless, it looked like everyone had a great time, and though I felt my usual awkwardness-I-don’t-know-what-to-do-with-myself-nor-do-I-know-where-to-stand-or-how-to-help-yikes self, by the end, I was having fun!