I seriously have the sweetest Arabic teacher! Today she surprised us with necklaces from Jordan (she is from Jordan), each of us getting a necklace with our name in Arabic. I am in love with my necklace and am SO excited, because I have really wanted a necklace with my name written in Arabic. What a great surprise!!
Since I barely have any time left here, I have to wear all my Omani clothes as much as possible! So be ready for lots of outfits of the day!
Kirby and I are both wearing Omani house dresses that women wear for nicer events or when visiting someone else’s house. We bought them in a village called Ibra together (got to practice our bargaining skills!) and these dresses come in a wide array of colors and designs. I love how colorful they are– and super comfy, which is a big plus.
Here’s from another day, when we all wore our house dresses, to give an idea of the variety that exists.
To introduce this activity, I should probably explain a project that we have been working on for the past few months. In our language partners (we have this “class” twice a week in which an Omani comes and practices Arabic with us, helps us with any language problems we may have, and does language activities with us. We have two groups– my group consists of Liz, Miriam, and Anna). Each group has been working on writing and illustrating a children’s book in Arabic!
My group’s book is about a little boy named Ali who lives in Oman. His mother gives him a cat, but he doesn’t really want a cat (he would prefer a video game instead), so he is unhappy. He goes to the souk to do some shopping and the cat wanders away. Knowing his mother will be upset that he lost his new cat, he embarks on an adventure throughout Oman and talks to different animals to ask if they have seen his cat. None of them have and they each recommend his next location. He returns to his house empty-handed, but finds his cat there waiting for him. At the end, he realizes that he loves his cat and animals in general! Shout out to Anna for the amazing drawings!
This past Thursday, we volunteered at a hospital and went to the section for little children who have cancer. We read our stories to them (and then later donated our stories to their library) and then played with them for a bit. They were so adorable and I had a lot of fun playing with them! Some of them were really shy at first, but we finally got most of them out of their shells by the end and played lots of games with them. It was such an amazing experience.
Last Thursday, we attended a lecture at Sultan Qaboos University (located in Muscat, it is the best university in Oman). The lecture, “The Importance of the Semitic Language of Oman to the History of Arabic” was by Professor David Wilmsen from the American University of Beirut.
The lecture itself was so interesting and only made Arabic even more daunting. There are so many dialects of Arabic! Even in each country, there exist multiple dialects. Oman, for example, has Omani Arabic, Modern Southern Arabian, and Shihhi Arabic, among others. My host mom has told me that in some parts of Oman, she is not able to understand their Arabic because the dialect is so different.
What makes Arabic in Oman unique, however is its using the “sh” sound, which is not as common in dialects in other countries.
Apart from learning from his lecture, I also learned some things about lectures in Oman. Men and women sat on different sides of the room (there were a few mixes between the genders but this way uncommon)– not because of any rules; it was self separated. Additionally, people did not seem to have too many qualms about being late for the lecture (the lecture started late since they expected people to walk in late), and even one the lecture started, people kept coming in, some saying hello in Arabic loudly to everyone to announce their arrival once they walked in. I also learned that linguists (of course not all of them, but from what I saw at the lecture) are VERY passionate about linguistics. After the lecture, a lot of heated and passionate debates took place and Professor Wilmsen expressed so much glee when he heard words in Omani Arabic that he had not previously heard. I can only hope I find something about which I am as passionate!
On Tuesday, we all (the NSLI-Y girls) went out for dinner together to an Indian/Chinese/Arabic/American/Idon’tevenknow restaurant and then I slept over at Kirby’s house. We planned this dinner as it would be one of the last chances for us to plan an outing together. It made us all a bit sentimental, so get ready for one of the cheesiest posts ever known.
The NSLI-Y girls are definitely the hardest part about leaving Oman (thank goodness I will see Mac and Miriam within a month again, since we can’t even be apart for that long!). I’m an only child and have always wondered what it’s like to have sisters (this year I got to see what it’s like to have brothers with my host brothers!) and this year, I know what having sisters feels like. These girls are not only my best friends, but they are also like my family. I never thought I could spend so much time with people (we spend at least 8 straight hours together every day) without getting sick of them, but these girls have proved this view wrong! I’m going to miss them so much– I’ve never laughed so much around a group of people, always know that they will put me in a good mood when I see them, and have learned so much from them. Now to make this post even sappier…
– Kirby (aka Porky): From our failed fitness attempts to singing extravaganzas to desert exploration, I can always count on Porks to be optimistic and full of energy! She always makes me laugh with her funny voices and stories.
– Mac: We probably look insane when we are together because our jokes make absolutely no sense, but she never fails to make me laugh! She also doesn’t judge my weirdness which is always a plus.
– Lydia: One of the most driven girls I have met who knows exactly what she wants and how to get it. Our “mom” of the group, she’s always there if anyone needs a hug!
– Liz (aka bibi): One of the nicest and considerate girls ever who is the best shopping buddy I could ask for. What would I do if she didn’t live near me this past year?!
– Anna: So informed about everything… if I need an explanation of something, this girl has my back. She also has an amazing Arabic accent.
– Miriam (aka MERS): One of the sweetest girls I know; I always go to her if I need rational advice. She also does the best Frozen “big summer blowout” reenactments ever.
Yeah, so basically I am going to miss them so much!! I’m not looking for the goodbye-airport-scene AT ALL. I have to take advantage of my last two weeks with them, but we already have lots of plans to see each other again! Well, that’s probably the cheesiest my posts will get, so I’m glad we got that out of the way.
It’s so hard to believe that it is already May! It’s even harder to believe that I only have 17 days left in Oman. As cliché as it sounds, leaving my family in the US and beginning my life here in Oman feels like yesterday. And now I am torn: I am so excited to return to the US but I also am not at all ready to leave Oman. So while
I want time to go by quickly, I also want my last few weeks here to go by as slowly as possible. My solution is to try to enjoy every moment here and take the time to appreciate the little things of Oman that I will probably miss the most later.
For my own personal reflection, I decided I’d list ten things (not in any particular order) that I love and will miss about Oman and also ten things that I am looking forward to returning to in America (of course, there’s more than ten, but I don’t want to put anyone to sleep more than I usually do).
- This one is actually number one: the NSLIY girls. I am NOT looking forward to our goodbye! These girls know me more than almost everyone and are some of my best friends in the world.
- My host family. They have been so welcoming and kind and I have been able to see what it’s like to have two little adorable brothers.
- Dates! No, not a romantic date, though I probably would date a date (the food) if I could.
- Oman’s wadis are among the most beautiful natural beauties I have ever seen. Also Oman’s beaches. I am going to miss living near a beach.
- Family. Family is so important in Omani culture, and I am going to miss the emphasis on family and the closeness people feel towards their family (not that I don’t have this in my life, but I live far away from most of my family)
- Oman’s sunrises and sunsets are gorgeous. I will certainly miss watching the sunset every evening as we drive up the mountain that separates our neighborhood from the rest of Muscat. Not only do we get a stunning view of Muscat, we also get to see Muscat as the sun sets (and the sun sets are so much more beautiful here than in Atlanta!).
- The desert. Oman’s sand dunes are out of this world.
- Abayas. I love being able to throw on an abaya over my pajamas or sweatpants and look totally put together. It makes getting dressed so much easier!
- Speaking Arabic. Sure, it is difficult and I don’t understand a lot of what people say, but I have grown to love Arabic (it is such a beautiful language) and sayings that perfectly respond to situations; especially sayings that are the perfect response—many of which English doesn’t have the right response or translation that satisfy the emotion.
- Arabic music and Arabic dancing. It’s super catchy; I hope my future roommate likes it because I may be playing it constantly…
- My family and friends! I cannot wait to see my family and friends again!!
- Chipotle, Moes, Willies (yeah I miss “Mexican food”), Highland Bakery, Alons, Little Schezuan…. The list goes on. There’s a lot of restaurants I have been missing a lot.
- Grass. I love the desert but I am also so excited to roll around in grass overlooked by green trees.
- Independence. Living with a host family is wonderful, but since I am not completely familiar with Muscat and do not have a car, it is hard to go out where and when I want. I am very excited to be able to do so in the US.
- Running outside. I would probably get hit by a car/die of heatstroke if I tried that here. On that note, I am also excited to go swim laps again.
- Trader joes!!!
- Being in a car with windows down with music playing. So simple, but I cannot wait to do this again with friends in the US. I really miss this.
- Familiarity with everything. Though of course, that makes life a little boring.
- Sleeping in my bed. I am happy in my room here and with my bed here, but nothing beats my bed in the US.
- Going shopping! There are a lot of stores here that I am familiar with, but they are really expensive here and never seem to have sales! I cant wait to check out all the sales in my favorite stores when I get back.
So yep; it’s quite a mix of emotions. But I guess I have the best of both worlds: I get to enjoy my time here while also looking forward to the US!
3rd to last weekend here… what?!
On Friday I went with my host mom and host brothers to the souk and I bought two Omani house dresses (they are the comfiest things in the world!! I’ll post pictures later). Then we went to a park and ate shwarma and my host brothers got to play a little bit.
Saturday was uneventful; I did my homework and in the afternoon we went to Lulu, a store which is like Carrefour.
Sunday was uneventful as well. I played with my host brothers a bunch (soccer and making lanyards) and then read for a bit. In the evening, one of my host aunts came over and we hung out in the house and ate dates and fruit, and drank coffee.
That’s my exciting life for you!