Back in the US

The last two weeks have been a blur. From Oman to the US, everything has flown by so fast that I have barely been able to take a breath.

My last day in Oman was surreal. The day before I left Oman, I (and each of the other NSLI-Y girls) presented the capstone projects (final project) to our host families, teachers, and some embassy staff. My project was on Oman’s economic future and shift from oil. I had been pretty stressed about it for the past month (since we had to write a research paper and create a presentation– all in Arabic), so I was pretty happy to get it over with. Then we said bye to our teachers, which was sad, since they have been some of my favorite teachers ever.

The next day (my last day), I frantically finished packing and then hung out with my family until it was time to go to the airport. It was so weird to think that I was leaving, and when I was at the airport, I felt like I was going on an AMIDEAST excursion, but would be back after a few days. I said bye to my host family and bye to Oman and then we took a plane to Dubai and then a plane to Washington DC (where we (NSLIY girls) had a very tearful goodbye) before we each took planes to our respective states.

It feels so weird to be back in the US. I’ve had a little bit of reverse culture shock, but otherwise, I think that I have adjusted back pretty well. It is exciting to have more independence and to see my friends and family, but at the same time, there are so many aspects of Oman and Omani culture that I miss, and every day so far, I am reminded of Oman in different aspects of my life.

I am so sad that this chapter of my life is over. Though the most challenging year of my life so far, it was also the best year of my life yet. I had so many amazing moments, built close relationships, and learned so much, not only about another culture and language, but also about myself. Though I am sad that my time in Oman is over, I know I will return to this beautiful country in the future, and am also excited to start college and see where my travels take me next.

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.