This past weekend was my last weekend in Oman– where has the time gone?
Thursday evening, my host family and I went to my host aunt’s house for dinner. A lot of our extended family from Bahla came for the dinner and it was a full house! The women all sat together in one room and the men sat together in the sitting room (majilis) and we hung out there for a while. Then we all went outside and sat on matts on the ground (the men on one matt and the women on another) and had a huge spread of chicken, humus, pita bread, olives, salad, etc. It was delicious! As I was leaving, one of my host cousin’s gave me a present that she bought for me in Saudi Arabia: dates with almonds in them and a book about common questions that non-Muslims ask Muslims. I am so excited to read the book!! My host grandparents from Bahla came back to our house to spend the night, so we hung out in our living room for a while before going to sleep.
Friday morning I hung out with my host family and helped my host mother make donuts. At around noon, we drove to an area called Barka to a farm owned by one of my host aunts. A lot of the extended family was there and we sat outside on matts (the men sat in a different area outside) and hung out and ate lunch (rice and chicken). We spent a few hours here and I walked around the farm with one of my host cousins. I said goodbye to a lot of my extended family here and it was weird to think that I might not see them again. Maybe one day I will visit Oman again and I will see some of them.
Saturday was pretty uneventful; in the morning I learned how to make chipati (I’ll post the recipe), we hung out at home, I caught up on some reading. In the evening, two of my Omani friends came and picked me up and we went to one of the girl’s houses. It was my first time going to an Omani girls house (that wasn’t my cousin) to hang out. We listened to music, danced, ate dinner, played with her new dog, and talked. It was a lot of fun and I’m hoping I will see them again in the future. Inshallah!
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.
I haven’t written a blog post in a while, and I’m sorry about that! I have been pretty busy, but luckily today was a bit more low-key, so I’ll try to update my blog a little bit. Last week was Spring Break, and it was my first Spring Break in a while not with my friends at the beach! Actually, I did spend many of my days this past week at the beach with friends, but this break was definitely very different from my past vacations on the beach in Florida. At first I was not looking forward to my break at all because my break does not align with my host family’s vacations (so they worked and went to school last week) and I was afraid that I was going to be under home arrest for 10 days (since I cannot drive here, no one would be home, and there is no public transportation). Alhumduhlillah, we talked to the man who drives us to school, and he agreed to take us wherever we wanted any day for 5 riales each day ($13, but since I went with Anna and Liz, we got to split the costs amongst ourselves). This development certainly made my Spring Break amazing!
Thursday I went to Mac’s house and slept there. Though I have to say that my life reached a low when I went to bed earlier than her 4-year-old host brother.
Friday Mac, Kirby, and I took part in another modeling photo shoot (for a different salon). Again we got lots of Arabic makeup and hairstyles! It was only for head shots though, so unfortunately, we did not get to wear elaborate outfits. I am still waiting for the photos from the photoshoot!
Sunday I met up with Anna, Liz, and Kirby, and we went to City Center (our favorite mall in Muscat) and hung out there during the day. Since I don’t really go shopping very much here in Oman, and I am a (since Oman, recovering) shopaholic, it was lots of fun to go shopping. Though I have to say, due to my lack of shopping, my shopping stamina and interest has gone down tremendously!
Monday I hung around my house and caught up on some homework and reading. In the evening, I went to the US Ambassador’s house to celebrate the first night of Passover! I’m going to write a separate blog post on this experience.
Tuesday we had plans to all go to Wadi Al Shabb together, but these plans fell through, so I hung out in the house and finished more homework and watched a movie.
Wednesday Liz, Anna, and I went to Shatti Al-Qurum (the beach area with restaurants that we so love) and we hung out in a cafe, went for a long walk on the beach, ate lunch, and then walked some more on the beach. The weather was beautiful and the beach was gorgeous; it was overall an amazing day.
Thursday I went to Oman Dive Center with Anna and Liz. Oman Dive Center is the beach area that our program took us to on our first day in Oman. It is a gorgeous private beach that is visited mostly by expatriates, allowing us to be able to wear bathing suits and swim. There is also a pool, so that is fun too. We hung out there in the morning and swam, ate lunch, and then swam a bit more until our hurried departure when I had an allergic reaction and had to go to the hospital. I’ll write a blog post about that as well. No worries though, I’m fine now!
Friday was our last AMIDEAST excursion. We went snorkeling and it was a wonderful trip! We met up (all the NSLI-Y and YES girls) and first went on a small motorboat to see dolphins. We had to go out in the water for a bit to see them, but we finally spotted a few of them and got to go pretty close! Then we went to a calm area of the water that has a lot of fish and we got to go snorkeling, aka, I got to check off an item on my bucket list that I have wanted to do for a long time! The water was so clear and we got to see gorgeous fish—even parrotfish! Then we went for a late lunch (by late, I mean late… it was 4 PM) at a yummy Turkish restaurant before heading home. It was an amazing day!
Saturday I hung out at home and finished up some reading and homework. My Spring Break was already over!
On Friday my host father and one of my host brother went to Bahla for the weekend (one of my host cousins just got engaged!). My host cousin came over and we hung out around the house during the day. In the evening, we went to the mall and then to a small carnival (it has some rides and small carnival games). It was my host mother’s birthday, so I surprised her by baking a cake. Surprise party!
Saturday was spent reading and catching up on homework. Yeah, I have a really exciting life
Thursday: To celebrate Kirby’s birthday, all the NSLI-Y girls got dropped off at one of my favorite places in Muscat (called Shati Al-Qurum), which is an area on the beach with some stores and restaurants. We hung out on the beach and then went to a restaurant that serves burgers (It’s called Slider Station, and it’s actually pretty good! They have a big lists of small sliders, so if you’re ever craving a burger in Muscat, check it out!). Then (since my host parents were out of town since they went to Bahla for the weekend), Liz and I went to Lydia’s house to spend the night.
Friday: We hung out at Lydia’s house in the morning and then after lunch, we were picked up to go to Clean Up Muscat Day! It was held in Boshar Dunes and I think it was held by the embassy, so there were about 100 people also volunteering there. We were handed FREE shirts and caps (woohoo!), gloves, garbage bags, and 2 hours to collect trash. Well, after 1 hour, everyone had returned (I guess people got bored?), and they gave out tea, water, and free ice cream, so that was a highlight. Even though everyone gave up halfway, we did collect a lot of trash! I’m surprised at the amount of bottles, ropes, and tires that we found.
I then went back to Miriam’s house to spend the night and in the evening, I got my hair cut! It was in a small salon near her house and I only cut two-ish inches off. She cut it straight across (I could have probably done it myself), but for only a rial (about $1.6), I guess that’s worth it.
Saturday: In the morning, Miriam and I went on a tour to the Muscat Grand Mosque (her host father works at the US Embassy and also gives tours, so he was giving a tour to some people visiting the embassy and invited us to come). This was my third visit, but I don’t think I could go there too many times; it is so gorgeous! It was also great to go on a tour because there was quite a lot of new information that I learned while there. Like did you know that in the women’s prayer building, the carpet design is rectangles side-by-side to designate a place to pray for each woman? So that’s how everyone is lined up so perfectly! We then went to the fish market (it’s part of the Souk) to buy some fish for lunch. It’s basically an outdoor covered area with individual vendors selling freshly caught fish that are laid out on matts (one of the men selling was keeping his money in his kuma!). Once you buy your fish, if you want, you take it to the stalls on the side, where you can pay a man to wash/cut your fish. I’ve got to say, I’m really not a fan of watching animals get cut open, and I found out that this includes fish. It was cool to see the whole process, though. I wonder how this works in the US, because all you see is the packaged product sold in the grocery store. In the afternoon, we went to the mall to get some birthday gifts for some of the NSLIY girls (yup, we have a small celebration for each girl), and then we hung out at Miriam’s house. At 9:30, we took part in “Earth Hour” and turned off our lights for an hour. Apparently lots of places in Muscat celebrated it too!
I came home to find another pet! Now we have a bird in our house! My host families bought it from Africa and it is like a parrot in that one can teach it to speak. It is sitting on a platform for it in our house (since it cannot fly). I’m pretty excited! Do you think it will suffer the same fate as our goat?