Trip to the Dead Sea!

Yesterday we went on our first CLS excursion to the Dead Sea!! It is only about forty minutes outside of Amman, so we left on a bus in the morning. We arrived there in the morning before it became too hot and quickly jumped in the water.

The water was amazing; the only way I can describe it is by comparing it to being on the moon. One floats so much; it is hard to swim, because one’s body simply floats on the water! Though we had to be careful, because if you get any of the water in your mouth or eyes, it HURTS so much because of the salt.

The bottom of the water floor is lined with salt, so one can just pick up chunks of salt from the floor. We also tried skipping stones, which was so fun and easy, since the stones just bounce off the water (because of all the salt).

Next to the water were buckets of mud for people to cover themselves (free spa trip??), so we did that for a bit. I’m not sure if my skin was smooth after that from the mud or from the copious lumps of sunscreen I had applied, but either way, I’m going to pretend that the mud really helped.

Since to access a lot of the beach area, one has to go on hotel property, we were at a hotel beach and after lunch, went and cooled off in one of their many pools. We finally showered and headed home, exhausted and sunburnt. It was all around a great day!

(Also the first picture with the sign below shows where the water used to be in 2005. Clearly climate change is a huge issue!!)

 

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.

And… Arabic Classes are Over!

Yesterday was my last day of Arabic class! I took my final and then it was all over! It’s so weird to be done with my textbook (this year we went through an Arabic textbook called Al Kitab Book 1). I still have my program’s final project to do, but my Arabic classes are over! Next week (my last week here) we will have reflections and different final cultural outings.

As happy as I am that my final is over, I am also sad that Arabic class is over. I have loved my Arabic class so much; my teachers have been some of the best teachers I have ever had and this class was probably my favorite class that I have ever taken. Though definitely a bitter-sweet ending, I cannot wait to continue my Arabic studies at Emory this fall!

Arabic!

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!!

Arabic

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!

Class Activity

December 15, 2013

I forgot to post this, but I figured I’ll post it now.

Today after class, WE helped out David in his class (David is an English teacher in AMIDEAST). His students are between the ages of about 25 and 37 and are boys and girls (though the class is divided by gender: one half is girls and the other boys. David told us he didn’t assign the seating; they chose to sit that way).

We presented (in Arabic and English) short biographies of ourselves and interests and then got a chance to practice our Arabic while they practiced their English (they asked us questions in English and we responded in English, and vice versa).

In his first class, each of us talked to students in groups of three. I was paired with three girls and they were really nice and recommended different things for me to see in Muscat. His second class was much smaller so we were paired one-on-one with one of his students. I was paired with a man and he was nice and told me about his family and their traditions.

A nerve-wracking activity, but a great chance for me to practice my Arabic and learn more about Omani culture!