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.
So the 6-month period for our visas ran out, meaning… time to go back to the UAE! Unfortunately, we did not have another fancy Dubai-type trip. Instead, we started driving at 6:30 AM, drove straight to the nearest border for the UAE, got our visas renewed, and then drove straight back (stopping for lunch at least). So today I had a lovely 12 hours time in a car. On the bright side, we sang until we became hoarse, which was surprisingly fun, considering I haven’t gotten the chance to since loudly to music in a car for quite a long time. So I guess the trip was definitely worth it?
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!
This past Thursday we volunteered at a school that we have actually volunteered in before. This time, though, we held an English-language-type day event. When we first got there, we split the kids up into groups (there were maybe 30 of them participating) and played different games with them (like Simon Says and Red Light, Green Light). Then we hung around for a while before heading to the music room to teach them some songs in English. There was also a piano there, so Liz and I finally got to play piano after such a long time.
Right before leaving, the principal gave us each a small gift (I got a beautiful Oman table decoration). Everyone at the schools that we visit are so sweet! It is amazing how much each school has been so welcoming to us. Visiting schools is definitely one of the highlights of my week.
On Friday, I went to Liz and Anna’s house (they are living in the same host family) and we went to Muscat Grand Mall with their host sister. We wandered around for a while, ate dinner, and then saw the Divergent movie (not too impressed with the movie). Muscat is so small that we ran into Kirby in the bathroom– she was there to see Divergent too! The movie theater (which in this case, is in the mall), is quite similar to movie theaters in the US. The benefit here is that they sell boiled corn and caramel popcorn at really cheap prices (a big container of caramel popcorn is about 50 cents). There’s also a photo of Sultan Qaboos at the front of the room where you buy food, so that’s pretty cool.
Saturday morning I went to the beach with my host family and got to go swimming for a bit. The beach that we went to is a beach that I posted pictures of a while ago (it is near the area where a lot of people live who work in the oil industry). It was the first time that I’ve been to that beach (before, we just looked at it from above) and there were mostly expatriates at this beach. Though the water was a bit cold, it was so clear and it was great to go swimming!
In the evening, I went with my host mother and host brothers to my host cousin’s first birthday party. Most of our extended family from Al Hamra was in attendance (only women) and they played music and had small competitions (like blowing up the biggest balloon and musical chairs). I won one of the games and got a glass container, woot woot! They laid matts out on the ground outside, so everyone was sitting outside and watching as the kids played the games. Then we ate dinner (it was a potluck) and they brought out a huuuugggee cake. Afterwards, we went home and my host father’s father, brother, and sister came over to spend the night before going back to Bahla early the next morning.
Saturday not much happened. I caught up on some homework and reading.