This Past Weekend

  • 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!

A busy but great weekend!

Opera!

This past week (on Wednesday, Feb 26) we went with our program to the Opera!

We went to see an Enana dance show and it was spectacular! Enana dance is named after Enana (surprise surprise), who is the ancient Syrian goddess of love, fertility, culture, art, literature and the moon. The story that we saw was of the Umayyad prince Abdul Rahman bin Mu’awiyah bin Hisham (he was the grandson of the last powerful Umayyad caliph). The dances showed his life as he was pursued across the Syrian, Naqab and Sahara deserts by his enemies. In the end, however, he lives and founds the Caliphate of Cordoba. The music was great and the costumes were wonderful!

It was really funny because during the first half of the show, we sat in the very back row in the top balcony, but then during the second half, due to some connections, we got to sit on the first floor near the front! Got to love those Omani connections.

New Pet!

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?

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Bahla

This past weekend was spent in Bahla with my host father’s parents. We left for Bahla right after my school ended on Thursday and drove to Bahla. A lot of the family came over for a barbecue dinner that night to celebrate my host uncle and his wife’s return from their honeymoon in Malaysia (their wedding was the wedding I attended a week or two ago).

Today (Saturday), at about noon, I was told to go into a school bus with my cousin and my host brothers… yeah, things aren’t vague or anything here… We have a school bus in our yard because my host grandfather drives kids to school every morning and afternoon. It’s an old bus (I’ll put up a picture soon) so I was excited to ride in it, though I had no idea where we were going; I did know, however, that there was a big container of rice and salad that we were taking with us.

Turns out we were meeting a bunch of family members at a farm owned by my host grandfather. The farm is a huge plot of land that has a small house with one room and a bathroom. Now, however, nothing grows on the farm because there is no water on the farm. We all sat outside on matts underneath a covering and had a barbecue party! We also spotted a camel so that was pretty exciting.

The rest of the day was low-key spent around the house.

I’m Taller than Everyone Else

Considering everyone else was in elementary school, I suppose it make sense that I (and the other NSLI-Y) girls were the tallest.

Yesterday morning we volunteered at another elementary school. The school was next to the school in which we had volunteered last time, so it was located in one of the older areas in Oman called Seeb. The school, a government school (ie- public school), was near the beach and was similar to the previous school in that there was a courtyard that was surrounded by all the classrooms. The school had a really nice courtyard with little patches of garden and murals were on some of the walls. It had a very friendly atmosphere.

We got to the school after the morning announcement ceremony and went directly to the teacher’s lounge (similar to the previous school’s lounge: there were cubicle-type desks, a matt on the ground for people to sit on, and an area with coffee and tea). The teachers and administration were all women and were wearing brightly colored Omani clothing. All of the women had their hair covered.

They were all so sweet and welcoming and all stood up and lined up to great us as we walked in. They came and sat with us and talked to us in Arabic while we waited for our classes to begin.

Each of us only attended one class and I sat in an Arabic class with Anna. It was actually really exciting because I understood most of what was going on in the class! Granted, they were elementary school kids, but hey, progress is progress! In the class, they read sentences in Arabic out-loud and then described a picture of Soor, which is a city in Oman. The students were again very enthusiastic, though in this school they did not scream “teacher teacher” while jumping out of their seats when they wanted to answer a question. They did frantically wave their arms around though when a question was asked, and the longer the teacher waited to call on a student, the more frantic they got. It was quite amusing actually.

The classroom itself had yellow plaster walls, tiled stone floor, and a photo of Sultan Qaboos hung in the front. There were some decorations around in the room. It was simple but friendly. The teacher was really enthusiastic and you could tell that she loved her students.

After our classes, we hung around for a while more before eating the obligatory and all-too-delicious dates.

I’m excited because we are going to start volunteering at schools every Thursday. I feel so lucky to have this opportunity, because it is such a rare chance to be able to go into schools and meet and talk to teachers and students in various schools around the city. I can’t wait for next week’s school! Who would’ve thought that I’d be excited to go back to elementary school?