Thursday, August 10, 2017

Going back to the land far-and-away for a while so no blog for me for now

I'm going to take a little break from this blog until the end of the month to travel. That means the other OPNO girls are free to update in the mean time if they wanna, but I am not going to be checking our email or posting for the time being.

Just travelling, nothing drastic. Visiting friends and family. The plan is to take photos, eat out too much, and walk until our legs fall off.

Until the fall, masalama y'all.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Bank Muscat and their general suckiness when it comes to credit cards

You have probably read Dhofari Gucci's rant about Bank Muscat screwing up her travel plans through never issuing her credit? If not, well, here's the post: [http://dhofarigucci.blogspot.com/2017/07/letter-to-ceo-of-bank-muscat.html ].

The same thing basically happened to my husband. Correction: is still happening. We are supposed to fly this weekend and still, no credit card. That means no hotel bookings, no car rentals, etc... And we are supposed to be the privilege banking set at BM????!!! Well obviously that means nothing.

Good thing I have a sister who will let me sleep on the floor of her kitchen/living room in her studio apartment right? Good thing I have funds in a bank over there, or we'd be screwed. Good thing they sell pre-paid credit cards you can use for airline bookings once over there in case anything goes wrong with our return flight.

My rant against Bank Muscat?:

First thing screwed up was BM blacklisting us on credit, because the car dealership where we bought our car put through the wrong cheque for us. So of course it bounced.

We fixed this by paying ahead a couple months cheques, and got an apology letter from the dealership to ask the bank to take us off the black-list. This does take around 22 days in general, and it also involves getting a salary certificate from our employers... so for it not being our mistake this really sucked but it was understandable.

Then that was done, and we were supposed to be re-issued a visa card in a week. I said, let's count on two weeks at least. Of course, it has almost been two months now and nothing.

Which is, frankly, unacceptable. My husband can't just move to another bank. He's got the car loan through there, and we should pay it off in whole to move. As I said, always buy cars in cash, but whatever.

I moved to HSBC because I was tired of no one at Bank Muscat knowing what to do. Things are allowed in Oman, like using one's account with just a passport but not a resident card, but apparently they don't know the laws, just their policies. HSBC on the other hand, cannot seem to issue a bank card. I am tired of waiting for my bank debit card. Sigh. What to do.

I've heard Bank Sohar is good;). Alas, with so few debit machines, I dunno.

Unlike Dhofari Gucci, I find BM branch staff to be friendly, but then, I live in Muscat, and I do use City Centre branch. They screw up every wire they've ever sent for me, but they are friendly about apologizing at least. They can't seem to get anything done that I need, however, so I don't know if friendly staff alone is gonna guarantee them anyone's business.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Things I hate about Oman, this year, 2017

So many things suck about living in Oman. I can't lie. Number one annoyance-wise is that nothing is efficient here.

Go to a bank at the time it is stated to open. Rarely is a teller or CSR accounts person ready for you until at least 4-5 min. after the opening time. Grocery store says it opens 8:30 am? 8:36 am they unlock the door. Let's not even get into employers doing your paperwork for your visa or your salary etc.... I mean, I work in gov. not private sector and I still missed a flight that cost 600 omr TWICE because of a visa screw up from my work (and the fact that the Omani ROP stamped a visa date in my passport so this visa was valid still but in their computer system it wasn't and so I also had to pay a fine on top of missing my flights (twice)). Whenever I renewed my contract my salary was at least one month late, but once it was almost four months late. Apparently I was allowed free travel on my type on contract also, but no one ever told me or cared to, or wanted to. Which really sucks when you pay for the same trip four times and it should have just been once, and you end up spending like more than four months rent to do so.
Religion-wise Omani is pretty great. It is very free, and yet, very conservative as well, so I like that. Of course, religion is ignored in terms of the marriage laws. The marriage laws banning Khaleejis from marrying non-Khaleejis really are unislamic. I'm just tired of them. I mean, we have friends who have gone to court for the punishment for not getting permission for marriage, they received their punishment, and now they are in limbo. They can't apply to be on their husband's resident card. They can't apply for a passport. They have to wait to try through naturalization I guess? But this means, even if the wife works, pays for everything, she can't own a house unless it is somewhere like the Wave in her own name, she may very well have to be on a tourist visa and driving forever and ever through the borders, and to me, this just does not make sense. Clarity in legislation does not exist here.

This makes it iffy for laws concerning journalism, marriage, and even business.

I am happy coloured abayas are in, and I haven't heard any fatwas that they shouldn't be. Thanks Oman for that at least.
History-wise, again, I love Oman. Few places in the Gulf (excepting war-torn Yemen perhaps, and difficult KSA) have such a rich natural environment, combined with the architecture and history of Oman.

Sadly, conservation of archaeological and architectural history is quite limited to forts. The new national museum is a step in the right direction, but preserving places like old Nizwa, Mirbat, old Sinaw, Al Hamra and Misfah Al Abriyeen in Oman has been very badly done. Omanis who own the houses should not have to give up or contract out their heritage in order to preserve it, I'm sorry, because that doesn't work for things unless they are museums or forts. You need solutions that get Omanis into the tourism industry in other ways. And, say for those rare Omanis, who want to live in their old ruinous houses? There is NO FUNDING for them in terms of housing loans because of the laws. Say you want to turn a heritage listed residential home into a hotel, shop, or restaurant? Many of the laws governing the opening of such places do not necessarily accommodate heritage-graded buildings so these places end up falling down.

Because of the recent economic slow-down, the free provision of sarooj, mud, palm and beams by the Heritage Ministry is also on hold, so I expect to see another two or three of these buildings I enjoy seeing fall away in the next couple of years.
Hospitality-wise I have nothing to complain about. Omanis are still as friendly as ever, at least to me. I get invited to weddings and tea by neighbors, even the daughters of the neighbors who hate us in Muscat.

I still hate the segregation of the sexes at dinners and stuff if one is married to an Omani. If one is living the village life, men and women have very separate hours and I just hate that, and will never, ever like it ever. Some of my husband's male relatives are realizing that they can sit and have tea in the same room as my husband and I and that's great, because it is only awkward because they think my husband or I will be upset over it, and I can talk to men. I have no problem with most subjects that people are brave enough to venture in a family living room while having tea, I'm afraid.

I don't like that if I make dinner though, I sit and eat it with guests, and not my husband. I am like, ugh can't we go back to like, at least medieval seating, and we share a table, and the guests can sit on two sides, one for women, and one for men, or something? I dunno. Because this doesn't work for me.

I don't hate guests. I hate having no time for my family, my husband and kids, because of guests. So I don't get guests because I have told them I hate this. Which isn't really what I want exactly you know?

I also just cannot wear hijab in my own home (or someone else's if we are visiting) for 20 hours of the day. I hate it.  I love my hijab, I just don't love wearing it at home.  This is the less major issue about guests.
Weather-wise I don't really hate the summer. When there is a breeze it is lovely. It is a time to swim in the ocean, swim in a wadi, go atv-ing, go jet-skiing, go to the islands in a boat, or to like, camp up Jebel Shams or something. If you have money, malls and movies are great. Like don't shop all the rest of the year. You'll have money to be crazy in summer.

If you're broke like me, you'll read a lot. I sew. I paint. I write. I am learning to bake. I am trying to not to need to go outside too much in the day.

I hate that the car ACs always break in summer, if they are going to break though. I hate that house ACs leak in the summer if they are going to leak. I don't hate but I dislike that my own seat-belt does occasionally burn me. Actually, I seem to be one of the few people who does not hate summer in Oman I guess. I just wish my husband's vacation from work was in the winter not the summer. I don't think it is harder to work during the summer.
Natural-life? Uhhh. Oman's wildlife doesn't really affect me. I am sort of like meh. But I don't why this bugs me, but I hate that every single bird in Oman looks ugly to me because it always has its mouth open, like it is really thirsty. I don't know why, but this bugs me. I consider re-setting the satellite more of a Khaleeji safari.

Arabic dramas mostly bug me. What the hell if the problem with these people? Always divorcing their wife because their mother doesn't like her (for no reason whatsoever) or making all second- and third wives look like Disney villains somehow. Kuwaiti soap-operas are the worst really. The reactions of people are so unrealistic. I kind of like the Bedouin-revenge dramas, but other than those.... yikes. I find myself agreeing with crazy Saudi Muftis and Muttawa blaming tv for ruining Khaleeji women;p and hating on Mahaned from that Turkish drama show. But my re-casting of Mahaned would make those dudes go REALLY mad. Re-cast as non-handsome Indian or Bangladeshi menial laborer, who is still kind and romantic, and have women still love him. That would vastly improve the show to me, and would really say something about what is happening in Kuwait and KSA;).

Another safari is the handling of any court-case.Trying to take someone to court in Oman is like, a combination of everything I hate about Oman. Inefficiency. How can every judge in the country be on vacation at the same time for one thing? I dunno.

That's my rant for the summer of 2017.  Oh, and that I can't protest the war in Yemen here outside the Saudi and Emirati embassies without getting arrested and possibly deported for it. I mean, Oman isn't fighting in Yemen, but there is a super bad cholera outbreak there right now. They need clean water. Oman could drive right in, but SOME countries are still bombing the crap out of roads and hospitals, and villagers.  So life, could be worse right?

xoxo
-OPNO

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

KHALEEJI ABAYAS: Cheap/Affordable Ready-Made Abaya Shopping in Oman

So I am kinda of childishly excited because I bought myself some new (albeit cheap) abayas the other day, which I haven't done in what seems like centuries, and the tailor should be about done with them.

I bought a dark chocolate brown one, and a navy blue one, because I wore those colours a lot before I became a Muslim (I never wore black really). It was cream and brown when other people would do black, or white even. With kids now, white still is tempting but unrealistic, and cream the same. My kids are abaya and dishdasha destroyers.

The brown one is front-open kimono as pictured below. Very simple. I got the tailor to do up the overly long length and sleeves, and add snaps at the wrists so they don't fly open unless I want to wear long sleeves. Which in summer, in Muscat, I do not want. No I do not. I bought it for a little more than 15 omr which amounts to about $40.00 USD ready made, and I paid around $4.00 USD to tailor it.
I may take the time to embellish it somehow. Maybe wooden beads or abalone bits or something, I dunno. Maybe I'll leave it plain. Whatever turns out working best.
I love brown. I also love navy. I knew I needed a navy abaya for a long time. I wanted a super simple one. I knew I would want to embellish it with pearls. My navy one cost 21.000 OMR which is like, $55.00 USD I guess? It is front open, with kimono sleeves, and a ruffle from the shin down. I'll photo them this August I guess. I still need to shop. I haven't shopped for myself in at least a year. I've been too busy or too broke because of paying for my house. I am serious. I bought some shoes and a scarf or two because I had to, and that's been about it. I am excited like a little kid. I used to dress well and now, that claim would make people laugh.

Also, I found some vintage dresses, and I'll be doing more antique and vintage shopping this summer. I am super excited. I am a total cheap-skate but I love the art of couture and designer fashion for sure. That's why I learned how to bead and embroider myself. I still suck at sewing and cutting patterns, alas. I try but I think I also suck at measuring;).
People ask where I find cheap ready-made abayas, and the answer varies. Sometimes Sohar or Seeb have family shopping exhibitions. These have abayas from UAE that are generally out of style and crappily made that are cheap from 8-15 omr (I won't pay more than that for one of them, ever). You can search around though, and find a nice one or two in not so terrible fabric, with maybe just bad snaps or something, and no shayla. I barter well. NO shayla? Give me rial or two off for that. Bad snaps, another half rial. Length too long, another half rial.

I sometimes find abayas at Lulu (Nizwa one mostly) and Mars hypermarket (Barka one). Yeah. Really. But only do this if you know the styles from the tailors ALREADY and what is in style, or you'll end up looking stupid, paying too much, and if you don't know abaya fabrics, never ever do it. Please. You'll save yourself a lot of sweat, and the world a whole lot of ugliness. I've seen good abayas here from 15-25 omr. Don't pay more than 25 omr for an abaya from an Indian grocery store chain please, because the tailors can make you a nice one for less than that, perfectly.

I also know a tailor (he's not great but he's cheap) near the Al Mawaleh vegetable souq who tailors abayas in a week for like only 3 rial an abaya (or less) if you bring all the fabric. He's not perfect so you may not want to bring him your expensive fabrics, and give a little bit more time (like another week) if he screws up your design, but he's okay for basics.

Mutrah souq has one or two shops that sell ready-made abayas. I've bartered some for 15 omr. They are usually 21-45 omr. I sometimes lie and say I have only 15 omr, but am just looking and love it and wish I could buy it. Then they give it to me for what I have. I try not bring a lot of cash into the souq. I can walk to a bank machine if I need more, that way I am not lying too badly. I really do only have like 17 omr in my purse afterall, and I need to 2 omr for like water, and parking right???? :).

Rustaq souq is the same but better, but requires an Arabic speaker and you not to look like a tourist.

Omani women swear by Buraimi abaya souq. It is close to Dubai. It has all the styles that are not quite stylish enough for Dubai but that are totally still awesome in Oman I guess? I dunno. I wear what I like. Anything 4-6 years out of style in terms of pattern or embroidery and beading will be in style again soon if you wear it like you love it, so I have found in Arab countries;). I don't like Buraimi that much though. I never find anything, but the Omani women I go with find armloads they like so it depends I guess on you.

You can also ask random tailor shops. I found one in Seeb Mall, by asking, that let me by the floor samples, and he'd even fit them for me, for 21-25 omr. Same in Barka Souq and Ghubra area. You have to ask. Sometimes you'll find, and it may not even be the shop, but the tailor on shift there.

Next post I do on ready-made abaya shopping, I will include the luxe places or middle value shops I like to browse and shop for treat abayas. I need to visit the stores again though. I haven't been in a while, sorry.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Our blog (mis)mentioned in "Asia Inside Out" by Harvard Press

In the chapter of Asia Inside Out entitled "Marriage and the Management of Place in Southern Arabia" written by Mandana E. Limbert, our blog is mentioned as a reference.

Odd to use, especially the 2010 ramblings of three crazy, 20-something American, and Canadian girls, as an academic reference without interview, in something published by Harvard, but hey, I've worked in academia, I know social science is a fake science. I can let it go.

...Although I am offended the author purports our blog "aims at "European" women looking to formalize their marriages with Omani men (and also gain Omani citizenship)".

This is total B.S., and not our blog's aim. Our blog is about us, our lives, our thoughts, our mad ramblings, our guide to our lives, and love, in Oman.

It is not about helping Europeans marry Omani men, or get citizenship.

They also said the blog is founded by "European Women." One of our original authors, an American, would find that complimentary I suppose, but me, as a CANADIAN, I don't. I feel, again, belittled and misrepresented. Expat living in Oman but growing up around Arabs even in Canada, isn't very European, hate to break it to you. Anyways.

We have written about marriage laws, about our marriages, about the madness of contemplating all that due the current and past restrictions, but seriously? This as the aim of the entire blog? A blog about our lives, and life in Oman? As if men would be the total aim of a blog about such. As if marriage would be the total aim of a blog about such. I found that assumption and statement to be belittling. Not that my work on the blog is greatly researched, or provides something to literature, or anything substantial. But it is a blog. If you are gonna write about something, fact check your statements and assumptions. Also, the author probably already knows this, and was scraping the bottom of the barrel, but blogs aren't the BEST reference for academic articles.

I did like how the author used all the viewpoints from our comments sections about the marriage laws. I like that the author mentions how the majority of Muslim European and North-American women find these laws to be un-islamic. I do dislike that they use a rambling rant post about slavery/being able to marry as something legit for the article. That was a rant post written by someone really depressed, not a fact-based post. Come on Harvard. This is social sciences, not Juliard auditions, why go for drama?

BTW, that Saudi Sheikh written for a fatwa did reply. He said modern slavery can't exist, because dividing up slaves was stated as only to be done by the Prophet Mohammed himself, and that Muslim women born free cannot be made slaves by other Muslims. FACT CHECK please. ANYWAYS... that was always a little random rant meant to dramatize the whole horrible issue of the laws, not to be anything people would quote for any scientific or educational purpose lol.

The article itself proposes that the author researched on maids marrying Omani men in Bahla especially. If true, okay, great. That is useful, collected information. It mentions the laws. Again, useful information. It also mentions other blogs, while I never read them, I feel like they were maybe misrepresented as our blog was, for the sake of adding "spice" to the chapter.

STOP ORIENTALIZING everything, please. If you are a legit legal researcher or anthropologist writing about Oman's marriage laws, I suggest surveys of the Omani populations' opinions about marriage laws, and qualitative interviews with some selected subjects. Combine this with comparative studies from other Gulf states, like KSA, Kuwait, and UAE and bam, you are legitimate Academic gold, baby.

...But, if you want to mention our blog, we do interviews for anthropologists. Always have, always will;). We have a contact email. Marriage laws in Khaleeji/Gulf states suck. We'd like to help high-light that, but not make European women and all Asian housemaids look like desperate-to-stay romantic or pragmatic money-grubbing losers that will "do anything to stay" like the article comes across like.

So, will I buy the book?

Maybe, I dunno. I only read the one chapter. But do I trust everything printed by social scientists from Harvard Press? Obviously not;).

Academics. If you can't blind them with brilliance, then baffle them with bull-shit;). That has been my experience working in academia anyways lol, so all is forgiven Mandana E. Limbert. We know what an "overly honest methods" for social scientists bit would look, like don't we?

Motorcross in Oman, and ATV-ing in Oman

Motorcross is something that my male cousins did/do. It is not something that I ever got into, due to how many broken bones and spectacular wipe-outs we [insert-family name] were already famous for, without adding my inelegance and penchant for clutz to the sport.

I did go-karting occasionally. I drove an atv around a family property because it was big and that's how one hauled stuff on that kind of acreage, but I never really got into any one kind of motorsport, truly.  And my Uncle did crash all us kids into a tree in an ATV once, and that really, really hurt.

My sister was the girl who drifted. My cousins the ones who did rally-driving or motor-cross races. I am the girl who never even got her DL for a street car.

As my son is getting bigger though, I thinking about getting into motorcross. He loves ATV-ing, but as I live in Seeb area, and I disagree with people ATV-ing on the beach, I wonder, beyond the one farm near us, where will he ride if we did get him an ATV?

But is it motorcross bikes and motorcycles that truly make his little eyes light up.

Maybe not motorcross racing for a kid under ten of course, but the bikes are fun. It looks like something that would genuinely fun to do in Oman (being that there are less trees here). Of course, same issue applies. How to haul the bikes (i.e can our car pull them on a trailer etc.) or where can he ride?

Searching online I found feww ell-publicized sporting events, but I assume that the Omani Automobile Association can better update members than they do their websites and such? Anyways, when the school season starts for the kids, I'll check out what I can about bike prices, places to ride, and events.

So far, I just know ATV-ing. On the road from Seeb to the Wave there's one place. Little bikes are 5 omr for 40 min, two-seaters are 10 for 40 min. The guys there usually give us around 50 min. . Boushar sand dunes area the bikes are located just after Muscat Grand Mall towards the Al Amerat road. Hourly rentals here (60 min) range from 6 omr to 30 omr depending on the type of ATV. My co-wife swears she's argued for 5 omr rentals here, but maybe because I don't speak Arabic no one gives me this price? I dunno. So, rental prices make the argument towards buying our own ATVs for sure, since they are fun even when it is hot out, provided I learn what repair costs for them are. Everything costs more in Muscat;).
And, in case you are wondering, ATV-ing is totally easy to do in abaya. Like if you don't want to wear front-open styles just rent the 10 omr two-seater and voila, modest driving. They even let women in Saudi do it;) ;p. Motorcross on the other hand, as I've said, I've never tried, and so, have not managed to see how easy it is to do in hijab.

I promise to do some research on this and get back to y'all in future.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

The Simple Life, Laundry Days: Hand-washing in the Falaj

I hand-wash a lot. I can also balance one of those big plastic tubs on my head. I suit the village life, in so many ways, except for socially I suppose. Sigh....Still, I love my front-loading fully-automatic washing machine. Which is why I have time to blog and am not still doing laundry today I suppose ;).