Wednesday, October 7, 2015

EYE-CANDY: Modern Shades of Grey, Silver, and Gold

DAILY DIARY: on my calendar, Pink Tea at the Grand Hyatt Muscat October 8th & 28th

On the daily diary of events I intend to attend this month, is the Pink Tea at the Grand Hyatt. The event is on Thursday October 8th and Wednesday October 28th from 3pm-8pm. I will attend on the 28th most like, though no set time yet. Maybe two of us OPNOs will go, depending on work, husbands, kids ect... probably at 4 or 5pm. The event is to benefit the Oman Cancer Association, so yeah, I'll forgo the champagne, but who can't be a lady for a couple hours to eat some cake and drink some tea for a good cause?

That would make my father laugh, since he and I rarely ever donated anything to cancer research or charities ect... He isn't a man to attend charity functions, unless it was to work in a food bank and feed people dinner on Christmas eve.

Despite having many female relatives (and the Shatti girls of Muscat) who firmly intended that this OPNO girl become one of those women who lunch, who have no work other than to care about other people, I was raised by my father to be the very opposite of that.

Yes, yes, I still did the whole cottilion thing, and I do have a thing for porcelain tea sets, and embroidered white napkins (perferrably monogrammed), and I love tea and petit fours and macaroons and alllllllll that. Let it be said that I am an old-fashioned "elitist" or a "snob" when it comes to fashion or interior design and beautiful traditions like afternoon tea, but at least you can't say that about me, when it comes to politics, religion, people or work, and that's something I owe entirely to my father.

My father likes a cup of tea. In a mug. Paper napkins are more his thing. He thinks, what is the point of a macaroon or a petit four when you can have an entire cake for the same price. He'd never do a charity lunch. If he was gonna help people, he'd do it in person, with his own hands. He does soup kitchen, builds houses for people, helps people, drives people places. That's my Dad.

Yet, there's some things, you can't help with in person, or with just your own hands. Things like Cancer.

My father met my mother when she was a single unmarried mother (and she didn't have the excuse of being a widow--or a divorcee-as my grandmother would insist I mention) with a  baby. He taught me to value people for what they are capable of, not where they've come from or who they've been, despite where he'd come from.

When my brother was tragically killed (he didn't die, he was killed) my father married my mother, even though he knew she was never the same person after that event. Suicidal, occasionally violent, incapable of dealing with grief or anger or forgiving... which is why they eventually divorced... and then got married again, and divorced again... and why he helps her out and feels sorry for her even though he shouldn't anymore.

She had more kids (of which I was one) and she stayed home as a housewife, while my father worked. I was a little Princess. There is no toy or dress I did not get. I was one of those kids who got a pony and thought I was hard done by when my father said no to ballet lessons but got me leotards and tutus and leg warmers to play dress up in instead (he knew I generally have no follow-through for stuff like karate or horse-riding or figure skating so ballet would be another waste). I don't really know how much of that was my mother and how much of that was my father but I am certain, my father thought it was a bad idea and I was spoiled but the money came from him.

When it came down to it, he took us on without my mother, and us (as youngins) and as teens. Spoiled, stubborn, independent persons already. Yet he managed. He learned to brush hair into ponytails, he built dollhouses, taught us how to do dishes, and to value money and to work. He told us about driving, about buying a house, what to buy what not to buy.

My mother taught me how to dream, but my father taught me how not to live in dreams but how to build them. When to love something, and when to let it go, even love when it is not enough or unhealthy.

When I became a Muslim he was deeply disapointed in me, because he taught me to study religion and cultures, and peoples, not in prejudice or preference of any of them. To him, one does not need a book to guide one to right, and good and justice, but that these things are in all of us. We should know right from wrong. Loving one another, being brave, defending weak people, that's what everyone knows is right, he says.

I wish that were true, but my experience tells me other. Perhaps I don't believe that people have that, that perhaps even me, I have more bad than good, so I need a book with hopes and dreams more than my knowledge of what my own inner self allows me;).

Anyways, when he came to Oman, all the Muslims that he met (especially women--- for Omani women sure do tend to admire a man who raises daughters alone) fell in love with him and told me how lucky I was to have a father like him. They say of him, if he was a Muslim, what a Muslim he would be!

He laughs when I tell him this. He said if he had a holy book, then maybe he'd twist words as an excuse to be lazy or less than what is in his heart already.

His heart thinks tea should be had in a mug. That food should come on heaping platters if you pay more than 6 rials for a main. The father who (despite admitting he hates the idea of being gay himself) once stood up alone armed only with a stick, to a drunk mob of guys from my town who were lighting a house on fire to get a gay friend of mine to come out so they could beat the kid up to a pulp or worse. My father at that moment, gave me the fighting advice: "Go for the leader and act like you're crazy, that's the only chance that you have with a mob". He could hang curtains, buy cars, build walls, re-do a bathroom plumbing electricity tiling, all, do stone masonry, take out a torch and make a metal gazebo or garage frame or what have you. He loved sailing, but sold his sailboat so my mother could have a house for us, even after they divorced and she took his first house then couldn't afford its upkeep.

His heart tells him to fight to save people or get their basic rights even it meant getting thrown into jail or losing his job or even physically hurt. He gets mad at me when I do the same of course, if I risk a job or comfort or safety doing what I know is right and must be done by someone, so why not me if I know it? But I got that from him...

...The father who saves and then, finds out that he is dying, doesn't just spend all his money on himself, but gives it away to those in his life who need it. Who he thinks honour and duty and him to first, then those whose need is greatest if there is any left over.

I laugh and tell him, if he beats this and lives, he's gona have nothing at all left, and he's welcome to come stay with me, in the house he helped me buy.

My father says I am judgemental. Because I judge people by how I think they should behave. I do. But how I think people should behave comes from the example I have seen in my father. Honour, duty, charity, harsh plain truth, seeking knowledge, doing plain honest work, not expecting anything from anyone but yourself, being brave when you must or know no one else will. That's my father, that's my dad, and there's really nothing I or anyone else can do to fight or defend or help him these days. Nothing much he can do either, except letting a bunch of Muslims pray for him, even though he doubts in their prayers.

My father is sick and dying of cancer. As a Muslim, since he is not a Muslim, I am so sad. He has lived longer than most, and actually some of the only practical research towards a cure pertinent to his kind of cancer is being done in Oman. I was going to blog about that research but one of the other OPNO girls is actually doing that kind of work so I'll let her do it.

So while I never much gave thought to cancer research (or medical research) as something to put any charity time or money towards, when there's starving people in the world, people in physical danger in the world, people freeezing to death in the world, or simple troubles people I know need quick fixes for, I guess it is. Because some things they had no cure for 20 years ago, they have a cure for now, and maybe in ten years, there'll be a cure for things they have no cure for now.

That'd be grand, if some girl whose father was like mine, didn't have to deal with the depressing news that my family got. That there is nothing beyond miracles that exists to be done or to try at this time.

So, for all the fathers and mothers or family members or friends who either enabled you to be a lady who lunches, or taught you how to be a lady who can buy and make her own lunch, a little tea at the Hyatt in their honour (even if you have to keep it a secret from them because they'd say its stupid) is something I will do my damndest to make it to this October the 28th.

Because I always see my father sipping his cup of tea by the fireplace, telling me about his day, or discussing the news, and all the small but important lessons that make a person gleaned from that small but precious time.

Sorry for this long post (wipes a tear) it wasn't meant to be this long or rambling.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Funky Arabian Design on a Smaller Scale

When I think of modern/contemporary Arabian design, with a funky edge to it, but for a smaller space, I think of Riad Cinnamon, in Marrakesh, for inspiration. Why?
Well, at Riad Cinnamon there really is a very clever use of space. Most Moroccan Arabian design tends to be of a grand scale, and well, while that is lovely for a hotel, few of us have ceilings that reach two stories and double doors of double height. At this particular Riad, rooms of regular height are made cosy with rich warm romantic colours and moderating neutrals, with minimal decorative touches.
Equally small spaces, but that with higher ceilings, make the maximum use of the available space. Lofts, created by the unexpected addition of steep but lovely staircases,  lead to seperate bedroom or living areas, carved out of the space of a tall but smaller room. I can see myself peacefully reading a book or snoring away up there (or down those stairs, vice versa).
Even the bathrooms make a clever use of space, fitting the sink and cabinet on the same wall seperating the shower area (or toilet) for privacy (always a luxury)----and it looks nice too!
The funkiness comes from the bold colour palette of acid green, oceanic blue, and deep orchid purples and mauves for the bedding and upholstery and on accent walls and architectural features. ....That, contrasted against a near neutral beige on the walls (at least partially---or on the ceilings) and black doors and deep dark brown shutters. It feels so young and fresh, and hip, and bold. Like adding cinnamon to a dish you wouldn't expect any spice to;).

Friday, September 25, 2015

Eid's Not so Bad

My husband sent me these photos today, after the last post I made;). The caption was, "Eid's Not So Bad"... Which does mean of course, his English is getting better, that, or he watched an episode of Little Mosque on the Prairie on youtube, called "Eid's a Wonderful Life" and figured you can use Eid for it's.
Eid swag, Omani male style

Monday, September 21, 2015

Life and Eid in Oman: Have I Reached That Typical Nervous Western-Expat-to-Omani-Wife Breakdown Point?

I love Oman, don't get me wrong. It is never cold here. I can wear open-toe shoes (or even flip flops) to work. I drink fresh juice, see amazing culture, get to photograph and design some awesome stuff. Alot of Muslim women I know would be so satisfied with the life I lead, the family I have, the stuff I have, the place I am in, surrounded by mosques, hearing the call to prayer everyday, safe, and still relatively free to move about and do my own thing. I know this. I am not an ingrate.

But maybe I am having a breakdown? I recently freaked out on my Omani husband (who I love dearly and beats any lad from back home by like 100,000,000 meters) saying I hated my life here, it was boring, and I was wasting away!!!! And how I didn't like Eid at all, and since I didn't get like, family Christmas, as I didn't want to spend my Eid cutting meat, wearing stupid hot clothes I don't like (wearing a scarf even around other women ALLLLLL the bloody freakin' time), and sitting politely eating food that just doesn't cut it for me (rice, harees, shuwa---all lovely things but not what I want as a treat on a holiday). And having little privacy, since, like, we don't have a house in his village so I depend on others for the freedom to use their kitchen and when to come and go. I love his family. I like their food. They must think I hate them, but really I don't. It is just hard for me. They don't know, really, what I gave up. Since I don't contact my family or friends much unless someone is sick or dying or getting married and never go home, I must not have much to miss right?

But for me, things I miss, are usually better kept in the back of the mind, away from speaking about, thinking about, going on about. But Eid makes me miss (not another life) but another way of living.

Of course, my Omani husband knows, if I go back to my home country, I hate it there even more. Islamaphobia, racism, orientalism, of my religion, drive me to commit crimes (serrious) or to feel depressed and not want to go out, the cold eats away at my soul and disturbs my health, and the bleakness of being surrounded by polite hypocrisy and deliberate ignorance... it does something very bad to me, eats out the core of me, wounds me, in a way that has not healed yet. Maybe I could live in Ireland? Even though everybody there was pretty much Catholic, they were a lot nicer than home. If someone doesn't like something, they say it, and that's the end of it. I like that. But mostly people don't have opinions on what they don't know, and are otherwise friendly, and that's nice. But the cold.... Nope, I couldn't do it. Plus supersitious people never like me. Something about my family ancestry (we've got banshees or Jinn or what have you attached to us and all our husbands are doomed). Whatever, its nonsense. Marriages are doomed because of much less, I feel. I guess that's why Grandma Grace went away...

But when I compare how I lived there compared to here, is it any wonder I am bored? Or feel I am being wasted?
In the city I had bookshops, vintage clothing, antique shopping, boulangeries, pattiseries, delis, restaurants (that didn't eat up my salary the way eating out in Oman does), architecture, museums, art, parks, gardens, race tracks (horses and cars)... literally I could just walk around and watch my life go by there. If people were better (or less ignorant or cruel) I might have. I didn't even photograph stuff there, or blog much. I had a very full life. I enjoyed it.

In the country I had camping, boating, hiking, biking, off-roading, painting, writing, reading, bookshops too, shooting, hunting, fishing (didn't like to do this but some people do), surfing (I suck), skiing, skating, hockey, motorcross (I only watched), rugby, soccer/football, riding, drinking (some people do too much of this and as a Muslim I refrain of course), and family. I mean, we country (even if it is weekend and holiday only) girls can rock climb, swim, ride, shoot, build a fire, get a 4x4 winched, change tires, paint our own apartments, fix stuff... In Oman, I don't get to do much of this. Not that I CAN'T in abaya and hijab (because I can surf in my get-up and that's hard) but because it isn't "done" or easy or available here. Below are some pics of one of my bestfriend B, doing all the stuff I miss (and I mean, we women did these things on our own, not always with brothers and guy friends and husbands---we didn't just have coffee and shop and sit around dressed up drinking tea):
Now, to Arabs, our Western family is different. When we are close with our family that is. Unlike Arabs, the men and women mix. By mixing, I mean we talk (not about everything but most stuff) I know all my cousins, male, and was friends (as in I spoke to them and knew generally about the details of their lives) with them growing up or thought of them like an Uncle if they were older than me (I still wear hijab in front of them). I have a larger family. My mother comes from a family of thirteen (they were Catholic), and my father from a family of five boys, all of whom married and had kids but one brother. We visit each other every other weekend, if we live close by eachother. Every holiday (Christmas, birthdays, Anniversaries, Easter, Weddings, and Government holidays) we get together, usually for food, drinking, talking, giving presents, and occasionally dancing (though no one in my family but Grandma Grace could sing so we weren't that musical and she didn't believe women should sing in front of crowds so...).
Why I like our holidays in general weddings and Christmases better, is simply because the sexes are not seperated maybe? I can see my husband, feel like a family, share conversation together (which trust me, really is better when it isn't a bunch of women in a group talking about the same polite stuff over and over again ----usually). There are foods and snacks I like. My family gets into ridiculous silly debates. People have memorable contests (like who can catch a watermelon thrown up into the air on a knife point). We relax. We laugh together. We know eachother.

Somehow I feel, that most people for Eid in Oman, are being someone else for their family. Like, they put on their best appearence when they go to village or something, and there's things they don't say, and stuff they don't talk about, and I feel, even if I could speak Arabic, maybe somehow my husband's family would like me less then. Because I have stories, and not a very quiet soul.

Weddings are better because my father can be there with me, and my husband. It isn't like a formal-dress sleepover girls' party, which are kind of what Omani women's weddings are like. It feels... showey... like a photography stunt, or... again something distant. I like having a first dance with my father then with my husband. I like sitting and eating with my husband if I am getting married. I don't want to be alone on a chair with everyone looking at me as a bride... I'd hate that. I'd like for my uncles to make stupid speaches and tease my husband as I know they would. I'd like my husband's family to see how properly my family behave together even mixed (so long as you keep beer and wine away lol).

And family when there is no occasion... I meet my uncles for coffee, go for walks or garden with my Aunts (or paint their house, or makeover an old coffee table we bought at a used store). I have tea with my father, and talk about the news and books we've read. I go to the movies with my sister, and shop (and fight with her publically there;) ).

I think, even an unhappy marriage survives longer in this lifestyle. I could go out and walk places (and there was public transport). I could spend my days in museums and art galleries, reading, window-shopping, sewing stuff, painting stuff, fixing stuff. Here... that's all very expensive or impossible.

My marriage is happy here so my husband asks me if I didn't have to work or constantly mind the kids and had money to do all this stuff... would it be better? I have to watch out, because maybe he is secretly asking me (jealous stupid Omani man that he is), would I have been happier if I married that rich guy who asked me to marry him, who I would rather-be-hit-by-a-bus -than-marry, to have a better lifestyle.... I don't think it would. That would just be less stressful. It wouldn't solve the artifice  and lack of free-movement of Omani-society-tribal-family-based life I encounter outside the walls of our nuclear home. It wouldn't make it okay for us to do our own thing for Eid. It wouldn't make antique stores and easy DIY projects, etc... and cheap entertainment, suddenly appear.

What is the solution for this rant? I don't know. I am still searching for the answer to that, but I can't brush it aside and say that is simply homesickness, or have others erringly define it as regret for the choices I have made.