Friday, December 31, 2010
Thank you nice Sharqiyah family who drove as all the way to the real road!
All the way there, Princess and OPNO were chanting, "We're going to Sinaw, we're going to sinaw" and MOP was singing Dhofari traditional songs, about pearls, "Da da dana" or something, and not-so-traditional songs from Salalah, about a young Dhofari lad at the Univeristy begging the security guard to let him in to see a girl, because he was a changed man, although not related to the girl.
Radio does not work once you hit the mountains.
Well, it was a nice trip, lots of driving. We left late though, so really, it is better to leave at 6 or 7 am from Muscat on the Nizwa road to get to the traditional souq in Sinaw if you want to see it for what it is. 9 am until 11 am is the best time to see Souq Sinaw.
Thankfully, we still checked out the going price on camels for meat and for riding. (We are poor folks, and racing camels, we do not need).
Though MOP told us a funny story about "racing camels" from back in the days when he worked with the Beduoin.
We mainly went to check out the Beduoin culture, and to see some real knives and khanjars. We also checked the prices on some antique rifles, cuz MOP wants one. OPNO REEEEAAALLLY wanted to buy some Sharqiyah traditional dresses but we came to late for that.
We did buy a decent box of tomatoes though, for only 1 rial, lol, and checked out a Mandoos tv cabinet which was totally cool for one of the rooms in one the OPNO girl's places.
After the Souq sinaw closed, and the most sensitive OPNO had petted her fair share of camels and goats, getting excited everytime she saw a Toyato pick up with two camels haunched in the back yelling at them "Hi sweeties!!!!!!" to the chagrin of MOP, the group headed to Nizwa by way of Adam, haunted by sign advertised Adam's horse racetrack, where they explored the Niwa souq there and had lunch in a grand coffee shop. (The red one) acroos from the mountain that kind of looks like a dragon sleeping or a stegasaurus (sorry, my directions SUCK without pictures). Perfect meal, for only three rials et al. Yummy.
For all ya'll who have never seen the most famous fort (I don't know why, I don't love it all that much though it has some great cannons) (maybe cuz there are ALWAYS busloads of tourists here so shopping for a decent price is hard): Nizwa fort, open Saturday to Thursday, from 9 am until 4pm, and Fridays, 8:00 am until 11:00 am.
They also explored an Islamic book shop, looking for a book explaining Ibadhi fiqh, and bought some Salat lecture cassette tapes in the Ibadhi madhab. This is a religious thing. If you're not Islamically inclined, ignore.
After that, they THOUGHT of driving through Izki, but decided to save that for another day, and headed back to Muscat on the Nizwa road way.
OPNOs practiced their reading of Arabic under the tutelage of MOP who was aghast that the girls could not read "Fanja" since they knew all the letters, and at home they watched four movies, two of which were terrible, picked by MOP, and one that was okay, picked by Princess, and one that was excellent, of course, picked by OPNO. ;p take THAT MOP.
What is the difference for an Omani man, of being married to an expat wife, as opposed to an Omani wife, from his tribe?
Husband says to the Omani wife, "Come here, habibti, I want to show you something."
Oman wife comes.
Omani Husband says to the Expat wife, "Come here, Honey, I want to show you something."
Expat wife [okay, it's a defensive OPNO] screams, "You can't make me!"
Husband says, during an expedition shopping for household goods in the Souq, "I really think this one is nice."
Omani wife, puts it in the basket, and they buy it.
Husband says, during an expedition shopping for household good in the Souq, "I really think this one is nice, and you said wanted soft and warm and not too expensive."
Expat wife [looks at Husband like he's an idtiot]. "And I also said NOT UGLY. Nothing THAT ugly is going on my bed." [They leave with nothing].
Wednesday, December 29, 2010
True that. Believe me folks, I found this out from the good women of Saudi Arabia themselves.
The girls (from the Kingdom) back West in our clique said, for a fee, Saudi Arabia will give them a full lisence without being tested and having NO EXPERIENCE whatsoever driving.
Hmmm, you say? Wouldn't that truly be dangerous?
Is this to prove once and for all that the religious idiots there were right, once and for all, that it is too dangerous for Saudi Arabian women to drive?
Nope. Just a classic contradiction based on corruption.
Women are not allowed to drive IN Saudi Arabia, but with no test or driving experience WHATSOEVER they are given international driving lisences for their country of study, ie Europe, Uk, US, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada.
Anyways, I am TOTALLY thinking about buying an old historical house on Nakhl and restoring it with the help of an Omani friend, so really, the trip was to see what was available, and how much it would cost as a reno project. You can buy the place for 5000 OMR, but I mean, if the walls are going to cave in on you, and you need to out in elecricity and bathrooms, it is gonna be a little more than that, like another 10 000 OMR at least, and if the walls are gonna cave, you need that 10, 000 to start.
So, we bought mishkeek (grilled lamb on a skewer) by the fort like we always do at magraib time if we are there, parked at the hot springs, and wandered up the river (found a donkey and some Omani men praying magraib), and then turned back to the food shops. Behind them is a road to the village, and walking through here really isn't a touristy thing to do. They don't take buses of tourists through the old part of the village, but me and my friend were on the hunt for old houses. So we found some, which were really nice and in good shape, but we also got lost, and two Omani boys had to drag up back to the car park. Because we are sooooo awesome, and well, my friend has the worst memory in the world, and a bad habit that often results in getting lost of wanting to find "a different way" back. Most villages in Oman have just one road through them so the different way back? Doesn't exist!!!!!!
At least we saw alot of frogs, and my abaya got all muddy, and we nearly fell into the river:D
To get to Nakhl, my friend and I noted, there is no sign for the turn off on the road there, but there is a thing that looks like a little buse shelter, and a government building with a solely in Arabic sign, before one other turn off. I will take a picture for you all next time I go. This is where you turn to get to Nakhl. And you keep on driving straight, straight, straight through the town past the fort and shops, and through a winding stone fenced road of farms to the hot springs. At which point, there will actually BE a sign. Saying, well, you made it. This is it.
Well, this also happened to be the night of the party in Shatti. I was told the same day that it was a barbecue, and women only, so, you know, I dressed for a barbecue, the way I would back in the West. I wore a cute denim skirt, and a red blouse top, and cute sandals, nothing fancy, since, well, we'd be barbecuing right? My abaya was the same one I wore to Nakhl, and it is an abaya that cost only 7 rials, plain black, three snap Islamiyia style.
For all those curious about Omani women's parties.
At Omani women's barbecue parties, the Omani women sit in lovely designer casual wear on bright cushions or plastic blow up chairs on carpets spread out on the lawn, with their hair all perfect under christmas lights strewn across the villa's walls so no one can see under, and a very strange English hip-hop meets Hilary Duff with Arabic music thrown in CD plays, and the maids all barbecue. This is a wear your most stylish abaya barbecue.
As I come in I hide my purse, because it is not Chanel, Gucci, or Louis Vuitton, and it is kind of dusty and scratched from my adventure in Nakhl. Girl's arrive in blinged out designer abayas, and to be honest, mine is the plainest one there. I have my fair share of glam abayas, but where I have moved, out of Muscat, nobody wears abayas like these friends of mine, and I'd be the odd one out if I dressed like I like to (like these girls and women). But with abaya off, and wearing clothes from a Western store unavailable in the GCC, no one knows that my sandals are not haute couture, or that my blouse isn't. My skirt could be Zara. And honestly, while these girls have money, they aren't snobs. They don't care.
Women go to certain carpets, based on what set they are in. There are the preteen girls in a gaggle together, the stylish young mothers with their babies all cooing together, a very glam Arabic speaking set that say hi to me in Arabic, and i sit with the multi-lingual set, where French, Arabic, and English are spoken, and people talk about Univeristy or travel, or my story of how I am in Oman. My friend R arrives and she alone laughs at my dress and abaya, and from her, it's okay, because she always teases me. "You're spending too much time in the village" she purred. I probably was. I was getting quieter, and listening more.
We drank Sun Top and Pepsi, and ate h'ordoerves, and then I wanted to take off my tights because it was too warm for tights, and all the bathrooms were full, so I was shown to another bathroom beyond the women-only section of the house, where I could change. I was left there, and I didn't take my purse (it being hidden and all due to it's lack of a good name or a material of quality).
Well, I guess a maid from the men's side of the house wanted to make sure no one used this part of the house in mistake so she locked the door to the rooms I was in from the outside.
So when I went to get out I was trapped. I banged on the door till my fists were red, and I screamed for help, and the houses in Shatti are serriously so big that no one could hear me. So I climbed the pipe in the bathroom to a window above that opened to the party outside and yelled help out there.
Thankfully, a maid heard me and came and got me. I spent one hour in the makeup and no one thought to look for me, because some women paint themselves white with makeup and it takes about an hour to put that stuff on anyways.
When I went to find the maid from the host to thank her, after we had the barbecue and awesome desert (real strawberry shortcake), the host didn't know the maid.
Apparently, if you are going to an Omani woman's barbecue in Shatti, you bring your maid. Go figure.
So leaving the party, my driver was too embarrassed by his car to park close to the house near everyone's Porsches. So I walked down the road, and asked him why, and he said, "The neighbors were looking at me funny, like why is this car in their neighborhood." I laughed, and went home. Even Shatti is an adventure for me, R would tell you.
On another day I went to Bait Naman in Barka, cuz I'd never been there, at the recomendation of an Omani family who owns the helwa (Omani sweet) factory there, and a few other places. They fed me 5 kinds of helwa before that (the only one I find tolerable is the abyad one with no milk), sprayed me with 5 kinds of perfume and two kinds of oud, and stuck bukhour up my dress, and then I headed out to Bait Naman, a 400 year old fortified house in Oman used for political meetings and such. It had some antiques inside, and alot of pigeons on the roof. Some of the antiue khanjars were nice. I didn't spend alot of time there, but there was an Omani family being given a personal tour of the house in Arabic by the caregiver.
After that, I think I slept. So, those are the highlights of this OPNO's long weekend.
Tuesday, December 28, 2010
MOP was telling me a story about a girl from Jebel Akhdar whose family married her when she was seventeen to an old man who was 80. She didn't really have a say, unless she wanted to be cast out by the tribe and family.
From my friend, we'll call her Rayan: "If we Omani girls go against our families, even if we commit no sin and do something that is good for us, it is as if we have committed adultery, or worse. No matter how good and liberal you think our families are. My mother loves you, but if you were her daughter, she'd never have allowed your marriage to MOP. Wrong tribe. Wrong job."
And Rayan is from Muscat.
I always say to myself, if I was her, the girl from Jebel Akhdar, I would have stood up for myself and run away, but if you don't have a job, and your family keeps you from learning the skills needed to provide for yourself, what can you do? And she didn't have any skills, just barely her schooling, so...
One of her male highschool teachers apparently thought to save her from this fate because he felt sorry for her in this situation, by marrying her as a second wife, but he didn't have the money for her maher.
He was a decent age, only fifteen years her senior, and kind I suppose, but I mean, doesn't a young girl deserve some options in life?
So I ask my husband about our sons and daughters. Ours sons could marry as they choose he says, even though his brother did not marry a [very white] Zanzibari girl he loved because of the fact that she was not "A Real Omani" and it could bring shame to the family, and no one would want to marry their daughters to the family anymore, and that it would be worse for them men of the family to marry a black skinned woman than to marry an Omani woman who did not wear a headscarf or abaya.
I get angry, wallah. This is not my religion. This is not Oman as I love Oman.
"What of our daughters?" I enquire. One always should, before marriage, if they want to know what kind of man their husband is.
My husband relents that he'd possibly allow a black man who was a good Muslim of good reputation who was amazingly secure and wealthy marry one of his daughters, but it would be unaccepted by the village. But in this case wealth was important because no one would accept them.
And then MOP was an idiot for a bit and tried to tell me that the Prophet Mohamed SAW never married his daughters to an African man or non Arab.
"He said "Salman Al Farsi [a Persian] is of my family!"" I retort to such tactics in anger.
MOP nods in agreement and says that is why he loves me, that he WANTS me to change some things in his village, after I stop BEING the change. Right now he is the person bringing the change. I am scary CHANGE incarnate Bwahahaha. I am here people, and you can't scare me away with gossip, and fear that your husbands will all marry white women. Because don't worry, they won't. Most of your husbands have smaller minds than you.
Forgive the bitterness, it will go in time.
I just chant to myself. "I love Oman. I love Oman. I love Oman."
Believe me. One white woman is enough change for his village at this time I suppose. And they like white skin.
I've had to sister in laws ask me for whitening lotions already.
I say try sunscreen and eating lots of cucumbers. Honestly, I just want them to lay off the bleaches.
Apparently though, in case of some miracle, like the sky spells out his name, any future daughters of ours will be forbidden from marrying men of a tribe that is enemy to my husband's tribe.
I fight this. I say "races, tribes, and nations are a thing of Jahiliyia [not of Islam]. [The Prophet Mohamed said] Leave it. It is rotten."
My husband relents in case of miraculous perfect man from said enemy tribe who rejects his tribe.
To be honest, using my good judgement, I'll help my children to marry as they feel capable.
I feel I have to fight, because knowing my husband's luck, if we have a daughter, she'll take after me.
And what did MY father say when I asked him if there was anything I could do in this life that would sorely disapoint him?
"You could suppress yourself to wear a veil and convert to some strange religion like Islam."
Yes, yes, my father really did say that.
So if she's anything like me...
MOP allows he may have to make room for his bad luck;D
"Look dear!" She exclaims to her husband, while OPNO laughs her a** off at the following comment, as she points. "Traditional Omani music."
The Omani guys sing as song where the lyrics are mainly a repeat of "Aulad Tharta".
Yeah, "Son of Fart" a very RARE, and TRADITIONAL Omani tune from days of yore, to be sure. [This sentance drips sarcasm].
TRADITIONAL OMANI MUSIC [about FARTING]
I hope she doesn't upload it to YOUTUBE and title it that.
For more tales of the "fresh from the tarmac" series, see here http://howtolivelikeanomaniprincess.blogspot.com/2010/10/fresh-off-tarmac-part-1.html
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Most of you expats from my end of the world will probably be celebrating Christmas. Which, I have fond memories of from my days before I was Muslim in Oman.
Let us reminisce together.
First, there was Mum 'f'ing' off the Christmas tree because the strands of small pearl lights were one-strand only, so when one minscule light burnt out, the whole lot of 'em went off, and she had to UN-decorate the whole bloomin' tree to find the culprit. So I think the tree was decorated and undecorated and re-strung with lights at least four or five times before Christmas day.
Inviting the houseboy to Christmas dinner because Mum thought he was a Christian.... Well.... he was Budhist, and our tales of Santa Clause and Frosty the Snow man scared the crap out of him. Apparently a giant cold hunk of ice jumping around and alive and an old man who watches you while you are sleeping, judging you, is a scary notion.
Go figure! lol.
Also, because alot of our friends in Oman weren't used to sitting at the dining table with forks and knives and spoons, we got to eat Christmas turkey WITH OUR HANDS:D!!!!!! Oh, you bet I loved it, though Grandma would have died of shock.
Mum getting frusterated that she could get an abaya embroidered but not X-mas stockings. Not that we HAD a fireplace.
So we drove off to Nakhl:) best DAY eveRRRRRRRRRRR! in Oman, courtesy the old Toyota pick-up truck.
On to this holiday: as a Muslim I will not be celebrating alas. It's just another day in the year for me. But I will be doing some shopping in Mutrah if my pay is on time, so keep an eye out for me there;)
But she is honestly one of the funniest people I know... when she isn't trying to make anyone laugh.
You know, when she is bored out of her mind, and just says whatever is there with no point in mind.
Back on a vacation in Canada she once [was forced] by our father to go on a tour of an ancient old growth forest. You know, the kind that has trees so big that cars can drive through them? [If you are Omani, probably not]. Anyways...
Well on this tour, there were alot of Japanese, and Arab exchange students, including a group that my father NOW can identify as Saudis. [Sorry, there are no Omanis in this tale, alas]. Well the tour guide was telling them exactly how old the trees were, that the dated back before Jesus (Isa, alahi salaam) and the tour guide was saying to the Saudis, who were OBVIOUSLY impressed by the sheer size and age of the these trees:
"Imagine what these trees would tell us about the world if they could talk!" [Tour guide operator, in awe]
OPNO's little sis [totally NOT impressed with arms folded over her chest, and bored out of her]: "NOT very MUCH, I'd imagine. Since they've been sitting in one spot for all that time. WHYYYYYYYYYY didn't we go to the movies, Dad, INSTEAD!"
The faces of all the exchange students were struck by her simple, albeit spoiled brat logic.
OPNOLILSIS: "Ooooooooooooh look! I am a tree! I saw a stupid pinecone fall! And alot of squirrels!
SAME DAMN thing WE saw today! Only that poor tree had to see it for thousands of years! He'd tell us, 'go to the mall' or 'go out for dinner' 'Do SOMETHING WITH YOUR LIVES!' 'At least you are not a boring-stuck-in-one-spot tree like me.'
The tour operator honestly did not know what to say.
I wonder if she ruined the experience for the Saudi exchange students, lol.
MOP: "That's because I didn't understand a word you were saying. When I met you, I could barely speak English."
OPNO: "." [She hadn't realized because apparently she is too self-absorbed lol].
Sunday, December 19, 2010
Khaleel waited at the door for me and we went down the hallway and the elevator together.
The men at the front desk regarded us 'man and woman' with suspicion, but in this one instance, Khaleel figured our reputations didn't matter. There were worse things in the world tonight, and we were going to outrun them.
Masoud and Audrey met us, and Masoud got out from the driver's seat to let Khaleel in. Audrey was already buckled in, in the back.
I shook as I climbed in, lifting the folds of my abaya as if I were a parcel. Masoud looked magnanimously back at me with pity bleeding his kind brown eyes, and I reached for the seatbelt, ashamed.
Khaleel started to pull out, but noting my attempt to put the seatbelt on while struggling with the folds of the butterfly winged chiffon of my Dubai designer abaya, he stopped suddenly, and Audrey and I, our bodies lurched forward and our heads slammed into the boys' seats with a crunch.
"No seatbelts tonight," he warned me.
He paused one moment to turn up the MP3 player, music bled our ears, pounding worse than my heartbeat, so that I forgot I had a heartbeat.
Audrey and I glanced over at eachother, until I slowly, bravely, met Khaleel's reckless gaze. We could only make out the gleam of eachother's eyes in the dappled streetlamps of the Corniche, but we met eachother with the tips of our dead smiles invertered to the corners of our eyes, so that no one could read our gazes but us. We recognized the others' likeness.
He did not pull forward until I let the belt slip back into its nest.
With a whiz, and then a zip, it 'click'ed.
And then we were gone out into the night.
One lighted part of the world bled into the light of another as we raced down the corniche, taking the corners of Old Muscat at 3 am on all angles, trying to outrun the world.
What Khaleel wanted to forget I was not sure of as of yet. I couldn't fathom why he should be so haunted by my circumstances, as if they had melded with his own.
I stared at his brown neck and the frayed width of his t-shirt collar, trying to understand what made us so alike, and yet so apart.
Maybe, the fact that he had always believed I was a woman of privellage, with a nice expat 4x4 and a marble palace in MQ, none of which my family really owned. It all related to my father's job.
Now Khaleel didn't have that image.
I was a a western woman living out of a hotel room with a balcony overlooking the fish souq that had no lights beyond the light of Audrey's laptop when it was plugged in, which cost ten rials a day that I didn't have in my pocket.
Maybe it was something else. I don't know, but something made us equally insane that night.
"I want to drive!" I hiccupped from the backseat, and Khaleel laughed. "I want it to be like the old days when I was the bad one and you were the good one, and I was the one getting into all the trouble and you were the one getting me out of it!"
Masoud barked some semblance of laughter but was too kind to note, yet again I was in trouble and Khaleel was doing his damndest to find a way to get me out.
"No WAY!" Khaleel smiled. "Not in my car."
"I want to drive!" I demanded, pretty and petulant, and obviously spoiled. That usually worked with him, as prone as he was to his Omani cousins.
"And find a sure way to get yourself deported from Oman? Driving without a lisence! Ha. And in my car? No WAY!"
We slowed a little bit as we pulled into the Al Kuwair McDonalds and the boys bought us icecream and Big Macs.
Something must have happened between Old Muscat and Al Kuwair, I am sure, but my mental state was spewing wreckage, and I have no recollection to this day of anything but streaks of orange and purple light. I probably just stared out the window in numb shock like an accident victim.
Getting sugar and salt into me was good, though I won't call that food, but even Audrey was too starved to refuse.
We sat there munching our burgers as the boys raced us down Sultan Qaboos highway, taking a dangerous turn here and there until we ended up at Sawadi with the call to prayer that Audrey and I alone heeded, and a pink sunrise to greet us.
We slammed close the doors to ancient old Mercedes and felt our feet slip into sand. Khaleel wandered up the beach by himself a bit, and I sat down with Masoud and Audrey, Masoud asking us questions about family life 'in the West'.
"You mean you have to pay for your own education?"
"Your family can just kick you out when you turn eighteen?!"
Apparently, for any decent Omani man, these things our unheard of in relation to young women.
Audrey talked and I listened with quaint detachment. I don't think I had much to offer in the way of a comment, which reflects my mental state, for I think I am one of those people who likes to talk about myself, and about anything in general that I have even the slightest knowledge of.
Audrey spoke tentatively about ill-treatment on the part of her family, how they forgot to bring her when they went out for dinner or nelgected her education in support of her younger brother Gerome's efforts to become a rockstar, and how much money Gerome owed them all for recording his last CD, and yet they would not let her borrow even a fraction of that ammount to go to University.
I am sure Masoud had decided we were all barbarians in the West, after having seen my mother rip off her shirt in front of him with her boobs hanging out and yell at Audrey so.
I wasn't too bothered by that, since maybe I held that opinion at the time, tired as I was from being yelled at and treated as inferior in intelligence because of my religious dress.
But I was bothered by Khaleel being so alone, so I kicked off my shoes and chased after him, when I could see he was heading back towards us, his shoulders outlined by thin rim of white moonlight of the balck oily expanse of water.
"Hello," he smiled genuinely when I drew near.
"Hello." I scrunched up my nose at him. "You should say 'Asalaam alaykom' because we are Muslims."
"Right," he adjusted himself like those fern-like plants that you touch and they just curl up, or sea anenomes when you prick them with your finger-tip, "you are better than me."
It was like a slap in the face, for I could feel his self-loathing as if it were a wet cloth being thrown at me. I was ammune to abuse, crazed as I was. "Khaleel, what is wrong? Are you okay?"
He laughed a horrible deep laugh, the kind with no mirth in it, so that you know that it is darkness. The rising sun, growing in strength, did not lesson the hallowness of the sound.
"I should be asking you that, but I won't because it isn't any of my business."
We walked a few paces in silence, kicking sand.
I couldn't help myself though. Khaleel was like my medicine.
"Do you remember that time you took my Mum and Summer and I up here when we were kids?"
Khaleel's features softened. "Mhmm."
"It was the first time I saw an Omani fishing village," I continued with the invitation of his throat chords barely humming. "And you ditched us to play soccer---er, I mean 'football' with some Omani boys, and we had a picnic, and you were scared your uncle would see us the whole time? With us Devil-white women?" I was leaning into his path and grinning.
It worked. He grinned back.
"...And I played with the garbage eating goats, and you told us about the Castle, and it was the first day I didn't really hate Oman all that much."
We were both smiling, remembering ourselves before our cirucmstances in life had caged us, made him useless, and made me weak.
When we came up to Audrey and Masoud, as engaged as they were in what appeared to be, building a sand castle, Khaleel was staring directly into my face and really seeing me, not just who I used to be, for the first time since fate (or my mother's meddling, call it what you will) had forced us onto eachother's paths again.
His voice was kind when he spoke. "You were such a cute kid. I miss how you used to dress, like a little Kashmiri."
I scrunched up my nose at him again. "Don't remind me. I was trying to dress Omani but they charge us Westerners a fortune for Omani traditional dresses."
Audrey and Masoud were wholly absorbed in their construction, so that you'd never know that Masoud was 36, and Audrey 23, so they didn't even seem to take note of Khaleel and I standing there, feeling ancient with undocumented heartbreaks and disapointments belying our years.
"Why did you come back here Anna," his voice was hoarse. "Why don't you just go home?"
Khaleel wasn't trying to be mean, exactly, he just couldn't help me anymore than he had. I knew very well he didn't have the money to keep buying our meals and charging our cell phone with credit so that he could make sure we were okay daily.
I tried then to be thoughtful, and to remember my city. I remembered restaurants I had sat smiling at with Faisal and the tastes of familiar foods beyond a plain palate of rice and meat and salads of sliced onion with lemon, and I remembered sunny park benches in rose gardens he and I had cherished. That Faisal had been there with me, trying to hold my hand as I pulled away, and the the memory of his laugh was the most poignant...
And the pain of it all was really too much for me, even a world away from the harrowing absence of his presence.
All the rose petals in my memory are blown in a shock of wind to chill my young flesh, and disappear under thorny grey hedges in my mind's scape, with empty wrought iron benches taunting and wicked.
Lurid men cat-call me as I walk home alone from such places in my conjurance of the places and sounds of where once I made my life. They say sick things, like "take that scarf off or I'll come f**** you!" Or "I am nine inches, I bet you want the whole of me in you." Brave only because I am a diminuative woman alone, with a headscarf that supposedly makes me weak, and a face veil that makes them think I am deaf, or mindless.
I was not weak then.
A wan, thin smile grates my face.
I faced them bravely with a stone in my hand just in case, but with the courage and wit to use my tongue first, and well, that their pride was wounded, and their manhood less then my womanhood, which I did not have to bare to make known.
I was more than my face and my body. I was a woman and I had a home and I knew who I was and where I was going and what my life would be like someday if Saudi Arabia could just see that I was good, and not anything less for not being an Arab. I was a Muslim and that is all that mattered.
Where my strength had gone, I was not sure, but I was absolutely sure, that if even another woman refused to let me serve her at my work because I was "one of THOSE people" or another ignorant man in a plaid red coat inferred I should move to Saudi Arabia if I wanted to dress as I did, that I didn't deserve employment or school or to vote because of my headscarf and veil... I would not be able to work the one profession that was open to me in my headscarf. I would run to the staff toilet stall and sprall out on the floor with the good people that are in this world surrounding me but their voices making no differences.
"It's just ignornace!" "It makes me so mad!" "If he only knew you!" "Do you want me to smack him for you?" "I told her to take her business elsewhere!"
My hands were shaking, so Khaleel took his soft cashmere musayr [Omani turban-like headwrap] from his head, and draped it around my chest lightly, without touching me.
I was so weary of being the strong one, of trying, of trying, of trying. Defending myself, my religion, the men of my religion, defending countries like Oman and Saudi Arabia, explaining, explaining, and explaining, when in the end, that I was Muslim didn't matter to anyone but me. People maybe admired my idealism, and 'a wrong is a wrong' no matter what, but that is because we as whole, Muslims, humanity, what have you, were generally leaderless and divided within ourselves and with eachother. People would only follow my call so far, even if I said this way is better than that, because I could not break down the walls, and some people did not want them broken, high and safe in their palaces with people like Faisal and me fighting the battle they claimed in newspapers they wanted won. But like Joan of Arc, they left me to burn, only I was never pure enough to be a martyr.
"Go back to the West," Arabia commanded, when I, a Muslim, had announced "I have made hijrah!"
It smelled of an unfamiliar perfume, the mussayr, an Arabic strain stronger than any Faisal had ever worn, but that it was scented reminded me of Faisal's bright polo shirts with the collar flipped up with panache, and the feel of the rainbow's spread of cotton on my cheek.
I raised my eyes again to Khaleel's to control the shaking.
"I have no home anymore. I can't go back. There's nothing there for me anymore."
Khaleel looked out over the expansive plain there in Barka that was to be a future development project for the country and laughed bitterly. Two grey concrete future show homes sat like shell-shocked structures on the plain above us.
"There's nothing for you here. Trust me. I've lived thirty years of my life in Oman. I am thirty now and have nothing to show for it."
"That's not true," I defended him to himself. "You have friends who love you and speak endlessly of your loyalty, and family."
Khaleel ran a hand through his curly black hair. "And that's what an Omani man is supposed to want, to have?"
My heart was breaking but I asked it anyways. "And what DO you want Khaleel?"
He wandered us a ways to the water, where we dipped our feet in it, as fisherman started to splay open their areeshes and hefted up his dishdasha to tie it about his waist, to squat in the moist sand.
While we had been speaking (or not speaking), Masoud had been trying to teach Audrey an important verse from the Qu'ran that all Muslims are supposed to know flawlessly that she had struggled with in exasperation for nigh three years now and counting.
"I want a family that I CHOSE, just a small one, one baby, maybe more. A wife who is a good Muslim and doesn't want a ridiculous maher, who I like to be around, and who loves me. A simple house with simply things, a simple life. Maybe I'd paint again like I used to if I felt that kind of comfort."
My eyes bleed for his dream which was once my own, only I would write again, not paint.
"You can still make that," I tell him.
Khaleel tosses his head and stares bleakly as the morning fishing boats are dragged up onto the sand a ways away from us on the beach, and their silver catches glisten in the wane morning sun.
"What do you want now, ya Anna?" he catches me, like a fish, in the net of his thick lashed gaze.
But before I could answer Masoud and Audrey lumbered upon our private conference in elation for Audrey having memorized the Quran verse of Al Fatiha in almost perfect Arabic.
"Go take your madrassa elsewhere!" Khaleel barked at Masoud, and Audrey and Masoud skittered away from us like scared beach cats, laughing to eachother at Khaleel's bad temper. "Now," he turned back to me. "What does Anna need in Oman?"
I couldn't help myself. All my lost and vain dreams came pouring out and spilt on the sand between us like pearls who need their hard crusty shell for protection.
"I want to be married," I admitted to him. "I am ready to be married. I am good at being a wife and I like to take care of my husband, dress up nice for him, cook him things he likes, and I don't even like cooking!" He just listened as I went on.
"I want a house that is mine, that no one can take away from me, that I can decorate and make nice.
And I want to live in place where I feel safe and where people stop telling me to go live somewhere else just because I am Muslim or because I am not Saudi or Arab.
I am not ready yet, but maybe in one year, I'd like to have a daughter. But if I marry, it has to be someone who loves me for me, not just the idea of me 'cause I am a convert, or because I am white and ya'll Arabs seem to have a thing for that. I need to be known, and I know." In all this I was quite excited, and it drained me.
"I am so tired Khaleel, of wanting, of waiting, of hoping. I can't wait anymore."
[more later----to be continued]
Arab families have way too many politics.
But we stopped by friends' in Nizwa, and had qhahwa and dates (yummy with tahini dip and sesame seeds), and then, well, MOP had promised to take the girls of OPNO to Izki, since it is one of the oldest places of Islam in Oman, but MOP missed the half a dozen turn offs to Izki (not a fan of the place apparently) so the girls went and saw a small village in Sumail where a little local Omani girl in village dress played peekaboo with one OPNO and other climbed up a hill to see a fort that was NOT THE fort, but turned out to be BETTER than the fort in Sumail.
Sumail seems an awesome place to see crumbling village houses, and a genuine felaj system that was solely used up until the last ten years [recounts MOP, our not-overtly-interested-in- anything-crumbling guide].
Also there was this famous Omani house in Sumail whose name escpaes me, restored for tourists, but it was closed. Only open in the morning. So the OPNO girls saw that from the outside, and one of them pried the door open half way enough that she could fit in the through the crack, but the others were far too fat (HEALTHY!) to make it.
So the group ended up praying Al Asr prayer in a ruined Masjid adjacent to the house (which was slipping off the hillside) to the amusement of one local family who came over to say salaam and informed the group they may have been the first persons to have prayed in that Mosque/Masjid in the last 150-300 years. Kind of cool.
In the evening they saw the Barka souq (traditional vegetables and fish, better in the morning), and headed off into Muscat for a firework show. They ate cotton candy, and popcorn, from a very happy coffee chop with more customers then it could handle, and on the drive back stopped at the camel breeding center to ask about the price for an Omani camel.
OPNO petted some camels and fed them palm leaves, and were told the camels were not for sale, so I guess that leaves another road trip to Sinaw in the near future.
Or so I thought. But this post is not to point out which restaurant it was, since I am sure that the majority of my readers don't eat at that place anyway.
This post is my advice about going to clinics in Oman for health services.
Back in my home country, where Oman tends to send all of its doctors for training, we don't do shots/injections alot. There is the occasional blood test. There is the injection of anti-virus for a rather serrious virus (which personally, I have never seen back in the West but we are wanred it may happen one day), and they are what are called booster shots for young children (polio vaccine ect), and the flu shot for eldery folks.
We DO NOT get a shot everytime we visit the doctor. We certainly do not get a shot for the common cold which is caused by an numerous cold viruses, for which, no anti-virus has been developed that negates the effects of all colds. So no Western doctor will give a healthy adult (or even child) a shot for a cold.
But Omani clinics do. And first they give you a blood test if you are married to see if you are pregnant to see if it is safe to administer said useless injection. So you pay for the blood and urine test, and you pay for the injection. When there really is no cure for the common cold that needs a doctor other than maybe for a sick leave note. Which they won't write for you unless you buy their useless injection.
To those who are taken in by stupid clinics: The cure for the common cold (not a lung infection like strepthroat which requires anti-biotics) is to drink lots of warm liquids and avoid ac. Chicken soup, ginger and honey tea, fresh fruits and vegetables. Strepsols (lonzenges to numb a sore throat) and anything to stop a nose drip, from a pharmacy, these are what you need. Tylenol or panadol to treat and not very high fever.
For my food poisoning the clinic I went to out and out admitted there was nothing they could do to treat food poisoning. So they told me to go to the government hospitol, since the treatment for food poisoning is to remove stomach contents and to make sure liquids are fed into the body via IV to prevent dehydration. They charged me two rials to tell me this, but did nothing for me.
The government hospitol told me I needed a referral from the clinic first and would have to pay 20 rials which would not be covered under my insurance. Well, since I was poisoned, I thought no biggie, I can splurge on this one.
I went back to the clinic but it was closed for the afternoon so I just went home and back to bed. Driving around was something I was too weak to do. And the smell off coffee shop food near the clinic made me wish I was dead.
So I went home and I slept. I drank luke warm water and had some honey tea and some salted sliced cucumber. I know how to treat dehyrdation.
In the evening I returned the clinic. It had been 11 hours since I had first felt the effects of the poisoning so it had mainly past my system, and I was treating the effects of dehydration well enough, though I asked for a prescription for something to settle the wooziness in my stomach, and additional fluids for dehydration that are available from a pharmacy. Remember, this clinic had taken my two rials and told me to come back.
I was unwilling to get a referral to have my stomach pumped by the Government hospital at the point when I knew I would be paying the government hospital 20 rials to write me a sick leave for the day, since none of the DOCTORS THERE would be stupid enough to commit to useless treatment, but the private clinic (which shall remain nameless) did not seem to have that same problem.
I asked for the prescription and a sick leave. The doctor refused. She wanted to have me do a blood test and give me an injection. The blood test was to see if I was pregnant. The injection was not for anything. The doctor had ALREADY admitted there was nothing they could do unless they knew exactly was bacteria caused by poisoning and they didn't have injections for it. So I was supposed to pay for a useless injection and thus unwarranted blood test or she'd withhold my sick leave.
Screw it, I said. I don't need a sick leave.
I probably do, but I work with doctors of a higher caliber than that little clinic (who they themselves advised me never to get an injection) so I figure they'll just believe when I tell them my reason for missing work on Saturday.
****I asked a doctor I work with today about why all the clinics in Oman seem to want to prick me full of needles. He said "Never get an injection. It is just a way for the clinic to make more money. Take the tablet. The injection costs 200 baizas but they charge you 3-15 for it. The tablet from the pharmacy just costs 500 baizas."
The doctor at the clinic tried to give me this speal about how they are into people and don't care about cost when the truth was, she had already admitted there was nothing she could do to treat me, and the injection was useless.
I guess some people in Oman don't feel they got the right treatment from a doctor unless they got a good blood test and an arm pricked full of needles, but I know better than that, alas.
Most ailments aren't cured by injection.
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
Unless my future children are totally adamantly, defiantly in love with one of their Omani cousins, and that cousin they are in love with is a good Muslim AND a good person (they should be intertwined, one meaning the other but one can be culturally Islamic and a horrible personage at the same time in my experience), and then, and only then, if they have a blood test first, and it makes them medically compatible, well... other than that, I won't let them marry their cousins. Or be familially pressured into marrying their cousins.
Why? when I adore most of their potential cousins? When I love my family? and think them good, and actually accept the practice as halal in Islam?
Because sometimes, the children inherit genetic diseases, especially blood disorders, more often, when they are genetically linked. And it isn't a very big issue for me. My husband was born from parents who were cousins, and most of my Omani, Saudi, Emerati, Qatari, Bahraini friends are too. It isn't a big deal to me, but I think it is better to NOT to. Medically.
Contrary to what alot of expats think, not everyone who marries their cousins are gonna end up with special needs children. It just doesn't happen like that. For example, my Omani family. The only genetically inherent disease they seem to manifest from stubbornly marrying only in the family is bleeding gum. I mean, uber sensitive teeth. The ones that married distant cousins from far away villages don't have this problem in their children. But imagine if it were something worse than sensitive teeth. Like blood disorders, such as sickle-cell anemia.
I was reading a book on the history of the interior region of the Sultanate from an early expat voice on Oman and was highly offended when the author referred to people from the interior as warring imbreds.
Since not all cousin babies end up in trouble at all. There are ALOT of medical factors. I know, it is one thing to do with my work in IRL;)
But then, now after my opinions on the subject, there is one other thought in my head. A conversation between my sister in law and I of late.
Now, if she ever reads this, my SIL will figure out RIGHT AWAY who I am in IRL. Hi! My Big Omani Princess;P [BOP].
Anyways, SIL BOP and I were talking about something TOTALLY UNRELATED to anything or anyone imbred. We were talking about ow unhealthy Pepsi is. Or, well BOP was, since MOP [my Omani Prince aka my husband] is also on this bandwagon and they want me to stop drinking alot of caffeine.
I spoke in defence of the occasional can of pepsi. I know it rots my teeth out, but I do not think the powers attributed to it by BOP canbe actually manifest.
BOP: "Once a month is totally okay. But I knew a girl from Nizwa who drank only Pepsi during her preganancy, and her baby was born with deformities."
OPNO: "So you blame the Pepsi?"
BOP: "Of course."
OPNO: "I think it had more to do with them being cousins."
Sorry, Cousin Marriages, but I had to say that in defence of my occasional can of Pepsi. I really can't do the "dew" and orange miranda stains my teeth sooooo... LOL.
So, then my other option was renting movies.
I would have rented more but most places demand that you buy a membership. Which I did once, but since I always forget to carry my member card, and change my GSM # too often to remember it, I get stuck with puting 20-10 rials deposit down for a single rental. Which, I don't always have the fuloos (money) to do.
Watching movies off the net.
Anyone whose been in Oman for a week knows that the average internet connection suckssssssss, and is painstakingly slow. So downloading movies takes time, and for me, honestly, as a Muslim, I can't do it, cuz in most cases (not all) it is stealing.
And I love the part where I can't hear the film because te bad pirated copy has people in the theatre laughing and I see some asian guy get up and walk across the screen to get more popcorn. Awesome!
So then. I turn to buying movies when I have the cash. I spend a little extra at a store for what I am guaranteed is NOT a pirated copy.
I get home and find that the not-a-fake is a fake and feel kinda bad. And wish a little I HAD bought the cheaper OBVIOUSLY fake one.
But, you know what, there is always one part of watching a pirated film that makes me so giddily happy.
There is that add at the beginning that thanks you for buying the original and not a pirated copy. It says, thank you for not stealing. THAT PART, dear readers, I find absolutely hilarious and timelessly funny to see, on any DVD. That they pirated the "thank you for not pirating" part.
BEST part of the movie!
Monday, December 13, 2010
Sunday, December 12, 2010
[I will upload a pic of the book when I get a chance but right now some of my new software is blocking all file uploads]
‘Gardening in Oman and the UAE’ in by Anne Love.
Available from; The Family Bookshop, Qurum and MSQ Smiths Shatti Al Fair branches, MSQ and Markaz Al Bahja PDO Green wing room 298 Charlie Love PDO camp Feather 96470806
Most people in Oman regard gardening as a difficult activity to pursue. Partly because of the lack of open spaces outside their homes, and partly because of the perception that not too many plants and flowers can bloom in the heat of the desert. Anne Love is an exception. With a degree in Biogeography and a second degree in Agriculture, her book Gardening in Oman and the UAE describes the hundreds of varieties of plants, flowers and trees that bloom in Oman. It also speaks of how easy and satisfying it is, to cultivate gardening as a hobby. This is her second book on the subject; the first one was published in 1995.
Anne Love: “The thing about gardening is that it is very easy to do. You only need a bit of space and the rewards are quick. Till date, no one has experimented much with gardening here in Oman.” [says this passionate gardener, who has been growing several different kinds of plants for over 40 years now.] “You would be surprised at the varieties of flowers that grow in Oman, even in the heat. In fact, there are hundreds of them.”
According to her, Oman’s vegetation includes Winter Annuals (like Petunias, Marigolds, Sunflowers and Geraniums, among several others), Herbs, that grow well in pots or window boxes (like mint, coriander, sage, parsley and basil), Permanent plants that grow all the year round, Ground Cover (like shrubs and bushes that grow flat and low), Trees and Climbers.
Anne Love: “There are even plants that bloom to their maximum in the summer heat, like the Rangoon Creeper that thrives in the full sun and the Urechites Lutea or the Yellow Mandevilla, tolerant of a wide range of soils including the alkaline kind found in the Sultanate.”“There are such lovely parks here that have beautiful gardens-the Qurum Park, the gardens of the Grand Mosque and the garden in front of His Majesty’s palace. They are all well maintained and a sight to behold. In fact, at this time of the year, one even gets to see flowers blooming on the roadside. Still people fail to notice this and take the plant life here for granted.”
According to Anne: “The best way to choose a plant is to go to a local park, see what’s growing there, then go to a nursery and buy the plant. The only thing is that for plants to stay green throughout the year, one needs to water them regularly. It costs nothing to buy a few seeds and plant them.”Anne is now planning a third book on Container Gardening, or gardening within a small area, “since space is at a premium these days.”
Anne Love can be reached on email@example.com.
“Take dress!” he orders me when I am being lazy and don’t want to go to work and want to stay in my pajamas all day with a big fat orange cat on my lap, painting or reading.
In Carrefoure or Lulu: “Come here!” “Go there.” “Give me that,” as he snatches away my heavy basket which I insist upon lugging since I am strong enough to do so, and he is already pushing the cart and all, and carrying my lap top bag from work.
Gone are the ‘honeymoon’ days before marriage, when he would say “please come here” or “please get dressed”, or “thank-you” for handing him this or that, you would think.
Sometimes, I forget I am “Omani” now, and get all offended.
“Don’t tell me what to do!” I bark. “Take dress!” I scoff. “Now I will take EVEN LONGER to get ready, HA! Cuz you are bugging me:p!!!!!”
Yes, yes, I idiotically do that.
In my culture, saying “please” “thank you” “you’re welcome” are absolutely tantamount to respect and care, and of course, these things should certainly not be left out for the one you love.
So when I say “Thank you, MOP, for bringing me the mango juice I asked for.” “Thank you MOP, for buying us dinner” HE gets all offended, like, “You are my wife, what am I supposed to do? Thank you is for strangers.”
Apparently, for family and loved ones and the closest of friends, barking orders is a way to show you are bestest best friends forever and the like.
I admit. I can’t do it.
I cannot bark orders or fail to get offended when I am told, not asked to do something.
I admire MOP. He has changed alot, and me, only very little.
MOP has adapted his manners accordingly, but still thinks it most absurd that I like “please” and “thank you”.
And I can't upload pipctures now because I for some reason, have blocked file uploads to the net from my desktop with new software, IT genius that I am;)
Saturday, December 11, 2010
4. Bahrain's Gulf Air airline. Because of the way these girls pin their scarves to the suit lapel.
Thursday, December 9, 2010
OPNO endorses the olive oil because it TOTALLY works.
I honestly would make a very horrible reporter. Please forgive. I also do not own a camera, so I steal ALL my pictures on this blog. Yes, yes I do.
Monday, December 6, 2010
...And almost perfect weather. Now me, I am not always a fan of long weekends, because, a. sometimes there aren't nearly long enough:)... ....to go running through the grass under the shade of the trees on the farm behind my house, or read under the lemon and mango groves....to lazily swing on the swing of the old house that is now a barn for the cattle, feet in the sand, under the palms... ...wading at Al Thawarah.