Thursday, March 15, 2012

Pros & Cons of Moving to the Village

My husband and I have been considering moving back to his village. It wasn't something he or I ever intended to do this early in our 10 year plan but here are the list of pros and cons we've come up with that will give this blog's readers some insight into what it means to be a woman used to Muscat, as opposed to a girl living in a more far and away corner of the country.

Pro #1: Living is a lot more affordable. Rent is cheaper. This is a super big plus and that's why it is at the top of my list.

Family is around to share when day-to-day things get a bit short, and the grocery stores let you run a tab if you are a local because they know you are not going anywhere unless you do something a lot worse than be late paying for two months' worth of household goods.

We'd save on gas from visiting and have a place of our own to stay for the Eids.

Someone is always around and knows how to fix something when things break.

If we lived in the village I probably could easily afford to stay at home [not saying I want to] and still save some money.

Pro #2: Family is around. My children could play with their cousins. I could always find a baby-sitter for an hour or two, or maybe even a weekend.

Also, since everyone visits everyone we would be guaranteed never to be bored or without a friend or two. Even the crazy Westerner, me.

Since everyone knows everyone (and is related) it is really a safe place. Kids can run around outside and you know a group of old men are sitting on the side of the road watching everyone come and go so you know someone has an eye out for your family. It is safe to play outside and raise kids here. We don’t have drug problems and all that. Nobody local even smokes.

Kids grow up with good values. Also, even the government schools are good in the village.

Pro #3: I would learn Arabic. Since pretty much all the women here speak only Arabic I will be immersed in the language.

I've always wanted to learn Arabic better than I have at this point.

And the women who do speak English will be more than willing to teach me, since they'd rather we spoke Arabic together in the first place.

Pro #4: Culture and exploring. I love to travel and see Oman. Just being somewhere new gives me more opportunities to see and experience things and places I never have before.

The village and its surroundings are full of strange and beautiful things. All the things I love, nature, history, architecture, food, traditional costume and methods… just out my doorstep.

There are new places to camp, new wadis to swim in, and places to hike.

And the village is much more conveniently situated to explore places I have always wanted to in Oman but were more than a day's drive away so became adventures dreamed up for vacations and what not.

Pro #5: Stability. I always planned to own property and retire in the village so it is easier to plan and prepare for that when already living there.

One doesn't have to maintain two homes or save as much money.

Pro #6: When I do get my Omani passport there'll be a lot of good paying jobs for me that don't require moving back to Muscat. With my experience and language skills in English (which the local women don't have) I will almost be guaranteed additional stability.

Time for the cons.

Con #1: Less privacy and time with my husband as people will visit ALL the time. As men and women are separate, my husband will spend more than 50% of his time away from work with people other than me. Even if he doesn't want to, he'll be considered rude, stingy, unfriendly, and inhospitable by other men if he doesn't follow this custom of the culture.

I don't like this AT ALL, and that's why it is #1 on my list of cons.

The village is a very social place and has its schedules and visiting rotations for both men and women, and an etiquette for doing so. I get that. And in good measure or when I'm old, I'd totally appreciate it so much more, but as it is, it is toooooooooo much.

Marriage is important too, along with society, and needs time and space to work on it.

CON#2: My business is your business and people DO ask weird questions. They do talk about one not necessarily aiming to do so in any negative manner [unless you insist on doing something that the local women don't do unless they are BAAAAAAAAD local women with WIIIIIICKKKKKED intentions].

I think this idea comes from everyone in the village basically originating from the same family so everyone regards everyone else's life as their business, but seriously, that isn't helpful over 80% of the time.

Con #3: I don't speak Arabic and the majority of the women there living there 100% of the time speak little, poor or next to no English. My mother-in-law speaks three words of my language.

They learnt it in school or forgot or didn't bother with it when they WERE learning it in school.

And of course, the ones who do speak English, prefer to speak Arabic, so if they have a choice to speak with someone fluent in their native tongue, or converse in English with me, guess which language dominates the social gathering?

So yes, it is my fault that I don't speak Arabic. But I can still add that as complaint as it will affect me.

In the village I have no opportunities to bump into English speakers outside the family unless a tourist wanders through (and then, half the village frowns on tourists or non-Muslims in general because of the lack of education). My grammar will deteriorate and my vocabulary diminish if I don't find a way to practice speaking.

Even when my Arabic improves, I will probably still be unable to have deep intellectual conversations, which is something one really needs their native tongue for unless they're as good at picking up language as my husband, mashaAllah. I have a good memory for words I hear, but not connecting them. I doubt I will be able to have the same skill with poetry or conversing in Arabic, as I do in English, so I will never be able to share some facets of my personality with my village sisters.

I will also be viewed fondly as more stupid than I am by others because of my inability to communicate.

I will also probably get bored at longer social gatherings. There are so many memorized phrases one can rattle off, and objects in a room one can point to and name to get smiles from others'. Con#4: I will have to try to fit in so it means no fancy abayas or dresses and less Western clothes worn at home, and little to no makeup. Which really isn't my style as much as I love Omani traditional dress wearing hijab 20 hours a day isn't me. And I like to be individual in my hijab occasionally, and do what I want in my own house.

Being individual is who I am, and I express that through how I dress and speak. I can compromise that. But not get rid of it completely or I'll eventually run mad.

It also means I can't go out for walks by myself. Here where I live there's a lot of places I can just wander around myself. It isn't that it isn't 100% safe in the village it is just that I would be seen as a show-off-ey woman as no other girls there do this. A woman doing something different is seen as one wanting attention. Which SUUUUUUUUUUUUUCKS.

Con#5: The village mindset which causes all of the cons on this list, mostly.

I will be moving away from the friends that I do have that understand if I complain about the village. Not that we visit we visit eachother much as I already live a little out of the way but… I mean, if someone from the village happens to utter a ridiculous fatwa like pony-tail hairstyles are haram or a woman cutting or dyeing her hair a sin, I have someone more educated on these matters to laugh with.

People confuse culture and Islam here and it is irritating because I know better. I mean, to want to become Muslim you have to read the why of everything. People here might know the how but they rarely know the why and thus, I am never allowed to rollerblade, or run where anyone can see me.

Which is, in my opinion, as sinful for Muslims as the Jewish Priests forbidding the believers from doing things that God Himself never did. Islam is easy and people make a lot of things that we are allowed into shameful acts which aren't at all, as Islam views such matters.

I don't want life like that forever. I don't want to have to wait for a vacation for it to be okay for me to a woman and do regular things that I know I am allowed to do ya know?

Con#6: I can't shop for my own groceries. Seriously. Not that I do like grocery shopping in the first place, my husband would appreciate that I add, but…

Since the shops are small , and God FORBID a woman and a man ACCIDENTLY bump into eachother EVER women don't go into the shops. There isn't a law against it but some people from the village would think I was flirting with men if I did happen to bounce into the local "FROOT & VAGATABLE FOODSTOVES" store to get me a box of cornflakes and a bag of rice. I don't know how this works. I know there are bigger stores an hour drive away that women can go into but I mean, I can't comprehend it really, how the women know what to ask for if they've never been inside the shops. I guess you just ask for what you've always eaten, but what if there's something new in stock that you'd like but you'll never know about it, or maybe your husband just brings you home everything new so you can try it even if you know if you'd have seen it you would have known you wouldn't like it before you got it or…

I will have to get my husband to photograph the contents of the entire store. The only solution to this dilemma that I see.

What if you don't have a husband or a man to get you stuff from the store? I know someone reading this is going to ask, because I know I did when my husband warned me about it.

Well, you get the village children to get it for you.


Yeah. I didn't like that answer either. SOoooooooooooooooooooo cultural and nothing from Islam at all. Just culture, culture, culture. I will have a hard time respecting this. But my husband asked me to since it isn't the most important cultural thing in the village needing changing and I should focus on the bigger issues before I make war and get myself disliked as a harlot [or wacky crazy impulsive westerner--- an example to all village men of their tribe why no one should ever marry out of the family] over this one.

…and that's the cons.

We are still undecided.

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