Monday, February 18, 2013

DAILY DIARY: an average day in my life in Oman as an expat married to an Omani not from Muscat originally

I don't know if this applies to me. I really don't see how it could but maybe someone has read my blogging about loving Oman in the wrong way? Or mixing the girls who write this blog all together? But someone from back home was complaining about the Muslim women bloggers married to GCC nationals living in the GCC bragging about their Gulf-lifestyles and thinking they are better than women married to Arab nationals from non-GCC places. Don't get me wrong. I love Oman, and feel privellaged to live here and get to do some of the things that I get to do. Be a local in a very conservative---nigh secretive tribal society---with an ancient history.... Kind of cool, def. has its drawbacks as well. Get to go do special things like Muscat Fashion Week, totally cool, but that's because it is a long term interest for me, and I think I deserve to go to things that I like. Having Mosques, and Bedouin, and a beatiful landscape to explore and people to get to know... I think if I was married to a guy from Morocco or Jordan ect... I'd have the same, so it is about making the best of everything. I'd like to think that I do that. And don't forget, I spent part of my childhood in Oman. This is where I belong.
But I guess, someone out there misunderstands having brand name abayas and housemaids and big villas and all that, not understanding life or the culture here AT ALL. It isn't bragging. It can be, for some women life, and the culture, and I have never thought of myself as better than anyone else. So I hope the person who was saying that kind of wus-wus didn't mean me or anyone else that I think they could have meant. Because trust me, we are sooooooooooooooo not like that. To show you, I will document an average day in my life:
Any old average day in my life begins at home. No, I am not always camped out in the desert under the stars swapping stories with Bedouin, or the like. I live in a Muscat villa very similar to the one pictured here where my family takes up one floor of 3 [it is split into 3 sections as Omanis often share homes]. It is STILL bigger than we need unless we have guests [which is always for Omanis] and then, well, it seems overly small. We also would, it would seem, have more bathrooms than people, but two of the bathrooms have never worked since we moved in, and despite all our efforts, still do not work, so what we have is actually just enough. That is life in the Capital of Oman. Like the photo above, my home is also a sunny creamy yellow. Although I am a tragically bad gardener so you can imagine... And just to note, the first 2 years of my marriage I lived in a rural 1 bedroom home in a slightly impoverished Omani lifestyle. Marrying an Omani did not make me rich. I actually pay for my Muscat villa out of own salary, and work very hard to do that. When I had my baby I decided I didn't want to live dealing with lizards and sometimes-functioning electricity and leaking roof ect... so I don't think my husband is superior to anyone else's by history or profession ect... Nationality does not guarantee ANYTHING. I also think that money in marriage means very little to me, as I have almost always supported myself financially and like that. But it is nice to know my husband can manage the basics if I ever decide, hey I don't want to. To get back onto my average day {which is probably similar to your own}:
Every single day begins by me hating my alarm clock and ignoring it as long as possible by hiding under the sheets. I would stay in pajamas all day if life would allow. Since I am also a Muslim [and was long long ago before I married]  that means my alarm goes off before the sun comes up. Yes, we wake up every single day before the sun goes up. Most Omanis I know go back to sleep after this time. Sadly, or tragically, I do not. I am not able to. As a result in the mornings I am very grouchy until I stumble to the kitchen to go and boil some coffee. My kitchen is similar to the kitchen pictured below, although my oven sucks, and I need a new one.

The kitchen is where I spend the first part of my morning while everyone else is sleeping. Yes, technically I DO have a housemaid, but actually, I don't like her to do the work that most Omani families make their housemaids to do. I like to think of her as a tradtional "nanny". I hired her to watch my daughter while I am at work or when I have to go out for chores ect... and that's all I need her to do. When she's not doing that, and I have spare time, usually we hang out and watch TV together and she explains her traditional Ethiopian dances and cultural stuff and translates her favourite channel or gets me to translate her other favourite channel that features wrestling and mixed martial arts. Anyways, being that she is Christian and not a Muslim, she doesn't wake up as early as me, so usually I make breakfast or coffee for myself. My Omani husband does the same. As I like to say, Allah gave him hands, sooooo. {And he is also forbidden to bother the housemaid for anything as, it's not her job}. But sometimes I am nice and amke an actual Western-style breakfast myself:).
On my Omani-husband's ideal day, we'd both be eating breakfast in bed on trays like this. Which is not to say that it never happens, but only that, usually, not so much. I DO make an effort on the weekends though. Mostly.
But usally I am lazy, and breakfast is more like this:
And this...
...Only more bouncy. Because by this time my 1 year-old is awake and wants out of her bed. So I release her and sick her on her sleeping father to jump and bounce on him until he wakes up to drink his coffee while I get dressed for work Which means:
Sitting at my vanity, brushing my hair into a quick up-do, doing my make-up, accessorizing, puting on the Western style shorts and t-shirt I usually wear under my Muslim hijab, and trying to remember to cram my flashdrive and phone and/or lap-stop+day-planner into the handbag du-jour...

 ...Then I head over to my closet whose contents majorly resembles the above. If it is a work-day I grab 1/25 abayas I have hanging. Because my work is pretty formal and I visit government offices, boardrooms, ect., my abayas are fancier than when I was a stay-at-home preggo wife. Which then, my abayas were derided by even my village sister-in-laws as having holes in them. I am always up to date on fashion but that doesn't mean I am a slave to it;p. If it is a weekend day where we visit/have guests, I grab a colourful dress with beads or bright florals and that's it. I wrap my scarf in a hurry, sticking in more pins than it probably needs, and stumble down to the car for the drive to work with coffee, lap-top, and handbag in hand. By this time my daughter's nanny has just woken up and my husband and I have just left the house.
On the way to work we enjoy a lovely Muscat sunrise while I sip burning hot coffee from a thermos/flask.
At work, it depends on the day, but I may either be reading reports, writing reports, rushing around to meetings, on the phone, or running around trying to sort out some inane bureaucracy effecting something that should be very simple but becomes somewhat complex in Oman.
My job is somewhat flexible, as in, the boss cares that the work gets done, not that I follow a non-sensical schedule of being in the office doing nothing much. So sometimes my hours are from 6 am to 12 in the afternoon which is nice. Start early, finish the job, go home when you like after that. But since my job is rated on output, I can also be doing some serrious over-time, like starting work at 6:30 am and finishing at 7pm and working all the weekend as well. It goes like that. Alhamdulilah my Omani husband accepts that, even though, I know he isn't a fan if it effects the time we have to work on our relationship. Overtime results on my ingesting even more coffee and me speaking a mile-a-minute. Which I do even when I am not on a caffeine-high, so to my co-workers, I am sorry.
On an average day though, there is no crazy-over-work so let's say the average work days ends at 2:30 pm. I get picked up by my husband and driven home, where on an average day, I honestly don't make lunch. Unless it is indomei or a sandwhich or leftovers from dinner Which is not lunch to an Omani. But if my husband seems really sad that traditional cultural Omani lunch is not being served I make what is pictured below [which is honestly the crappiest thing about being married to a non-Western guy if you aren't a big kitchen fan like myself]:
 If my daughter is still asleep [she naps] we spend this short quiet time in the living room watching TV or talking:
Or maybe we are just exhuasted from work and we nap. Omanis nap. Took me forever to get used to but if I work myself into a frenzy all morning at work then I can manage a good GCC-style siesta:
After nap, if there is no work to do at home, it is family time. Play with daughter. Go for a stroll in the park, or the Corniche. On the way home we grocery shop. NOTHING too exciting I assure you. Dinner, tv, reading, playing with daughter some more. The average weekend in Oman is quite another thing. Oman has alot of culture.
My Omani-inlaws are as traditional as you can get so we can always visit, or go explore different places in the country that are possible to drive to in day-trips. We do this alot. Either that or we stay home an relax. Unless I am invited to somethign super chic or glamorous. Which isn't every day;p.  Husband minds the munchkin while I do laundry and cleaning. Housemaid usually mops floors and washes her own laundry and cooks her own food if I don't make for everyone, so those are her only duties besides baby-sitting while I am at work. I feel I do need to make excuses and be apologetic for having live-in help because people in this region abuse it ALLLLLLLLLLL the time. Because it is normal doesn't make it RIGHT. I don't think I AM an average employer in the Gulf because our wonderful nanny insists on mopping the whole house on a daily basis and sneaking in baking breads and pastries for everyone even though I have forbid her to. I  don't really need a housemaiud but daycare was serriously scary. SO I gave up after abandoning 4 daycares. I'd rather have someone I see and trust as a friend watch my little baby, and her nany is that. When my husband isn't with us [due to Islamic reasons if he is home she stays in her section of the house and doesn't really come out to ours] she eats with me, if I host a party she is my guest. I see her as my friend, and while she works for me, her life is her own outside of work. That's how it should be, hint hint GCC.
But then, she's a good person, and I trust her alone with my baby more than I trust my own husband with his flesh-and-blood. Since he is rather absentminded given a long enough period of time alone with a toddler. The evening ends up back home with us being all relaxed and getting ready for bed and ideally with either hot chocolate or icecream. If that is too decadent or superior you must forgive me;D. That's just Oman.


The Duncan Adventures said...

Thank you for taking the time to write that, it is great to have an insight into another world that I would never know otherwise.

Look forward to reading more from you soon :)


Francesca said...

Ma sha' Allah! La qouta illa billah!
Your life really sounds like the one a princess! I am a convert living in Europe, and I hope one day Allah will facilitate me to make hijira... And I hope then, my life will get a bit easier.

Omani Princess (not Omani...yet) said...

Heather: I really love your blog though I don't comment all the time. It is neat to see where I grew up through other fresher eyes:)

Omani Princess (not Omani...yet) said...

Francesca: I totally understand. I was a convert living in North America. But that's how it is now, nigh four years after hijrah. the first 2 were a definate struggle. But I think Allah helps us if we really do move for His sake. I almost starved but never did coming here, I had crappy jobs, just to stay until I met people who helped me get one up to my education and skill level. Allah make it easy for you and guide you to what He wills, ameen. I feel so sad for the struggle sof my sisters abroad who have a hard time working and managing a halal lifestyle:(.

Crazy in Kuwait said...

Great outline of your day! I know the things people say about being rich when I say I'm married to a Kuwaiti but we are just an average family in real life, no oil wells in the back yard either. I work from 6 am til 4 pm on the US military base so I kinda live 2 lives at once. The American way at work and the Kuwaiti way once I leave the base. I can't wait to visit Oman again!

fari said...

I am a South African Muslim..asli/ancestors r from Indonesian, Arabian, German, African, Indian descent.. in other words 'cocktail':)...I am what here a house executive..but also do life coaching and counselling from home..I have a housemaid, even though I dont have the other luxuries like travelling and buying extravagant clothes etc..I.have a wonderful husband tht is a revert to Islam...I can say tht I live a fairly comfortable life..if there is I wud love to visit, it is Oman inshaaAllah..if u.wnt to kno.more.about South Africa, n Muslims, pls ask..Shukran..wa salaama