Monday, September 30, 2013

Government Teachers Protest today Across Oman

Today many Omani teachers and students have gone to work, but the teachers are refusing to teach in protest of many issues that have not been addressed by the Ministry of Education.

One major concern of course, is salaries. This is issue pertains to different levels of experience for teachers in different ways.

A. Many teachers were due for a raise for over 6 or even 8 years and did not recieve and some did. Unfairness over as to why has been called out.
B. The starting salary for a starting level position in the Ministry of Defence (aka Army) for someone with only high school level education is the exact same wage as someone who has attended University and got a bachelor's degree as a teacher. Why, one might wonder?
C. Many teachers never recieve compensation for extra hours worked, such as watching examinations, and most of the time compensation is up to 1-2 years late.
D. Many teachers in Oman are assigned to what school district they work in. Teachers who have to rent in a area they do not live in recieve the same salary as teachers assigned to work right next to their homes or in their own villages. This issue needs to be addressed, either in more flexibility for where teachers are assigned work, or in salaries.

Another major concern is benefits. Many staff in other Ministries recieve regular raises and benefits (far be it from this OPNO as to wonder why). For example, the Diwan staff get free travel tickets each year for holidays, many other Ministries get interest-free mortgages. Teachers wonder why their Ministry is so over budget, and not yet completed construction, and feel whoever planned parking for that monstrosity should be shot [okay, so the shooting recommendation is just me].
Examples:

a. Female teachers with children under 2 years of age would like either improved maternity leave or daycare facilities subsidized near their areas of work.
b. Sports teachers currently teach up to 5 forty-minute classes a day OUTSIDE in the sun. They'd like an AC gym room (not even that big) or in the very least, showers for their students. OPNO would settle for the Ministry of Education working outside in the sun from 7:30-1:30 PM everyday for 1 week;) and see how that feels.
c. So many toher examples of pure ridiculousness that I can't even get into them all without formally interviewing some teachers.

The Ministry had "apparently" addressed these issues by sending an expert to talk about it on Oman TV. They addressed only one issue teachers asked for, and ignored the rest. So the strike goes on.




Sunday, September 29, 2013

MY OWN PHOTOS: my love affair with mornings spent in Mutrah, and the architecture there

In case you are new to reading this blog, I used to live in Mutrah. Every morning, and every sunset, I would walk the corniche. I became a local in the back alleys behind the souq and shops. I miss those days of lazy freedom, and go back to remember. The days always starts in Mutrah at the docks, with the dhows sending boats to the pier to unload the morning's catch.
 Then down along the conriche, strolling up and past Riyam. The dhows are parked, and His Majesty's yacht. The sun comes up along the fort, and warms the pavement and marble. I have seen dolphins and sea turtles swimming here.
 I love the souq itself, even when everything ic closed. Maybe especially then, at that time. I can admire the architecture, which is always Muscat to me, a bizarre mix of Omani, Persian, and Portuguese design, without the buzz of broken Arabic, Farsi, and Urdu being spoken behind.
My steps are always quick in the back alleys of Mutrah. I know my way, or seem to, so the locals don't find me such a curiosity. Did you know Mutrah, like Dubai, had homes built with wind towers? Behind the souq my friends. There is a wall with turrets amid roads and tailor shops. Beautifully carved balconies in disrepair, old roofs of palm thatch and beams stick out under tin, telling of another time.... Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night, and think that I am still in Mutrah. I love that place.

RESTAURANTS IN OMAN: Shakespeare & Co.

 So the day began long planned goodbye brunch for an OPNO girl you all know. She'd been wanting to try out Shakespeare & Co. since she, with Omani gal pals, had wound up in Al Mouj Marina by mistake at the Wave development while trying to get to the beach... and I wanted to treat her. Our friends back in UAE are always raving about this paritcular [girly] franchise, and I myself, having attested to the validity of the creme brulee in the Dibai locale, agreed to her choice. MOP was dragged along for good measure since the closest he's ever gotten to real creme brulee is that soggy powdered sugar creme caramel sold in bulk in Lulu, during Ramadan.
 The marina looked lovely that day, the yachts bobbed on blue waters, and we fully intended to take a stroll about after tempting the waters at Shakespeare & Co. ... had the day turned out differently. But not knowing then our fates, we took a cosy table at the back on a settee with a marina veiw and sat down with the menus. Those of you who know Shakespeare & Co. know that the decor is a little like shabby chic on crack, pastel shades, winged arm chairs upholstered in Chintz, wierd Maire Antionette-affixed doilies hung from every crevice... not to my taste certainly, but dessert menus always are. All I had eyes for were the desserts.
 Sadly, the crepe machine was broken that day, and everyone within our party had intended to have one varient or another of crepes. Very disapointing start food-wise. We also noted that we were being swarmed by flies, which kind of, I don't know, ick. We consoled ourselves with very expensive teas and the promise of desserts. Service was polite and decent, once we'd gotten menus. The majority of the patrons were seated outside opposed to us so I guess that explains the slow start. We seated ourselves, which is different than when I visited Shakespeare & Co. in Dubai. Bit I liked our server. In the end I order an "American Breakfast: out of the chance that the Muslim-safe pseudo bacon would taste yum and for want of fresh orange juice.
My breakfast was, I don't know, like any breakfast I could make myself I guess. I've had better egges, toast, and fake-bacon. And my "sausage" was actually a hot dog which was a bit ridiculous. On the other hand, my tea, orange juice, and the herb-butter served WITH the meal were pretty much perfect.
 MOP ordered cream of mushroom soup [assuming wrongly that this is the soup that I always make him that he loves] and hated it. Since he ordered the wrong thing, I am not judging. I hate mushroom soup. Always have, always will. MOP was like, "I don't like this, it doesn't taste anything like yours." I am like, " I never made you mushroom soup. I hate mushroom soup." He insists I have, which is funny, because in all my life I have never managed to swallow even a spoonful of mushroom soup so I highly, highly doubt that. He also had some sort of skewered meat on a stick, very Omani of him, which he liked, but that I found to be a bit chewey/greasy.
OPNO girl #2 ordered a tuna fish sandwich with a side of green salad, and a flowering tea. Tea was good and reminded me of something I had tasted made authentically by a Chinese woman in a back alley near the old Opium smuggling  majong gaming dens in Chinatown back in my old hometown in the land far-and-away. My tea-connoisseur boss would appreciate it. Sadly, she never got to review her brunch, as immediately after this above photo was taken (AND BEFORE I COULD ORDER DESSERT OF ANY KIND) OPNO girl #2 had to be taken to the emergency room in a nearby hospital because she had something akin to appendicitis but apparently more excruciatingly painful. She wanted to eat her sandwich, but the pain became too much. Soon she couldn't walk, and it was all very scary. I am sorry she had to go through that. The dudes at the Wave Al Fair looked pretty scared too. **** As an afternote though, our flatmate ate her tuna fish sandwich and said it was amzingly good**** I don't know, for myself, the only thing I'll go back for [and I am in no rush] is a try at the crepes and dessert menu. MOP insists he will never go back. But the day wasn't perfect, so who are we to judge right?

Thursday, September 26, 2013

MOSQUES OF OMAN: Asma Bint Alawi in Al Qurum, Muscat

One of the very first [nice--not border station] Mosques I ever prayed in, in Oman, was the Masjid Asma Bint Alawi, along Al Sarooj street in Al Qurum district of Muscat, you know right near Bareeq Al Shatti and all that? It is built in a lovely Moroccan-style, composed with a clock tower and a central courtyard fountain from which the garden emanates, and the women's section is actually built for women (yay!). Somehow I have only ever prayed here at night, when the narcissus is blooming.

REPLY TO SASHA: to do or not do, date an Omani guy

This post is written in reply to a comment left on another blog post. Here is Sasha's comment:
Hello! I’ve been reading your blog for a while now and I love it! [...---may I interupt to say I am flattered?..] But I write this because it seems like no one could understand me or give me a two-sided advice about my situation right now. I am an expat and I am really liking an Omani guy right now. He’s single, younger than me, we get along well. But we’r e not in a relationship, just friends but we know we like eachother. How will I know if I should go for this? I’m so confused. -Sasha
Dear Sasha, your situation is indeed confusing. I know a lot of girls [and women] in Oman who've been there. I will do my best to give you two-side advice. As I am a Muslim, I can give you a humanistic-but educated-in Oman-opinion, and my Islamic-as-a-Muslim-girl-who-knows-Arab-guys opinion.
I don't know the Omani guy you like. I don't know his character, how he acts within his tribe, or within his family, what the limitations are of his relationship with you. These thing contribute a lot to successful relationships in Omani culture.
As a Muslim, I can't say anything good about your chances with him, since he has friends that are girls. But then, I've known guys also, who sucked as Muslims and who were ok husbands or boyfriends otherwise----: These men act independently, don't care what unworthy people think, but respect what compassionate, good, kind people think. They might go along with society in general because they don't like to go against the grain... but in general they form their opinions and stand up for what they think is right even if it goes against Mama or Baba or the tribe or even Omanis. See the guy through un-tinted glasses. Omani guys (Arab dudes in general) lack a leading independent characteristic but some of them are different in this small way. All the women I know married successfully to Omani men have independent thinkers as mates. Not married but just dating it totally different.
Secondly, I don't know what you want out of a relationship. If it is security and long-term success, Arab-dudes suck at this unless they propose to you pretty fast and tell their mother and father about you, and offer you what they'd offer an Arab Muslim girl whether or not you are Muslim or not. That is the opinion of both Muslim-girl and Humanist-but-cultured-by-a-decade-surrounded-by-Omanis. So if that is the feelings in your relationship that's something you'd talk about with him once and act on.
On to dating. The humanist in me will speak now, as the Muslim-me considers this the path that leads to the degradation of my sex to less than the rights I believe are Divinely bestowed upon us;). Ignore that self-righteous bigot if this is your actual preference as her advice will ammount you nothing.
Omani culture frowns upon dating. It is considered sinful, and a sign of bad character for both women and men. That said, some people honestly prefer it. Others might merely indulge in it, still thinking it bad and low of others, but a "need" okay for themselves I guess, at least, maybe for a phase in their life. Never depend upon any kind of lasting respect, or security, from the latter type of Omani guy. The aforementioned one? You have a chance with.
I actually know a lot of women who date younger Omani guys who simply rebel against the idea of marrying or the way people find their spouses her, but can be in long-term relationships of respect and reciprocity.
They are RARE. Remember, any Omani dude will have likely have been ingrained from birth with one or both of these lines of thoughts: "relationships outside of marriage lead to hell and burning and shame and people who have them are bad and don't deserve much respect since they don't respect even themselves to the ststaus of Islamic rights" or "its ok so long as no one in the tribe or family knows, boys will be boys you know."
As all Muslim girls are wont to say "Khaleeji guys suck" even those married happily to 'em, and there's a lot of things to consider.
As a girlfriend: do want someone who'll drive you to the doctor when you're sick, and not make you hide at the Carrefour or only go out at night because he'd be caught by his family and ashamed by your existence in his life? Know the man well enough to know how he'll treat you based on how he already treats others, not how he says he does.
Khaleeji guys are romantic, jealous, funny, courageous, generous (in general). Makes for great, torrid, BUT short affairs. Also weigh out if it is worth that to risk your friendship. Most friendships don't last once you've seen eachother naked. Emotions are  [almost] always there, even when all the better qualities of a relationship have gone.
As I don't know your full situation, I can't give you a better best girlfriend opinion about what you should do. But I hope I have given you a little bit more to consider towards what to think about and look for depending on your situation. And I am sorry if this post is TOTALLY unhelpful.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Am I being a drama queen... Or are some of my anger outbursts in Oman well-deserved?

People tend to classify me as one of two things: a. sweetest nicest most compassionate person you've ever met, and b. the crazy angry lady. I swear, Oman made me into the latter, and I say that with love and affection. People who know me well, and tolerate me despite, tend to think of me as someone with a split personality. Crazy annoying things happen in Oman, and as I have been told of late due to well, a stress-induced heart attack, that I need to avoid stressful situations, and avoid getting angry, leads me to wonder, is that really possible living in Muscat?

Example a.

I was waiting with my driver for a parking spot for quite some time (i.e waiting for a blue sedan to pull inch out of its spot). As I was there for quite some time when a giant SUV inched its way ahead of me as the horrible driver in the blue sedan had finally arighted themselves to pulling out... I found this action to be quite rude, so I actually got out of the car to stand in front of the spot. This was so the Khaleeji woman [I am assuming Omani] in the SUV couldn't succeed in stealing the spot we had waited for.

What does Horrible-Khajeeji-woman-with-Omani-plates do?

She mows me down!

I escape with my life but she definately saw me, as I am beating on her hood as she revs into the parking space!

My driver calls me crazy, and she rushes off to avoid me into the nearby shopping mall. If it wasn't Ramadan, I'd have bashed her car in and sworn at her and probably chased after her and hit her in the face or something. I'd trust my luck at the ROP.

In revenge I find her inside, when she's long forgotten me, and spit out my chewing gum, and mush it with the heel of my shoe, into her 100 OMR or more designer abaya.

I felt better. My fast probably didn't count though, bad Muslim that I am.

Example b.

At the Al Khoud Badr Al Sama hospital about to pay for private services, I am told by the rude Indian girl at the desk that I have to pay the total she is asking me for and only then will she tell me what I am paying for exactly. I ask her if she can write it down for me nicely. She refuses, even when I quote the laws from consumer rights protection office.

Whatev. I ask again, and say, just read your screen off for me and I will write it down.

Again, brat refuses.

More forcefully, I ask again, and add at the end of my request, "or are you just to lazy to do that?"

She continues to act all superior, so what do I do? I reach down from up and behind the counter for her computer monitor and pull it up towards myself so I scan over what I am being charged for exactly. She calls security, and the Omani guys employed there give me HER pen (win for me) so I can write down, as she is told to tell me the price for all services being charged.

WHAT A brat, in nicer terms than I would use. Loved the Nurses there though, the the Philipino and Indian men at the more professional desks who were busy, you know, doing real work, like checking insurance documentation for people instead of having nothing to do but still refusing to do their jobs.

Example c.

At my work I already got a letter of approval to do an aspect of my job from the highest authority possible beyond Qaboos himself. Serriously. I phone an office connected to my work and ask the Omani girls there if they can do as they are asked in the letter of approval to make the necessary arrangements for my work.

I get a. "who are you?" and nothing. They tell me it can't be done. I ask them then, "it can't be done or you won't do it?"

They don't answer. I tell them to wait five minutes and answer the phone or lose their jobs.

They get a call from Mr. Heavy Wasta of wastas for our area of work in Oman, and of course, now to do whatever I ask, but whatever. Stupid girls.

Example d.

My boss is giving me a ride to an area we are required to go for our work. Getting there, the security guard is especially rude and condescending to my boss. He thinks he just a driver and stupid.

When his PHds are all announced and the head of that building gets out to greet my boss, whoa, did you ever wish to see the scared look on the security guard's face. I hate people like that, who suck up to you if they think it is worth it but treat people bad if they think you are less than them. Serriously. Drives me bonkers.

Example e.

I am peacefully shopping at a booth. I smell my evil assailant before I see her.

Out of nowhere I have elbows in my rib cage, and I am literally pulled from scarf behind, to be out of the way, by a woman I know if Dhofari. A very large, very veiled, very accented Dhofari woman. ALWAYS happens to me at shopping exhibitions.

In my anger, I attempt to shove her out of the way, but she doesn't budge. I did mention I weigh under 100 lbs? She definately wasn't in my weight class should it end up in a fight. She ignores my english and shove as if I were a buzzing flie, and as I have had no gum to spit on her abaya, I let it go.
Example f.

I am peacefully waiting in a money exchange line with several immigrant workers from third world countries. I smell my evil assailant before I see her.

Out of nowhere, a very make-upped and glitzy abaya clad Omani woman cuts in the line ahead of the works.

In my anger, I yank her by her scarf and tell her the line starts at the back behind all the poor guys who've been waiting there for hours, like myself.

I find the people who show up, like my Omani husband, and ask if people in the line waiting would mind if they cut in, only slightly better, and find such acts still repulsive and worthy of outbursts. I am like, that person might not mind, but the rest of us people waiting behind them or worth asking too!

Ugh. End rants for today.

DO you think it is possible to be all laddy-da and relaxed and stress-free in Oman and still get stuff done????

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

random laziness on the part of these Oman-based bloggers

Sorry for the long time and lack of posts. OPNO girls have been coming and going, or are overworked to the point of dropping dead (probably figuratively but possibly not since they refuse to go in for GCC hospital opinions). [Dear hospitals, both government and private in the Sultanate: there is an acute difference between acid reflux and cardiac arrest but whatever, don't listen to the healthcare consultants or refuse to speak to us because, afterall, yes I know, we are just women. Better for your doctors to insist on finding some Arab guy who doesn't know the condition or medical history or have any relation whatsoever to your patient to deal with... instead of us. Because, I know, we were born with v*&^%$s].

We DO indeed have some restuarant reviews to get around to posting, some outfit-of-the-day (OOTD) posts, some healthcare facility reviews to manage, art gallery eye-candy, and some opinions to express. But who needs this blog really? My personal favourite bloggers have been awash with interesting posts of late, and eye-candy abounds. So as editor, I am feeling a little lazy. I just moved [again], am still unpacking, and trying to deal with a lot of white. White floors, white trim, white kitchens.... Not exactly my thing. So unto mad crazy colour to get me breathing again: