Thursday, May 22, 2014

OPNO on Omanisation---otherwise known as the Arabic folktale "the Sultan and the Stone"

I have been commenting like mad on the posts filed under the subject header of "Omanisation" inspired by the Ministry of Manpower's law requiring expats to leave the country for 2 years if they wish to change employers, by the following bloggers:

2.) However, my own opinions, I haven't felt like it is that important for me to blog them since I'd feel I am being a little repetative. However, another one of the OPNO girls is bugging me to write this post, since, in her words, "you are always always ranting on the subject anyways", so here goes.

Why I should care and bother: I've helped write reports for government Ministries and academic papers for international journals on performance measures, on changing the whole salary system to a shift/hours system for aspects of the national economy (such as nursing) that could benefit from this (and where such reforms are actually being begged for---by Omani nurses for example)... ect... Ignore the typos on this blog. In my-real-life I actually get paid to write and the blog is what I write when I can't concentrate on work or home. I just stop caring about typos, grammer, after writing and reading all day.

That's actually my job. I reasearch this kind of thing, for healthcare, but also, occasionally, for education and other aspects of the government sector. That's why I should have an opinion on this subject, the national  economy, reforms, Omanisation....but again, experience tells me, what is the pont? Who listens? Who wants to change? Who can force change?

I live in Oman. I am not an Omani citizen (yet---I have an application but the Interior Ministry is under review due to suspician of corruption---no idea why---afterall, that dude who wanted us to buy his wife a new Galaxy phone in exchange for permission to marry an Omani wasn't suspicious whatsoever but hey). However, my children are/will be. I never applied for my own citizenship for them. I truly love Oman. Come hell or high water (been here already for highwater---Gonu) I will stay. Give us the madness of Cairo {Egypt} in protests, I'd still stay. My personal interests in the country are 1. preservation of Omani architecture and heritage sites, 2. educating about the harmful effect of female genital mutilation, 3. forcing changes in the policies regarding marriage laws for Omanis to non-Omanis, 4. supporting Omani women married to non-omanis in recieving equal rights for their children, 5. encouraging the adoption of abandoned Omani children by caring Omani couples unable to have children of their own, 6. helping Omani women and expat women in oppressive or abusive circumstances get on their feet and live independent lives away from their oppressors/abusers. It's alot, too much sometimes, to do very much of anything, beyond the stuff I am paid to do at work, and an eye-candy post here or there on this blog. I have no excuses. I have just as many hours in my day as, like Oprah (hate her, but she's pretty successful so), but I just don't manage all my dreams and goals.

However, Oman----:This is the place of my heart, as strange as that is to me at times. So even I am an expat, I hundred percent want Omanisation. I want to see the end of corruption. I would like to see educated Government law/policy makers make thought-out, clear, transparent, and just laws.

Inhibitors to that: Tribalism. The wasta-system. Bribes. Families who don't want the women from their family to work or travel for an education. Corruption/idiocy in the school system for Omani classes 1-12. The sponsorship system. The salary-system.

I agree pretty much with everything Suburban and Muscat Confidential are saying.

1.) Oman should stop creating 'fake' Ministry, Army, Police, and/other government sector jobs. These jobs are far too easy once you have them, to encourage the country to expand the private sector. Oman needs a private sector. The economy is flawed. I am not an economist but I work with them, so I hear this every single bloody day.

2.) Jobs should be based on performance measures that are accurate, clear, transparent {to protect from corruption} and easy to understand, and these should be linked to a reward/demerit system that is the same, clear, transparent, and suitable. Don't perform above standard?: don't get promoted. Preform at standard, keep your job and relax. Perform under standard?: get fired.

3.) Not everybody is meant to be a doctor, lawyer or an Engineer, dear Arabs. Your cousin Ahmed? The one, who, like, stabbed himself in the eye with a pencil in class 3?: he's not meant to become a brain surgeon or a Minister. That's fine. Omanise.

The construction industry in Oman is the very best example. Abuse of third world employees abounds. They are overworked, underpaid, and too fearful of deportation to report lack of safety and even the corruption they see on sites. Galfar roads are a perfect example of this. They should have made the roads such a depth but didn't to save, so they could spend the extra they were given? Did anyone report them? No. Replace these people with Omanis, raise their salary, give them the oppurtunity to advance based on knowledge and experience. The dude starts as a painted or digger, in a few months he gets trained how to drive or use the machines, in a few years he knows enough to be a foreman. In ten years, and with some safety courses, let him be a safety inspector. Instead of retiring them to a fake office job once they're old, let them become site inspectors to make standards in construction and project timelines a reality in Oman. Desk jobs are for people with experience, everywhere in the world. Not because your cousin Ahmed and brother Zuhair or whoever knows somebody there to get you transferred. Sweat and hardwork are admirable qualities. Omani guys, here's a tip: to women, these are even "sexy" qualities to have.

I love a man who can paint, fix my car, hang my curtains, and get down to work with the construction workers on site while building our family villa. THAT is sexier to me, than, I don't know, fancy perfume, 100 rial honey, and a dude who has time to be on whastapp all day at a deskjob. Really. Honest to God/Allah, I swear. Intelligence is a turn-on. But hardwork, the phsyical kind---will do in place if you lack intelligence. That's sexy.

Trade schools would develop these young men. Plumbers, electricians, carpenters, welders, Oil industry personnel---- these people do fair work and deserve fair wages. Let people work with their hands. Give them acs but let them.

4.) Make minimum wage universal regardless of passport. Corruption will descrease. Abuse of foriegn workers will decrease. Less foreign workers will be imported. More Omanis can step into these unskilled or only semi-skilled jobs.

But what about my nanny/housemaid?: Learn to do your own dishes or ---Omani women can do part-time cleaning services---I know many who are not too proud to. Or do them yourselves;) If I can, you can. If you are truly wealthy enough to afford help, you'll still be able to.

If not, Omani women who really can't go into the workforce can in the very least offer daycare or baby-sitting services to boost their incomes and stay stay-at-home Moms. I know alot of Omani women who already do this.

5.) I really loved the Dragon's recommendation of focusing training on local villages. My village, for example, is a heritage/tourism village. Training these kids in that would suit them.

Alot of kids in Sohar could be trained in the ports management. Mabaila, in auto repair---those boys just spend all their time washing and polishing cars on the side of the road anyways... (don't need fake car parts but pay more for labour---I am okay with that). Kids in Al Wusta---oil industry machinery and the like.

Really, these things are not that hard to do. They will hurt at first. Prices will rise. But they should. The cost of getting my car washed here is ridiculously low. The cost of labour for building a house---ridiciulously low. The payment to the owners of big companies----ridiculously high while the workers get the short end of the stick.

6.) Flexibility in hours needs to happen for Omanis. My Omani husband is happy because my job is not a 9-5. It is a go in 2 days a week one week and work like a demon, and then sleep the  next 3, or work 7 days a week one week, and then a week off ect.... It is based on the work requirements, not on what I  am supposedly supposed to do by salalry/hours. Part-time work must happen. A lot of Omani women would be happy with part-time work. They just can't do full-time, and raise a family of 10. It doesn't work. Part-time also means one can be fired. So be it. Then at least I can hire an Omani instead of an expat.

I am so tired of being told I am not allowed to hire an Omani, even though they want the work and can do it, because the place I work is afraid they can't fire them.

That means, they don't get work, and an expat does.

Doesn't work for Omanisation.

Which brings me back to what is the pont? Who listens? Who wants to change? Who can force change?

My sil and my cowife are also researchers. None of us are in related feilds but we all write for the government sector, advising ministries ect...

My cowife just contributed to an excellent report about Omani teachers and what are the flaws that are easy to change in the class 1-12 education system. What was done with such a report?: nothing. Her boss is thinking of quitting because he's just so tired of making reports and nothing is being done about them.

My SIL just wrote a report saying how flying doctors over here and providing the facilties would cut down on the wait times and costs of sending Omani citizens overseas to recieve medical treatment. What was done with that report?: nothing.

A coworker just wrote asking that nurses be allowed the option of part-time work, per hour, instead of being forced to salary day or night shift duties, allowing the hard workers to take the night shifts and weekends for extra money, and allowing Omani women the chance to spend time with their families instead of quitting nursing altogether. We hope it will be considered by the Minstry of Manpower. However, I don't hold my breath.

All in all, I am only blogging because, the people who were supposed to attend a meeting we scheduled for today, did not show up, and I had nothing to do anyways.... and others asked me to. But when it comes down to it, I feel like, what is the point?: let funnier, better bloggers at least, with wider followers raise public awareness. Most of our blog's readers come for fashion posts about abayas, according to google stats, or information about Omani marriage laws.

I feel that way because it goes like an old Arabian fairytale:

Once upon a time there was a Sultan, who looked for the wisest of men in his Sultanate to be his advisor. So in the night he went to a road and placed a large boulder there. In a secret place he hid and watched. Here he would find the right man for the job.

In the morning many came. Some complained. Others made suggestions for what could be done to move the rock. But sadly, nothing was done, not by any of them.

In the end, one man he moved the rock. He had heard already the suggestions made by others, and the complaints. What he did was move the rock, nothing impossible, nothing but a little strain, a little sweat, a little work...

It was he for whom the Sultan was waiting.

I don't want to be just one of those in the crowd, murmuring anymore, about how to move the rock. If I cannot move it myself, I wait for the one (or ones) who have listened, and will move the boulder from the road. Plus, I like that the proverb as it has a Sultan, so it suits Oman;). So until someone wants to and can (we already know how and what must be done) shove the Omanisation-inhibtors rock out of the proverbial road.... we wait.

Dream Jobs in Oman, seem to all involve travel.... for a Muslim gal, that could pose an issue

I don't know what it is about life, but it seems, that everything that is perfect in it, comes at the wrong time. When I was young I would have killed for a job that involved travel, but married, with kids, travel for work is difficult.

Three years ago now? Maybe four, I was offered a job in PR work for a major fashion brand in the GCC. Absolutely something I should have adored but for the catch---it meant jetting over to Dubai every other weekend, Paris twice a year, and Beirut a few times a year. I just couldn't do it and I didn't even have kids then. My husband is Omani and jealous so I totally use that as an excuse, but the fact is, I've travelled a lot of my life, and never settled in one house for more than 3-4 years at a time, so I just feel it would be impossible to do. I'd love it for maybe two months and then dread it.

But when it comes down to this stage, I am building my own home (I want to be there, be part of the design process) money is a factor. I've been offered a new job, a way better one, with a better salary, and the job would be so much easier than the job I have now, less would be expected of me, and I probably could actually clean my own house more than the 1 day a week I try to devote for that now (still avoiding getting a housemaid despite the fact that I apologize to guests every time they show up at my door and avoid inviting people over). So why not take it---more family time, easier working day (albeit a 7am-2am schedule---so an Omani version of a 9-5)? The catch is travel. It seems to make more money in Oman means agreeing to travel to exciting and exotic locations. Which really, I'd prefer not to do while working, better on vacation, with my man, and the cutest wardrobe ever, if I am honest with myself.

Sure the travel is almost always first class, or at least business (which I am too cheap to fly on my own ha ha as all my friends will have ruefully experienced if they let me book our tickets). Sure we would go to super interesting places. But really, leaving my husband, my family, and as a Muslim, questioning should I ever do that? : Jealous husband and Islamic beliefs make a convenient excuse, but when it comes down to it, I don't really know what I want beyond a home and a family so...

Until I decide...if what I need is more important than what I want/believe....

---And shouldn't belief always ALWAYS ALWAYS outweigh what one wants or needs?

"But you have a driver and so travel without a Maharam to work everyday ANYWAYS" a relative insists.

Ugh. I am in dilemna. I don't know what to do. Until I have to decide, I have the excuse of my word, and I promised to stay at my work until I finish my project...

I love excuses. I have many for why I haven't gotten my license yet depsite the fact that I know how to drive better than 70% of the folks I see ON the road in Muscat....but yeah, as the old adage goes, if you want something, you'll get it, if you don't, you'll find excuse.....

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Yay! Suburban Posted---a reblog

Yay! Other Oman (aka Suburban) posted. She's my favourite blogger, and in case you are new to Oman, her's was one of the best and funniest blogs about Oman ever, but sadly she moved away.

Well here's her post, reblogged:

MARRIAGE LAWS IN OMAN: convincing the family to allow an Omani woman to marry an expatriate

In Islam it doesn't matter whose family, what tribe, or nation, a man is from, if he wants to marry a
Muslim woman, but you have NO IDEA how difficult this may be for Omani women to convince their families (and namely fathers) of:

The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “If there comes to you to marry (your daughter) one who with whose religious commitment and character you are pleased, then marry (your daughter) to him, for if you do not do that, there will be fitnah (tribulation) in the land and widespread corruption.” Narrated by al-Tirmidhi, 1084; classed as hasan by al-Albaani in Saheeh al-Tirmidhi, 866.

It says in Tuhfat al-Ahwadhi: The phrase “if there comes to you to marry (your daughter)” means if he comes to ask to marry a woman from among your children or relatives. “One with (whom) … you are pleased” means you think well of him, and are pleased with his religious commitment. “His character” means his attitude and how he deals and interacts with others. “Then marry (your daughter) to him, for if you do not do that” means, if you do not marry (your daughter) to one with whose religious commitment and character you are pleased, and you are only concerned with lineage, beauty and wealth, “there will be fitnah (tribulation) in the land and widespread corruption” i.e., great corruption, because if you will only marry her to someone who is wealthy or of high status, most of your womenfolk may remain without husbands, and most of your men will remain without wives, so there will be a lot of temptation to commit zina, and perhaps the guardians may feel that their honour has been violated (because of zina), so there will be a lot of tribulation and corruption, which will result in illegitimacy and a lack of righteousness and chastity.

Of course, in Oman, it is easy to dismiss, since the country actually makes illegal what is "halal/lawful" in Islam, which the Qu'ran says:

"Say 'who has made Unlawful (Haram) the luxuries that God has provided his servants and the good things?..." (7/32)

"Say 'Do you see that which God has provided for you, you make some of it Unlawful (Haram) and some of it Lawful (Halal)? Say 'Did God allow you to do this? Or do you tell lies about God?" (10/59)

"And do not say lies for what your tongues describes: this is lawful (HALAL), and that is unlawful (HARAM), to lie about God. Those who lie about God will never succeed. They will have small pleasures (on Earth), AND FOR THEM IS A PAINFUL RETRIBUTION" (16/116-117)

And of races, nations, and tribes, the Qu'ran says:
"O Mankind, ...we made you into tribes and nations so that you may know each other (not that you despise each other). Verily, the most honoured of you in the sight of Allah is he who is most righteous of you." (Al-Quran, Chapter 49, Verse 13)

"And amongst his signs is the creation of heaven and the earth, and variation in your language and colours; Verily, in there are signs for those who know" (Al-Quran, Chapter 30, Verse 22)

The Prophet Mohammed said of men who would judge one man to be a superior of another: "An Arab is no better than a non-Arab, and you are no better than a red skinned person nor a black .But he who is superior is he who has fear/remembrance of God in his/her heart"

For myself, that is enough to know, that whoever asks to marry my daughter, if she is willing of course, if he is good man, a kind man, a patient man, and a man who fears and remembers God/Allah, then we will say yes, no matter the difficulties of cross culture or even the same culture;).

However, I will try to attach here to this post, a fatwa from the Grand Mufti saying as much (I know he's already given some but I can't find it right now). Anyways, this post is in response to a couple emails I get every month asking me if I have anything on this.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

UPDATE: Marriage Laws in Oman

I had a one-sided agrument with a bunch of law students at Sultan Qaboos University the other day about the Marriage Laws in Oman requiring permission to be achieved first before marriage between an Omani citizen and an expat can take place. I say one-sided, because they basically agreed with me and I was just venting. What is wrong with the process we asked ourselves: it is unfair regarding gender, it is unclear, the process is unknown and not transparent and this leads to corruption, and cases are not considered on a case to case basis regarding clear processes.

The human rights issues involved, you can have no idea. Women and men (Omani and expat) write me everyday, asking what they should do, where can they go, and so many horror stories, you wouldn't know. The Interior Ministry has only 4-5 good people that I actually encountered in my own quest for permission. Maybe the others who work there are embittered, because of countless stories of marriages that failed? I don't know. Like many laws, this one needs to be clearer, needs to have exceptions that are clear, and needs to be fair to both sexes. Omani women deserve the same rights after permission as Omani men.

Islam is clear about it. It is halal, considering the religion of the Omani's intended. Oman outlaws it though. Although, how many Al Said Omani princes and Princesses do we know who are from mixed families?

People tell me I shouldn't talk about this, regarding my own precarious position in this country, and the status of my passport application. But I am sure those Princes and Princesses would agree with me as well. She totally doesn't know I write this blog, but I had coffee with one such woman the other day, and she was all "mashaAllah" that my husband was from Oman, and from the village that he is from, even that kind of life isn't the easiest for most expats.

Who doesn't agree: small-minded people who don't believe Omanis should marry outside their family and tribe, that's who. People who have no idea, that nationality is more about contributing to a country, than about race and family. These people often claim to be religious but don't care what their religion says. These people break my heart, over and over again.

I still think there should be SOME law regarding giving legal status to a non-citizen. People shouldn't just be given passports who would then divorce their spouse ect... and look for someone better. Or be allowed to marry and then divorce, leaving the Omani govenrment with full financial responsibility for maitenance (a lot of poor Yemeni brides in case from the early 80s). Divorce laws regarding custody and inheritance should be signed and explained before any marriage takes place to stop legal disputes involving borders and countries in case of the worst. All this I do support. But saying "no" to Omanis who wish to marry who they love or the one person who actually does want to marry them when no one in their own country or family does? This is inhumane, unislamic, and not very Omani to me.

The legal students began to propose different studies they could do on this one subject. I know for instance, the Omani cultural center, and some anthropologists looking into studying this subject, the impact of the law and culture upon Omani marriages (to Omanis as well as expatriates) would be something worth pursuing and documenting. The one thing that stood in their way was documenting cases, especially since many marriage take place without permissions ect.. or are hard to track since people fear for being punished for the exception the Interior Ministry has made for them, as if it could be retracted somehow... Or they are saving their help and advice and "wasta" for someone they are close to in need, not just random strangers.

Would you be brave enough to contribute anonymously to such a study I wonder?

Sunday, May 11, 2014

I apologize for not posting. I have just started the process of building my house (yay!), so I am quite busy approving plans, and doing paperwork, plus my fulltime job and other things, so please forgive.

-This post is just to let everyone including the other girls know why I haven't gotten back to you, or responded to comments

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Not your regular eye-candy post.....:I have been lucky I suppose {alhamdulilah} to have been born relatively free. Free to love where I choose, free to move where I choose, free to believe as I choose, be it displeasing as it may to some, and an object of some oppression, the choice was always mine. This post is directed at one particular person, to remind them, what our duty is, that our happiness, that our freedom, that our luck, our fortune, does not necessarily give us the right to ease. In Oman, as it is elsewhere in this world, there is oppression. There is errors in culture, tribalism, racism, there is injustice, there is corruption, and of these things we were told to change them with our hand if we can, and if we can't, with our tongues. I think people use that as an excuse that tongues are enough, but I have hands, so why should I not use them?
And for the oppressors, whether they be husbands, brothers, father's, Sheikhs, corrupt government, unfair legislation, or other women--- and to those who are in captivity or lack the choices I had with ease--- I beg you remember this:

Being asked for my ID by a corrupt/creepy ROP guy

I was so angry, but then, the words of the Indian men who worked at the cafeteria, caused me to pause for thought, and made me take a vow to myself. "May God make all poor women ugly, and all rich women beautiful." Strange it was, a thing for them to say, given the situation, so I had to think, what had this to do with me and what they had just witnessed?

The day was one for me to recover from working all the weekend. I stayed home to relax, but alas, had housework to do, so I wasn't wearing my best. Also, my foot was broken, so I was wearing rubber flip-flops (also great for mopping the floors). So when I was hungry, I was too tired to cook, so I set down the street to the coffee shop near my house wearing those same flip flops. Before leaving the house I tossed on an abaya, and a house scarf (coloured, patterned, long, and overly modest in length, covering all my body to my hips). I wore no makeup, no jewelry save my wedding band, and only my hands, and face were showing.

At the cafeteria I ordered my meal. I usually would wait in the little household goods store nextdoor while I waited for my order, but it wasn't open yet that early, and it was beyond hot out, I hid inside behind the pop machines at a quiet table.

Inside comes a plain-clothed young Omani male, just a little taller than myself, and boyish looking, and he 'salaams' me.

I reply underbreath so he can't hear, for Muslims have to reply to a greeting, but Omani dudes tend to take that as flirting so underbreath it comes.

I take it he knows the Indians or is the son of the owner as he walks straight back inside. When he comes back out he sits down beside me and starts to be all flirty in Arabic. I ignore him, and I know, I should get up, but the Westerner in me, is like, I was here first, you leave ME alone.

I tell him I don't want to talk and don't speak Arabic in Arabic (crappy Arabic that has no grammer).

He tells me I must be Lebanese and am lying. I am like, no, I am [insert nationality] and he pops out his ROP ID card and asks me for my ID.

I am so mad at this point, I could hit him. I have my id but I tell him I don't. I say it is in my 'beit' and I just came here to get food and leave. I told him my husband is Omani, and I am from such and such country, and so there is no 'mishkila' and he should leave me alone.

The Indians are watching, feeling sorry for me.

Legally, he can only ask for my ID if I am at a roadblock, or working. As a customer, he has no right, but I wouldn't be so pissed if I didn't know him to be squeezy, by his trying to flirt BEFORE flashing the id and asking for mine.

I could get him fired if I took his ID number, if he but knew that.

He insists I am lying and should go with him, so I wave him away like he's a fly and tell him I am going to eat, and if he wants to sit outside my house until my husband comes home, he can do that, but that won't be good for him.

He eventually leaves me and I roiling, boiling, broiling, over-flowing mad.

He thought I was a family-less housemaid or something, and I could see him taking advantage of some poor scared girl who doesn't know her rights or have someone to defend her.

Then the Indians made their dua. And after a while it made sense, for people like that creep will always take advantage of the situations of women who are poor or alone, and those who are rich will not know if people want their money or station, to take advantage of them elsewise.

It also makes me so deeply, horribly sad, that people such as that exist at all, because I could not see myself ever taking advantage of the weak state of another human being so utterly, and awfully. May the next time I meet that creep, I be wearing Louboutins in place of rubber flip flops, and be beside those he fears, ameen. May he get what he deserves, ameen. May he never hurt or take advantage of another human being, ameen. I hope he knows the fear and shame of those he'd oppress, ameen, else change and make right, though that I doubt.

ART FROM OMAN: more student art from Sultan Qaboos University

There was a small exhibition of student art themed around Omani culture at the exhibition/conference hall at Sultan Qaboos University last week. I didn't manage to take a lot of photos, but here are some of the works I saw:

Friday, May 2, 2014

Someone once told me this advice: "Living is not a state of being." Those words had so much more meaning for me than just your average proverb. I never knew where I was going when I first quit my job and bought that plane ticket. But I always knew I belonged somewhere else. I never expected Oman, it wasn't somewhere new for me, and it is a little far from all the things I love or am accustomed to, but it is here I find myself, over and over again, and anew. Still, I can't forget those words, for they were the last that person ever said to me, and will ever be able to speak to me. I will try to remember them, as I get busy, or responsibilities beckon. What we are meant to do, our ultimate destinies, are the result of what we made time for, what we believed ourselves capable of, and the standard we held ourselves to. Since I hold rather high ideals, I guess I should start this weekend by working on myself a bit;).