Sunday, March 29, 2015

From Far Far Away: Notes on Leaving Oman

I left Oman to continue my education. Continuing education in Oman meant settling for private universities, that's let's face it, myself as an employer, generally wouldn't be elated to see on a resume.

The whole point of continuing my education was being able to stay in Oman and get a better job. Omanis can live like kings on what I got, but without a family behind me I had no social or financial security, and the Wave was a hell of a lot more than bying land and building for Omanis.

At first, I thought about studying in the UAE---they have a few more to choose from---but in the end I decided, why limit myself? I bought a book from Turtles "Personal Statements for Dummies" and applied to some of the best in the world, almost as a joke, as if, anything is possible in Muscat held true for me, as if, as long as I stayed in that enchanted place, anywhere else in the world would look at my application as if it were sprinkled with golden faerie [Jinni] dust, or something else equally magical, like my application would be a Genie in the envelope.
I am the first to admit that expats from my country in the "land far and away" are given oppurtunities in Muscat they wouldn't find in their home countries. English is an awesome benefit, and myself, always having to apologize for the actions of my home country, found it refreshing that Omanis were always referring to me as European.

To me, as a child, Europe meant cultured, sophisticated, educated, everything I admittedly, and where I hail from, is not.
So I dreaded going home, where people still advise me "be careful, it's not safe in the MiddleEast, watch out for bombs."

By some miracle and magic genie-in-the-bottle-luck-with-postage-from-Muscat I got into one of my top universities, and headed for the heart of 9/11 thinking---New York.

I can honestly say that a "New York State of Mind" does not apply to me. I hated it, the cold, the cold, the people, the cold. The mix of cultures, the museums, the art galleries, the shoppping, the food, yes all these--- I can understand--- make New York great, but the cold made it all awful, and made me a good student I guess...because I never went out. I burned bukhoor in my little awful grey dorm room on an electric bukhoor burner, wore Amouage perfume, sometimes slipped heavy Dhofari black velvet on top of jeans (with leggings under those) and slippers from Zara always hugged my frost-bitten feet. How I missed open-toe weather and culture!

For what I studied, basically one has to do assistant work and internships before one is hired anywhere in the world, and I was rather surprised when I got a long distance call from the U.K. for a job offer in London.

London is a dream to backwoods girl like me, who found Muscat to be the center of culture and heritage compared to a childhood in "rich folks do that not us" and "why bother to get educated, there is no work" nowhere's land.

However, London also being cold, took a while to get used to.
However, there are a million Omanis it seems, in the UK. I can even find chips Oman.

Mostly I am overworked, so I experience less of the culuture than I did in Oman, but that in itself, is part of the culture, yes? It took me a couple months to get into work-mode. In Oman, work-mode usually means the last couple days of the work week, or when the work itself forgets to mention something is urgent.

In the U.K. and the U.S. everything is done at an urgent pace, and this is actually normal pace. Urgent pace is freakishly mindboggling as if everything you do, every breath you take to focus, is a waste, and there isn't a moment to spare, even the evenings or weekends at times (U.S.A even more so).

However, I kind of learned that I love this. While I will never love the cold, I am a career girl. I am the woman who buys stationary for herself for work like other women buy manicures and spa treatments. I prefer being busy to waiting for a mistake to fix or on someone else's part to come in, or for people to show up for meetings that are cancelled, or trying to predict my boss's whims (although he was an awesome boss).

While I miss those little toilet sprays in Oman, and think North American and European hygeine is sickly gross compared to Arab, and I miss the smell of everyone wearing perfume and the sight of every person so immaculate in a uniform of black or pressed white, London kind of grew on me.

The food seduced me. The night life seduced me. The lack of creepy men at work seduced me. Not that I couldn't always repurpose that creepiness to get better results;). I can always take a train to hear the adhan (call to prayer) on the weekend. Some neighborhoods in England are more Islamic than anywhere in Oman, or the GCC.

I still planned to return to Oman, however, getting engaged here, in the U.K, to a local, from work, changed my mind, the way other OPNO girls got married to Omanis and that made their stay in Oman permanent, this made my mind for me. While I am saddened the Bedouin will probably never welcome me again as they did before if I come again to Oman, and my odds of seeing a camel race in London are all up to His Majesty presenting something to celebrate Regina Elizabeth II, I could luck out you know? Oman is still possible in London.

I hope to welcome another OPNO girl soon (okay, so she is going to the boonies where people talk different, like the North, or Wales or Scotland) who hopes to continue her education in U.K., maybe next year this time, provided nothing changes. Then there'll be one;).
Funny how life changes. Funmy how a hurricane, and grocery shopping, in Oman could help one to make friends and meet such interesting people. As we used to say, "everything is possible and impossible in Muscat", and that remains.... but I could probably say the same about London.

1 comment:

Ayshe said...

It is interesting that you mention about the work culture differences, having grown up in London and studied and worked there I am used to a much faster pace, so the work attitude here was a massive shock (more than the weather!) Good luck with your studies and congratulations on your engagement.