Monday, June 29, 2015

A Funny Omani Observation About Expats

(MOP) [my husband]: You know, its funny, You, and other [from-the-land-far-and-away] expats... You are awfully conversational about all aspects of Omani society, government, politics, etc..., but back in [the-land-far-and-away] how many of you, did really care that much about your own government and society?

OPNO [me]: ......

{I have an excuse at least, as soon as I found out there were roads that led to other places in the world, I wanted to go}

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

My Hate for E Max and My First Experience with Oman's Consumer Protection Section


This a post about my first experience with Oman's consumer protection section. And my second bad bad bad, much more horrible than my horrible first, experience with E-max [ http://www.citycentremuscat.com/shopping/anchor-stores/e-max.aspx]. Okay, so, I should have remembered the time we bought an adapter from E-max, only to get it home, and find out, look at the box, it was obviously used (and ruined) and returned, and then put back on the shelves for re-sale. Being the famously angry-OPNO that I am, I walked inside E-max with this adapter, put it back on the shelf, and walked out of the store with another, without going through the return process. Call it stealing if you will, but that's what I've learned to do in Oman. I paid for a working adpater. I got a working adapter. That's the life, and I don't think I am going to hell for it.

But this time, I needed a camera. A dying relative gave me money to buy a camera to take photos of my kids for them. Yes. That's why I am so so so emotional about stupid E-max, that I bothered with consumer protection.

I bought said camera. Also, I bought suggested batteries for camera recommended by its warranty. I set camera functions to work with recommended batteries. I took that cursed camera with me to take photos at an event, and it died after less than twenty minutes. Weird, but then I thought, maybe I did not charge the batteries correctly?

So I charged the batteries correctly. I tried to use the camera again. Same thing, died after taking 11 photos. So weird. So I thought, maybe the batteries are crap so we bought E-max batteries, we bought non-chargeable, the works, it kept dying.

So we went to the return section at E-max in the store. Staff who work there?: super nice people. They aren't really allowed to help you but they feel guilty for this and are super polite no matter how angry you get, especially the Omani and Philipino girls who work there. Can't complain about them.

However, even though I was returning said camera with all its contents, and original box, and receipts, despite the store poilcy being cash back is allowed with 15 days of purchase, I was forced to send the camera for maitenance "first". I waited more than two months for "maitenance" to "fix" it and when it was returned, the lense wouldn't open now either, and so we couldn't see if the battery was fixed.

I asked then, to get a new camera, or a different model and pay the difference.

They told me to send my camera for maitenance again.

My kids, by now, have not been photographed through many important moments. Recieving birthday gifts. Baby's first steps... Daughter's first doll house... But whatever. Send it again to maitenance and wait.

They said one week. After a month, we went to consumer protection. Then, E-max phoned and said they'd give me a replacement. So I went in and tested this time, in-store, the replacement.

It had the same problem with battery so obviously the model doesn't work and has something wrong with it. The service department girls agreed, they couldn't say the replacement was working either, and I told them I wanted another model of camera and I would pay the difference.

The Seeb City Center E-Max manager refused however, and basically told me, take the paperweight your dying relative sent you money to buy and like, throw it in the garbage, because E-max doesn't do refunds or "working camera" exchanges.

I was so so mad I freaked out and went to the camera section and ranted at customers buying cameras and scared all the customers away until my husband led me out of the store, and then took me to Cake Gallery for macaroons and coffee so I could calm down, and not cry in public.

I have no salary right now because my work is renewing my contract, I am paying a mortgage (Islamic loan) for a house, and I bought plane tickets to the land-far-and-away. I couldnt just buy another camera. I needed the money back from this one. Really I did.. I felt I was failing the person who got me this gift because it was a gift for them, not for me. Does that make sense?

So my husband, knowing this, went to consumer protection and demonstrated how the camera did not work. The E-max manager (City Center Seeb) promised consumer protection he'd fix everything for us.

SO we went to E-max to get another model of camera. But the manager told us that his camera expert would see us instead.

The so-called camera expert told me that battery-powered cameras only last taking 35 photos max.

Which is a load of bull-crap. Since I've owned digital battery powered cameras since the begining of this particular era, circa 2000 and the 2000 cameras lasted 2 hours on battery power. And even my stupid cellphone lasts an hour of photo taking.

If that were true there should be a warning when you buy, I said, so I asked for my money back or a replacement. When both were refused I promised I'd blog this, and the consumer protection would make them get me a new camera, so screw them. (I didn't say screw them, but in my head I said it, plus threw pies at their stupid faces) [the nice service people, I'd buy them a pie, for having to deal with angry people all day and a job that sucks, and they could eat it to, but not manager and his so-called camera expert]. I took photography as part of my art foundation in school. I am no idiot. I can even develop my own photos, dumbassess. Grrr.... Of course I can set the camera function for the right battery type...

As you can see, I am still very angry.

My husband went again to the consumer protection who forced the manager at E-max to come in to their office, and he was told, give me the money back, or give me a new model.

Of course, when we got to the e-max store, the manager still insisted we return EVERYTHING to get our money back, including the memory card (which most Omani will never do). However, I'd only managed to photograph floor tiles before the camera's batteries died...

So moral of the story is, don't trust E-max to sell you working items. Don't go to them for their return policy and always keep all original packaging and receipts and just go to the consumer protection from the beginning. Force the stupid store to see you, on your time, by appointment.

Thank you consumer protection, and "I hate you" E-Max and Manager and fake camera expert guy.

-XOXO OPNO

Being a Muslim Non-Omani Woman in Oman---with an Omani husband: Women's Rights Issues in Oman

Reading an article by Saudi woman Bayyan, posted by Susie of Arabia, I thought about being a woman in Oman http://susiesbigadventure.blogspot.com/2015/06/the-burden-of-being-female-in-saudi.html. I suppose, despite our blog's title, I am not really every girl in Oman. First, I am Muslim, not born that way either. I was an expat non-Muslim here years and years ago however (Brits, Aussies, South Africans, Germans, Americans, Canadians), so I get these expats, truly I do. I am also married to an Omani, from a conservative place in Oman. Even my Omani co-workers, get infuriated by his culture sometimes, as much as they love my husband as a person, saying "how different he is" depsite being "so from there". And, as a Muslim, I follow a very strict interpretation of Islam, stricter in form than what I follow admittedly, for what is right and wrong. I follow what Saudi Arabia "claims" to follow, but does so imperfectly, to tragic circumstance I suppose. So sometimes, girls from Salalah, I get even you too, although I have never been there, and have only male Dhofari aquaintenances it seems.

So, being a woman in Oman. In Oman, I can drive. However, if my husband or family did not wish me to drive, they could prevent me from getting my Omani national ID card, or I could sneak out of the house to apply for it, and, a brother or relative could probably go to the police to pick it up (for me) if they heard I had done so (someone might phone them, despite that being illegal in Oman). So in that case, as an Omani woman, I'd be prevented from travelling, free movement, and driving, since without a national ID card, I can't get a passport either. As I am still not an Omani citizen, and my husband is the one pestering me to get my lisence, this is not an issue for me, but it is for other Omani women, a mystery number the government seems to care nothing about. As I still don't drive... my fault, I face other issues, relatable to women in this situation.

In Oman, technically gender segregation doesn't exist. Although, it does. My husband's family is very hypocritical about gender segregation. It is claimed to come from Islamic intent, although if that is truth, then, well, I wouldn't feel so angry when I am neglected from social situations. The village has a company where many of the wives have equal ownership to men in the company. However, we are expected to have our husbands or brothers speak our business ideas on our behalfs, and the men in the company meet and make all final decisions without our presence or vote. As many more of the women worked in private sector or had formal education than the men, this seems loony bin to me, but whatever... It isn't "against the law" but it simply "isn't done". While it is perfectly fine for me to meet with men at my work, or in Oman's public sector, doing so "in the family" is so not. Don't get it AT ALL.

At work, my male co-workers occasionally say inapproproate things. A joke here, something there. Nothing against me at all, but definately not positive towards women in general. I was told, because I took a month and a half off to have a baby (even though I am the ONLY one working on the project AT ALL out of a group of FIVE male collegues) that I was becomming "an Omani woman" arguing, and "trying to justify" why I didn't get work done. Sorry, my usual caffinate myself and never sleep work routine was called off my doctors who told me to stop having heart attacks while pregnant, y'all. During that month and a half, I still replied to all emails, made reports, corrected spelling, and booked people hotel arrangements even though that isn't even in my job description---up until the day I went to the hospital. I was like, should I text my boss back while I  am having contractions and the nurse is fighting me for my phone?---nah. I returned as soon as I could walk without bleeding and I found childcare for a super newborn. It was really an offensive experience for me, that I haven't forgotten. Since not one of them have produced ANY work at all since making those comments, I feel quite offended, not for me, but for Omani women.

While there are no mutawaa (religious police here) sometimes I see women giving other women looks of disgust (judging their dress) instead of, like, befriending them, complimenting them on more culturally or Islamic suited choices... This comes from what I don't know in the culture. You can say Islam, but not really. Islam isn't really a judge-other-people kind of religion unless it comes down to to worhsipping more than one God/Allah. Even for the strictest of interpretations.

As I don't drive I can almost quote the Saudi woman's article comepletely: Perhaps it was the countless men who assumed that since I was out in public on my own I clearly was asking to be sexually harassed. Or the young men who shamelessly threw their phone numbers at me, or followed me in their cars for long-periods of time despite my obvious lack of interest. Or maybe it was the numerous times when these sexual-harassment car-chases became reckless and almost ended in accidents... I can add, the idiots who honk at me, who try to talk to me despite me obviously not being in need, despite wearing abaya and hijab and even face veiling...

In Canada I can wear abaya and that alone is enough to command respect of a sexual nature for men to leave me be, whereas here in Oman, obviously, something is wrong with the Muslim men if it isn't enough for them, but it is for non-Muslim men.

At my work, when they found out I was married to an Omani, the personnal affairs office asked me to get a "permission slip" from my husband to allow me to work the hours in my work contract. Apparently husband's sue the government sometimes so their Omani wife doesn't have to fulfill her own work contract? Like she was, I dunno, too dumb to know what her job is from the start and signs stuff without understanding? My Omani husband found this offensive more than I did...

While women are allowed to ask for things in their marriage contract, like financial provision after other-party mitagated conditioned divorce, or child custody, or rights a woman wants to maintain for herself that Islamically a man has to agree to, women are discrouaged by the man who wants to marry them, and their male guardians, from doing so, even this protects them, and in Islam, is what we are supposed to do. Asking for, like, 10, 000 OMR maher, seems pointless to me, if one is not going to work out future child custody issues, like if a man might marry another wife, what are the woman's options etc.... I, unlike many many women who complain on the internet (including the Saudi one) know that in Islam, a Muslim man IS allowed to marry another wife and even if you put that he can't in a marriage contract, he can, and that contract part is void in Shariah law. Like if a woman agrees in her contract that she won't go to a Mosque, but later she wants to... Certain rights can't be made legally null despite being a marriage contract. However, protections and incentives can be built in, like alimony to be paid (and right to divorce without return of maher) if a man marries again BEFORE he delivers any maher payment to a future bride, and custody rights.

However, in Oman, much of a woman's marriage is done without her. And can be done, without her knowledge if she is a virgin. Which, to me, is wrong on so many levels... Same with divorce. I don't know any women personally this happened to, however, but it happens it seems, according to other Omani women.

Women's visas are harder to get then men's. That is, assuming, people were abusing the system and bringing women to, like, work in a salon, or as a waitress, then they ended up working as dancers/prostitutes/massage artists, or something, but it really doesn't solve this problem the way, say, good detective/police work does, and set conditions for deportation, with due punishment for sponsors that abuse the category of visa they applied for. But whatever, I don't work for the Ministry of Manpower, so what can I say? From the my experience, the police in charge of enforcing Sponsor-and Workier Abuse of Visa Category are pretty corrupt http://howtolivelikeanomaniprincess.blogspot.com/2014/05/being-asked-for-my-id-by-corruptcreepy.html. They will take bribes (like sexual favours) to not arrest the prostitutes, so really, who are we fooling that this new law, did anything towards reducing this number? Do men, who get caught with prostitutes---get deported? Or at least, arrested and forced to undergo medical testing for dicesases? I rather doubt that... And punishing the poor Moroccan girl who was forced to become a dancer/prostitute by an evil sponsor whom she paid a large ammount of money to, to come to Oman in the first place as a waitress who needs to support, like, her blind widowed mother and ten brothers and sisters back in Marrakesh or Casablanca, with jail, fines, and deporatation.... seems wrong somehow. Many of these sponsors are supported by wasta people (I know because my husband tried to fight one of them and the best he could do in the end was buy the poor girl's freedom and return her to her family). Accountability isn't just for the lower castes of society, now it is?

I also, as a woman, am offended, when an old Omani woman has waited years now, for her free government land, and a girl walks in full makeup, and fancy abaya, to the housing Minsitry, and walks out with HER free government land the same day. That's sickening, and so obvious.

For the women out there living in Oman, are there other areas of life in Oman, that I neglected to mention, that make you feel diminished or suppressed as a person in this society?