Thursday, May 31: Today I was trying to kill time while waiting to meet a friend for lunch at Bareeq Al Shatti Mall’s Ubhar Restaurant. I hadn’t had a pedicure in some time, so I popped in to Dr. Fish to let the fish nibble away the dead skin from my heels. I have seen these kinds of things in Cambodia and Vietnam and Korea, where the fish therapy is cheaper than in Oman. I paid 3 rials (nearly $8) for a 15 minute session with the little fish, who nibbled away to their hearts’ content. I found that 15 minutes is not nearly long enough to get rid of all my dead skin. They were just skimming the surface. If I had done the 30 minutes for 5 rials, they would have had the feast of a lifetime!
Wednesday, May 30: Ailsa from Where’s my backpack? created a challenge this week on street markets. She writes: There is something about a street market that makes everything look, smell and taste just a little bit better.
Here are some street market scenes from Oman. I find these markets different from colorful markets in other parts of the world; the earth-toned offerings here are evocative of the desert.
Tuesday, May 29: This week’s topic for our A-Z ARCHIVE Tuesday’s photo challenge: the letter “V”: introduce one photo of your own archive with a “V” keyword for example VENICE (like FrizzText) or Vietnam, Vampire or Volkswagen, Virgins or Valencia, Vancouver or Videos, about veil duty or V-décolletages, Violence or Valparaiso, Vibraphones or Visitors, a pop song title with the first letter “V” (Valery, Amy Winehouse!) etc.
These are the closest things to vineyards I’ve seen in Oman. They’re not like the typical vineyards we see in France or California; they’re basically just trellises full of grapes. I also don’t think they make wine with these, as Muslims “don’t drink.”
Monday, May 28: Here are Cee’s life questions for this week:
What’s your favorite holiday and why?
I love Thanksgiving in the USA. It’s not too full of hype and stress, as Christmas always seems to be, and it’s wonderful to have family gathered around all day relaxing and enjoying a feast together. My family lounges around and naps after the meal, and then we play games afterwards. I love all the traditional Thanksgiving foods, such as turkey and stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, pumpkin & apple pie and, especially, green bean casserole!!
Do you prefer your food separated or mixed together?
I always like my food separated, and I usually eat one thing at a time. Unless there is gravy involved; I love to mix that with everything!
Before making a phone call, do you ever rehearse what you are going to say?
Only if I know it’s going to be a difficult conversation. Like a job interview or a potential conflict with someone. Or if I feel I need to speak up about something that really bothers me. Other than that, I don’t rehearse.
When you are with your friends, do your interactions include much touching—for example, hugging, kissing, rough housing, rubbing backs? Would you like to have more of this?
I’m sad to say I’m not a very touchy person. If it’s someone I’m romantic with, I can be more touchy, holding hands and hugging, but with friends, I’m generally not this way. I have to say I would like to have more of this, as long as it’s someone I really enjoy and care about. I actually think I’m a quite difficult person to get close to….
Monday, May 28: After Mario and I leave Bidbid, we head to the pottery souq at Fanja, where we find unglazed pots, baskets, brooms, chests, gaudy fake flower arrangements in cellophane, dried fish & limes, incense burners, straw mats, tacky brightly colored ceramic animals and the goat fodder we saw the Bangladeshi boys harvesting in Bidbid.
After the souq, we take a walk up to the walled village and watchtower, perched high on a hilltop overlooking the modern town. Towers galore dot the surrounding hills. We find a decaying mishmash of ruined mud brick buildings, along with some more modern and apparently inhabited buildings.
We can’t believe how crazy we are walking around in these temperatures. However, Mario comments that we are in fact doing it, so it must not be impossible. Agreed! Onward we go to Muscat, to share a drink along the humid coast at the Crowne Plaza Hotel.
Monday, May 28: Today, I have my flat exterminated for bed bugs! I actually only saw one, I think, and haven’t really suffered bites, I don’t think… (I’m actually kind of oblivious to this kind of thing). However, my upstairs neighbor David has them and because we’ve heard these pests can multiply and occupy entire apartment buildings, I opt to have my flat treated too. The exterminator is scheduled to arrive at 8:30 a.m., at which time we will need to vacate our flats and stay out for about 8 hours. I figure that will work out well as I can just go to work all day.
However. We get a call postponing the appointment to 11:00, insha’allah. By the time the fumigator squad arrives at 11:30, they inform us that it will take 2 hours for each flat and they will do David’s first. So I run to work to enter marks, the only real work requirement today, and then return home to have my flat treated at around 1:00.
By the time they finish, there is really no point in going back to work. But. What will I do out of my flat for 8 hours?? It’s too hot to be outdoors exploring and walking around in 108 degree heat. Still. There must be something to do! Mario and I decide to take a little trip to Muscat, with the plan of stopping to explore Bidbid and Fanja on the way, and ending up at one of the nice hotels in Muscat to have a drink. One of my goals while in Oman is to visit each of the fancy hotels for a drink (I can’t eat at these hotels because they are too darn expensive!). We opt to aim for the Crowne Plaza at Qurum Beach.
We get on the road and take the exit for Bidbid, looking for what The Rough Guide to Oman bills as the “quaint fort (not open to the public).” We drive around and around the little village of Bidbid, frustrated by the lack of signs. We ask a couple of people along the way, who make hand motions telling us to turn right at the school.
Sometimes getting lost leads you to surprising little treasures. We come across some farms, planted with various crops including some kind of fodder for goats, lime and lemon trees, eggplant, corn, and sorghum, among other things. There are several Bangladeshis working diligently in the fields, cutting the goat fodder plants, which have lovely purple flowers on them. It’s quite idyllic and lovely. The Bangladeshi workers seem quite pleased to see some foreigners wander into their fields with cameras in hand.
The farms are laid out nicely in grids, with square patches of the delicate purple flowers against a backdrop of date palms and brown mountains. I love finding these little paradise-like places in Oman. There is so much brown and desert here, that when I find an area of greenery, I want to drink it up like a bee does nectar. Despite the temperature being about 43 degrees Celsius (110 F), we walk around in the fields, stopping to admire the hard work of the Bangladeshis and to take their pictures.
Everywhere are piles of colorful old clothes, which are used to re-route the water in the irrigation ditches. Butterflies and birds abound. Cicadas are trilling in high-pitched desperation. Sweat is pouring off of us, but what is there to do? We let it drip. We walk and take pictures and enjoy the hot, but fresh, air.
One Bangladeshi boy beckons us to follow him. He keeps saying “I farm!” and he waves us. “I farm! I farm!” Of course it’s not his farm; it would have to be an Omani’s farm and he is the laborer. He tends the farm. He leads us back to his part of the farm, punctuated with lime trees and eggplant and sorghum. Further back he has some goats and sheep and chickens in a pen. He loves letting us take his picture. It’s obvious he’s proud of his little corner of the world, a world he tends with utmost care.
We finally leave the farm and walk, drenched in sweat, back to the car, where we get in and turn on the air-conditioner full blast. Determined to find the fort, we continue on past the school. Finally we find it in the little village, with a large falaj running along one side of it. The village children are swimming in the falaj and look happy to be cooled by the water.
Now, here’s what The Rough Guide to Oman says about Bidbid Fort: “This is one of the prettiest small castles in the country: a rustic little structure, built with mudbrick walls on a stone base, with windows and rifle-slits cut lopsidedly out of the adobe, half-hearted little rounded battlements above and a large watchtower perched on a small rock outcrop beside. Unusually, the walls have been left unplastered following restoration, so you can see the pebbles and bits of straw mixed in to strengthen the mudbrick, adding to its rather homespun charm. A swiftly flowing falaj, in which villagers are wont to do their washing, runs around one side of the fort.”
Sounds lovely, right? Wrong! It COULD be lovely, but it isn’t because of the horrible surroundings. There is so much trash and squalor surrounding the fort, that I find it simply disgusting. I don’t understand why, if Oman is serious about tourism, the government doesn’t clean up these tourist sites. Education is key, but apparently there isn’t a will behind it. Everywhere I go in Oman, trash is strewn everywhere. Especially in the wadis, where people go on picnics and leave all their rubbish behind them, marking their trail like Hansel and Gretel. It’s only when I get way off the beaten path, deep into the wadis where the Omanis won’t venture on picnics, that you can find a pristine environment.
I don’t know why the government doesn’t create a huge campaign to stop littering. I remember we had this problem back in the USA in the 1970s. The government went on a huge anti-litter campaign, creating and enforcing laws. Public service announcements were rampant. As idealistic high school students, we jumped on the anti-litter bandwagon and never considered leaving a piece of garbage anywhere. I remember my friend Rosie was really determined to stop the litter problem. Many times as we drove down the roads in Virginia, we would see someone toss a piece of trash out his window. Rosie got so angry she would insist on following the person and yelling at them to stop littering!! I had to admire her enthusiasm and dedication to solving the problem.
Of course there are plenty of uneducated rednecks in the USA who still litter and live their lives surrounded by rubbish. It infuriates me to see this anywhere in the world. Oman is actually cleaner than most, though, so I do have to give the country some credit. Actually the countries I have found with the biggest rubbish problems are India, Vietnam and Egypt, in that order. But since Oman is trying to establish an upscale tourism infrastructure, it would behoove them to get this trash problem resolved.
Irritated by the trashy surrounds, we leave the fort and head to our next destination of Fanja, which is next door to Bidbid. I really hope Omanis start having some respect for their own country and become invested in cleaning up their rubbish.
Sunday, May 27: I’ve been an English Language Lecturer at the Foundation Institute of the University of Nizwa for two semesters. A lot of readers have written to me because either they have applied for a job, or are considering applying, at the university. They want information, and I can’t say I blame them. Before I came here I was desperate for information, as is anyone who is thinking of moving to and working in a foreign country. When I got a job offer, I just decided to dive in and take a gamble, despite having little to no information. I had a desire to work in the Middle East for various reasons and I figured this would be as good a place as any. Besides, one of my State Department friends told me that Oman is the most desirable post in the Middle East for foreign service officers, so it seemed like a dream come true.
I’m generally hesitant to answer questions from potential job applicants because this is my place of employment and I try to limit my posts about my job here. As you can imagine, I don’t want to jeopardize my job by putting into print every little thing I think about the environment here.
I hope people will not be offended if I choose not to answer their messages and questions about the university. My blog is meant to be a creative outlet for me. I like to focus on my travels and photography and mostly amusing or interesting anecdotes about my experience in Oman. So, I would like to request that readers who are interested in applying here, or have already accepted a job here, please read my posts on the university (see the menu at the top of my page). Other than that, I hope my dear readers will understand if I don’t respond to any further messages regarding work at the university.
That being said, there are several more appropriate forums to find out information. Most ESL teachers already know that there is an international job forum on Dave’s ESL Cafe where you can post questions and get answers. Also, I have a friend who started a website for Expats in Oman: Omani – Expats’ Portal. Though this website is relatively new, I still suggest that you post your questions there in hopes of getting answers from other like-minded expats.
On Dave’s ESL Cafe there are some very negative and bitter posts; there are also some positive posts. There is probably some truth to both the positives and negatives. Just keep in mind the source. Since Dave’s ESL Cafe is anonymous, anyone at all can post without giving any information about themselves. It is impossible to know whether the person who posted is rightfully bitter about the university itself or is just a bitter person to begin with. Anyone who has a grudge against the university for whatever reason can post. If a person posts a lot of negative things about every place he has worked, for instance, that person may just be an angry person in general. We don’t know. So, I advise that readers should take everything they read with a big grain of salt.
Here’s what I have to add. Each culture has its challenges. Everyone who has ever worked abroad knows this. Some cultures are worse, some better, than others. People take to cultures differently. For example, I worked in Korea for a year, but no matter how much I tried to love it, it just wasn’t my cup of tea. Many other teachers absolutely loved it and have ended up staying for years.
As for workplaces: I’ve worked for excellent and horrible companies all over, including in the USA. The horrible workplaces are filled with negativity, infighting, low morale and high turnover. The excellent ones offer a positive, encouraging, inclusive and welcoming environment. Some workplace environments are simply better, or worse, than others. I think if you are a generally positive person who is resilient and flexible, you will be okay here. If not, you might be better off elsewhere. I enjoy my life in Oman and I try hard to make the best of the situation. I try to always remember why I’m here: to save money, to travel around the region, and to get more teaching and cultural experience. I love being with my students, despite the general challenges found anywhere in the Gulf.
Sunday, May 27: Jakesprinter’s Sunday Post challenge is Door. He writes: A door is a movable structure used to open and close off an entrance, typically consisting of a panel that swings on hinges or that slides or rotates inside a space.
When open, doors admit ventilation and light. The door is used to control the physical atmosphere within a space by enclosing the air drafts, so that interiors may be more effectively heated or cooled. Doors are significant in preventing the spread of fire. They also act as a barrier to noise.
Oman has interesting doors everywhere. Some are painted metal and some are intricately carved wooden doors. I must have a real fascination with them because I have quite a huge collection of pictures. Here are a few of my favorites:
This one is from Nizwa souq.
Here’s one from the village of Wekan at Wadi Mistal.
Here’s another door from the ruins at Al Hamra.
Saturday, May 26: Today is SIX WORD SATURDAY and this is all I have to say for today:
COUNTING HOURS AND MINUTES TILL AUGUST
That’s it. I’ll leave it at that.