Tuesday, November 1: Today marks my first (un)official day of the holiday known in the Islamic world as Eid al-Adha. This “Festival of Sacrifice” is celebrated by Muslims the world over to commemorate Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son Ishmael in obedience to God. Lucky for Abraham, God intervened and provided his faithful servant with a ram to sacrifice instead of his son.
The real Eid al-Adha doesn’t actually start for a couple more days. To be honest, I don’t even know which day it officially starts. However, today we had drenching rain showers and flooding, so the university cancelled classes at 2:00 pm and, as a follow-up, in a stroke of generosity, cancelled classes for tomorrow as well. Torrential rainstorms are forecast through the weekend. Since no one knows quite what to do when it rains in Oman, it is impossible to get anything productive done. It’s better to not even try.
I took off for my 2:00 class today in the downpour, taking off my sandals to protect them from ruin while wading through the 6″ deep rivers flowing across the campus. I rolled up my pants legs and showed up in class barefoot and looking like a wet-dog version of Huckleberry Finn. My students got a hoot out of my soggy looks. However, as soon as I arrived, they began their protests. “Teacher, teacher, no class! No class! All the other classes are cancelled! Please cancel!” I said, “No, no! I must teach, it is my job. You can leave if you want but I must mark you absent.” Their disappointment was palpable. We plodded through our lesson on verb tenses, modals and passive voice… YAWWWWN….(poor kids) and I let them out as soon as I covered my agenda for today ~ nearly 40 minutes early!
Since it was pouring when I left my office, I left my purse, cell phone and, accidentally, all my white board markers, in the office. When I returned I saw a missed call at 2:00 from one of my coordinators. Rumors were flying about in the hallways that classes were cancelled since 2:00 (my students were right…all the other classes WERE cancelled!!) As an added bonus, classes tomorrow are cancelled. I’m thrilled because it means our Eid holiday begins one day early.
I wasn’t expecting any substantial holiday so soon after arriving here in Oman, but since it is handed to me, I must take advantage. I’m going to Jordan for only 6 days, because it was impossible to get reasonable flights going out on the first couple of days of the holiday. I leave Saturday, November 5 and return on Friday morning, November 11.
For those who have followed my travels in the past, you’ll be disappointed to know that I’ve hardly planned much of anything for this trip. I had planned to bring my Lonely Planet Middle East guidebook, but after my suitcases were all packed for Oman, I weighed them and found them to be over the baggage limit. I frantically removed about 10 pounds out of each bag. One of the things I removed was that guidebook. Also, on my other travels, I have read extensively about my destination, both fiction and non-fiction, and have been enriched by that preparation. This time, sad to say, it all came upon me too quickly. I’ve done almost nothing to prepare for this trip except to talk to one of my colleagues, Willem, who recommended every place in Petra where I’ll be staying: The Rocky Mountain Hotel and the Seven Wonders Bedouin Camp. From the owners of the Seven Wonders Camp, I got the name of the Jordan Tower Hotel in Amman. Other than that, I have NO plans. Just images in my mind of the terra-cotta colored Petra ruins and the city of Amman from a great movie I saw in the USA called Captain Abu Raed. My Jordanian friend Lina has already given me a feel for Jordanian hospitality and culture.
A near-spontaneous trip like this, without my regular Type-A planning, may throw me for a loop, knock me totally off-balance. Or it may teach me to loosen up a bit, go more with the flow. No matter. It will certainly be another unforgettable experience to add to many such in the past year and a half.