Wednesday, December 7: I told Guido when he first arrived in Oman that I had to work all week during his visit, but I could surely get off early on Wednesday as my morning class and my Voice session end by 11 a.m. on that day. However, as usual, a monkey wrench is thrown into my plans. Tuesday afternoon, I get two emails requiring my attendance at two staff meetings on Wednesday. One of the meetings is to be at noon and one at 2:00. If I attend both of these meetings, then I won’t be able to leave the university until 3:00, and that on poor Guido’s last day in Oman. I am really disappointed, as is he. So. After making my case to one of my coordinators, I make the executive decision that I will forgo the 2:00 meeting at least, so we can take off after my noon meeting.
Life at the University of Nizwa is highly frustrating sometimes because the powers that be are always making last-minute decisions and announcements that throw teachers into a tailspin. For instance, suddenly, when we think we have an afternoon free to mark papers or catch up on our planning or enter information into Eduwave, we will, out of the blue, be required to “volunteer” for some activity, or to “invigilate” some exam, or to attend some meeting of utmost importance. On the other hand, when we EXPECT major decisions to be made, such as when or even IF we will get a holiday, those decisions are never made until the last-minute. There is no point really in planning anything as intentions are always waylaid.
This is when I must remember to tell myself to BREATHE. Ommmm.
To get to Muscat at a reasonable time, I tell Guido to take a taxi from my house to the university, aiming to arrive by 1:00. He does so, and we drive off to Muscat. In the car, I manage to squeeze a word in edgewise to ask this garrulous Italian why he has never in the entire week asked me one thing about myself. He says something about how he has been afraid to ask me any personal questions, like about my marriage or my life because I might think he is being impertinent. (Well, Guido doesn’t know that word, “impertinent,” but I think that is the gist of what he is saying.) At this moment, since I have taken control of the normally one-sided “conversation,” I am not about to let it go, so I start answering all the questions I think he SHOULD have asked me. I tell him about my 3 children, my two marriages, and what went awry in both my marriages. I tell him about my Master’s degree in International Commerce & Policy, which cost me $30,000 and isn’t worth the paper it is written on because I got exactly ZERO of the 250 jobs I applied for after I earned it. I tell him about each of my children in turn. I tell him all kinds of stuff that has been bottled up inside of me this entire week he’s been here. And of course, I have no idea if he understands any of it.
After my long diatribe, we return right back to the place where we started our week: the Oman Dive Center. This time we don’t bother snorkeling. We just sit on the patio at the Odyssey restaurant, order some lunch and two big carafes of wine, and enjoy a leisurely couple of hours relaxing, admiring the palm trees and the lagoon, and chatting in the only way we know how, in circuitous and incoherent one-sided conversations where neither of us understands what the other is saying.
We leave the Dive Center and on the way to Mutrah Souq, we stop at the Muscat Gate Museum, which is just a gate that straddles the road between the Mutrah corniche and the old walled city of Muscat. These were the original gates used to keep land-bound marauders out before the 1970s. We don’t go in the museum itself, but apparently it contains displays about Oman’s history from Neolithic times to the present. We just climb the steps to the top of the gate and walk around the grounds.
After a bit, we drive to Mutrah to peruse the souq. I am still looking for some jewelry for my daughter for Christmas, and I do find some earrings, along with a turquoise, coral and silver bracelet for myself. Guido finds a great deal on a miniature khanjar, the Omani curved knife, for 2 rials. He buys five of them as gifts for his friends. He is also very curious about the dishdasha and the kuma. He thinks he would like one to wear around his house, maybe like pajamas. In a dishdasha shop, he tries on a white dishdasha and a kuma. The shopkeeper wraps a mazzar around his head, over the kuma. Guido admires himself, decides to buy them, and then doesn’t take them off the rest of the evening.
We wander out to one of the fresh juice joints along the street and have a seat at a table. My mango lassi and his lemon with mint come out in impossibly tall glasses and we sip them through long straws. People keep doing a double-take looking at Guido. Though he certainly looks Omani if you just see the dishdasha and the mazzar, he most certainly does NOT look Omani if you look at his face. It’s really fun to sit with him here as people walk by, glance at him, and then stop in their tracks to look again.
I take a lot of pictures of him and get a hoot out of the whole evening. After sitting for quite a while, we take a walk along the corniche, looking out at the boats on the harbor and the lights dancing on the water. We admire the fort high up on a rocky outcrop that looms over the souq and the outlying businesses.
Finally, we head to Safeer Suites at Medinat Sultan Qaboos. We have to leave for the airport at 3:30 a.m., so we call it an early night. I watch Little Miss Sunshine on TV while Guido stuffs his five khanjar gifts and his dishdasha and kuma and muzzar into his tiny carry-on suitcase, along with all his other belongings. It looks like that little suitcase is a bomb about to explode.
Thursday, December 8: In the middle of the night, 3 a.m., we get the dreaded wake-up call. I drive Guido to the airport, arriving by 4 a.m. On the way, I mention that I’m amazed he managed to fit all that stuff into his suitcase. He doesn’t answer. I look at him and see he has a blank look on his face. I say, “Do you know what I just said, Guido?” He says, “What?” I repeat what I said. He looks blank again. I say, “You don’t understand a word I said, do you?” He says, “What? I’m sorry, I don’t understand.” I say “Suitcase, Guido. Your suitcase. Do you know that word?” And then I find myself doing the obnoxious thing I know I should never do when speaking to someone who does not speak English. I repeat, slowly and loudly, “SUITCASE, Guido. SUITCASE.” There is no understanding at all.
That’s when I think I kind of lose it. If I haven’t already lost it before this point. I say, “Never mind, Guido. Never mind. I’m not going to say one more word. Forget it.” And I sit silently the rest of the drive.
At the airport, I pull up to the departure terminal. I get out with him and open the trunk. He says, “Can you leave your car here?” I say “No, I can’t leave it here. But I don’t want to park and hassle with the parking.” I know it’s mean. It feels mean. And I feel bad about it but I cannot make myself do anything different.
We hug each other and say goodbye. He says maybe he will come again to visit, he’ll go to an island he’s been thinking about in Yemen, Suqutra, maybe with Pinot (aka Andrea, the friend he was traveling with in Jordan), and then maybe come back to Oman. I tell him he’s welcome to come, and so is Pinot. But realistically, I don’t think he will. He knows deep inside that we have this communication problem and it’s not to be easily overcome. He knows and I know. There is no easy answer to this problem.
Friday, December 9: I get this email from Guido:
HI CATHY, J’M AT HOME…BUT WITH NO BAGGAGE. J THINK IN CAIRO THE POLICE OPENED IT FOR THE 5 KHANDAJAR AND AFTER FOR THE SHORT PAUSE OF THE AIRPLANE, THEY HAD NOT THE TIME TO SEND WITH THE CONTINUE FLIGHT..J HOPE SO. IF ALL WILL GO GOOD, J GET IT AT HOME WITH PAY NOTHING IF NOT BYE BYE TO MY DISHDASH,KUMMA AND MARIJA.THANK FOR THE MESSAGE AND HOPING YOU HAS GOOD TIME, J SEND A BIG KISS WITH MANY THANKS FOR ALL YOU MAKE FOR ME. GUIDO
Monday, December 12: Another email from Guido:
CIAO CATHY, J’M HAPPY TELL YOU THAT MY ALL BAGGAGE ARRIVED YESTERDAY TO MY HOME. HAVE YOU SEEN THE FLAT ON FRIDAY AND ARE YOU MOVING?. A FRIEND OF MINE LIKED OMAN AND HE IS READY TO FOLLW ME NEXT YEAR FOR A HOLIDAY. PINO PHONE ME FROM DENPASAR AND TOLD THAT HE HAS A BAD COUGH AND HE PROBABLY RETURN BEFORE CHRISTMAS. WAITING YOUR NEWS AND KEEPING A BEAUTIFUL REMEMBER OF THE DAYS J PASSED WITH YOU, J SEND A BIG KISS. GUIDO