Wednesday, April 18: This evening a small group of us meet at the fort at Birkat al Mouz to head out for a picnic at Wadi Muaydin. It’s Tom’s idea, and he invites me, Helen, Gail and Anna. When we meet at the 5:00 appointed time, it’s pouring down rain. Tom wants to wait it out. I personally don’t see any end in sight and even if it stops, it’s going to be wet & soggy… (and not very comfortable!).
I offer my flat in NIzwa, because I have a little gravel backyard where we can have a cookout, but Tom wants to wait till the rain stops and then head into the wadi after it’s all said and done. Anna and I both believe it’s dangerous to go into a wadi even if it’s just threatening rain, as many Omanis have warned us never to do such a foolish thing. Finally, after sitting and waiting for the rain to abate, we give up and head to my house.
On the back road to Nizwa from the university, we encounter a hailstorm that feels like we’re in the middle of a gun battle. The sky is flinging chunks of ice at my windshield and I keep flinching as I think one of them is certain to come through the glass. We continue to drive along with the ice belting the car when suddenly we come to a huge traffic jam in the middle of the road. A wadi is pouring across the road, and cars have pulled off the road. The occupants are either taking pictures or just trying to determine whether they can make it across the muddy waters. Some intrepid souls decide to cross the raging river in their cars. Anna is ahead of me in her bright yellow jeep and she goes across. I can see that the water is up to the tops of her wheels. Later she admits that she did take in some water and possibly did some damage to her car…. 😦
Since my car sits lower to the ground than hers, I’m not brave enough to chance it. I can see she has pulled off on the other side of the wadi, but I jump out of the car with my camera and join the hordes of Omanis taking pictures. I take pictures and a couple of videos and am all caught up in the excitement.
You see, we have not had any rain to speak of in Oman until right before the Eid in early November. It’s so strange how living in a different place can make something you have always seen as a necessary annoyance (rain) as a gift from heaven!! All this week we have had bursts of rain appear out of nowhere. When it rains in Oman, the students can’t concentrate and they beg teachers to cancel class and let them run around in the rain! It’s very difficult to get anything worthwhile done when they’re all fidgeting about in their seats and looking longingly out the windows.
As I’m running around taking pictures of the overflowing wadi, all around me are Omani, Indian and Pakistani men! There are never any women outside in this country!! Finally, a University of Nizwa bus full of girls pulls up and the excited girls are snapping pictures out the bus windows.
Suddenly, from one of the cars on the road, I hear a male voice, “Teacher! Teacher!” I’m happily surprised to see one of my favorite students from the fall semester, Badr, in a car with his friend. I take pictures of them before they turn around and head in the other direction, knowing their small car will not make it through the river.
The water appears to be in no mood to subside, so Gail, Tom and I turn around in our individual vehicles and head back to Birkat al Mouz to take the main highway, which runs parallel to the back road, to Nizwa. By then the hail and the rain have stopped, but that doesn’t mean more rain isn’t on the way.
As everyone arrives at my flat in Nizwa, where the skies are blue and dry, Tom sets up his barbecue and fires up the coals. I have prepared little aluminum foil vegetable packets, with eggplant, onions, peppers and olive oil, which I put on the grill. Anna has prepared these little salty dried chick pea-looking snacks and some lemony chicken. I put on some sausages and we all sit in the camping chairs I purchased but have only used once for camping. I have a glass of wine or two and we enjoy chatting about the crazy weather, life at the university, our own lives, and anything else you can think of. At one point, Tom asks if I’d like to try a glass of rakı. I cannot resist this Turkish anise-flavored drink because I have such happy memories of this drink while I was in Turkey (cappadocia day 1…cave churches, underground cities, & rakı under the stars).
After a short bit of drinking this rather large and potent drink, my backyard starts to spin around me. Uh-oh! I can feel myself getting sick! I can’t believe this because I haven’t had THAT much to drink. I know it’s bad news, so I tell everyone they are welcome to keep enjoying themselves in my backyard as long as they want because I need to go lie down. Tom says, “You know, it’s not a good idea to lie down if you feel like that!” But I cannot be swayed. I sprawl across my king-size bed, where the room continues to spin until, sweet relief, I fall asleep.
A little later, I wake up and hear voices so I know the little party is happily going on without me. I promptly fall back to sleep.
At around 11:00 or so, Anna comes in with a big glass of water. I feel like she’s Florence Nightingale, with her headscarf and her caring bedside manner. The party is heading out the door. They all seemed to have a good time at my humble little home without me!! I’m so glad my poor hostessing didn’t spoil their fun….
Back to sleep for me…. 🙂