Friday, January 11: This morning, we walk the back road to Nizwa Souq from my flat, past farms and modern Omani houses, past several mosques, past “Gents Tailoring” shops and “Foodstuffs and Luxury Items” shops, through the old gate and into the ruined village of Al Aqr. This traditional Omani landscape of two- and three-story mudbrick houses, though in great decay, is home to much of Nizwa’s large Pakistani community.
On our walk, we pass Omanis pulling goats behind them with ropes, or driving them out of the market in their pickup trucks. We arrive at the south side of the souq, where we head directly to the Goat Market, home to Nizwa’s Friday Market where locals come to trade livestock, particularly goats and cows, sold by auction. However, we find we have come too late for the goat auction. All the buying and selling of goats has already occurred, as evidenced by the Omanis leaving with their goats in tow, and the goats tied up by rope to various poles and fences.
Now the cattle market is in full swing. Omanis are pulling their cows and bulls around a circular promenade, yelling out prices and haggling with other Omanis bidding from around the perimeter and the interior of the circle. I hear “Ashroon! Ashroon!” in a conversation between a bidder and seller, which is 20 rials, or about $52, and I can’t believe that can be the price for a whole cow! Maybe I misunderstood, as my Arabic is quite elementary, and rusty as well.
Click on any of the pictures in the gallery below to see a full-sized slide show.
The market is quite frenetic as the sellers can’t always control their cows, and some try to break away, like bulls running through the streets of Pamplona, dragging their owners behind them. A couple of times I regret wearing my red and blue plaid shirt, remembering that bulls in bullfights like to charge at the color red. I jump back away from the sidelines several times as I see cows running helter-skelter in my direction!
I can’t believe that, in the year and 4 months I’ve been in Nizwa, this is the first time I’ve been to the cattle market. It’s a crazy scene with hollering Omanis and out-of-control cows and even quiet Omanis either just sitting and observing, or playing with their mobile phones, or participating full force in the auction. In addition, there are the requisite number of tourists trying to find good vantage points to take videos and pictures of this event.
I am caught up trying to take pictures, so I lose track of Mike and the boys. The boys at first seemed interested, but later I look up to see them sitting on a bench with Mike, looking quite bored. Or irritated. I’m too caught up in the action to pay them much mind, but when I go to seek them out, I find only Mike, who tells me they decided to leave. He said they were getting increasingly upset with how the animals were treated, and they just couldn’t take it any more. Being vegans on principle, because they love animals and hate their mistreatment, they didn’t want anything more to do with this affair.
Mike and I soon leave the cattle auction, with him explaining how the boys felt and why they left. We wander through the Fruit and Vegetable Souq and then through the pottery & crafts market of the West Souq, where I buy a beautiful turquoise lantern that I can send home with them on their flight tonight. Then we head back down the road to my flat.
As we are walking, Mike tells me not to say anything to the boys about their leaving. “Just accept that’s who they are,” he advises me. “You’re not going to change them.” I wonder why this advice is necessary as I haven’t said one word about their departure. I take offense, as I always do, at his (or anyone else’s) unasked-for advice. I say, “I don’t think you need to tell me how to interact with my own sons.”
This kind of thing is one of many issues in our marriage; some of our myriad problems have come back full force during our time together here in Oman. Some of these things I have forgotten over the years we’ve been separated, or I’ve glossed over them. But this kind of attitude on his part – that I’m incapable of knowing how to interact with my own children, after I gave up a career to stay home and raise them for 15 years – always stymies (and infuriates!) me. I know Mike has witnessed many heated arguments between the kids and me over our years together, and I know these confrontations make him extremely uncomfortable. He always tries to jump into the fray to resolve our differences, even when they don’t involve him at all. I feel this is insulting, as if he thinks we are incapable of resolving our differences ourselves. I know it has to do with his need to always be in control, and his discomfort around any expression of emotion. I am just the opposite, never afraid of emotions or of expressing them, even if it involves confrontation.
I feel sad today, one because I know they are all leaving tonight, but also because I haven’t felt any opening up on Mike’s part to any kind of reconciliation. I feel he is totally closed off. We never discuss our situation during their visit, and he never makes any effort to spend time alone with me. I feel, with great certainty, that he has already closed the door to me, never to open it again. The thing that saddens me the most is that he doesn’t even have the courage to tell me.
How can two people be together in a marriage if they can’t even communicate about anything?
I need to step back and evaluate our experience together. I know without question that I always love being with my sons. But with Mike, it’s much more complicated. I’ll take some time to reflect back on these 10 days together in a couple of weeks, after I’ve had time and space to meditate and consider. Is it possible for us to reconcile? I honestly don’t know. At this moment, I’m highly doubtful.