Sunday, December 25: Today is my second-ever Christmas abroad, and I can tell you right now this one is about 963,214 times better than my last one in South Korea (the christmas that wasn’t). I love my life in Oman and so, likewise, I love my Christmas. The only thing missing, and it’s a big thing, is being with my children. I do get to talk with all three of them online though, so that makes it a merry Christmas indeed.
I start out my day in a weird way by getting up at the crack of dawn and making a little holiday greeting video. In it, I give everyone a tour of my shabby flat in Oman, which I’m sure most people will be thrilled to see. My flat… well, it ain’t no celebrity crib.
After making this exciting film, I promptly hop in my car and drive to the Oman Central Post Office near the airport in Muscat, a 1 1/2 hour drive each way, to pick up a box containing some Christmas presents from my family. This box is being held in Customs for some reason I don’t really understand. In the box are a few NEW clothes and maybe 5 new DVDs that I asked for from Santa. The remaining contents of the box include some of my wardrobe from home and my entire DVD collection, a total of 38 DVDs! I had asked my family to send me my entire DVD collection, but I had no idea I had 38 DVDs!! No one at the Central Post Office can really explain to me why Customs has stopped them, but they all keep mentioning the DVDs, so that obviously has something to do with it. I think they are going to charge me a big chunk to collect them, but they only ask for 300 baisas, the equivalent of 78 cents! Sometimes I cannot for the life of me understand the Omani mentality.
I rush home and get to work making my famous Martha Stewart goat cheese and red pepper frittata, which I have made for the last 20 years (except last year in Korea) for my family. We have a Christmas BRUNCH tradition in my family, and we have stuck to that tradition through the years. Our entire brunch consists of the aforementioned frittata, a cheese grits casserole, chicken-apple sausages, pancakes and cranberry syrup. Today I’m only making the frittata. I have to make a few substitutions, namely putting in feta cheese for the goat cheese, and using yellow as opposed to red potatoes. I am even surprised to find some wilted tarragon in the Lulu Hypermarket. After it’s all cooked up nicely, I go to Marcia’s house for a lovely Christmas party.
I take some still-life photos of Marcia’s table with food contributed by all the teachers. Marcia requested that we all bring something from our home countries. The food is amazing, from whole chickens, stuffing balls, green bean casserole, red cabbage, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, scalloped potatoes, and salads of various hues. I’m happy to see my frittata disappear quickly.
This is such a relaxed and laid-back group of people. Marcia of course always sets the tone at her own gatherings, welcoming everyone with her Aussie hospitality, open arms and hugs & kisses. Everyone is in a fine mood today and we all wander around and chat amiably with each other. It’s warm in the afternoons now, but not oppressively so, and we sit outside on the patio; we gather on the front steps and in the living room, dining room and kitchen. People are sprawled out everywhere inside and outside the house.
At one point our colleague Matt, who I happened to meet in Petra in November, gets out his guitar and starts singing away. Everyone sings along with him, even those of us who can’t sing worth a lick. It’s so much fun to belt out these familiar tunes: “Peggy Sue,” “To Sir with Love,” some Elvis songs, and many others. Then Malcolm takes over the guitar and does his rendition of Little Feat’s “Dixie Chicken”… What a blast!
Helen and Derek leave to go smoke shisha at Layila, and she asks some of us if we’d like to join her. Marcia’s party seems to be winding down a bit, so Christian, Stephanie, Christian’s Sri Lankan friend Faraj, and I join them there. We sit outside, smoke shisha, drink lemon mint drinks and eat the tortilla chips and Velveeta cheese dip Christian has brought along from the party. At the table we share stories about people at the university who we think may be a little “mad.” Or maybe “odd” is a better word. We talk about our jobs at the university. We all decide that people who teach abroad are generally some mighty, umm, “interesting” characters. Including ourselves of course… 🙂
By this time, which is around 4:30, I’m tired, so I go back to my flat to rest for a bit. I try to catch the boys online, but the connection is not good and we decide to try later tonight. At 7:30, I meet Christian, Stephanie and Faraj again at the Falaj Daris for a beer. We sit in the Western bar, where we always sit, and then Christian tells us about the Arab bar and the Hindi bar. I’ve heard of these bars, but I’ve never been in them before, so we make the rounds.
In the Arab bar, Stephanie and I are the only females in the audience. At least 30 or so Omanis and Bedouins sit watching three chubby young ladies walk down a runway and move slightly in an unbecoming and kind of spastic attempt to dance. We can’t help but laugh at this scenario. All the Omani men just sit and gawk at these unattractive girls in their pathetic attempt to entertain.
Finally we have enough of that, so we go into the Hindi bar, where things are much more lively. There are actually four colorfully decked out girls, dressed in typical Indian textiles, dancing Bollywood-style on stage. The music is energetic, the dancing is entertaining and fun, and there is even some decent singing. Christian, who used to be a ballet dancer and choreographer, gets up and does a crazy dance in the entryway to the bar, because there’s a sign on the door that says “NO DANCING INSIDE.” Faraj does the same. Both of them are amazing dancers. It’s great fun!
I leave early to go home and talk to my kids online. My daughter Sarah is at her father’s house and enjoying her Christmas. I’m so happy that she just completed a successful semester at Virginia Commonwealth University. It’s been a long and difficult process for her in making progress on her education, so I’m really thrilled she’s finally decided to dedicate herself to her studies.
After Sarah, I talk to Mike and Alex and Adam, and my mother-in-law and sister-in-law, who are all at our house in Virgina having MY Christmas brunch, the one I originated and made all those years, minus the meat. The boys are now vegetarians, so they’ve eliminated the chicken sausages from the Christmas brunch. Both the boys got a bunch of backpacking equipment for Christmas this year, and both now want to take a semester off from college to backpack all over the country. I’m not thrilled about this plan, but I am thrilled that Adam is planning to start off his backpacking quest by coming to stay with me in Oman for 3 weeks, starting around January 10. Tonight, they tell me Alex is considering coming along with Adam, but that’s not been decided. I’m excited about either or both of them coming to Oman, although I personally don’t plan to do any backpacking! Camping maybe, but I don’t plan to be carrying all my belongings into the wilderness…
What a great time I have on this, my first Christmas in Oman… 🙂 Happy Christmas and good cheer to all this holiday season!