09 June 2012

A Week in Salalah-land

As you may have noticed, if you've just joined me here or have been reading my stuff for a while is that I tend to procrastinate.

WELL, finally, my lack of blog-i-ness is not due to procrastination, but rather, to a lack of quality internet.  When outside the U.S. I really appreciate how fast my internet is when I'm there.  I can watch TV, chat, write, read, and balance my checking account all at the same time from one computer.  Here, most of the time, I can barely load my email.  But, as they say here, msh moshkila (مش مشكيلة) no problem.  Okay, so I don't know if they actually say that a lot, but I've made it so because that's how you say it in Omani dialect, and Moroccans say it all the time.

Anyway, Salalah.  Oman.  The Gulf.  That's where I am now.  I don't know why I subconsciously thought it would be the same as Morocco, but I am now realizing that I did.  I mean, that's the ONLY ArabMuslim country with which I had any experience before this.  But now I realized just how true it is when everyone insists that the Middle East is different from the Gulf is different from North Africa.

I have not had much time to make cultural observations, but, as I wrote in my first of many Arabic essays yesterday, I have noticed that Omanis are shyer or more private or quieter than Moroccans.  This is, as must be said, a very general statement, and not a value judgement.  That being said, because of this tendency, I'm finding it harder to really get to know Omanis, even with the hours of facilitated language we are having with them.  But I'm not giving up, because really, I'm not the most skilled 'friend-maker' in the world.

But enough about my woes.  I'm sure most of my friends and family are interested in my schedule and why I have been absent from the internetz for so long.

So first, we had two days in Muscat.  Beautiful.  Huge.  Hot.  More humid than I expected.  Rather lonely to visit it without a car.  Not my favorite place in the world, but than again, I would love to see how it's different in the winter.  We went to the Embassy (the AMURIKIN) to get the usual scare-the-pants-off you briefing.  Nothing I haven't heard before.  Oman is one of the most safe and most developed countries in the ArabMuslim world, and I feel like I'm jinxing myself by saying it, but we were told we don't have to worry too much about pickpocketing or street harassment.

It's SO NICE not to have "bonjour" or "ca va la gazelle" or worse yelled at you every time you go out.  I didn't realize how much it happens in Morocco, because I've learned to ignore it, until I came here.

Anyway, we also visited the Sultan Qaboos Mosque.  Probably, sadly, the only mosque I'll get to visit in this trip.  I thought, because Oman was never colonized, I as a foreigner might be able to visit more mosques here (like the best Turkey trip where my friend and I spent New Year's Day 'mosque-hopping'). I forgot about the women part.  One of the American Muslim girls and I both want to find a mosque, her for praying, me for watching.  We have not been successful after two Friday prayers... so far!

Last Saturday, June 2, we flew to Salalah.  And since then we've been studying.  Seriously.  I want to make all your American tax dollars worth it (thanks guys!) so I've been surprisingly dedicated to my studies here.  But, from what I've seen, Salalah is green, clean, well-planned, and going to be fun to explore.

And now, the GDS!

General Daily Schedule: 
(Weekdays, meaning/y3ani, Saturday-Wednesday... yup, my weekend is Thursday-Friday now.  We call them "Emotional Saturday" and "Emotional Sunday")

7am: Wake up

8am: Breakfast

8:30am: Load the mini buses outside of our hotel (yes, that's right, hotel.  2 months living in a hotel, I feel like some kind of movie character.  but with elevated privacy comes less opportunities for homestays... but I digress...)

8:45am: Arrive at Dhofar University, a nice, clean, quiet, cute campus with less than 10 buildings.
9am: Foosha/MSA/Standard Arabic Class (usually with a Omani Dialect interlude of 50 min)

11am-11:30am: Tea/Snack/Try to talk to Omani girls in the "Ladies Restaurant" break

11:30am: More Foosha/MSA Standard Arabic Class (This week, we're starting Media Arabic)

1:30pm: Lunch time woo!  We crowd the poor understaffed cafeteria, joke with the Egyptian guys who work there, let the Indian workers help us take our trays to our tables, and do a little light studying.

2:30pm: One-on-one interviews/talks with our Omani Language Partners, one day a week in Dialect, today I (finally) successfully made an Omani laugh when she and I pretended to be a vegetable man in a souq (market) and she wanted a cucumber.

4:00pm: Load our mini buses as a group back to our hotel!

: Do some personal chores, e.g. grocery shopping (today I bought apples! but I didn't feel like bargaining because it was a store where prices seemed rather fixed, maybe another time), laundry (I also delivered my laundry to the 'mghasala' for the first time, no more hand-washing for me!), exercise (ha ha), and other things.

5:30 or 6:00pm:  Start a mix of study-time and wandering-around-Salalah-time.  I usually study, but I want to wander soon.  Maybe with a friend or too.

11pm-12am:  Bedtime.

Rinse and repeat.

Apparently, real Omanis drink "Doow"
I'm told that we'll go on three excursions while we're here, one overnight in the desert that I'm really looking forward to - I've been to the desert twice before, but not since 2009, so I'm curious to see if I still love it, and how the deserts are different.

Now that I've successfully found time to bring you all up to speed, I'll try to post shorter observations more regularly.

Now it's bedtime for me!

1 comment:

Oum Abdul-Aziz said...

Real Omanis drink "de-you" (just say "do you" real fast!) We're currently in the States and my Omani son is very pleased when he finds Mountain Dew on tap at the gas stations or restaurants... When I first got to Oman, way back when, the local (very) small groceries were all run by Indians who would come out to your car to take your order if you honked your horn. I would ask for "Dew" and they wouldn't know what I wanted! *smile* So I had to learn how to say it right!

I hope you are having a good time there and look forward to meeting you when we return to Oman.