Eid Holiday

Hope everyone is having a great day!

I’m officially out of school for the Eid holiday, and I’m super excited! Eid is on Sunday, and we’ll go to Musanah for most of Eid.

Eid is a Muslim holiday which celebrates the day when Abraham obeyed God by sacrificing his son Ishmael, but instead God replaced his son with a sheep at the last second. This story is also in the Bible, but it is Abraham’s other son, Isaac whom God saves. See more here.

In Oman they slaughter a goat, and cook it in the ground for several days during Eid. I’ve been told that it’s delicious. During Eid, everyone dresses up in their finest, most colorful clothes, and some presents (lots of perfume!) are exchanged. In Musanah especially, the colors are absolutely amazing, so I’m told.

I can’t wait!

In other news, I visited an Indian school yesterday for their 21st year celebration with my host mom. (She works for the Ministry of Education, so all the schools know her.) It’s one of the best in Oman. We walked in on a red carpet and were flanked by uniformed students on either side, and reporters from the newspapers were there, flashing away. (I think I’m definitely going to be in the papers- my host mom was one of the chief guests. Fantastic…) The “governor” of the walayat of Muscat was there. Speeches were given, and videos were shown. The whole program was great, except for a few slow bits. They prepared an Indian music piece, which was fantastic, and The Belle of Barcelona, a musical about forbidden romances with dancing senoritas and valiant toreadors. I loved it!

Have a great day!

From Muscat with love,

bailey :)

Fish and Fiancés

Over the weekend I went to the fish market in Matrah! It was such a cool experience. We left the house fairly early by Omani standards- 8am- and I got to wear an abaya! My host mom said to it was best to wear one to avoid excessive attention, since it’s fairly conservative and traditional.
As soon as we got out of the car, the smell overwhelmed me. It smells TERRIBLE. The fish market itself is open air, with just a warehouse style roof above. There are several rows of platforms that the merchants sit on, with their fish in front of them. Bargaining is a must!
My host mom led me with her hand around me most of the time to make sure I didn’t get jostled into some unsavory situation. We ended up buying 50 rials of fish, (around 150$) but they salt it for storage. It should last about a month. After we bought everything, we went to have it cut. The men sat at a counter and cut each fish in just a few clean, swift strokes. They’re pros!

Yesterday I went to my host cousin’s engagement party last night! It was really fun! All the women from both the bride’s and groom’s family came over to the groom’s house, and we all ate dinner together and socialized. The groom himself(my cousin) sat in another room for most of the time with my host brothers, while us ladies enjoyed ourselves. He came in once or twice to take pictures with his fiance. In all things to do with marriage, the men and women are kept separate for the most part, but this was more casual.
I’m having a blast!
from muscat with love,
bailey :)

Nizwa & Jabal Shams trip!

Last weekend, we went on a trip to Nizwa and Jabal Shams with our program, Amideast. It was amazing!

Nizwa is a town about an hour outside of Muscat. We went to the old traditional souk, and the neighboring fort. Both were absolutely breathtaking. Being in the souk was such a cool experience. They sell all sorts of things. The souk itself is ancient, with its winding passages and open airs markets. The fort nearby was beautiful. It was restored in the past decade, but was recreated in a near perfect likeness to what it was originally. As you walk up the staircase you pass under these shafts above you. Turns out, they would pour boiling date syrup on you, searing your skin so that it would fall off.  The chances of survival were slim.

 

The following if an exerpt from the wikipedia page on the fort:

Two cannons guard the entrance to the fort which opens into a maze of rooms, high-ceilinged halls, doorways, terraces, narrow staircases and corridors. Four cannons remain on the tower’s top, down from a total of 24, which once served as the fort’s main firepower. They provided complete 360-degree coverage of the countryside around making it virtually impossible for a surprise attack on the fort without provoking a reply from the cannons.[2] One of them has the name of Imam Sultan bin Saif engraved on it. Another, from Boston City, was presented to the first Omani ambassador to the United States in 1840. Clumps of cannonballs, misshapen with rust and age lie around.

The design of the tower, complete with battlements, turret, secret shafts, false doors and wells incorporates a great deal of architectural deception.[2] Access to the top is only by means of a narrow twisty staircase[3] barred by a heavy wooden door studded with metal spikes to exhaust the enemy and impede their progress to the top of the tower. Those who did manage to run the gauntlet of hurdles risked being burnt by boiling oil or water that was poured through shafts which opened directly above each set of doors. Date syrup, a liquid that oozed from bags of dates stored in special date cellars, also came in handy as an alternative to oil and water. The fort was built above a subterranean stream that ensured a permanent supply of water when subjected to a prolonged siege. Several cisterns located within the fortified compound also ensured plentiful supplies.[5] Underground cellars stockpiled food and munitions. Running all round the summit of the tower is a wall for use by 120 guards who kept watch over the surrounding countryside and were armed with muskets and flintlocks. Furthermore, 480 gun-ports allowed for a concentrated barrage of fire if the fort came under attack.

You can read more here.

Then we went to Al Hoota Caves, which was breathtaking. Stalagmites, Stalactites, and ancient blind fish. It was amazing!

Then we continued on to the town of Al Hamra, and had lunch in a small village. We saw the falaj (Click on the link to learn more about the alfaj system.) The village was so cool! It’s exactly what you imagine when you visualize an Arabian village.

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We also went to a working museum in Al Hamra called Bait al Safa, where men and women could be seen doing traditional activities.

After Al Hamra, we took an amazing drive up the mountain to Jabal Shams. Jabal Shams is the highest point on the Arabian Peninsula, and literally means “Sun Mountain” because it is the first place the sun reaches. It actually gets cold there! At night, it reached 1 degree celsius!

That day was probably the most awesome day I’ve had in a long time. So many new experiences, and awe-inspiring sights.

We had dinner on the mountain near the campfire, and then retired for the night. We were staying in chalets on the top of the mountain. It was great!

The next morning, I woke up really early, by my own accord, so I went outside to watch the sunrise. It was amazing; I tried to capture it in photos, but they just don’t do it justice.

We had breakfast, then set out in our caravan to our hiking site. (The roads are mostly dirt, so 4-wheel drive is a must.) That drive was absolutely astounding. The mountains are indescribable, of truly epic proportions. We saw a bunch of small villages (a village would constitute of 4 or 5 houses, and usually just one family.) Only recently has the government built modern homes for the people living in rural mountainous homes. We saw ancient settlements, roughly 3 thousand years old, that had only been vacated a few decades ago. Often, the government will give the people extremely cheap loans for the new homes that can be paid off in a year or two. (In Oman, there are no personal income taxes or sales tax. The government just has it’s own money. It took a while for me to wrap my head around that.)

We reached the trail head, and started off hiking. The views were absolutely beautiful. Imagine the Grand Canyon. Then double the “grandness” of the Grand Canyon. Voila, there you have it. The hike was about 4 hours, but had been originally publicized as 3 hours. We aren’t exactly pros when it comes to hiking on one-foot wide goat paths, even though our guides were showing us up in a dishdasha and sandals! It was shameful. At the end of our hike, our guide showed us some ancient villages build into the side of the mountain. Talk about breathtaking. As we entered the old village, our guide informed us that it was haunted. With Omanis, it seems as if anything not currently occupied by people has been taken over by “gin” (ghosts or evil spirits) Luckily, we made it through! We scrambled up a nearly vertical rock face, but we finally made it through our destination, a wadi pool! It was great. At the back, there was a recessed “room” back there, where we recovered our strength (i.e, pigged out on chips and soda). We hiked back, and nearly collapsed in a happy, accomplished exhaustion. The drive back to Muscat was a sleepy, contented blur.

With love,

bailey :)

Since when do I have dry elbows??

Hello everyone! Hope everyone had a great day; I did!

Let me explain the title:

For one, I’ve never had to moisturize my elbows, ever. Suddenly this morning, my elbows were pink, crackly, dry and painful. When you are thousands of miles away from home, it’s the little things that get you.

The first week, I lost our schedule. I got another one. Lost that one, too. For a type-A student who hasn’t misplaced anything in a long time, this was troubling.

The third week, I got sick. I don’t ever get sick. I’m the kid that eats food off the floor, because what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger!

What’s up with this?

For a while, this really got to me. You move to a new place, and suddenly you aren’t quite the person you thought you were.

But truthfully, what does it matter? So what, I lost a piece of paper. A little lotion in the morning won’t cramp my style, nor will a couple vitamins now and then. Things change, and sometimes you do too. It doesn’t mean that every fiber of your being is wrong; it doesn’t mean that you have to reinvent yourself whenever life throws you a curveball.

You are you. That will never change. If you can love yourself, whoever that may be, you’re already there.

On another note, here’s a picture of the beach! Beaches are nice. Especially in Oman. :)

An Average Day

As per request from someone *cough, cough*, I’ve decided to post a day in the life of myself as an exchange student.

Every weekday I wake up at 6am. We all come down and have breakfast together at around 6:30. (My oldest host brother is always late, because he CANNOT be woken up. It’s amazing. Cold water doesn’t even work.) We have a different breakfast everyday. Sometimes its donuts, sometimes eggs, or cereal or even hotdogs! My favorite is flatbread (called hubis) with zatar, a spice mix of oregano and thyme with olive oil. It’s delicious! We leave for school at 7. Our drive to school is beautiful! I always read the store signs- they’re in both arabic and english. It’s a great learning tool!

School starts at 7:30. Before the first lesson (they’re called lessons, not periods) we all time up according to gender and class, and sing the national anthem. Or rather, everyone under the age of 12 sings it, and the rest are “too cool”, or are like me, and don’t know it. Then a younger student yells something in arabic while raising the flag. I am told it is something to the effect of “Long live Sultan Qaboos”. Then the student population echoes him, and this is repeated several times. After that, a terrified-looking elementary school pupil reads from the Quran in a tiny voice.

Then Mr. Danny takes the microphone, and the english begins. He says good morning to us, and once again, the little kids are the only ones to reply for the most part. They all say “Good morning Mr. Danny” in the slowest unison humanly possible. It’s hilarious! He announces the news of the day, and then dismisses us to the sound of an arab club hit. (It’s probably not a dance hit- it just sounds like one. I always dance in line, much to the glee of my classmates.)

Then we have our first 3 lessons of 35 minutes each. Every day of the week has a different timetable. (another British english word) After our lessons, we proceed to breakfast-our first of two breaks. Everyone goes to the cafeteria, which is across the courtyard. Our school is a comprised mostly of a series of open air hallways surrounding a brick laid courtyard. The line is more like a clump. You can either choose to wait your turn, or cut everyone. Both are perfectly acceptable, and practiced equally. The first day I got angry, but now I just bypass everyone. Why wait?

Today for breakfast we had eggs, sandwiches and fruit. They always serve juice as well. It’s very popular in Oman. Also, everyone eats very quickly, then leaves. Theres not a lot of lingering at the table- at least at school. After you’ve eaten you go sweat to death outside in the courtyard. Some of boys play soccer or basketball, and the rest of us just roam around until we are called to line up again. We order ourselves in the same fashion as in the morning. (Each class has a girl and boy line. There are also usually 3 classes per grade- 10A, 10B, 10C etc…

3 more classes, then lunch. The lunch food isn’t my favorite, so I usually just have some juice. My host family eats lunch after school anyways. We have our last 3 classes of the day, then leave. I’m usually one of the first ones out, so I wait out front.

After we find all 5 of our members, we walk through traffic like Moses parting the Red Sea. It’s amazing.

When we get home, we have lunch Part. 2. Then I do homework, and play around with my host siblings. We have dinner, do some more chilling out for a while. We usually go to bed at around 9 on school nights. However, if we have some shopping to do, we’ll go out at 8. (It’s after the little ones are asleep. Stealthy, I know.)

About 4/7 days of the week there is someone else at the house: either cousins, neighbors or friends. The house is always full. It’s lovely.

I’m having the time of my life.

from Muscat with love,

bailey :)

Musanah!

(This is a picture of my host sister and I. She’s squinting in the sun. Haha! It was really bright.)

This weekend my host family and I went to visit my my father’s mother in Musanah. It’s about one hour north of Muscat, and it’s right on the water!

It was definitely more rural than Muscat, and no one spoke English. As soon as we got there, we had a huge lunch with the whole family. When I first walked in, my host grandmother was surprised that I wasn’t blonder. My dad had to explain that not all Americans are blond and blue-eyed! She was also relieved I wasn’t wearing daisy dukes. (As if!)

After lunch, my host mom gave each of us 200 baisa to buy junk food, one of my host siblings’ favorite things to do when they come. I though we were going to a small shop, or maybe a stall, but it was a house! We just waltzed into our neighbor’s house, and went into a little room with a refrigerator. (The houses there are compounds, with an open, tiled courtyard in the middle.) A woman with black henna on her hands came to help us, but only after a little naked toddler came out to “greet” us. We each bought several bags of chips and a bottle of juice, for only 200 baisas! (1 rial is about 3 dollars, and there are 1000 baisas in one rial) I got ketchup and chilli flavors! (The ketchup is surprisingly tasty)

Then we went to the beach. It’s currently oyster season. If you dig a bit in the sand, you’ll find at least one or two at a time! Women in traditional Omani dress were sitting in the waves next to plastic bags full of oysters! I tried not to get my skirt wet at first, but I eventually caved, and ran into the water fully clothed. It was amazing! With all my host siblings and cousins laughing with me in the warm waves, it was an experience I will never forget. We walked back soaking wet, with smiles on our faces.

We stayed a day more, and a couple hours after Friday prayer. It was a really great experience. Here are some pictures!

Hope everyone had a great day! I sure did!

With love,

bailey :)

Adventures in my backyard!

Here are some pictures of my backyard! Pretty great view right?

The last one is the view from my bedroom window! I’m loving it so much!! Everything is so beautiful, and the people are so nice.

With love,

Bailey :)

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