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Sunday, October 11, 2009

Following Up on the Children

I've gotten a couple comments about my story on the children below. I totally agree. They know that they did something that they were not supposed to do. And, yes, I agree as well that they would never have dreamed of doing that to an Omani woman.

Yet...

Situations such as these put me in an awkward position. If I could just do things my way, I would have chewed out the kids and put them in their place, and probably not let them come in again until it had been made clear between their mother and me that that will not happen again.

However, children here, especially boys, are like royalty. I have been hit in the butt with a cannonball of mud thrown at me my a 10 year old boy in front of tens of fathers. What happened? Nothing. I yelled at the boy, also because he said "F**k you!" at the same time (probably his only words in English). The fathers were utterly passive and did not scold the boy and his friends at all. It was like it happened in a vacuum. This is not a lack of respect for women issue. That boy would have been slapped silly if it had been an Omani woman...that is, a traditionally dressed Omani woman.

Similar experience in a supermarket, but that time involving a very large Asian vegetable being used as a baseball bat. The mother thought it was cute that he tried to knock me out of the store.

So treating the children as I think I should in these circumstances leads to bad relations between their parents and myself. So where is the line? Do I not let them in the house? What do I do when the same boy hits me in front of his mother while she is giving me Omani sweets to eat, and she just smiles gently? I say "stop" and she says nothing. That's just plain awkward.

In any case it is difficult and takes a delicate knowledge of lines, boundaries, social mores, personal respect, etc. I haven't quite got it finessed yet.

The fact of the matter though is that where I live, my husband and I (especially me) are something of alien creatures. We are the only foreigners in the area and most of the people living there have never interacted with a Westerner before. I think to a large extent the children in particular really don't get that we are people too, and deserve respect as well.

Demanding that respect, however, often alienates and offends. Especially with limited Arabic abilities.

It's tough.

7 comments:

Nadia said...

Hey, I just found your blog (through Muscat Confidential).. Looks like I'll become one of your regular readers. Cheers.

PS (about the kids, I'd simply shoot them. I would never tolerate that kind of behavior. What the h*** are their parents thinking? That's harassement!)

Clare said...

Hey Nadia, thanks for reading. Yeah, I know about the kids. You're right. But it's hard being the only weirdo on the block and then having all the families shun you too! Yikes. Somehow I still love Oman. Putting my foot down though, thanks for the encouragement!
Clare

Nadia said...

I've been reading more posts. You should have been following my blog BEFORE you came to Salalah!

http://dhofarigucci.blogspot.com/

Clare said...

Haha, I know!

Anonymous said...

Great blog, I thoroughly enjoy your posts. Yes, unfortunately, common sense rarely prevails,and you're left with little alternative but to grin and bear it. I hope your situation improves.

Ispy

ynotoman said...

whoops - went on the wrong post - As a man – I can ‘imagine’ how it is a a woman; but cant really know. But I used to live as they only western person in an Omani village (only non Omani except farm workers) . I became part of their society – and so the kids treated me as they saw their older sibling / patents etc doing and would be chastised otherwise .

Clare said...

Ipsy,
Thanks for reading!
Clare