Saturday, February 14, 2009

Peace by Peace

Here's a link to a great website for the women's organization called Peace by Peace. Located in DC, the women at Peace by Peace do everything they can to reach across borders and boundaries to create support networks and peaceful lives for women around the world.

Please do check it out!

Click on the link on the right, or copy and paste the link below.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Speaking Omani Driver

George and I turned onto the main highway (which is one way each way) after a morning of rock climbing. We are quite accustomed to the interesting driving practices which are commonplace in Oman. Passing when there is less than a foot left between you and the oncoming car. This is not an exaggeration. In fact, sometimes the traffic has to go three cars wide. Tailgating within inches while flashing your brights. That happens when they think you should move. Needless to say, the driving can be quite intimidating. Today, however, held some new lessons for me.

As we were driving, two cars in a row flashed their brights. Given the odd, yet consistent, behavior described above, I wasn't too surprised. But for what this time? We couldn't possibly have been annoying them, we weren't even in front of them! Then it happened again. We thought, and dismissed it as just more daily bizarreness. And then bam! In front of us, the same color as the sand, is a camel standing right in the middle of our lane. George slammed on the brakes, and avoided nearly hitting an animal three times the size of a North American deer. Of course, we realized, that's what the lights were about. As we continued on, more lights flashed, and we learned the language. George flashed his at the next driver coming our way, and the man flashed back and jovially waved as he passed. Again it happened, and again, as we negotiated passed another clueless herd on the road, each time the driver lifting his hand in appreciation of our warning. George smiled and exclaimed, proud of his new communication abilities, "I speak Omani driver!"

And it's true, there is a language of the road here in Oman. More often than not it sends a message of superiority and is motivated by pride and self-righteousness. It was encouraging to learn today that this language is sometimes used for good, and speaking it can lead to helping others, and not just getting ahead.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Running Pains

Running here for a woman is quite difficult. I live in a conservative little neighborhood on the outskirts of town. Everyone (well, almost everyone) is very friendly, but that does not go to say, however, that they understand my bizarre western tendencies. The ladies in the village do go for strolls together in the evening, and one even wears a pair of sneakers while she walks briskly. She's clearly exercising, and that's odd enough. My strange outfit of loose pants and a tight long-sleeved wicking top is weirdly masculine. Why would I wear pants??

I don't run by myself much, and if I do it's through the sandy paths behind our building, but it is hard to run on because of all the rocks and pits. The road is better, but the stares from the women are really overwhelming. I feel like a freak. I am here. Sometimes I feel a self-righteous joy building in me as I run that I am broadening their horizons. That the next time they see a woman running, they won't be quite so disapproving. That said, it's still very uncomfortable, and I don't like feeling culturally pompous.

When I do run it's usually with my husband. Although the companionship makes it easier to handle to women glaring and the children racing at your heels, it adds another difficulty of its own. Why am I doing this manly activity?...with a man?...dressed like him?...It's almost as if our running partnership is some sort of high-speed athletic sex. Their astonishment is a brick wall that I haven't succeeded in breaking through yet. At the risk of sounding arrogant, I do hope that some day my constant and freakish presence will open their eyes a little to the ways of life outside their village. I work every day to accept and enjoy our differences and their quirks. Shouldn't they too?

Bearing the onus of culture adaptation is perhaps the most challenging psychological aspect of living in a very forgein place. It's all on you, or so it seems.