Saturday, September 12, 2009

Salalah Plans

Next week over vacation for Eid al Fitr, we will be be driving to Salalah, the beautiful tropical city in the southern tip of Oman.

Does anyone have any suggestions? Perhaps a reader from Salalah or someone who has taken the trip before? We will be camping out along the eastern coast on our way down and camping in the desert on our way back.

Any hints are welcome as to where to stay, interesting sites, beautiful beaches, etc.


Friday, September 11, 2009

Two Weeks Off

Just like last year, the students have unanimously decided to take an extra week's holiday for Eid al Fitr. They need a week to prepare, the girls told me. To do henna, to buy new clothes, to go shopping, to buy a cow to slaughter (although I think the men probably do that...)

I thought that was sort of ridiculous, but then I thought back my high school and college Christmas breaks. Did we get a week or almost a week off before Christmas day? I can't remember, but I seem to think we did. When I was at college, isolated and without a car, I used to have to do speed Christmas shopping after I got home in the few days before we would go to my Grandma's house. Gifts to be wrapped, cookies to be made, cranberry relish to be ground. Maybe I did need a week too.

Perhaps there are more similarities between me and them than sometimes I make there out to be.

This year far more than last year I have realized that the problems with attendence and being serious with their studies does not stem primarily from the students themselves, but rather from the gross disorganization and lack of professionalism of the Ministry of Education and of the college itself.

As one male student rightfully said to me last week when I was asking why they missed the first week of school, came the second, and then left again for the third: "Miss, it was not our fault the first week. The teachers weren't there." And while I didn't want to admit it, he was 100% right. The students were there the first day of class, and even the second, but after going to their rooms and seeing that 1) the rooms were not completed or ready to be used and 2) that there was often no teacher to be found, they decided to go home and spend their time enjoying Ramadan with their families.
I would have done the same were I a student.

Instead of being annoyed at the kids this year, I'm more frustrated at the system. Even when the students try to do well, they are showed an example by the school of lack of care, preparation and professional behavior.

No wonder they don't come to class.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Banana Republic

While Banana Republic is (somewhat embarrassingly from a cheap labor point of view) my favorite clothing store, I am now speaking about my house. I never new that my man was such a plant aficionado, but much to my surprise he came home yesterday with a banana tree, a pomegranate tree, a desert flower bush, an aloe plant and several pots of herbs.

He's not done yet either, I think.

It's amazing what making the right friends does to you. Our town is home to one of the best plant nurseries in Oman. Yusef's place is like a desert oasis and can brighten your day through its colors and refreshingly clean air. The smell of wet dirt is so strong in a place where it rarely rains. When you live in an (albeit beautiful) sand-pit, flowers take on a certain importance, an almost therapeutic quality. I'm looking forward to creating my own roof-top "banana republic" with a little help from Yusef.

The owner also happens to be a violinist in the Omani orchestra.

It's just proof you can find little gems of culture everywhere.

Monday, September 7, 2009


It usually storms here at in the late afternoon. Yesterday we had the biggest, loudest, wettest, windiest storm since I've been in Oman. The rain came down so hard that our hallway and front rooms flooded. The electricity went out and lightening hit so close to our house we could feel the boom.

All in all though, it was sort of fun. In any case, it was absolutely beautiful. The mountains filled with rivers of water, cutting down the ravines into the wadis.

Here are some pictures. You can see the rain obscuring the mountains behind. The canyon you see is about 100 meters behind our house.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Don't Copy!!

In another of our wonderful staff meetings, it was announced that photocopying is illegal. From now on the photocopy machine will be available only from 8-10 AM, controlled by a massive, greasy, foul-smelling and totally incompetent Egyptian man whom everyone avoids. The room is about the size of a Port-O-Potty.
We are to queue from 8-10 (even those who have classes at that time) to do all our photocopying. Only we must now fill out a form and get signatures to have everything approved beforehand.

As George pithily said at the meeting, after we had all been handed a single photocopying permission slip: "Can you tell us how we are to make copies of the permission form?... because we will have to fill it out to get permission to copy it."

I don't think there was a response.

Perhaps after things descend into utter photocopying chaos a week from now, something will change.