Saturday, October 17, 2009


Thanks for the comments and advice. I appreciate it! I have thought about moving, however, that would mean uprooting so much stuff, not to mention all the complications with our landlord and agency boss. The rent is paid for the year on this house and it would cause big issues to leave. Not to mention loosing the yard. But I've still thought about it.

More tempting is involving the wali/sheikh/and or police. This is an option. Our command of Arabic is good enough to negotiate that, and perhaps it would, as you say, make them realize that we're serious.

Most of the time, backing out here only causes problems. The town is small. Most people know most people. Getting "scared" out of their neighborhood is likely precisely what they would like, and word would get around that we're able to be intimidated. I'd rather play by their rules.

If I've learned anything in my 2 years in the region, it's that if you CAN, playing the wusta card and proving to them that you're not easily bamboozled, that you KNOW how things work and can pull consequences for gain respect. Leaving will just show we lost. I hate to put it in those terms, but it's something of cultural battle of the wills.

We live here, and are invested. It's not like we're tourists anymore. Switching from visitor to member of society (granted at a lesser level) changes the game.

If your neighbors were harassing you, would you just up and move? Probably not.

I think I just answered my own question (with your help!). We should probably take one more stab and the neighbors one-on-one and then take it up a level to the "authorities".

Now they're stealing....

So before we left for Dubai, I woke up to discover that my music player in my car was gone.

Those children who had woken my husband and I up the night we went searching through the neighbor for the rascals had stolen it from my car. We had seen them run out the gate of the yard, coming from the area where I park the car, but naively (or just sleepily) hadn't thought that they would have stolen anything.

George spoke to one of our neighbors and told him that he expects it to be returned in a few days, but what's the "or else"? What kind of sway do we hold? We don't have a picture of the boys, so we can't go to the police. We don't know which family. There are SO many children here that God knows which house they belong to. What CAN we do? Basically I think the kids just got away with it. Who is going to own up to it? Who's going to admit stealing (totally haram by the way)?

I think it's gone. But really I care less about loosing my music player than the fact that they just learned the lesson that they can walk on us. We just don't know the families. Accountabilty here comes from being known. Who knows you? Who's it going to get back to? That's what keeps things in check and we just don't have that.

So what can we do?

I bought a pad lock. I hate to be more isolated but I'm sure as hell not letting anybody in our yard until it gets returned. Otherwise there was no "societal consequence", you could call it, to disrespecting us.

Any advice? Seriously.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Dubai Weekend

This was my third time in Dubai. And somehow it was different this time. I think this is for a number of reasons. One is just because I was exhausted from this past month, which has really taken it out of me. You know how sometimes you are really looking forward to a vacation and then once you get there you just break down and are too tired to really enjoy it. That was definitely part of it.

Another part was that Dubai is a place that can either fulfill your every expectation, or let them down. The first two times I went, I went with the idea that Dubai probably didn't merit all the hype, and I was prepared to be unimpressed. But I wasn't, so my lack of expectations couldn't help but be surpassed. This time, however, I went planning to have an action-packed and fantastically glam and romantic time. But as always in life, little things upset the plan, and I let the upset plan get the best of me. Minor car troubles, already booked restaurants, too many taxi drives because we couldn't get a seat outside. I was determined to drink and dine al fresco and was way to bummed because there wasn't any space.

Nevertheless, we did find a great new bar called QD in the Diera Golf Club (where there was space!). I know...I went to a bar in a golf club. But despite what you might think, it was classy yet casual. Crowded yet well-run. It was expensive but worth it for the ambiance and the stunning view.

But the lesson of the day is (all of which I already know but don't follow):
1) Don't get hung up on things not going your way.
2) Don't have high travel expectations.
and perhaps the most important thing:
3)Don't get so burned out that you can't even enjoy your vacations.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Midnight Hunting for Children

And so the saga continues. Only there are new players on the scene now.

Last night as we were falling asleep at 10:45, the doorbell rang again. More persistent than ever. I said to my husband that no adult (inshallah) would ring a doorbell so frantically. It had to be the children again. We dragged ourselves out of bed, just angry now. Opening the front door, we saw the boys (maybe aged 12 or 13) tearing off away from the house. This is just getting ridiculous, so George went to talk to the father. This father apparently only had a 1 year old, and sent us elsewhere...seemed true, but who knows?

So there we were, two angry Americans, in our pajamas (just boring old sweatpants) stomping through this barren neighborhood in search of naughty children and lenient parents. We walked the kilometer or so to the crazy children's house of the previous posts and I spoke to the mother who very nicely made me the sweets. Father was no where to be, the little girl says. Again, who knows?

She was pleasant, but somewhat shocked that HER boys would come in without being asked. I'm like.. were there when he hit me, don't you think he would be capable of coming in without an invite??? But I didn't say that. I was politic.
So although we did not find the little monsters in question for tonight, she said she would spread the word that we are not cool with that. Or maybe she'll just spread the word that we're not cool...?

Who knows?

Do I sound a little disillusioned? No, I'm just tired. Too bad there aren't any trees in the yard. Then they could just quietly TP the house and let me sleep.

Off to Dubai this weekend for a much needed break!

ps: It's no fun trying to explain to a very traditional mother that her sons are bad in Arabic when I was almost asleep 10 minutes before. You should try it sometime.

Mothers vs. Children

Well, it's been almost a week since the original children fiasco/break-in, and several days since the boy hit me in front of his placid mother (who was giving me Omani treats to eat).

Of course this means that I have her plates. As per cultural rules in most societies, it's about time that I return the dishes with something sweet as well.

Helwiyat Amrikiya? Chocolate Chip Cookies? Banana bread? We'll see. I still feel weird engaging with them, but I don't see much choice. Do you? I want to be friendly, I really do, but the continuing inappropriate behavior of her posse of children leaves me unenthusiastic.

So I really have no choice though, seeing as I am indeed invading their neighborhood?

I guess I'm making cookies tonight...

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.


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.