Thursday, October 29, 2009

Different Children

So we finally found the three miscreant boys who stole from me, and we told them to return it, or we will go to their house (another boy filled us in as to where they live), and if that doesn't work, then we will go to the police. Still trying grassroots up, but I'm seriously loosing interest.


I had a different sort of interaction with some neighborhood girls yesterday. While we were waiting for the boys to come return the thing with their tails between their legs (which they didn't of course), the doorbell rang. This time it was 5 young girls, between 12 and 5 years old.

They formed a benign semi-circle around me and waited for me to say something. We exchanged the normal greetings...pause.

"What are your names?" I asked

They told me. ...Pause.

"So, how old are all of you?" I kept going.

They told me...Pause. I'm not really sure what to say at this point. I used to think I was really good with kids, but the children here seems to totally throw me off my game.

"Uh, so the weather is really nice now, huh?" I commented. The old default of the weather didn't enthrall them.

Pause... They are still just standing there looking at me, not offering any conversation items.

The call to prayer sounded from the local mosque.

"So, do you speak any English?"

"No," they said. I'm out of conversation topics at this point.

"So, I'm making dinner (a lie) so maybe later, ok?"

"That's fine," the older one said. "We are going to go pray now anyways."

"Do you pray??" piped up the middle girl.

Awkward...given that one, I'm not Muslim and two, that I'm not religious at all really.

"Well, not like you," I offered innocently. Hey, I grew up Catholic and I still think there's lots of great elements to Christianity.

They just look confused at my statement.

"Well, you see, I'm not Muslim," I continued. Am I just digging myself into a hole here? Probably, but I don't want them to think that everyone they like is by default a Muslim, because all good people must be Mulism, right? This is a very common train of thought here.

"You're not?" she asked sort of accusingly.

"No, but there are lots of Muslims in America. But most people there are Christian though," I explained. Note here that in areas like where I live, trying to explain atheism, agnosticism, or even the existence of another religion outside of the big three does not go over well.

"So you're Christian, then?" She asked.


With that they all did a synchronized hair-pin turn and went out the gate.


Oh well...what else do they know to do?

Monday, October 26, 2009

ladies' health clubs

Just a quick blog post here in a spare moment. I wanted to give a shout-out to a great post that I read the other day by Dhofari Gucci about women's secret health clubs in Oman.

Definitely check it out. Her description of these hidden havens of shaking hips and sweaty yoga mats will brighten your day:)

By the way, Nadia, know of any of these clubs in Rustaq? All I can find are the men's "health clubs", which definitely don't involve yoga ;)

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Mouths Wide Oman

Seriously everyone, what's up with the staring? I have always noticed, but this year it seems worse. Maybe I've just gotten more sensitive (a definite possibility....).

Some say it's because I'm a woman.

Some say it's because I'm a foreigner.

I'm sure these are elements to the cause of the gaping, slobbering, vacant stares I've been getting. However, I don't buy it. Why not? As being a westerner in possession of a vagina seems enough reason....right? I said in my last post that I will never understand their perception of me. And that's true. I think, increasingly so, that is crucial to look at the rational and experience of the other side. But, what if there doesn't appear to be any brain wave activity on the other side?

In any case, I don't think being a foreign chick is the reason for these particular stares because it's not just me, and it's not just men staring at me in this way. Women stare at me. And they stare at each other. And the men stare at other Omani men.

Now, let me explain. This is a very distinct stare that I'm talking about here. This not the stop and point, giggling and talking all the while stare. While more active, this type of normal staring seems somehow healthy and is less perturbing. I'm talking about the stare of a cow shot by a stun gun. Eyes wide, mouth wide, and sometimes there is drool. Occasional minor retinal movement, but usually it is dead pan and missing any sort of intellectual activity. Not even negative judgment. Just nothing. It's sort of scary.

My husband describes it as saying it looks like their brains are disintegrating and any minute are going to start dripping out of their mouths. Couldn't be more accurate.

Now this is not everyone, of course. It is not even the slight majority. But it is nevertheless disturbingly frequent.

In Muscat it's rare, but the farther into the mountains you go, the worse it gets. Perhaps the most terrifying density of such starers was in a eastern fishing town called Khaloof. All I can say is run away. You might get nightmares.