Monday, May 24, 2010

New Teachers coming to Rustaq: Advice / Q&A

Every year new teachers are hired to come work in Rustaq. Sometimes they arrive on a transfer from another college. These teachers usually know the ropes pretty well and quickly acclimatize to Rustaq College. The others are new signings and have no idea what is going on. Communication before their arrival is often poor and many people pull out before they even arrive, because they simply can't get straight answers. Today's blog aims to clear things up a little. It will explain the two types of contracts, what to expect when you first arrive here and how to get yourself established.

First of all, the contracts. If you are a new hire, you have a contract with either Abdulmajeed Majali at Hawthorn Muscat or with the Ministry of Higher Education (possibly with a guy called Nadir Al Balushi). The two contracts pay roughly the same amount, and expect the same amount of work, but the finer details are quite different. Here's how they break down:

Ministry contracts:

If you have been hired on a Ministry Contract, it's quite possible that you haven't heard anything from the guy who is supposed to be helping you. Don't panic, you will get the contract. Barring total meltdown of the Omani economy, there will be a contract waiting for you when you get to the Ministry the day after you arrive (don't expect it before then though).

Ministry people are then sent from Muscat to Rustaq and put in a hotel called AlShimookh (quite dingy to be honest) and given 3 days to find an apartment. You will arrive at a good time for finding a place, but you will probably need some help. The guy who takes care of Ministry workers is Juma Al Hattali. He's a very nice man and he does his best, but sometimes he has a little too much on his plate. If you urgently want something done, keep going back until you get results. You can also try leaving a comment on this blog, and I can ask teachers who are leaving this year about their apartments.

Ministry workers are also given a furniture loan of around 1600 Rials. The Ministry forgives 1/4 of the loan for each year that you work for them. In my experience 1600 Rials is more than enough for all the furniture you will need. The only hitch is that you will probably need to buy it all new, as there is not a big second-hand tradition here in Oman. However, as above, if you are interested in cheaper, year-old household stuff, teachers who are leaving will probably have things for sale. Just get in touch, and we'll see if we can get new arrivals in touch with the right people.

So that's housing out of the way. What about driver's licence and health insurance? If you are on a Ministry contract, you will have very good national health cover accessible from any public hospital. It costs next to nothing and most of the time it is very good. You'll need to fill out some forms, pay up to 20 Rials (keep the receipt and you should get it back from Juma), and do a full medical checkup. For the driver's licence you go through a similar process. In both places, you are advised to be both patient and persistent. If you don't like/believe an answer that you are given, try someone else or try the same person again later. You are not being rude, that is what the locals do. And it does work, trust me.

Hawthorn Contracts:
You will quickly get to know a guy called Ayub. He is Majali's man in Rustaq. He is there to help you with whatever issues you might have, and although he's a sweet guy, he is not very well paid and is always busy, so he might not always attend to your problem as quickly as you would like. And he does forget completely sometimes. You should keep calling him. There are methods to make him more reliable, but I will leave that for other Hawthorn teachers to tell you about....

Hawthorn employees get given an apartment (from a list of apartments that Majali rents), and furniture. They also have their power and water paid by Hawthorn, which is great. In the end, teachers from Hawthorn and Ministry get about the same pay after all this stuff. On one hand, its nice that someone else sorts this stuff out for you, on the other it's sometimes slightly restrictive and adds another layer to an ofttimes frustrating bureaucracy.

People on Hawthorn contracts don't have medical insurance like the Ministry workers do. Instead you go to the public hospital and keep your receipts - and Majali will pay you back. In the end you don't actually pay for your treatment, and Majali is always very good at paying you back (providing you have the receipts), but its not as straight-forward as it is for Ministry workers.

Sorry the blog was so long, but there was a lot to cover there. And I've probably missed loads of stuff. If you are a new teacher about to arrive in Rustaq, and you have any questions, let me know.

(This blog was written by a Ministry employee friend, and I work for Hawthorn-Muscat, so we can answer any questions.)

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Moving to Muscat

Well, it's been a long time since I've written, but good news. I am moving to Muscat next year. As much as I have grown to like Rustaq in a way, I am more than happy to be leaving. Two years has been sufficient to say the least. In some ways I'm sure I'll miss it--the small town feel, the friendliness of the people, the simple, slow-paced life. But I'm city-girl at heart (at least half of the time) and need to get out.

On that note, I've been thinking about Dhofar Gucci's question from a while back: why don't the bloggers in Oman know each other? I know everyone in Rustaq and everyone who does or doesn't have a blog here, so I'm guessing a lot of you Oman expat (and non-expat) bloggers out there are living in Muscat.

Coffee anyone?