Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Six Months Later


Six months ago today, I got on an airplane from my home to come home.

Since I returned, everything has changed and everything is the same. When I left Oman, I was positive that I would spend my senior year hiding away, just biding my time until I could go off to college. I was determined to have a miserable time, to scrape by until I could go on to bigger and better things. Somehow, the opposite has happened. This year, I've developed relationships with my friends in Beloit that shock me by their depth. I was told that I would probably not relate with my old friends, but that has been entirely inaccurate.

I didn't plan for any of this to happen. But it did. This reminds me of my whole year abroad, the shock at the emotions, the joy and sorrow and stress. Oman was entirely unprecedented, but so has been my senior year. I came home expecting solitude, and have found incredible friendship, and with one special person, even romance. My return has shocked me in how absolutely wonderful it has been. I've found that my friends--old and new--are just like me. I had many of them over just a few nights ago for a night of heavy drinking--of tea, that is! My Senior year is thus far a roaring success socially. I'm still excited for college, but I'm also just loving my life in the moment. 

That's not to say that I don't miss Oman. It's on my mind constantly, and the lessons I've learned from it are continually with me. Some days there is nothing I want to do more than cry over the loss of my parallel life, that is continually slipping away from me. I'm losing my Arabic skills rapidly, I've lost the 30 pounds of excess "love" that I gained, and I find that the pain I feel over missing everything is less acute. It still hits in waves, but they rarely come.

I feel like I've reached a point in this readjustment process in which I can merge my Omani life with my American one. I wore my jalabiyya for one of my senior pictures and had an Eid party this fall. Little strands of my Omani life are most certainly still a part of who I am now. 

I will never forget, but it's my time to move on.

Salaam,

Emma

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Closure, If you want to call it that

Hi, everyone.

First, an apology. For not blogging at the end of my trip (I was quite busy with a trip to Dubai and my goodbyes), and for not blogging since I've returned home--which was one month ago today, June 19th.

I don't have the words to articulate how I'm feeling. Oman was such an exciting time for me. My preparations, travel, and time there thrilled me to the core. I expected that my return home would be anti-climactic, that I would go into a bit of a depressed stupor. But the truth is that the exact opposite has happened. So far, I've been thriving at home. I'm enjoying time with my family and friends, I'm enjoying all of my summer activities--college visits and applications, volunteer work on a political campaign, reconnecting with old friends from all over the region--I'm enjoying the little things I'd taken for granted. And so, no, I'm not particularly homesick for Oman. I had expected to go into a shell upon my return, and perhaps that expectancy is exactly what has thus far driven me to enjoy my return--and perhaps, a bit, to push away memories in order to avoid feeling too depressed. That's not to say that I don't miss Oman. I wouldn't say that I'm actively homesick, but perhaps I have a bit of an ache that wonders What if? What if I was still there? But in life we all have to face the truth, and because of that, I'm still just plugging away at life, moving forward.

Optimism is the best way for me to move on with my life. My life should not be apathetic. And so I've taken it upon myself to enjoy my life and to fill it with meaningful work. Oman meant so much to me, and that will not change. But there are other opportunities for me to undertake, and other things that will excite me. So here I go, rushing off into the future, prepared by all that I learned about myself in the past year.

So, here's to embracing the most amazing year of my life, and here's to all of the magnificent future events.

Cheers, and thanks to all of you for following my blog and accompanying me on this journey. 

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Step Up Oman

I went to a charity event yesterday called Step Up Oman. If you have seen the Step Up movies, it basically was a competition like that. Anyways, it was organized by a group associated with AMIDEAST so we went along to help/ enjoy.

It was a pretty neat event, and kudos to the girls who organized it! The money they gained was designated to helping to train a family of 12 to lift themselves from poverty. The family won't directly be given the funds, but will instead be given things like English classes.

In case you're not aware of exactly what Step Up is, it basically is a really hyped-up dance contest. There are a large number of teenagers (in this case all boys) who come to dance. They all do flips and jumps and occasionally slide for a few meters on their heads. The last one was especially impressive!

I've also been, unfortunately, saying many goodbyes to people. Yesterday was the end of school, so I said goodbye to many teachers and friends. Also, we had our YES Abroad end-of-the-year dinner, which was indeed bittersweet. 

Next week I'm off to Dubai for three days as long as I get my road permit on time! Very excited about that!


Saturday, June 2, 2012

Update


Greetings!

First, gah, I have posted far too little lately. That is for a fairly wide variety of reasons: studying for exams, trying to soak up the last 16 days in Oman (sob!), studying for exams, trying to be like Matilda and use my brainpower to kill the evil, noisy birds that enjoy roosting on my windowsill, studying for exams, saying goodbye to my classmates, studying for exams, wearing an abaya to the American school and my Arabic class (it’s great how people try to figure it out: Bailey usually can pull off being Omani but when I rock it I look like a white kid playing around, which I guess is what I am. It’s wicked fun though.), studying for exams, buying presents for all of you lovely people back in the States, surviving 50˚ C weather (122+ F!!) studying for exams, and so much more!

Oh, and did I mention that it’s exam week? Exams here are a lot different than back in the USA, because here they are a complete overview of everything that has been learned in the semester. In the States, that’s true for some of my classes, but not all. In fact, it’s more common in the USA for my final to be a vocab test followed by a party, because the majority of the summative grading happens in unit tests and projects. Here, it’s the opposite: quizzes, essays, and projects are cumulatively worth 30-40% of the grade and the other 60-70% is based solely on exam results, hence the need to study extensively. Rather than pacing throughout the year, school here is more based on cramming at the end. I’m unresolved as to which system I prefer.

As I said, I’ve got a mere 16 days and left here, which is near insanity, if you ask me. This year has zipped by, and I’ve said it a million times but I’ll say it again. THIS YEAR HAS GONE TOO QUICKLY!

In re the birds on my windowsill, they are killer. I’m fairly sure they have the same amount of decibels as a loud rock concert. There was first only one, but then he found a friend. I was talking to Bailey on the phone, and she could hear them through the phone very loudly!


My classmates, who are in grade 12, had their last day of school last Tuesday. They take their exams at the Ministry of Education as opposed to the school because they will get their diplomas this year. Because I’m not getting a diploma, I have to take mine at school. It was metaphorically heartbreaking to have to leave them, and I hope to see them again before I leave!

For our last day of Arabic class, Noah wore a dishdasha and Bailey and I wore abayas (Jaira was sick, meskina!). And then there was the adventure of Bailey and I at the American school, also in abayas, to return some books to the library there.

Not a group wedding, btw. 

And yes, it is indeed 50 degrees Celsius. I would have thought that what would surprise me was the fact that I could live in that and not die, but not so! It honestly does not bother me too much. Of course, it’s hot and I get sweaty and such, but it’s not totally unbearable. This is coming from a girl who feels overly warm when it hits 80 every year. I guess it’s the same as how I learn to deal with the frigid January weather of the upper Midwest.

Annnd, to close up and make up for the lack of blog posts, here are some more pictures from our trip to Salalah!







Monday, May 28, 2012

Magical Magnetic Road

While we were in Dhofar, we went up this road. It was by far the most bizarre thing that has ever happened to me. Watch the video and be as absolutely amazed as I was (am!)


Friday, May 25, 2012

Dhofar Trip

I just got back from three days in Dhofar, which is the southernmost region of Oman, near to Yemen. It was a great trip, full of both educational and touristy bits. We got to learn about frankincense trees, see the tomb of the Prophet Job (Ayub in Arabic), see a massive blowhole, chase some geese (well. I did.), see countless camels, eat a bit of the latter, shop for various kinds of incense, see a castle, visit the 5000 year old frankincense souq of the Queen of Sheba, celebrated (in a surprise!) the turn of my 17th year, and so much more. Here are some pictures from the trip:

Camel meat hanging

This is how goat meat is traditionally cooked in Salalah

Camels in the road are normal!

All of us getting ready to go to Job's tomb. We bought those scarves because we all forgot ours at the hotel room... and Noah is indeed wearing a wizar. 

Job's tomb


More camels in the road!

We bought coconuts from here.



This is a frankincense tree. And yours truly. 

Bet you didn't know that flamingos are white if they don't eat shrimp! Also they can fly!



At the castle



Surprise birthday party! 

Four lane highway? Definitely camel territory. 

Monday, May 21, 2012

The Most Awkward Question Ever...


I leave Oman in four weeks. In contrast, I have been here for nearly nine months. Those nine months have flown by in the blink of an eye.

I’ve been looking back through old pictures from the beginning of the year. I’ll open one and think how there is no way that this or that could have been back in October. Everything feels like it happened just yesterday. And I know that four weeks will zoom by and, before I know it, I’ll be back in the United States.

One of the most perplexing questions I’ve ever been asked—and it is actually a regular occurrence now—is ‘are you excited to go home?’ I guess I understand where people are coming with the question, but aside from creating some awkward moments, it is outrageously difficult to answer. Am I excited? Yes, undeniably. I miss my family and friends, and though I initially pushed those feelings back in the notion of living-the-Omani-life, the prospects of finally seeing the people I have missed for a year are joyful indeed. And truthfully, a bit of me is ready to move on with my life. Something we exchange students (in Oman) often discuss is how we don’t want to go back to our old lives per se, but how we are ready to move on with the adventures that are bound to fill the rest of our lives. So while I’m not 100% thrilled about going to another year of high school, I am thrilled with the prospect of college tours, volunteer opportunities, and other events that will fill me summer and next year.

While I am indeed excited about the going, I’m not excited about the leaving. The past few months especially have been so clarifying for me. The first 6-7 months here were merely formative ones in which I learned the ropes of my life here. They were often stressful. Now, here I am feeling absolutely comfortable at home, school, and just about everywhere that I go. In the past few months, I left the rocky pattern of adjustment and moved on to a state in which I was able to absorb so much more information. I’ve seen my Arabic understanding levels skyrocket; I can understand most of what people say, particularly my host family and close friends. I have to ask fewer questions because the inferences I make are usually right. My interpersonal relationships have grown exponentially, and I feel like my own intrapersonal relationship has grown as well.

A lot can happen in nine months. To use an analogy from another exchange blogger, in nine months, two tiny bits of genetic material can grow to a whole complex human being. While perhaps the changes I have seen in myself have been less dramatic and I don’t quite know how to articulate in what ways, I do feel changed. Oman has changed me.  

If the last year has been any indication, the next four weeks will fly by. I’m going to try to spend the remaining time being as Omani as possibly, soaking it all up, because I know that I will never again have an opportunity like this. For this reason, I will be blogging a bit less than I have in the past, but I do promise to try to update.