Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Exchange Student Lifestyle...

Here's a list of things that I do on a fairly regular basis that are different from things I do at home. However, even the most normal things can have unexpected happenings, as I discover daily. Life as an exchange student is an adventure and there are always new things to learn! One other thing I've learned is how to deal with is never knowing what's happening for sure. There are some patterns, but also things can change last minute! I've definitely learned how to go with the flow... I'm not always on time and plans are often made in Arabic so I'm not really sure what's happening about 60% of the time (though my understanding of  Arabic is improving and I can follow small conversations).

  • I wear a school uniform. It's a green dress, white shirt, and white scarf.
  • On Tuesdays, I attend Arabic class at the World Learning Center. It's a pretty cool place. We go right after school, so I usually walk with the other YESers to a nearby shawarma restaurant. However, they don't serve shawarma until night so we order kabab sandwiches, fries and Vimto. People like to honk at us; however, this happens less if Noah is with us because foreign girls alone attract a lot more attention. The thing is, I get attention no matter where I go or who I'm with. I get the most attention if I'm wearing an abaya and shayla, because I clearly am not an Omani with my pale skin and green/brown eyes. I have been told I look like I'm from Iran, though.
  • On Wednesdays, I attend Middle Eastern History class at Amideast. This is only with the five of us YESers, and it's taught by an awesome lady from the Dominican Republic. We go over current events, eat shuwa, learn about the Seljuks, and even had a guest speaker who was on the voyage of the Jewel of Muscat (here is a very basic explanation of what that is) come talk to us. All in all, it's a great time and one of my favorite days of the week!
  • I learn about Islam. I guess that comes with the territory-- I'm a YES Abroad student living with a Muslim family in Oman. But still, I've learned far more than I could ever imagine. Just from my observations, I have learned far more than a book could ever teach me. And if you consider all of the chats I have with my host family about different aspects of life, I have learned so much. My host family is very devout and also very informed. They know what they are talking about and are willing to explain it to me! All these conversations are making this year so much of a more informative experience for me, and I think that this is definitely what the YES Abroad program is all about!
  • I am roasted by the sun. Holy Jeepers the Omani sun is strong. You'd think that by December it might have stopped being so ridiculously intense, but it hasn't. Every day at the break we go out to the courtyard to buy food and are blinded in the process. For a Wisconsin girl like myself, it's absolutely a ludicrous thought that the sun should be that intense in December. Heck, it's also crazy that it should be so warm out at this time of year. Tomorrow's predicted temperature in Muscat is 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Tomorrow's predicted temperature in Beloit is is 30 degrees Fahrenheit. 
  • I laugh about really really random stuff with Quin. By the way, did you know that the universe is insisting that we be friends? We were roomates in DC, ended up at the same school, have host families in the same tribe, and run into each other in places like the wadi. Also people think we live together and are sisters or something. Quite often.
  • I listen to songs like this. You don't have to get the Arabic ( I get maybe half of it.. it's about a kid named Filful, which is a made up name from the words filfil (pepper) and ful (kind of beans), who likes food) in order to understand why this is so awesome.  
  • I enjoy fabulous spicy food. My tolerance for such foods as chili has increased tenfold over the past three months. Due to Oman's close proximity to and history of trade with India, Omani food is a scrumptious blend of Middle Eastern and Indian food. I love it so much, and I no longer have to pick out the chili peppers from anything! Mostly what we eat is saluna, or stew, over rice. You can either eat with a fork and spoon, your hands, or bread. 
  • I spend a lot of time with extended family. Which is, for the record huge. By Omani standards, of course. By my American standards of family size (ie four cousins), however, this family is huge!! Every Thursday, I go to family lunches with my host dad's family-- he has three brothers and a sister. We also go to wadis and do other things with my host mother's family. Basically, family is your number one lifeline here. It's so important to people. Extended family is just as important as immediate. We see them once a week or so, as compared to my American life where I see my extended family maybe once or twice a year, if that. 
  • I research colleges. This is, of course, not very Omani at all, because Omani students actually don't apply directly to college; they are given a scholarship by the Ministry of Education. It's crazy to me, but any Omani who gets 80% or above in 12th grade qualifies for a full scholarship to virtually anywhere in the world (college picked by the Ministry, however). That's why my classmates are so into studying this year--their future lies in their hands right now. As for me, I'm exempt from this fabulous scholarship opportunity, so alas, it's up to me to figure out what's going to happen in my life after high school!
  • I have a ton of fun! Really, this is the craziest ride of my life, and it's so much fun to be on. I'm now 1/3 of my way through the year... I can't believe how quickly time has flown! Here's so an amazing next six months!

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