Friday, September 30, 2011

Attending a Milka

A few days ago, I went to a milka, which is basically a pre-wedding party, but with a fair amount of significance.  This milka was held in the basement of a mosque, and was, like other aspects of the wedding celebration, all female. This particular wedding was of a very good friend of my host family's, so it was extra special! We all got dressed up...

jalabiyya! Pretty AND comfortable!

We got to the party, and because it was in a mosque, took off our shoes. In the room there were a lot of pillows on the ground, on which we sat. After being there for a while, the bride entered. She was led by her female family members and was wearing a gorgeous green and white dress. She was seated and then was asked by someone if she took her fiance as her husband. She said yes, and then she was his wife! He, however, was not yet her husband and therefore was not able to actually see her until the real wedding (a few days later).

Then there was lots of food and some chanting and people standing around her singing! Lots of fun!



And totally not related to weddings, I went with Bailey to the beach and it was amazing! mmmm check out that view! I didn't have my camera so I just snapped this picture with my phone, but I will go back soon and get more pictures!



Thursday, September 29, 2011

Healthcare


Having been now taken twice to some sort of medical facility here in Oman (because my immune system hates me—though that’s just a theory), I feel that I am mildly qualified to share my insights on the Omani medical system.
 My first trip was to a private hospital’s ER. I had been in Oman for 3-4 days, and was due to begin school that day. However, I woke up vomiting, and was unable to keep any sort of liquids or solids down. We think that the reason that I had this issue is because the first night here we drank the tap water… it was midnight and I know that I wasn’t thinking straight. (So lesson number one: If you want to get sick, drink the tap water!!) Of course we worried about dehydration, so I went with our program director and my youngest host sister to the hospital. The hospital was clean, but by no means over-sanitized, which I actually thought was better than the system of having everything completely spotless. Dirt in a medical facility is bad, but everything was sanitary here, just not ridiculously perfect. I also noted how well space was used in this hospital. Every nook and cranny was being used, but not in a way to make the place feel overly crowded.
I was led to a bed where I first was given anti-vomiting medicine so that I would be able to hold down liquids eventually. Then, I was placed on a drip for about an hour so that I could be re-hydrated. According to our program director, I was actually pale white—for those of you who know of my ostentatiously rosy complexion, that’s actually not a good sign at all! After my re-hydration session, I was given medication in case I had similar symptoms later on.
My hospital experience gave me favorable ideas of the Omani medical system. People were prompt and did quite a good job in caring for me. It was sanitary and, most important of all, healed me so that I was well enough later in the day to meet the US Ambassador!
My second exposure to the Omani health system came yesterday and today, after I’d been here for about a month—I got the flu, or something like it! I came home from school early and rested and, unfortunately, had to miss a wedding (but it was okay, because Quin came over to keep me company!) but still was running a fever and had a sore throat, headache, and sinus blockage. So, today, my host mom took me to a clinic, one that my host family has been going to for years. When we arrived, there were no other patients (a very small clinic, it must be pointed out), so I saw the doctor right away. She was an Indian woman who heard my name and said “Oh! You’re one of the American students who was in the newspaper!” (Muscat can be a very small-townish sort of a place; everyone knows everyone and this makes us YES Abroad students kind of well-known, actually). She checked me and then diagnosed me with sinusitis. Wow, I have all the luck!
She prescribed me medication, and here’s one of the more interesting things I learned about the medical system—it is not commonplace to ask patients if they have any allergies. One of the medications she prescribed to me was amoxicillin, which I am allergic to. As the clinic had closed by the time we got to the pharmacy and noticed the mistake, I have to wait to go back to the doctor (perhaps on Saturday—it isn’t open on Fridays) to get my prescription changed. I did get the other medications that she prescribed, but the moral of the story is that one should always tell one’s doctor about any allergies that one might have.
Overall, I’d say that I’ve had a fairly positive experience with the medical system here. Although I’d rather not have to deal with it at all, I’m grateful that I’m in a country that has such an advanced medical system. I hope that I won’t be going back anytime soon, but if I do I know that it’s a system that will get me the care that I need. 

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Going to Mattrah!

Every week, my host sister Manal goes to a class in Mattrah (neighborhood/city on the south side of Muscat) and this week I got to go with her! In Oman, the majority of people are Ibadhi Muslim, with a minority being Shi'a or Sunni. My host family is Shi'a which is why Manal goes to her classes, to learn a bit more about their specific views on the religion.

Mattrah is one of the oldest regions in the area. It has be best harbor, and has been inhabited for hundreds (if not thousands of years). Stepping into the alleyways of Mattrah takes you back. It is a place that was clearly made for a pre-car era. The alleyways are cobblestone, very thin and twist around endlessly. The houses are all built close together (connected, really) and are 2-3 stories tall. There is also a mosque centrally located within Mattrah.

Mattrah is the traditional home of the Lawati tribe. Non- Lawatis are discouraged from coming in. I'm considered an honorary Lawati, because of my host family. To go in, I had to wear my abaya and cover my hair.

Manal and I walked through the alleys for about 5 minutes and then we went into a building where the class was. We entered the building and took off our shoes before going into the room. It's a long room with the traditional pillows against the wall, where we sit. In the class are a few girls who I know from school--other 11th graders.

The teacher had me introduce myself, but otherwise the class was in Arabic, so some of the girls from school translated for me. Afterwards, we went to the mosque. Manal went in to pray, but as a non-Muslim I was not allowed to enter, so I sat in a room with several other women who could not pray--women on their periods are considered too unclean to pray.

After Manal finished playing we went to walk around the souq!This was really exciting for me, because I'd been looking forward to that since before I came to Oman! The Mattrah Souq is the biggest in Oman, and it winds around for kilometers. I didn't get to delve too far into it, but it was beautiful. All of the little shops were still open at 8:30pm. Although the shopkeepers often see foreigners in the souq, it is very uncommon to see one of us in an abaya and shayla. Of course this generated stares, but I am getting used to that aspect of life here. I didn't buy anything from the souq, but I plan to go back! Apparently my host mom is an excellent bargainer, so I plan to go back with her to get the Omani price as opposed to the jacked up tourist price!

I'm sorry that I don't have pictures of Mattrah, but I will try to get some when I am back there next Thursday and the Thursday after!


Also: The American hostages in Iran were just released on bail paid by His Majesty Sultan Qaboos, and are currently in Oman. Kind of cool for me to be in the place where a major world event is taking place. 

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Tigers

So I know I already posted today, but this needs to be said.

Someone lost a tiger and it is now loose on the streets of Muscat. How? I don't know.

But. The facts remain that it's there. And it has been missing since yesterday, and somehow no one has found it yet.




Riding the bus- photo update

Every morning I am picked up at about 6:45am by the bus driver to go to school, and here's a montage of photos taken en route! I actually enjoy the ride, because it allows me to get to know my neighborhood, Al Khuwair, much better. 
House in my neighborhood!

Houses! These are fairly typical Omani houses. 

Street with more houses


Construction. There is SO much of it here. It's everywhere, and I imagine it's fairly steady. 







It's pretty common to, if you can, avoid the roads! It's much faster to cut across a big lot, or up on a sidewalk for that matter... anything to avoid the endless speed bumps! (that's my bus driver's view, anyways)





I really like this one!



"Be Safe" "No Smell Paint" girl. She's everywhere. 






Madrasa!


This is a really amazing pink house. 













They're building a new mosque. It's going to be beautiful!

The Qaboos Sports Complex, where the Omani football team plays! Right across the street from my school. 

School!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Publicity

Lately we (the YES Abroad Oman students) have been featured in a number of publications here! We've been in several newspapers for our meeting with the ambassador and an interview. The picture of us with the ambassador is here! We also were featured in a longer story in the paper.
We also were featured on the main page of the YES website, yesprograms.org! Check it out! 

Friday, September 16, 2011

Wedding!

Last night, I got to attend my first Omani wedding! It was the wedding of my host sister's friend's cousin, and I don't think she actually knew the bride but that's okay because it was so much fun! 

First of all: for an Omani wedding, you have to get REALLY dressed up. And you have to wear clothing that otherwise would never ever in a million years be deemed appropriate here. I wore a tight-fitted, beaded, knee-length, pink halter dress that I borrowed from my host family. Also, you do crazy makeup and wear a lot of jewelry. I wore more eyeliner than I had worn all year, and still I was wearing a lot less than the rest of the attendees of the wedding! Weddings are all female, so during transit to the wedding you wear your abaya and cover up your fabulously done hair (yes, I rocked a Snooki poof. I'm sorry I don't have pictures). 

Anyways, when you arrive you have to give your invitation cards to these women who sit outside of the hall. Then you can go into the hall and you take off your abaya and shayla. Then you have to kiss the family members of the bride and you go sit down. The cousins and close friends of the bride are usually up front dancing, and everyone else sits to wait. Waiters (all female) serve juice and chocolates and the like. A few hours after it begins the bride comes in and there's a lot of ceremony of her walking down the aisle and then a photographer (female, of course) comes in and takes pictures of her with her family and friends. During that, everyone else can go dance. My host sister's friend made me go dance with her, and a bunch of the Omani girls had a lot of fun trying to teach me how to dance properly... apparently I'm not the best dancer ever but I guess I knew that. 

On the topic of music: At this particular wedding, they played a lot of Arab music mixed in with some J-Lo and Shakira. So much Shakira. 

Anyways, after a lot of this, the lights dim and everyone puts their abayas and shaylas back on because it means that the groom is coming to pick up his bride! When he comes in he's accompanied by the bride's brothers and father and his father. This particular wedding was quite interesting because the groom is already married-- the bride is his second wife. While not common here, it is legal and not looked on as too odd. The man has to be able to treat both of his wives totally equally, so only wealthier men do this. 

Anyways, we didn't get home until 1am but it was so much fun. Apparently weddings do vary from tribe to tribe, so I hope to experience a wedding for a different tribe as well! 

Monday, September 12, 2011

Madrasa

YES Abroad is an academic program so, 5 days a week, I go to school (madrasa in Arabic)!

Each morning, I wake up at 5:45. The bus comes to get Manal and I at 6:45, though that varies on the day. Yesterday it was after 7:15 when it it showed up. Also, the bus never follows a specific route. Not once has it picked up or dropped off students in the same order. The bus is basically an oversize van with a sign on the side reading the name of the school and then another sign reading "School Bus" in Arabic and English. Anyways, I get on the bus and ride it for somewhere between 15 and 45 minutes, depending on what number we are. Each student has a name badge, written in Arabic. It has your first, middle, and last name written on it. In Oman, a child's middle name is always the first name. Because of that, and because all the school has seen is my middle initial, my name badge essentially says that my name is William. I assume that they saw the W of my middle name and presumed that William was indeed my middle, name, which it isn't (though it is my dad's first name, which they would have seen on my forms). On the route, we see many other school buses because all of the private schools (and I believe the government schools as well) use the buses. Whenever we pass by another one, the drivers honk.

Oh! As a side note, Quin and I have been moved up to 12th grade for a variety of reasons, but we've been there for 2 days and, overall, I think that this switch is for the better. Once I arrive at school, the younger kids usually have assembly (which includes clapping, turning around, and singing the national anthem) and the older ones sit around in the other courtyard. Because we're 12th graders, we have the wonderful privilege of being able to go sit upstairs in the air conditioned classroom.

Every day, we have a different schedule with different classes. Also, this is the first year that our school has offered elective classes (only to the Seniors, though) and because of that we have meetings trying to figure out how things will work. Inshallah by the beginning of next week we will have our final schedules and can really start classes.

We have four 45 minute classes each morning... usually math, English, science, etc, though this varies by day. Then we have a 20-minute break where we can go to the canteen and buy food or we can go to the courtyard and just sit. Food in the canteen is quite cheap... a bottle of water is 100 baiza, or about 30 cents and a croissant or small pizza is only 300 baiza, which is a little less than a dollar. We then sit in the inner courtyard where there is some shade from the hot Omani sun, and talk until the whistle blows for us to go back to class. After the first break, we have 2 more classes that vary by day. Then comes another 10 minute break, and after that the rest of 12th grade has an hour and a half of Arabic, Islamic Studies, and Social Studies. Because those subjects are always in Arabic, Quin and I go to the library, where we do homework and hang out. In class, people go crazy! Talking while the teacher is talking is acceptable here. In fact listening to the teacher will cause people to question why you're being to quiet! Everyone is very friendly, though! After school, I ride the bus home and finish my day doing homework, relaxing, and spending time with my host family!

Quin and I having fun in the library!

Over to the left is the Sultan Qaboos Sports complex. You can see it from the library!

Tiny little library! But they have Harry Potter so it's all good. 


Views from the library!

I will post more pictures of the school later!