Monday, December 31, 2007

General update, with a guest appearance from the security guys, and my Asshole Neighbour

I was talking to one of the security guys the other day and he was bemoaning that so many of his friends and family go over to Thailand to whore it up on thier holidays. Because it's HARAM! Bitches! there was a pause in the conversation, and than he said "Suburban, we could make one Airline, call it HARAM-Air, we charter flights to Thailand. Except it's Haram to make money on Haram..." It was a pretty funny idea though.

I went home and was telling Stone about the idea, and he suggested maybe it wouldn't be so haram if we had a mobile clinic on the flights and tested for AIDS, and instead of inflight magazines we could have brochures detailing safe sex. I think it would still be haram, but maybe not a bad idea to offer some info, and maybe free condoms in the departures area of the airport. Hmmm...

The baby is sick, not dying or anything Just sick. According to the new Doc it's just your run of the mill bronchitis. Pleeeeassse God, Pleeease, make her better because it just kills me to watch her choking and gaging and struggling to breathe, and coughing all night.

We went to see the pediatrician today, the guy who has been holding the fort since the Scandinavian one left. As much as I try to like this newguy, and as much as I trust his judgement and his excellent credentials, he sort of rubs me the wrong way. I want to point out that I have an IQ of like 150 or so and am totally capable of understanding his super complex Dr. words, even when they have more than three syllables.

I don't mean to be hard on him... The poor guy is working his ass off, and as such doesn't really have time to concern himself with bedside manner. He's just trying to stay on top of his responsibilities. But, goddamn, I miss Dr.Hans. When he told me he was leaving Oman, I cried, because because other than Stone, he was the only person in the entire country who would laugh at my jokes, and liked to talk about cars (or perhaps I cried because I am crazy). Were he not all old and married, I would have asked him to father any future children I might have. Seriously, the english language lacks the words to describe the kind of love I had for our former Pediatrician.

Dr Hans has returned to his native land of Lingon berries and Ikea. I imaging him skiing right now, returning home to a toasty house with a fireplace, full of sleek Scandinavian furniture, Surrounded by his adoring family and loved ones, and enjoying his new job just fine, thank you very much. I wish he would come back, because my needs are more important than his right to have a happy life near his family. Obviously.

Which brings me to my Neighbours... I have resolved the school bus honking issue with the folks across the street, but there is a mysterious guy who lays on his horn for about three minutes every day around 12:00. I have never been able to figure out who it is because I am usually running to grab the screaming baby that woke up thanks to his honking. By the time I get out to the road, he's vanished. I call him... The Shadow...

Today was different. I happened to be in the front yard when the Shadow arrived, and began his customary honking routine. "I'll get you this time Shadow!"I yelled, and was out the front gate so fast that there are burn marks on the front yard tiles. Out of the gate, I look right, and there, across the street and one house down, sits The Shadow!!!!!!!!!!!

The Shadow sits, parked in front of his gate, leaning on the horn, and waiting for the house maid to work her way through the house, out the front door, so she can open the gate for him, so he can park his car inside.

You heard me right.... He is honking his horn, leaning on the thing, from the moment he arrives until the Housemaid starts to open the gate, because he is too lazy to get out of the car, walk through the people gate, and open the car gate himself. A task which would take him less than a minute to complete.

So I run over, and very politely introduce myself. The usual pleasantries are exchanged. The following is a rough translation of what happened next.

Me: Listen, I hate to trouble you, but do you think you could keep the honking to a minimum?
The Shadow: You Live in that house? All the way across the street? (our houses are about 30 m apart, Max)
Me: Yes, just over there. See my daughter tries to have a nap during the day, but your honking wakes her up.
The Shadow: So your house is not well furnished?
Me: Um, we have thick curtains and furniture and stuff... but the car horn is really loud. Maybe you could just honk once? Or your maid could leave the gate ready for you around noon? Or something...?...
The Shadow: Well... (heaves a sigh) I guess I can try to help you.
Me: I'd really appreciate that, Sorry for troubling you. thanks so much.

So we say our goodbyes, and that's that.

Next year I am moving to a better neighbourhood, like Detroit.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Overheard in Muscat, December

Cruel tricks to play on New arrivals, Part 2

Him: Salam Alaykum!
Me: Wa Alaykum Salaaam!
Him: Kef Halish, Kabir?
Me: Kabeer?
Him: Kabir, you know, because I respect you...
Me: Kabear means cow. Have the guys in IT been teaching you Arabic again?
Him: Uh huh.

The security guys have been watching too much ESPN...
Me and a newly arrived female friend are pulling up to the security gates. All four security guys pour out and blockade the road in front of the car. All together the four do "the Mexican wave" like in a football stadium. They have clearly been practicing.

Nasser: Hala! Suburban! We are breakdancers!
Me: Guys, that is awesome!
Nasser: We learn from American football. Superbowl is coming.
Me: Cool, tape Bud Bowl for me.
Nasser and other guards: do the wave again, blow kisses.
Newly arrived Friend: You have an interesting relationship with those guys
Me: You don't know the half of it....

We don't eat the house pets around here.
At a friends house, admiring thier newly acquired pet tortoises...

Us: Neat, they're so big!
Host: They can grow to eighty Kilos.
Bartie, the HouseMaid wanders over for her first look...
Host: Do you like them Bartie?
Bartie: very good. making you too much strong!
Host: (stunned silence....) Hmmm?
Bartie: After making soup and curry not need any injections!
Us: (muffled laughter)
Host: Bartie, these are pets, like the cat! We don't eat the cat, please don't eat the turtles.
Bartie: OK sir. (looking crestfallen)

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Travel, Teddy Bears.

We just got back from Amman, Jordan. I love that place. We went for a wedding, and a mini holiday, and so that Stone could have a swim in the dead sea, something he has never done before. A few thoughts about Jordan, as usual in no particular order.

  • Security was tighter than in the past. We took full advantage of the presence of armed guards everywhere and took pictures of the baby being cuddled by tough men wearing sub machine guns. The pictures are hysterical, but have frightened the grandparents.

  • Stone said the driving was reminiscent of being a pin ball. If you have ever driven in Amman, you'll know what I mean. The driving was the same as always, crazy, but friendly. They have built more tunnels, and a gorgeous giant bridge.

  • Three years ago I discovered that the only thing that doesn't float in the dead sea are rental car keys. No such tragedy this time.

  • The Baby hated the dead sea. She screamed like we were killing her as soon as we stuck her toe in. Stone liked the dead sea, but felt it wasn't "floatey" enough. He had the bouyancy of mercury in mind.

  • There was lots of Christmas related excitement everywhere. The Marriott had a giant tree decorated with glazed ginger bread cookies, each of which a member of staff had signed with thier name. It was cute.

  • Having a cute baby in Amman is a little like being the personal assistant to someone very famous. the Baby's cheeks were chapped from all the unsolicited kisses and pinches she received.

  • Upon leaving Amman, I used the toilet in the airport. Having thanked the attendant while leaving the washroom, the elderly lady jumped up and kissed each of my cheeks twice. How awesome is that? And how come I don't' get kisses from the attendants here in Muscat? (says Stone, because there are no attendants in the Seeb bathrooms)

Has anyone been following the Shit-storm that was whipped up about the teacher in Sudan who was jailed for allowing her (Muslim) students to chose Mohammad as the name for thier class teddy bear? There were people in the streets of Sudan protesting and calling for the death penalty. For the teacher.

Amjad blogged about it, as did quite a few other folks, but Amjad's blog got a lot of traffic because it was linked to from the BBC website. A few of us locals commented, but to be honest, I didn't hear a single ringing condemnation regarding actions the Sudanese government from anybody local. In fact, with the exception of myself and Amjad, most of the local commentary was critical of the teacher.

  • Petite For Life said...
    Her ignorance about Islam costed her, God help her.
  • Um Khalid said...
    Stupid from both sides really. -The teacher should know this would provoke anger among Muslims. -And the there Muslims are overreacting.I think something has to be done, but lashes?! - I'm thinking something like teaching her to respect the culture she's living in.

Ladies, That is totally fucking pathetic. I expected better of the Oman blogging community. I sort of thought that at least one other person would speak up, and to be honest, I kind of thought that other Muslim governments would speak up as well, if for no other reason than this sort of stuff is really really bad PR.

But the comments were mostly from elsewhere, (some of them so angry and crazy that the Sudanese government and the Saudi courts look sane by comparison) and poor Amjad got a lot of shit rained down on him, personally. Which is a bit of a shame, since he had the balls to speak out and say what nobody else, Muslim governments included, was willing to say.

Can I just add that I suspect this was whipped up further by the Saudis to draw international attention away from the Qatif rape case. I suspected something similar with the Danish cartoon thing after the stampede during the Haj and or Red Sea Ferry disaster a few years ago. Coincidence? I think not.

More tomorrow. We are still trying to find the prostitutes. Maybe they have all gone away? Not possible I think.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

A three question survey.

Today's survey is brought to you courtesy of a conversation with a friend, and my neighbours.

I was on the phone with a girlfriend the other day and she said she doesn't know how to change a tyre.

My neighbourhood is a cacophony of bus horns from 06:00 until 07:00 and again all afternoon from 12:45 until 16:00. How hard is it to be ready when the bus picks up / drops off your children? Also, last night at 23:30 there was some sort of drunken brawl between two groups of my neighbours. I am sort of getting fed up with this neighbourhood.

Whiteout further adieu; Three burning questions. I've turned off word verification, and you all can respond anonymously if you wish.

1) Do you know how to change a tyre, Jump start a car, and check all the fluids for your car? Does your spouse?

2) Is it appropriate to instruct your child's' bus driver to sit outside your house and honk until the your child appears in the morning and until the maid appears to escort the kid inside in the afternoon? Would requesting a missed call not achieve the same result?

And for a bonus point,

3) Having politely broached the subject twice, is it now appropriate for me to lob projectiles onto the bus, family, maid and child until they get the message? What sort of projectiles would you recommend? Or should I perhaps stand outside their bedroom window with an air horn randomly honking them and waking them up twice in every 24 hours?

I am seriously asking.

Monday, November 26, 2007

house keeping, corruption, hand jobs and true friendship.

  • In future posts, My husband will be referred to as Stone. Because it was getting really repetitive to type "my husband this" and "My Husband That" over and over again. I have yet to pick names for the kiddies.
  • Is anyone else following the news about the Saudi rape case where the victim of a gang rape was sentenced to 200 lashes because the rape occurred while she was out with an unrelated male, without a Guardian? Reason # 259,611,172 that I don't have a Saudi passport. I am speechless.
  • Also in the news, allegations of a certain Omani ex-telcom minister receiving a 1.9 million dollar sweetener after awarding a contract to Ericsson in the late nineties. This Guy blogged about it here. It's a good read.
  • This guy also blogged about the strange Omantel deal for the Pakistani telcom. Muscati blogged about it as well, over on the Oman community blog. It smells a bit fishy as well... Nawras executives must be high fiving each other this week.
  • The Oman Web Awards 2007 is coming up, Go on over and have a read about what Blue_Chi has written regarding the Oman Web Awards 2006 and the Oman Web Awards 2005.

Maybe all the prostitutes really have gone into hiding. We've been searching seedy bars since eid, and have only located a handfull of working girls, all of them strangely clad in Abayah. A report is forthcoming, I promise.

On a similar vein, Last night I was trying to convince Stone to go get a few massages and see if he could score a "happy ending". I was like "babe, I NEEEEEED you to research this for me...." and he said it made him feel a little uncomfortable that his wife was demanding that he go get hand jobs from strange women, even if it was in the name of research. I don't know who is luckier, him or me. Stone has elected not to assist in the research project.

I saw my friend Ahmed the other day. Ahmed and I worked together off and on for three years or so, and as a result, we've traveled most of the Middle East together, seen some really insane stuff on the road, had to share a seedy hotel room when a flight was cancelled, and I once tried to kill him with my bare hands. He is a really, really, really true friend.

I forgot how good it is to spend some time with someone who really knows me, and who understands my sense of humour, and who isn't interested in discussing diapers, baby toys, or politics. Ahmed, It was really good to see you.

What are the shared experiences that make a particular friendship strong? I don't know.

more later.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


These tagged things... until last night at about ten pm I was all like, "man, who would want to be tagged? It's like an internet chain letter only more labour intensive". But then, Daisy, the Saudi Stepford Wife tagged me and I was like "Oh my god! someone really loves me!I am so popular and brilliant!"

Here's the rules:
1. Link to the person that tagged you, and post the rules on your blog.
2. Share 7 random and/or weird facts about yourself.
3. Tag 7 random people at the end of your post, and include links to their blogs.
4. Let each person know that they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

  • I'm a lot like my dad. A couple of weeks ago we went shopping for a stroller and high chair for the baby. We came home three hours late with two bongo drums instead. My dad is awesome.
  • Back in the real world, I used to be a chef at some really pretentious restaurants. Teeny tiny food served on huge plates. Foigras ice cream on a bed of endive foam with truffled chive salsa and a miripoix of bing cherries, figs and bitter chocolate. Food no one in their right mind would want to eat, served in nine to fifteen course set menus. I loved my co-workers though, they were all insane, drug addled, bad-asses. There was rarely a dull moment, though the cocaine induced rages that people would fly off on really got to me after a while.
  • I think I have a parking related Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. I can't stand messy parking.
  • I bite my fingernails until they bleed. All the time. Sometimes they get infected, which makes it hard to type. It's the grossest thing ever, but I can't stop.
  • I was too embarrassed to buy my own underwear until I was 22. It just seemed too intimate a detail to share with a random checkout person. I spent a lot of years just going commando.
  • I think NASA geeks from the early Apollo missions are hot. It's something about the plastic framed glasses, and the degrees in astrophysics.
  • I took Japanese in High School. The only time I have ever used a word of it was ten years ago when a Homeless Veteran asked if he could use my Lip balm. When he was done, he thanked me in Japanese and I responded appropriately. Let me tell you, he was one really impressed Homeless Veteran. I should have taken Spanish.

I tag Amjad, Balqis, PYR, Blue-chi, Al-Mawali, Kay, and Meticulousness. None of you need to participate if you don't want to. We're all about choice around here.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Thank You, Nawras.

Today I went to the Nawras offices to see if the techno-whizzes there could figure out what, exactly, the is causing the ongoing plague on my internet connection. We were in and out in under an hour, and I think the problems are fixed for good.

As always, thier customer service guys were fabulous. We've had so many problems with the hardware and software on these things that I feel like I should be inviting the tech department to family weddings and weekend barbeques.

They think it's the modem, again. This is either our third or fourth modem, and definately our third sim card. We are so, so, so carefull with the modem and sim that I can't figure out why we are having to replace one or the otherevery four months. but then I figured it out. Obviously, the modem and the laptops throwing wild and crazy parties downstairs while we are sleeping. They invite all the other household appliances bust out the gin and the whiskey, and things get crazy.

Sometimes when I come downstairs in the mornings the kettle is on top of the microwave. I had put it down to the housemaid's idea of counter space efficency but alas, I was busting my kitchen appliances mid-coitus. Kettle, you are a slut. And the Electric pencil sharpener I found in the driveway the other day? Probibally passed out crawling home from another all nighter at Suburban Appliance Bar.

Anyway. Thanks Nawras and thanks nice customer service guy for fixing my internet, again. I promise to keep the modem out of the liqour cabinet from now on.

Flood relief, or a sociseconomic honesty index?

I've been meaning to blog about the flood relief funds that the Oman Charitable Organisation distributed on behalf of the government after Cyclone Gonu.

We were pretty badly flooded here. We live in one of the worst-hit neighbourhoods in the capital, though we were lucky because most of the furniture was salvageable, and we had already moved the rugs upstairs by the time the waters hit us. the flood cost us about fifteen to twenty thousand rials in material losses, though much of what we lost we just haven't bothered to replace, because really, we owned waaaay too much shit.

I am calling it the most expensive summer cleaning ever. Anyway, I digress.

When the guys came by the house to account for our losses, we didn't expect to receive anything from the government. Why should we? We chose to be uninsured, My Husband is well employed, and it's not like the entire house got washed away. we still had a roof over our heads. I was completely honest about what we lost, and I didn't claim a single item that could be repaired. I have come to understand, from others I've spoken to, that I am perhaps the only person in the entire country who did not exaggerate her losses.

What I expect the government has done (unknowingly) is that they have collected a really interesting set of data on cultural and socioeconomic honesty. I would love to have a rake through the data and see what, if any information we could extract. Does anyone know if the data is available anywhere? We could compare Male to female, compare by race, neighbourhood, weather the house is owned or rented, and square meters of the dwelling. Seriously, any SQU students who want to write a paper on this with me?

I also suspect that a closer look at the data might reveal that there were certain communities that were underrepresented in the reporting. Does anyone know where we could get our hands on the data?

A few weeks ago, I finally wandered down to the Wali's office and picked up the first check, which is to cover the household losses. We got 500 rails! I am thrilled, honestly, I expected nothing.

Sometime this week I'll go pick up another check, which is to cover the cars. Since all our cars are Old-Shit-Cans, I figure I'll show up and they'll be like "Suburban... you get diddly squat. The cyclone did us all a favour by removing your stupid cars from the road, and improved the overall aesthetics of your front yard considerably. You should be paying us."

Tomorrow, a rant and rave about how motherhood totally does not suit me.

Monday, November 19, 2007

We can't go on like this

Dear Nawras,

Allow me to start this letter by thanking you for providing me with an alternative to Omantel internet. Every time I pay my bill at your offices, I get a little lightning bolt of pure joy rocketing through my body, knowing that my hard-earned Rials are no longer lining Omantel's pockets.

I would also like to thank you for having some really nice, smart people in your customer service department. I'd like to personally thank each and every one of your customer service and technical support people for being professional, empathetic, and calling me back when I leave a message. Because customer service that calls back is so fucking fantastic, I sometimes think I'm dreaming.

But as in any relationship where both parties spend too much time with each other, My love for you, and your customer service guys, is beginning to wane. We've had your internet service for a year and a half now. I've been into see you and the tech department more than fifteen times . We have had three different modems, and three different sim cards. I have spent close to sixty hours of my time this year trying to make the internet work consistently. And yet, it still doesn't work right, or at all, most of the time.

I am sort of at my wit's end, because I neeeeeed internet to work, and to live. My time is so, so, so precious and I just don't think I can spend any more of it waiting around in your offices or sitting on the phone being told to try reinstalling the software, even though I already did that seventeen times last week. Nawras, tomorrow afternoon is your last chance to get my Internet up and running. I Have made an appointment, and I am genuinely looking forward to having reliable internet by the end of the week. I'm genuinely looking forward to seeing you guys tomorrow.

If we can't fix this, I'm leaving you. No hard feelings, you'll still be my mobile telephone provider, and I will continue to praise your helpful customer service department. But Me, and shit-loads of my money, will be going to Inmarsat's BGAN service. Which has the added benefit of providing me with filter free surfing. Meaning that I, not Omantel, will decide what is appropriate for my family to access on the Internet.

Best Regards,

Suburban Muscat

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Fun With Tailgaters

Drivers Who tailgate (Drive, like six inches from my back bumper, at highway speeds) drive me bonkers, but also provide a lot of oppertunity for entertainment.

  • The Candy Assault weapon: Peanut M&M's make the most terrifying sound when a handfull of them bounce off a windsheild. If M&M's unavailable, chocolate covered raisins are an OK substitute. I used this all the time when I had a motorcycle.
  • Say Cheese: Have a passenger climb into the back and take a bunch of photos of them (or pretend to) It makes them really paranoid. This is especially effective if you or they have a obviously "wasta" car.
  • The Brake check: (Don't do this if there are kids in the cars, pedestrians nearby, or if there is any other traffic in the vicinity... Obviously) slow down... slower... let them get reeeeeeal close. Now! Slam on the brakes. Give yourself five points for a swerve, ten points if thier tyres squeal, and if they actually hit you, Spray paint a little stencil shape of a car on your quarter panel to symbolize a confirmed "hit"
  • The Stalker: Slow down until they pass, And wave, with a BIIIIG smile. Then follow them at a distance to where they are going. When they arrive, jump out of the car and pledge your undying love for them. Act really weird and desperate. Hug them if they'll let you close enough. Mention something about how friendly the world outside the institution is. etc... (Note: I haven't tried this one in Oman yet, but it got great reactions in Europe)
  • If you happen to be on a road with speed bumps, and happen to bebeing followed by a saloon car or a sports car, speed up a little, tell your passengers to hang on, and rocket yourself over the speed bump without braking. Not seeing the speed bump coming, they usually run right into it. The results are usually hysterical, and expensive for the guy following. We do this a lot on the road in MQ by starbucks / british council.
  • If your car haas a back windsheild squirty thing, take it apart, and readjust it to squirt out and onto the car following. A friend sugggested filling the lines with paint thinner, or ink, but I think it would eat the rubber and plastic fittings. We reccomend water for safety and versitility.

Next week, mostly harmless parking lot pranks to play on inconsiderate parkers / dear friends.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Overheard in Muscat. Now with 100% more tourists

Tourism Enriches...

Tourist A: you know what?

Tourist B: What?

Tourist A: I didn't realise there are so many Muslims in Oman.

Rest of tour group: stunned silence.

At the Border between the UAE and Oman,

Me: Hi! want to see my passport or ID?

Border Guy: pointing at the shiny convertible Gears? Or automatic?

Me: Automatic. V6.
Border Guy: You selling?

Me: No. It's my husband's, he'd kill me.
Border Guy: crestfallen... Ok. Have nice time Dubai!

Me: So do you want to see my ID?

Border Guy: No problems, You go now.

Me: Okaaaay...

Border Guy: Waving happily.

*Ladies, take note: you can effectively go from muscat to dubai and back without having any ID checked if you are driving a shiny sports car. at the other three posts I insisted that they at least Look at some ID, but I really think I could have just driven on and waved. *

Tourism Enriches II-

Wherin Suburban adolescent reports from a recent school trip to (supposedly) provide aid to an impoverished country.

Me: So was it interesting?

Her: Yeah! the night clubs were amazing.

Me: And the orphanage?

Her: Yeah, really amazing. I felt so sorry for the kids and for the homeless people.

Me: How did the other Students like the trip? Most of them haven't traveled as much as you.

Her: Yeah! Like we were on this one cruise, and there were these platters of Prawns, and the other students had never had to peel thier own shrimp before so they didn't know how to do it. So I showed them!

Me: Hmmm...

At the Pepsi R/A (it would help to have lived in the states to understand this one)
Guy#1: Look at those guys! In the ties and blue trousers. pointing

Guy#2: Mmm?

Guy# 1: I didn't know they had Mormons here. Weird.

Guy #2: Dude, Those are LuLu Employees...

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

The perfect relationship.

Suburban Adolescent prompted me to share this experience, after I told her this story in the car last night. This story is 100% true, and took place years ago when I was just beginning to curtail my former bad-girl ways. I was engaged, at the time, to some Scottish guy way too old for me, and he’d brought me along to New York for a business trip. He would work all day and chat with his insanely boring friends, and I would wander the streets falling in love with a city that’s like no other. Evenings, we would go out for dinner with his friends, and I would drink until I was half blind trying to pretend that I would be happy in our future together.

Late afternoon in Manhattan. The snow had been falling heavily for the last hour. Those huge flakes of sticky wet snow that blanket the sidewalks of the city and allow you to trace the steps of those who walked before you on a particular slice of pavement. The sky was a gray monotone, and when I looked up the skyscrapers seemed to disappear into the clouds and swirling snow. I was walking, headed for a coffee shop, watching the snow fall and lost in my own scattered thoughts. There was this businessman leaning up against the polished granite side of a building, there was a brief moment of eye contact and then I was walking past him.

He said, “you’re beautiful” in a heavy New York accent.

It wasn’t a line, or the opening of a conversation, or the beginnings of some cheesy spiel, it was just a matter of fact statement said in the same tone of voice as if he’d said “It’s Snowing!” I looked back over my shoulder, smiled, and said “thanks” and kept on walking.

I walked down the block, right on 2nd ave, and was just beneath the awning of a big hotel when I heard steps pounding up behind me. He grabbed my wrist, and spun me to face him and wrapped his other arm around behind me, crossing the small of my back and letting his hand rest on my waist, pulling me close to him like we were ballroom dancing.

Were I the paranoid sort, I would have been freaking out about being mugged, but I felt safe, and happy in his arms. He smelled of aftershave, cigars, and slightly stale beer, his morning shave already growing out into stubble along his jaw line.

He looked at me and said, “You can’t let it end like that.” And leaned down and planted this huge kiss on my lips.

Of course, I kissed him back. Right there on 2nd Ave, making out in the falling snow with a complete stranger like some sort of godless harlot.

He asked my name, asked if he could take me to dinner, buy me a drink, marry me and father my children. I said no.

And this guy, whose name I will never know, said ok, thanked me for the kiss, for the perfect relationship, kissed me again, and walked off into the falling snow while I stood there grinning, to stunned to thank him back.

I called off the engagement to the scottish guy a week later, and called off the entire relationship a couple of months after that. I moved back home to the Middle East, met the man of my dreams, and lived happily ever after.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

By the Numbers, Suburban Goes back to work.

I'll post a couple of the best stories, and something more detailed in a few days when I've caught up on sleep. In the interimn, here is a numerical stat-shot of my trip.

  • 2,600 Kilometers Driven
  • 300 Kilometers driven while hallucinating from sleep depravation
  • 7 Imaginary R/A’s braked for
  • 1 Total Number of times passport was checked by ROP border
  • 2 Total Number of Times passport should have been checked
  • 1 Glitzy launch attended in Dubai, complete with fireworks
  • 16 Hours worked per day by me
  • 152 pages of documentation typed by me
  • 1 Very frustrating mistakes made by me through sheer laziness
  • 58 Beers Consumed by me
  • 1 Toga Parties Attended in the empty quarter
  • 3 Pairs of Legs waxed using fly paper (Male)
  • 2 Hours of sleep per night, average
  • 2 Days taken to find my former personality
  • 8 Dealership demo cars driven
  • 2.3 Kilos of weight lost
  • 0.4 Kilos of sand in my luggage (approx)
  • 5 Showers taken
  • 35,127 Number of times I heard men calling each other "fucking cunts"
  • 0 women overheard doing the same
  • 100% probibility I will work this event again

Good times.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Suck This, Salik

Salik: N. the much hated dubai toll system instituted to move congestion from Sk Zayed Road to other areas. Has resulted in making the gridlock even worse.

I sent an email to Salik Customer service late last night. I wanted to know if I need a Salik tag for the Oman registered car I'll be driving in Dubai.

I received a response this morning, But along with the response I received 250+ items of Spam. I've had one spam message in the entire four years I've had this email address. I haven't emailed anyone except my husband in the last couple of days.

I hate spam.

In other news, I leave tomorrow for two weeks of work! My family have been doing thier utmost this week to ensure that I'm not too sad to leave them... It is working.

I intend to be so un-sad, in fact, that I will pull out of the drive in a hail of burnt rubber, skidding down the block so fast that if you listen carefully you will actually be able to hear the air colapsing around the space I was just in. Except you won't be able to hear that over the sound of my laughter.

No news for two weeks from here, see you guys when I get back.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Shanfari Automotive, I want to have your babies.

Really, I want to roll around on a sandy beach, making out with you, just like in the Chris Issac music video. I want to fall asleep in your workshop at night, snuggled against a pile of tyres, safe and secure in the knowlege that you will care for my car and fetch, in a timely manner, the spare parts I so desperatey need for my latest uselss acquisition.

Shanfari Automotive, I love you, and I want to be with you forever.

You guys may be wondering what has possessed me to express such unadultertated devotion to an Automotive parts conglomerate. Clearly, you people don't own Chevrolets, or Toyotas*. Getting a spare part for an older car from Chevrolet or Toyota* is like pulling teeth without anesthetic, only more painfull. It's the kind of struggle that saps my will to live, takes up thirty hours of my time, and usually ends with me ordering the part from a junkyard in Dubai or the states, and waiting a month for it to arrive. I am unable to have the sort of melodramatic emotional meltdown and freak-out that the parts departments at Bahwan and OTE diserve, because, as surely as the sun rises and sets, I will need another part in a week or so.

Thus, it was with heavy heart, and barrels of pessimisim that I went to Shanfari Automotive in Al Khuwair to request a small part for my aging Jeep.

I walk in, and there are three OMANI guys behind the counter. (oh my God! Omani's! Real Live, Omani's!) They spoke impeccable Arabic (obviously) and perfect English. They each have a computer available to them, which they can use to look up parts. They were able to tell me which parts they had in stock, how many of them they had, and the lead times for the parts they didn't have on hand, and where the parts would ship from. They knew a lot about cars, so when I said I needed the gasket seal for the inlet on my Fuel Injection rail, they knew exactly what I was asking for.

I often get treated like some sort of slightly retarted alien life force when I go into shops asking about specific spare parts. Baffeled stares abound, My judgement is questioned, my knowlege disagreed with, I am repeatedly told by some pompus, sexist asshole to be quiet and let him figure it out. IE: "Please, madam, don't touch that! It's the motor... Madam, This is tyres" So it was with glee, and a series of giddy school-girl squeals and jumps that I got to wander back to where they keep the parts, dictate the peice I needed, and have a wander around the workshop, stopping to touch anything I wanted.

Part received, Five rials paid, I was on my way in less than twenty minutes. You might think five rials is a lot to pay for a small rubber washer the size of a quarter, but I would like to assure you that if you factor in the monetary value of my time, and the value placed on frustration, The same part would have cost me upwards of 250RO at Chevrolet or Bahwan*.

*Toyota and Nissan Owners, you have a choice; you should get your spares from Al Kiyumi spare parts in wadi Kabir. Factory originals, purchased from the distributor in Dubai, imported here, and still sold cheaper than the dealership here is charging. We really get ripped off by the dealers here....

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The kids in my Neighborhood are getting Diddly Squat for Eid.

I left my small truck, the Abu Shenab, parked out front of the house all day today. Big Mistake. I Got back home just before Iftar to find the drivers side door hanging open. They'd turned the headlights on, and left them that way.

I guess I should count myself lucky that the thing wasn't up on blocks and covered in spray paint.

When I figure out which kid did this, I'm going to kill him.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Too Friendly Friend?

I need some advice, from all you married folks out there. Especially Omanis.

See I have a Male, Omani Acquaintance who is being weird. He's barely even an acquaintance, and has so far done nothing... Except be really creepy, but in a way so benign that I feel a little bad for questioning his intentions, and trying to avoid his increasingly persistent intrusions into my life. I really want to give him the benefit of the doubt, but I think the time has come to tell him to fuck off and stop harassing me.

I should point out that I made it VERY VERY clear from the first time we met that I am happily married. Crystal clear. I have been totally, totally correct with him, handshake only, attired in a very conservative manner. I've been standoffish to the point of being rude. I've given him absolutely no indication that I am interested in discussing anything other than cars.
  • I met Mr. Biscuit six months ago in a parking lot. MR. Biscuit had followed me from the highway and wanted to ask about my car. This is not unusual because almost daily I get stopped by men, women, and the occasional police officer enquiring about my car.
  • Though I am not a huge fan of total strangers following me around and then bugging me about my car in a parking lot, it turns out, Mr. Biscuit is not a stranger. Mr. Biscuit is the husband of a lady with whom I once worked on a small project. Indeed, I can clearly recall his lovely wife.
  • Cut to two weeks later. My phone has been ringing incessantly with a number I don't recognize. Annoyed, I answer, and it's him. (How he got my number I will never know.) He needs help sourcing a part for his car, something I had mentioned I could do. Can he come over? I'm thinking of excuses... Too busy, Baby is sick, Flood troubles, on vacation, I put him off for months, thinking he'll move on. No Dice.
  • So finally I have him over for coffee and a look at the spare parts catalogue, which he only glances at. Send him on his way having ordered a copy of the book sent to his address.
  • He keeps calling, and calling, and calling. Then I loose my phone. He shows up at the door while I'm out, hassles my maid, somehow gets her number through the missed call ploy. He calls her repeatedly asking if she's given his number to me or if she has my new number. When I finally have a new number and handset sorted out for myself I call him and tell him to stop bugging my maid.
  • So for the last two weeks he's been calling and calling me again. Because I am a coward I am avoiding answering his calls. He's sent two text messages "hi sweet, how r u & kids. i miss u take care my lovely one" and this one this morning--- "hi how are you dear i miss u be in touch honey"
  • What the fuck? Even my very best male friends, Omani guys with whom I have traveled the world, and known for umpteen years don't send texts like that.

So Here's the question; Do I

A) Keep ignoring his calls. He'll get the message eventually.

B) Call him myself and explain that his persistent attention is making me feel uncomfortable. Ask him to leave me alone.

C) Ask my husband and brothers to have a word* with him

D) Cut the poor guy some slack. He's only trying to be friendly.

E) None of the above.

And for a bonus point: Am I being totally stuck up, or totally oblivious?

Monday, October 8, 2007

Overheard in Muscat, lately

I was going to blog about how the useless CV's that your average Omani diploma holder has are the real menace to the onward march of omanisation, but I'm too lazy. Maybe next week.

Thus, another addition to the ongoing overheard in muscat series.

On speakerphone, enquiring about the car we eventually bought:
My Man: So It's a 96?
Australian Lady selling car: Yeah, with 140,000 kms... we're the third owners I think.
My Man: And can you tell me why are you selling it?
Australian Lady selling car: My husband bought a Hummer last month.... (pause) I don't know why, there's nothing wrong with his penis.
My Man: Pffffft!!!!! laughing, spitting beer across the table.
Australian Lady selling car: Well, I'm just saying....

On returning Late from work, and finding a tired, bitchy wife at home:
My Man: On the way home I got some juice, some lettuce, and some onions.
Me: OK.
My Man: also, I picked up a fresh box of "nice wife"....
Me: Hope you picked up a box of "come the hell home on time", "skip rugby" and a box of "you wake up and feed the baby tonight"...because "nice wife" doesn't work very well without those.
My Man: damn... No wonder it was on sale.

Special feature this week; A joke, as told to me by Tariq.
So I was in the souk last week and there was this guy speaking swahilli.
I go over, and say man, Where you from?
Swahili guy says, PDO.
Ba Dum Ching!

Someone needs to cancel the security subscription to Mtv... Part II
Security guy: Hey Suburban! come see my new car... Taal...
Me: Nice! I bet it goes fast?
Security Guy: Yeah, it's big pimping.
Me: Sweet. Give my regards to your bitches.
Security Guy: Also to your bitches.

Cruel tricks to play on new arrivals, Part 1
New Guy: Want to go out for a Kapsch with me after Eid?
Me: Capsh?
New Guy: (winking) You know? Kapsh?
Me: A goat? Kapsh means goat.
New Guy: Really?
Me: Really. Who taught you that?
New Guy: The guys in IT.... No wonder they all keep laughing when I tell them I can't wait to get my hands on a little Kapsch when the bars open.
Me: No wonder.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Prostitutes. The word is prostitutes.

Yes. Prostitutes, the female kind. In bars, on the streets, in loosely organised brothels and independent message parlours. Prostitutes. Women being paid to have sexual encounters with men. Here in Muscat.

It's so blatant that for a while there was a sort of Drive-thru prostitute service available outside the Sheraton, Which Muscati and Wife blogged about brilliantly here.

I've been meaning to write about the prostitution here for a while. The thing that finally motivated me to write a little bit on the issue today was reading yesterday's HI! magazine. In it, here was a letter from a British expatriate, regarding last week's article on massage in Muscat. The guy pretty much pointed out the obvious, that a lot of massage parlours are a front for prostitution, or at the very least that a client can expect to have more than his back massaged as part of the service.

The Brilliant folks editing HI! thought is best to edit the word prostitute, among others, out of his letter. For a start, the editing was so butchered and incoherent me want to slap the editors across the face with a heavy thesaurus and ask them just what exactly the English language ever did to them to be treated with such brazen carelessness. Second, one would either have to be insanely naive or exceptionally pious or more likely both to not be aware of the amount of prostitution here in Oman.

There are prostitutes all over Oman. There are lots of men who are happy to pay them for sex. A lot of the men refuse to use protection, raising the chances of becoming infected with STI's or HIV. They can then transmit whatever they have acquired to other prostitutes, current or future wives and possibly unborn children. You only get one set of genitals, and you should be careful where you (or the person you are married to) go and stick them.

Regardless of how You or I might feel, there will come a point in time when the government, the media, and families are going to need to have some pretty uncomfortable conversations. Conversations about Protection from STI's, Human trafficking, Contraception. Conversations about the morality of prostitution and a man's commitment to his wife. Conversations about the government's decision to cover it's eyes and then claim not to see anything.

I'll leave you with a statement from a guy, Jack* whom I occasionally see in bars. Jack has a post graduate degree, and is employed somewhere rather high ranking in the government. Jack visits Prostitutes here occasionally, and really enjoys his "family" holidays to Thailand and Malaysia. I said I hope he's using a condom, because you've gotta be carefull out there. Jack said...
"don't be stupid, I don't go for the dirty girls. You can tell by looking carefully
if they are clean and taking care of themselves."

OK bud.... whatever you say.

More on this issue after Ramadhan, including a guide to the brothels of the city, and a few stories from the working girls themselves, as told to me.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Hi Ho, Hi Ho, it's back to work I go.

But first,

Today, I'm ranting and raving about our Ramadhan driving habits over at the Oman community blog. Go over there and lay the smack down on my hypocritical ass.

I'm going back to work for two weeks at the end of october. This will be the first real work I"ve done in my feild since I was pregnant. I'm excited and scared at the same time.

I am so excited to be back traveling, and around "my people". Folks who knew me when I was crazy and single, folks who don't know me as Someone's mother or Someone's wife. People who think I"m smart, funny, and talented, and don't give a shit who I'm married to. I will be a real person, for two glorious weeks of intense work and hopefully grace under pressure. It's like taking a bubble bath in reality.

I'm terrified to leave the baby and my husband for so long. I honestly can't remember how I used to be able to travel so much. I'll be out of town, but my heart will be scattered in a million little peices on the road between here and there.

That's all for today. More from here eventually about the human trafficing report, and whatever else is up my nose.

Ramadhan Kareem!

Saturday, September 15, 2007

We finally got a car!

Yes! a Car! That we can afford! It runs, has air conditioning, and isn't a prado, pajero, pathfinder, minivan, or Discovery.

Ramadhan is truly the month of miracles.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Overheard in Muscat.. again

Via text message

Mom: What do u suppose happens 2 the info on memory stick if you run it thru wash???
Son: Do you mean literally, or philosophically?

Which is rather profound, if you think about it... where, exactly does the information go?

Monday, September 10, 2007

I am a moron.

Today I left my phone on the roof of my car, and then drove off. Unbeliveable.

I have no idea where it is now, and it brings tears to my eyes to think of it out there all alone out there in the big bad world, cold and frightened.

Also, I had 500 numbers in the thing. Hmmph...

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Overheard in Muscat

This is also cross posted over at the Oman Community Blog, because we could do with a laugh over there at the moment. Enjoy, and send anything funny that you have overheard to me at Otheroman (at)

Careful mate, he might take you up on that.

Australian guy waiting in line, to Indian guy crowding him from behind: Look, If you get much closer mate, I'm going to have to ask you to use a condom.

What I want to know, is where did he learn the word Photogenic?

At the ROP labor / driving licence card place in Seeb
Officer who barley speaks English: Sit. Sit. You! Sit. gestures to chair facing camera
Lady getting her photo taken: Should I take my glasses off?
Officer who barley speaks English: Sit... Now, looking this. gestures to camera
Lady getting her photo taken: fluffs hair, smiles.
Camera: takes picture
Officer who barley speaks English: looking at photo, not good...blease, one more
Camera: takes picture
Officer who barley speaks English: looking at photo, not good.., one more
Camera: takes picture
Officer who barely speaks English: looking at computer screen, then at woman, then back at computer screen, You are not photogenic.

We have a lot of Acronyms around here.

Guy #1 : Reading from paper "... was Signed by PDO general manager blah blah, and a Representative from the MOG, Sheikh blah bin blah..."
Guy #2: What does MOG stand for?
Guy #3: That's the Ministry of Obfuscation and Gratuities...
Guy #2: You're kidding, Right?
Guy #3: Um. Sort of.

At the vet's office.

Telephone Ringing....
Receptionist: Good afternoon, Blah Blah vet's office?
Receptionist: I'm afraid the doctor is unavailable, can I help you?
Receptionist: I understand it's urgent, is there anything I can do to help you?
Receptionist: Covering Mouthpiece, to vet. this guy wants to know if he needs to take his kid to the hospital.... Because the kid drank from a glass after the cat did.
VET: rolls eyes, shakes head. Muffled laughter from other clients.
Receptionist: into telephone No sir, that's no problem, your child will be just fine. .... Yes, I'm sure....

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Raisin Run / Sultana Scramble!!!

We have invented a new game. It is awesome. Sultana scramble. You need one hungry baby, ten minutes to kill before dinner is finished, a few gin and tonics, and a box of raisins / sultanas.

  1. drink a couple of gin and tonics*
  2. grab the raisins
  3. Put the Hungry** baby on the floor on one end of the kitchen***
  4. throw a handfull of raisins on the floor**** on the oppisite end of the kitchen
  5. Watch your child break mach1 enroute to the raisins, and laugh hysterically

* but no more, because we don't advocate intoxicated parenting here.

**but not starving, because we don't advocate cruelty to children here.

***which is free of hazards and anything dangerous, because we don't advocate harming your children for amusement here.

****which is clean enough to eat off. obviously....

Monday, September 3, 2007

I love words.

I was thinking about the way we use words to try and describe the indescribable. Love, Passion, Whatever... Here are the first four that came to mind. Feel free to add your own.

I can tell you taste like the sky, because you look like rain. - Morphine

Doubt thou the stars are fire, doubt that the sun doth move, doubt truth to be a liar but never doubt that I love - Shakespeare

The trick is not how much pain you feel - but how much joy you feel. Any idiot can feel pain. Life is full of excuses to feel pain, excuses not to live, excuses, excuses, excuses. - Erica Jong

Sometimes, after we make love, I swear I can smell cotton candy and oranges. Like the sweetness just seeps out of your pores and paints itself across my skin where your fingers have been. -unknown

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Have you ever heard of a Slim Jim?

It's a long, thin peice of sheet metal, with a few notches cut out of it. You use it to break into your car or your hose when you have accidently locked the keys inside. THat is why you occasionally hear of someone "jimmying" a lock.

Do any of you guys have people who park thier cars outside your house, in your parking area, and then empty all the trash from thier cars out all over your yard? Does that strike anyone else as a rather thoughtless thing to do?

Would it be innapropriate for me to Jimmie the lock on thier cars and dump the contents of the trash can next to the infant's changing table, and maybe the kitchen garbage inside? I would, of course re-lock the car when I was finished.

Seems fair to me.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Thee Season for sharing and giving is almost upon us.

Not Ramadan you dumbass... The post-holiday sharing of germs and giving of diseases season! I wonder if August and September should be national Cover your mouth when you sneeze month.

I have a cold at the moment, and am doing my level best to make everyone around me as miserable as I am. Seriously, I can hardly belive some of the things I have heard coming from my own mouth. If we make it to the weekend without a divorce or physical assault occuring it will be a credit to my husband's patience, kindness, and determination not to find himself single in a country where available women are outnumbered by single men about 10,000 to one.

So, In no particular order, here are a few links I came across that have cheered me up today.

  1. Personae Urbana, a graffitti art alphabet book by the brilliant blogger Dutch @ Sweet Juniper
  2. Saudi Stepford Wife. She's like me, except she's smarter, more articulate, funnier, better educated, and will likely go to heaven when she dies.
  3. the amazingly funny overheard in New York website. If you like Overheard in Muscat, You'll love this.
  4. Go, Now over to the OCB and see what I've been thinking about the last few days. Really, I have a new post up over there. Go, and comment if you have the time.

More from here soon!

Monday, August 27, 2007

One quick item overheard in my house last night..

Adolescent #1: what's the password on your laptop?
Me: Ninjaturtle7124... do you know how to spell that?
Adolescent #1: Duh... do I look stupid to you?
a few minutes of typing... then silence
Adolescent #1: How do you spell Ninja?

Yes, We pay a gazzilion bucks a year for his private schooling...

Sunday, August 26, 2007

It's good to be home, except my truck is still not running

So, We're back.

New Zealand was great, Australia was great. I love Australia because people laugh at my jokes there. Seriously, the moment I step off the plane I am transformed from Weird and frumpy to brilliant and witty. Bizarre. The plane ride there was about as much fun as can be expected with one infant and a handful of surly teens. Yes, I can even complain from the comfort of my Business class seat.

Because the Car Fairy didn't visit and miraculously repair the beast in our absence, I am still driving the BMW. I hate it's German engineering, random error messages, and crappy handling with the heat of the seventh circle of hell. Random things keep breaking, like yesterday it was the Parking brake cable . Also, I will die if I don't find a car to drive with cup holders soon. What is it with European cars and no cup holders? I had an Audi TT in the UK, and paid an extra 75 pounds for the cup holder option. The cup holders were absolute rubbish. useless, twiggy things that wouldn't hold anything. I sent them back to Audi R&D in a box.

Anyway.... My rig is still at Chevrolet, awaiting the instillation of a new computer. The dealership wanted RO300 for a new one, we got one from a junkyard in the states for RO 100 including shipping. Once the computer is installed, they will be able to give me an estimate on the cost to repair it. I will then sell my daughter to pay for the repairs. Could everyone please send healing thoughts and prayers to my truck?

Hey, and how famous am I? Just kidding, but I was really happy with the article the Week did on the car import saga. I've had a lot of good feedback from friends who don't know I was the blogger behind it, which was thrilling. I notice the silver mustang featured on the cover has yet to be sold, bet you can get a smoking deal on it now... Ha. If you missed the article, you can download it in PDF here

What else is new? I'm working on a post over at the ocb which is sort of a tour of dodgy bars, exploited women, and men behaving badly. Look for it sometime in the next week.

Also, I was lamenting to a friend the lack of Egg Nog (A product I fell in love with in the states, it's like a spicy sweet drinking custard) and they suggested I email the American embassy to ask if they could lay on a case or two as a sort of grassroots goodwill thing. SO I did, but so far no reply. And goddamn it, it was a really funny email!!!! I laughed like crazy writing it! If you look at the embassies on Google earth, the American one is the only one without a swimming pool. Which speaks volumes, I think.

I think I have just about covered everything, look for more substantial news and rants in the coming days!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

You Know what this is...

It's a Woolen Sweater bitcheeezzz!!!

Hello From New Zealand. A Beautiful, but frozen country located south east of Australia. Famed for it's sheep, America's cup crews, a small fuzzy fruit, and adorable accents, New Zealand does what it says on the label. It's green, It has sheep, there are mountains, and everyone drives on the other side of the road.

So far the natives appear to be a hardy, but reselient people who have embraced the new milennuim's pace of life and modern amenities, with the exception of Central Heating. Even the night clubs have a fireplace. Like a real fireplace that burns actual wood! For Heating! What the hell? I have never been so cold in my entire life.

Thanks to you guys who have commented in the past week, especially Anas. I'll respond when I get somewhere that my fingers don't go numb.

I have also found a new reason to defend my marrage to Mr. Suburban. The next time someone asks, instead of waxing poetic about love, romance, shared values and goals, I will say this: Business. Class. Flights. Even the baby had her own Business class ticket.

More news from here, we are currently playing the "find an expat Omani"game. We will report on the results and stats when we get back.

Hope you guys are great. I can see my own breath (inside the house!) so I'm off to bed for some jet-lagged sleep!

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Defensive driving courses

JP, a frequent commenter on this blog provided the contact details for a compay that provides a basic defensive driving course. See below. I've copied his comment here so more people see it and read it.

SCS (Safety Cooperation Services Co. Ltd.) corporate training centre located at LANSAB which is adjacent to Ghala (Tel: 24585294; Fax: 24586068; Contact: Mohammed Salim). Course costs ONLY OR 21.-, 3 hours class, 5 hours on road. Tell them ahead of time if you need an automatic transmission.

Also other Oman training organisations provide similar courses: OTI, NTI, STS and TATI.

I, (suburban) would like to add that I've taken two defensive driving courses from the company called OTI, Occupational Training Institute, I thought they were great. I would provide the number, but my phone book bit the dust in the recent flood.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Road safety from your resident know-it-all

Oman is doing a lot towards improving road safety, receiving nods from the UN, HRH prince Michael of Kent, and others. The ROP is providing defensive driving training for all staff, which should have a trickle down effect on their families and friends. Limited progress is being made, but not enough, and not at the level of your average folk.

Following, are a few ideas for how individuals, on a grassroots level, can make an impact on the driving habits of their family, friends, and co-workers.

Wear your seat belt, and make your passengers wear them as well. weather they want to or not.

Approach your CEO, MD, minister or undersecretary about sponsoring a defensive driving course for all employees. Explain that the course may pay for itself in terms of reduced insurance costs, reduced absenteeism after accidents, and if employees are driving branded company cars a better public image. If your company or ministry won't pay, take the course yourself.

When a friend or family member has a baby, Don't blow two rials on a multi pack of flammable baby clothes or made-in-china rattles and choking hazards. Get your co-workers, family or friends to pool together and buy the family a car seat for their precious bundle. Offer to come over and help them install it properly. Men, please read the instructions.

Speak to the principal or headmaster at your children's school. Ask if road safety is part of the curriculum, and if It's not demand that it be added, starting in Kindergarten. Kids can learn about the importance of wearing a seat belt, respecting stop signs and traffic signals, and the dangers of speeding. They will go home and pester their parents into better driving habits, and when they become drivers themselves, will have the right mental attitude towards road safety.

When you see a friend or family member driving dangerously, Confront them. Depending on how your family gives feedback to one another you can try saying the following things:

  • Honey, When you drive like that it makes me feel very nervous.
  • I know that you are a good driver, but your (tailgating, speeding, four lane drift lane changes) could distract other drivers and cause them to have an accident. Maybe you should join the Auto club and participate in the sprints.
  • Sweetheart, that is really dangerous. Please Slow down.
  • Anwar, Do you think you are Michael Schumacher? Slow the fuck down and stop being such an asshole behind the wheel or I will get out of the car at the next round about.
  • In our family, feedback is usually in the style of #4, but your mileage may vary.

If you catch your kids, or anyone who is living in your house and under your roof driving recklessly take away their keys. No Negotiation, no Excuses. Driving is a privilege and a responsibility and not a god-given right.

Do not buy your teenage kid a sports car for his first wheels. that's not sending the right message about responsible driving, and anyone who is just beginning to drive does not have the experience or training to handle a powerful and touchy car. If your kids are anything like me, as surely as the sun rises and sets they will wreck it within a month. Save yourself a load of money and buy them a beat-to-hell pickup or Volvo.

Tomorrow, more humour, less bitching, and vacation plans.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Slowly, we are killing ourselves.

Two Hundred and Seventy Seven Lives
Every single one was once someones baby

According to this article in the Times of Oman, road deaths in the first five months of the year account for the loss of 277 lives. Last year, the total for the whole year was 666 deaths.

On our roads, by our own hands.

People, what the hell is wrong with us? This should be on every billboard in town, on the lips of every elementary school teacher in class, and on the to-do list of issues to address for every CEO in the country. The ROP and the ministries of education and health should be ashamed. We, as citizens and residents should be outraged.

To give you a sense of the scale of outrage we should all be feeling, I'll refer you to this article in the Independent, published December 30th 2006 and headlined "Palestinian death toll triples this year".

The figure cited in the article is 660 Palestinians killed as a result of Israeli aggression in 2006. That's six fewer people than were killed on our roads during the same period of time.

Essa Al Zedjali, editor in chief for the Times of Oman would make a much better use of his time addressing the issues that are actually killing Omanis in his viewpoint column. If we were to compare the column inches dedicated to the Palestinians struggle, vs the column inches dedicated to road safety here in Oman, in any major publication my guess is a ratio of 25 to1, if that.

We, for our part should donate money to a non-violent charity in aid of the Palestinians, while keeping them in our prayers. Our outrage, resentment, and political cartoons should be focused closer to home on an issue that each and every one of us can impact.

Tomorrow, a list of things you can do to personally reduce the death toll on our roads.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Hamoud and Talib Go for a drive. Part two

If you missed part one, you can find it here

Talib was feeling very uncomfortable indeed, and as he and Hamoud spun round in circles at the top of the street he almost dismissed it as nausea from the doughnuts they were pulling at the top of the road. "Stop Hamoud!" shouted talib. Hamoud stopped the car. "what is it bud? You ok?" asked Hamoud with concern.

Talib was silent for a moment, and then confessed to the weird feeling that had been welling up inside him. "Hamoud, I think that perhaps we are making the problem here worse with our sight seeing and fast driving. These people have lost almost everything they owned, they do not look so rich and maybe they cannot call their daddies to ask for new ones. I think we should be helping, it is our duty." Hamoud thought it over, and agreed, because even he had been feeling a little guilty too.

"perhaps we could send our houseboy and driver to them?" offered Hamoud. but then he decided that it was best to help out himself, what with actually being there and all.

They turned back down the street, and driving much slower this time looked for a likely candidate to whom they could offer assistance. They passed the crazy woman who had given up on making the truck live again and was now sweeping mud out of the house with a baby on her hip. She said some words to them that Hamoud and Talib vowed to look up in a dictionary at their earliest convenience.

Eventually, they pulled up beside some apartment blocks, where there was a family who's ground floor accommodation had been completely wiped out. Mother, father and the kiddies were slowly moving furniture out and brushing at the mud, making slow but definite progress. Hamoud approached the man of the house, and introduced himself, proffering help in any way necessary. The man was delighted, and gratefully accepted their assistance.

The two young men entered the house and were each presented with a long stick that had smaller sticks or pieces of rope on the ends. The man indicated that by using these primitive tools, they could push the mud out of the house and into the yard.

"What the hell is this?" asked a befuddled Talib. Hamoud thought about it and then replied "I think they call it a mop, I have seen my housemaid use one like it before"

"and that! What is that?" enquired Talib, gesturing at the thing in Hamoud's hands. "It's a broom, like those guys in the orange coveralls use to clean the highway."

Hamoud and talib set to work, using the mop and the broom to push the mud out of the kitchen. They felt a real sense of satisfaction seeing the progress that they were making,. They righted the refrigerator, and packed up the spoiled food into garbage bags, and hauled small appliances that were beyond repair to the growing pile of garbage next to the street. The kitchen was looking good, or as good as a flooded kitchen can look, so they moved onto the living room.

It was in the living room that Hamoud and Talib fully grasped the scale of the tragedy. There, lying on the floor next to the television was the family's PS3. It was muddied and waterlogged, with the controllers and power cables snaking out from it like body parts in a post-mortem. Hamoud and talib were moved, And realised that they had been somewhat selfish earlier in the day, not fully grasping the scale of the losses to other members of the community.

When they left for home that night, muddy and tired, Hamoud and Talib were changed men. They were shocked by the devastation they had seen, but proud of thier efforts and progress in helping the small family. They had seen the contribution they could make to the well being of others, and a way in which they could serve their great country in it's time of need.

They became hard working and productive members of society, married nice girls and raised nice babies.

The End.

For those of you who couldn't tell, the first part of this story was true. The second part of the story is what I imagined might have happened an hour later, when they grew tired of driving around and creating mini-tsunami's on my street.

Starting tomorrow, some local news, and a slightly less angry tone of voice from me. Maybe.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

A fairy Tale: Hamoud and Talib go for a drive. Part One.

The following story is mostly true, and based on real events, that actually happened to me. Names have been invented, but identifying details have not. I am, in some places exaggerating a little... My husband says it was only 1.5 meters of water in ten minutes. enjoy.

Once upon a time, in a land not too far from here, there lived a number of people who had the bad judgement to purchase homes that were rather close to a wadi. Sometimes the wadi would flood a little, and everybody was happy because that meant they could take the day off, or at least be late to work.

The little neighbourhood was one of many surrounding a small city, where people were either managers or workers, but rarely both. Peace and prosperity reigned in the little neighbourhood, until the day that a cyclone hit. The winds lashed and the rain fell in the hills, while the residents drank gin and tonics or prayed for the safety of their loved ones. The gin and the prayers appeared to be working, and by early afternoon all the neighbours agreed that the cyclone was rather a disappointment overall.

God, being omnipresent and all knowing overheard them saying that, and almost pissed himself laughing. Because only half an hour later, buoyed by the heavy rains, the little wadi roared mightily and flooded with entire neighbourhood with three metres of water in ten minutes. All the people's cars floated around in their yards, and furniture floated around in their houses. The residents then felt very stupid for not moving their cars to higher ground before the cyclone hit.

The next day dawned hot and humid, and all the neighbours set themselves to checking on one another and shoveling feet and feet of muddy water out of their houses. The stupider / more optimistic ones tried to repair the cars, which had sunk to the bottom of their gardens overnight. It was slow, depressing, and hot work.

Off in another part of town lived two spoiled and not very bright young wastafarians named Hamoud and Talib. Hamoud and Talib were bored, and tired of watching the flooding footage and suffering of those less fortunate on Oman TV. They had seen the devastation that the worst disaster to hit their country in their lives had wreaked on their fellow citizens. Something had to be done.

"Hey Talib, let's take my 4wd out for a spin in all this mud and see the flooding for ourselves, I bet we can pull some wicked doughnuts in parking lots" said Hamoud. "Ok, I'll grab my camera!" Said Talib. Off they set in Hamoud's shiny black jeep with the number plate that let everyone know they were very rich, or very important, and possibly both.

Having heard things were bad in Athaiba and Ghubra, they went that way and didn't have to look long to find the devastation. Up and down the flooded streets they drove, snapping pictures of wrecked houses and cars, and pointing at the people attempting to start their waterlogged cars. As they drove through the flooded streets the wake from their cars sent little tidal waves of mud and sewage rolling back into the yards and houses that the residents were trying to clean.

One street, where things were not so bad, but not so good, really appealed to Hamoud and Talib. It had deep water, shallow water, and a great parch of mud at the top of the street, which was absolutely perfect for pulling doughnuts and splattering mud on everything in a fifty meter radius.

This street was also full of very interesting things to look at. From the Pakistani workmen hauling what few possessions they had left, to the children playing in the stagnant mud, to the stupid woman in a tank top attempting to remove the spark plugs from her giant truck, there were lots of interesting things to look at.

Hamoud and Talib took such a liking to this street that they drove up and down it over and over again. So absorbed in their sight seeing that they didn't notice the hand gestures being shown or obscene words the residents were saying about them.

But Talib was beginning to feel uncomfortable. A feeling completely unfamiliar to him washed over him and.....

tune in tomorrow for the conclusion of the fairy tale. I promise a happy (though sadly, entirely fictitious) ending.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

I Love Carfax, I Love Sitemeter,

The first installment of my American Car Export Vin# saga is up today over at the Oman Community Blog It's interesting, in a Buyer Beware sort of way. Go and read it because it scares the hell out of me.

Also, we are test driving the Avalanche I reported on tonight, and taking our carfax report along to see if we can get the price down to what I would expect to pay for a recently flooded car.

I love Site meter. I can see how people got here, What they looked at, and where they went when they left. Google loves me, and sends a lot of traffic here due mostly to my review of the BMW 7 series. Weird huh?

But do you know what the best thing about site meter is? When Cranky, Middle Aged and likely overweight women haunt my blog looking for something to take offense to, leaving touching nasty grams behind in thier wake.... I can see where they are coming from, how they found me, and who they are working for. I can also draw up little theories about what brought them here in the first place.

So, Hello Omantel employees! Glad to know you guys are working so hard.

Hello, US department of state, researching "minimum wage in Oman Min of manpower." You have come to the wrong place guys.

Hello Regular visitor from somewhere I've never heard of in New York. How ever did you find me? I looked at the town your isp says you are from in google Earth and it looks really tranquil. I bet the autmn colors are lovely. I think if we buy property in the states though I will choose New Mexico or Arizona. Not that you care, but hey.

And a very special hello to Cranky Expat lady! Are you in some way threatened that some other woman who can type and speak english with relative fluency might be stepping on your turf as internet know-it-all and cross cultural commentator? And one other thing; Honey, Who is it that logs in everytime shortly after you post, clicking on each topic to check your replies, but with his computer language set to arabic? Whom, exactly are you being a mouthpeice for?

In other news, it's damn hot outside and I have a caffine withdrawl headache that is killing me.

Tune in tomorrow for a Gonu Clean-up story that is 50% true, and 50% fantasy. Hopefully you will laugh.


Friday, July 13, 2007

Breaking News...

My Daughter just said "mumum".

She said it three times during the course of dinner, directed at me. She is really pleased with herself, but it's nothing compared to how thrilled I am.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Overheard in Muscat 2

This isn't as good as last week's overheard in Muscat... but no one was very funny this week.

Husband dropping by Shell garage to tidy up borrowed Dahatsu jeep runabout:

Husband: (using compressed air to spray out inside of jeep... plumes of dust and random bolts flying about)
Garage Mechanic: (gesturing to car) You are having too many of these...
Husband: (laughing)
Garage Mechanic: (shaking head in an expression of pity for the crazy man who can't afford anything nice to drive)

At coffee with a freshly arrived European Guy:

Euro Guy: I think it's so sad the way women dress here. Those clothes are repressing women.
Me: I would like to think it takes more than clothes to repress women.
Euro Guy: Oh... So where does one shop for groceries around here?

Maybe we need to cancel the MTV subscription for the Security guys:

Security Guard: Halla! Suburban! Where you have been?
Me: Hi Najeeb, We got flooded in gonu. I've been busy. How are you?
Security Guard: Alhumdulillah, everything is fine. Where is you Cars?
Me: Washed away. I need to find some new wheels. Have you got plans for this weekend?
Security Guard: I am going to my village! I am seeing my mother, and chilling with my bitches.
Me: Okaaaaay... Well I hope you have a good time!

At the dinner table with a young guest:

Husband: This is delicious, I can taste the love.
Me: Thanks babe.
Young Guest: What does love taste like?
Adults around the table: (stunned silence)

Oh my god... How profound are children? Any Answers?

The Emirates Holidays catalog. As read to me by my husband

We are thinking of going on holiday soon, and to that end we picked up some info from the Emirates office to see which packages and destinations they have on offer. My husband was kind enough to read a few selections to me while we ate dinner last night.

He has a way of reading things aloud that is immensely entertaining. See below.

Riding Across America on a Rented Harley:

Have you ever dreamed of exploring the USA like Peter Fonda in the film classic Easy rider? When You rent a Harley Davidson, The king of bikes preferred mid-life crisis antidote for middle aged men everywhere, all you have to bring is your sense of adventure and a suitcase of money. there is a great big world out there, just waiting to be explored from the seat of a Harley. Our Easy Rider Holidays are all about discovery and experience, where the open road leads you through unfolding panoramas of ocean vistas, soaring mountains,quiet forests, empty deserts and shadowy canyons, to forgotten ghost towns and very much alive cities flea-bag motels and into the arms of easy American women, or wherever your spirit takes you.

Etc... His versions of Family holidays in Thailand, Russia, and China are equally entertaining. Anyway, we are either going to Istanbul or Brisbane this year.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Tuesday Misc.

I'm over at the fantastic Oman Community Blog today, talking about cars again. If you haven't been yet you should head over to see what we're talking about this week.

Since the overheard in Muscat post got some good feedback over the weekend, how about if we make it a regular feature? Email me the best snippets of conversation you've overheard in muscat. otheroman (at) gmail (dot) com Credit will be given to all contributors.

Muscati, If you are reading this, Sultan Center has Reeses Penut butter Ice cream at the moment. It's wicked good.

I've been getting some 'love' on the comments section of my blog this week as well, which has kept me busy.

I'm working on a post with the last of my thoughts about the Cyclone experience. If you like generalisations and cultural stereotyping then you won't want to miss this one.

Lastly, I can't get that Kayne West 'Celebration Bitches' song out of my head. So I'm cruising around the house singing it to my cat, housemaid, and daughter. Ex: Do you know what this is? It's bath time bitcheeezzz!!!!!!!! I need to stop doing that.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Overheard in muscat this week.

On the phone with my dad-
Dad: Why are you still trying to fix that car, it was never reliable anyway. Sweetheart, you live in real close proximity to Jaguar. Why not just go down there and buy a new Jag?
Me: Yeah dad, but I live in much closer proximity to financial insolvency.

Reading The Week at Starbucks-
My Husband: wow, I've never read a travel review of Amsterdam that didn't mention drugs or sex before!
Me: Omanis don't go to Amsterdam for drugs and sex.
Friend: La, we go to Thailand for that.

Shopping at Sultan Center fish counter-
Young British boy: Do fish fall in love?
Mom: Um.....

Chatting With the Neighbor's seven year old daughter-
Girl: (Looking at my daughter, who is dressed in a nappy) Her nipples poke in! Do they ever pop out or is it forever?
Me: I think they will 'pop out' eventually, she's just a baby.
Girl: My mom's don't!
Me: (uncomfortable silence)...
Me: So how is school?

We could make this a weekly feature. Have a great weekend everybody.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Eight is Great!

My gorgeous daughter is in the midst of her eighth month of life. I thought maybe I should reflect a little bit on what makes her so perfect, unique, and all the ways she has changed my life. I'll be back tomorrow with my snarly, pessimistic bitching. Don't worry.

My Angel,
  • You are the happiest baby ever. Even when you are crying, you try to smile. Everyone comments on your positivity and naturally easygoing nature. I wish I could take credit for it but you were born that way.
  • You got your first two teeth this last week and hardly complained at all! It cracks me up to see you using (read chewing on and hitting the cat with) your baby toothbrush alongside me in the bathroom every morning.
  • You wake up every morning at the crack of seven, a time of day I hadn't known about until I met you. You are like the worlds most persistent alarm clock. Your father's employer is thrilled, because for the last seven months he's been able to get to work on time.
  • You are crawling everywhere, and are magnetically attracted to hazards. I am thinking of renting you out to the airport because you would be able to percive sharp objects in carry on luggage way better than any existing technology.
  • You are a Genius. You can say daddy, kitty, bath time, yum yum, and wait for it.... rubber ducky. You also wave Bye Bye, Hello, and shake your head when you don't want something. I am trying not to take it personally that as yet you have failed to say mama.
  • You look exactly like me. Except paler, and with slate blue eyes. When you were born, and I looked into your eyes, and they were blue, I was astonished.
  • You love your stupid wadi cat, and chew on his ears or his tail every chance you get. He follows you around and goes out of his way to be near you, who kick, scratch and bite him. Most of the time he puts up with it. I don't understand that because every single time I try to touch him all I get is teeth and claws.
  • You are beautiful to look at. You are like the baby channel.
  • You slept through the night at six weeks. You still sleep almost perfectly, all the other mommies hate me for that.
  • You have a weird sense of humour. When the cat eats house plants you scream with laughter. When I make sheep noises in the farm animals book you laugh so hard that tears come to your eyes. I wish you could tell me what's so funny about that.

I could go on for hours, but won't. Your nap time is almost over and I want to be there when you wake up, watching over you. You and your father have changed my life so much for the better I still think I must be dreaming. I love you angel.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Yeah, I can inflict my personality on even more unwitting blog readers.

I've just posted my first post on the Oman Community Blog, which will be open for business shortly. Shuffle on over there soon because a lot of people more articulate and talented than me are also contributing. I think they let me join because I promised to use spell check.

I'll be at the community blog on Mondays and occasionally Wednesdays talking about my many, many, many car issues.

As if you weren't sick of hearing about it here...

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Breasts, not just for selling cars anymore.

Today I'm talking about Breast Feeding. Yeeaaah.

I'm going to say words like breasts and nipples a lot here, so if you are uncomfortable with words like that you should move along, perhaps after asking yourself if you are also uncomfortable with words like Feet and Knees. No Judgement, just something to think about.

I said it... Breast Feeding, not Baby Feeding. We're a little bit afraid of the word, here and everywhere. I applaud Muscat private hospital for providing a quiet room next to the paediatric area for "baby feeding" But I think in a hospital of all places we might be able to use the word breast publicly and in a non-sexual way. It's like there is something a little dirty or impure about using the word breast to describe the way we should feed our babies. I also applaud City plaza / Centerpoint for providing a fantastic room complete with comfortable chairs where I can nurse my daughter in comfort and quiet. Centerpoint gets a huge portion of my husband's paycheck because of this.

I'll come back to lactation location stuff in a minute. First though, according to an article featured on :

Given the importance of breastfeeding in the Islamic religion, the low rates of compliance among Muslim women in North America are puzzling. Although a formal research study has not been conducted, it seems upon observation that the breastfeeding rate among Muslim women is actually lower than among the population at large. There are small pockets of "fundamentalist" Muslim women who are well educated and adamant about nursing their children under their chadors, and who often practice natural childbirth and home schooling. However, those mothers who nurse their babies past the age of one year are the exception rather than the rule. There seems to be a lighthearted attitude among the general Muslim populace towards the bottle-feeding of infants. It is not frowned upon, and it is rarely something people even question.

And wow, is the author right about that or what? We were deluged with visitors after the birth of our daughter and one of the most noticeable thing that set the Arab, American and Indian visitors apart from the European visitors was their queries regarding weather I was supplementing with formula bottles or porridge yet.
  • The Euros were totally Rah-rah about breast feeding, arriving en masse with children, teens and husbands in tow, many taking pictures of me nursing the baby! Euros are buoyed by years of militant La leche league rhetoric, strict laws in place for the marketing of baby formula, and a culture that brought us topless sunbathing.
  • The Arabs, Americans and Indians by comparison, were usually groups of women (my best friend Tariq sent his sisters, whom I hardly know. bless.) who began to advise, from the second week on, that perhaps I should consider supplementing with formula or wheat porridge.
  • I should add that I didn't breastfeed in front of most of my male Arab/ American friends, because they thought it was pretty weird. I was like, Ahmed * you've been trying to see my breasts since the day I met you. This is your chance bud. Don't let the baby attached to them put you off... *not his real name

I don't know what that means, or what the socio-political drivers behind the divergent opinions are. Just my observation.

Despite the fact that Islam tells us to breast feed for two years if possible there seems to be little support for it in the larger community. Shopping centers, workplaces, and even the airport usually lack a place that's appealing or even suitable for breastfeeding. I don't think we will ever be the sort of place where a lady can just whip out a boob wherever she is and feed her child, so private, hygienic, and quiet areas should be more widely available and labeled appropriately.

I would be interested to know how and where other mothers feed their children when you are out and about, and after you have returned to work from maternity leave. Ladies, Husbands, and trolls, speak up and let me know where you go to nurse your child when you are away from the home.


A few other facts that I came across while researching this entry. The statistics are really, really, super interesting.

  • Some statistics from the La Leche League
  • And from UNICEF
  • At a speech in Manila last week, WHO Reigonal director Shigeru Omi stated that there are "roughly 160,000 children dying anually in Eastern and Southeastern Asia whose deaths are attributed to something as preventable and immanently correctable as sub optimal breastfeeding".
  • If you are not a religious sort, Science, economic data, the WHO, UNICEF and medical experts tell us that breastfeeding for at least a year, and preferably more is the best possible way to nourish your child.
  • Oman is doing pretty well according to this index that compared breastfeeding trends worldwide.
  • Although the following quote from an unnamed source is rather disturbing. the question was :Should a woman be entitled to daily break(s) to nurse her child? If so, should such breaks be counted as working time and remunerated accordingly? And the answer? The national economy should not have to assume the burden of nursing breaks, as long as bottle-feeding is available. Not as enlightened as one would hope.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

This week's random thoughts whinging

  • The other night we watched a Nicholas Cage flick called the Wicker Man. It's the best movie I've seen in ages, despite it scaring the heck out of me. Not reccomended for younger viewers.
  • Chevrolet still hasn't got around to giving me an estimate on my car. I hear nothing today I'm bringing it home in a midnight heist. Learning to fix the thing myself will be good education.
  • on a similar vein... So I gave my resume to this local company thinking they would give me some sort of unpaid apprenticeship. We'd had a good meeting, they seemed interested, I am offering to work for free. I've heard nothing. I am a little suprised because my refrences are impeccable and I am insanely overqualified for the kind of thing I wanted to do. Did I blow the wrong manager?
  • Just kidding... Obviously.
  • For about three minutes this weekend we had a spare cat. We had accidentally left one of the doors to the house open and when we came home there were we two cats. One terrified and climbing the walls to try and escape, the other one looking around like 'what's wrong with you? Cat count has returned to one now.
  • Small fast spousal car has returned to our loving home. Has anybody else ever gotten thier car back from the workshop without any fuel in the tank? It's like the fourth time this year that I've had a car run outta gas on the way home from the workshop.
  • The girl hardly slept at all last night or the night before, awakening whiney and irritable (takes after her mom?) at six am. After I had downed about ten cups of coffee this (to prevent infanticide) she fell into a peacefull and deep slumber. She's awake and cheerfull now, and safely under the care of the housemaid so I can take a nap. Except I'm vibrating. I'm wondering if I should have a beer to help me sleep. But it's like ten am. Who drinks at ten am? On a Saturday? Me, possibly.

And that concludes what is possibly the most boring post yet. Sorry about that. I'll do better tomorrow.