Thursday, July 26, 2007
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
Thursday, July 12, 2007
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...
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?
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
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
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
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?
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
- 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
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
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 http://www.islamonline.net/ :
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.