Monday, September 29, 2008
Day before yesterday, a nice lady with a girl who was about four rang the doorbell and requested Floos. When asked, she said she was from palestine, but her skin looked darker than any Palestinian I have ever met. She only spoke arabic to me, and while I am far from an expert on reigonal accents she sounded Khaleeji to me. Whomever she was, the little girl, named Manal, was really cute, and maybe a year older than my youngest daughter.
I asked her to wait, blazed inside, grabbed the prepackaged box of goodies, threw the frozen chicken in on top, and zoomed back out. The lady gratefully took the food, and thanked me profusely.
I have no idea what hapened after that, but I was able to close the gate with a clean conceince. Money can't buy a clean conceince.
Last night, I had an entirely different experience. I'll tell you what hapened, and then can you guys please comment, and say something nice because I'm feeling really sad about it at the moment.
Last night, I am in the front yard reading the papers and smoking like a chimmney. Ding dong, dorbell, then the front gate opens, and a guy walks through and heads toward the door of the house. The gate does not lock and swings open to the slightest touch, and the car gate is wide open so I'm not anoyed that he's let himself into the yard.
I step out of the shadows, and say Salam Alaykum and the guy introduces himself as Jamal (Jassim? Juma?) a neighbour from a few houses down the street. J is handsome, about 45 years old, slightly heavy set, and six feet tall. He is dressed in the dishdasha style of someone from Musandam, and has a neatly trimmed short beard with flecks of grey through it. J speaks almost perfect english, is clearly well educated, and has the accent of an Omani who studied in a good school. There is nothing about him that would make me think he is Indian, Egyptian, or Northern Arab. The entire conversation, after the initial greetings was in english.
He says he's sorry he never introduced himself before, but as everyone in this neighbourhood lives behind ten foot walls and locked gates it's no suprise. He says his dad is having pains in his arm and chest and he wants to take him to the clinic to check him but he hasn't got his bank card and can we loan him 50 rials. My scam radar is beeping wildly, but if I were in his situation I cannot fathom that someone would turn me down in my hour of need. I am always leaving the house with nothing in my wallet so I can see how this could happen to anyone.
No problem, I say and give him everything in my wallett. It's thirty one rials, and a few baiza. He thanks me, says he got twenty from the other neighbour and that should be enough, and promises to come back tonight to repay me. I honestly don't think I will ever see him ever again.
I couldn't care less about the money, but my faith in Humanity is so weak at the moment that it will be really hard for me to come to terms with his dishonesty if he doesn't come back tonight. I don't think he is a Neighbour, because with the exception of Hassan, Abdullah, Yahia, Mohamed, and one ROP Colonel, all my neighbours are total assholes, and few of them are educated enough to speak such perfect english.
Have you guys met this guy before? Did I get scammed? Did I do the right thing? Is he going to show up tonight and help to keep my faith in Humanity alive?
And on another note, what the fuck is wrong with me that I let little things like this tear me up inside so much?
More tomorrow, because I finally got my new car. Stay off the sidewalks.
Monday, September 22, 2008
Item 1) I was invited to a sort of "Girls Night" a while back by a lady I really like. I tried really hard not act like a six year old who has been invited to the popular girl's birthday party, but I may have failed. Anyway, I went, and tried to remind myself not to say too much, or be a total ass, or get drunk and puke on the hostesses' Iranian rugs.
The other girls attending were a little older than me, and far, far, cooler. The sort of women who can balance checkbooks, look great in a ballgown, drive reliable cars, and respond to emails in under a month. The sort of women who complete entire sentences without using words like fuck, or jackass.
I had a great time, and for four hours, I felt like OK, maybe I am finally an adult. Breathe. I can do this! Breathe. I can hang out with normal people! Breathe. I think I almost blended in. Except for the swearing, which thankfully, didn't seem to bother them.
Item 2) Toddlers. My baby is driving me crazy this week. Can anyone tell me how you manage to not kill them before they become equally obnoxious but less energy intensive teenagers?
Item 3) I heard the New Menu is out at the Chedi, and that it's much, much, better than the one previous. I cannot wait to try every single thing on it. Look for a second, and hopefully much better review here in a month or so.
Item 4) I had a moment the other day, where I looked over at Stone and I was like; "baby, all that stuff I told you about wanting to be a wife and mother? I was Just kidding... Like What the fuck am I doing at the mother and toddler group sipping coffee, before doing the dinner shop and driving my Nondescript mommy-mobile home to my Non-Descript Villa in Suburbia!"
Stone, who could have told me to take my selfish whining and stick it up my ass, thought it over at work the next day. He came home with a certificate for a weekend at the Chedi, in a Suite, where we will do nothing but eat, shag, and read magazines uninterrupted for an entire weekend. He has booked me in for some sort of 3 hour beauty "ritual".
Stone likes to remind me that my new job may be less glamorous, but pays better, and offers better perks than my old one. And he's right.
Item 5) I've been asked to go back to work for two weeks in October. Can't wait. I'm considering live blogging it, but expect I'll be too busy. In addition to looking forward to returning temporarily to an environment where I am not married, and I am not a mother, I'm looking forward to testing my endurance again, Using my brain, as well as connecting with long-lost faces from the industry. Yippeeee.
Item 6) Some quick bullet points about all things Automotive in my family.
- I am amazed at how much various used car places around here seem to not want to sell me a car. Broken appointments, tardiness, uninformed commentary everywhere.
- And Car dealership dishonesty that makes me wonder if I really look that stupid?
- We are not buying the car of my dreams. Yes, I am gutted, thank you.
- We are looking for a Chevrolet Avalanche, GMC Sierra, or Lincoln Navigator pickup. If you see any around town, please let me know?
- Ramadhan. Not into it this year. I blame the driving.
More from here tomorrow, or the next day.
Sunday, September 21, 2008
lots of nice finds to report on, as well as some clean (ish) cars.
The first comment I got concerned a Mercedes that seemed too good to be true.
- The carfax check revealed that it had been in a serious front end collision just twenty days after it was registered, and subsequently written off by the insurance company in the states.
- Prior to being exported it passed a state mandated safety check before being issued a salvage title and being exported direct to Oman.
- Because it passed a safety inspection, and was a direct export to Oman it might have been an OK buy, pending a careful check of the frame.
I was asked to check on Two Jeep Wranglers via comments and Email
- Both checked out OK, they were never registered in the states, and were exported direct to the UAE within months of manufacture. Likely sold direct from manufacturer to dealer in the UAE or here.
- Until recently, Jeep sems not to have gotten on the Arabic bandwagon with regard to rear view mirrors.
I got an email from a Dave, asking about two cars which are located at Cars Dubai near Lulu
- First up a 2004 DODGE RAM 1500 , Vin #ST1D7HA16K64J289552
- The car had one owner, and was originally sold and registered in Louisiania
- No accidents, however.....
- It was a victim of the flooding during hurricane Rita and Katrina, and declared a total loss.
- Additionally, as with many similar cars the vehicle was issued a NAM or Not Actual Milage certificate.
- This is because the flood would have wiped out the computer on the car, thus erasing the 10,000 Miles that were on the clock.
- It was exported from Houston TX to Oman.
- Hope the price they are asking is Low!
Also From Dave, and also at Cars Dubai,
- A sexy little 2003 Nissan 350Z Vin # JN1AZ34D03T110738
- Problems abound on this one as well.
- The Car was first registered in Florida, and initially had a happy life as evidenced by regular maintinance records.
- I assume the owner moved to Texas or Louisiana shortly after the last maintinance recorded, and it was there that the car was totalled in the floods related to Hurricane Katrina.
- It has a Salvage title and a NAM title.
- Buyer beware!
From Amjad, who is looking for a car to purchase stateside at the moment
- Amjad is considering a 2000 BMW 750IL VIN# WBAGJ0344YDD73430
- Can I start by saying that I hate those cars. Save Yourself Amjad! Buy a Pickup!
- If you must purchase a horrible BMW, then this is a good one on paper, with only one problem that I can see.
- The car was very lightly driven during it's first four years of life. 37,000 miles between Owner's 1 and 2
- Owner 3 has had the car for 5 years, and has never missed a service. Very impressive!
- 13 months ago the car was involved in a moderate front end colission. The colision was not significant enough for the airbags to deploy.
- Verdict: a good car, pending a quick inspection of the frame and front end.
Also From Amjad, A sexier car with little background information
- 1996 Nissan Maxima Vin #JN1CA21DXTT155510
- The car was registered in a county declared a flood disaster area by FEMA. A full inspection for flood damage should be carried out.
- There is no record of a salvage title, flood title, or NAM title being issued for the car. This could mean that it was not affected by the Hurricanes, or could mean that the Owner did not have comprehensive insurance and so fixed the vehicle himself.
- The car was sold at auction, possibly to a dealer, and either sold on to another owner or stayed on the lot for the next 11 months
- The guy Amjad is considering buying the car from has owned it for less than four months.
- There are no service records available for this car via carfax, though perhaps the guy selling it has them.
- Procede with caution, and ask for service records!
Later in the week, a report on a couple of cars I am considering purchasing, and an Honesty test for a couple of dealers who have been less than truthfull with me in the past.
Keep the Vin #'s coming, along with any details on the who where and what
Saturday, September 13, 2008
The Omani Blogosphere has been talking about the Crraaaaazy dishdash designs, and the MOCI circular distributed forbuddubg tailors from getting too creative with the designs. My thoughts on the matter in a minute, but for now: a quick round up of the blogs that are talking about this issue.
First to blog locally about it was Blu Chi, who was rightly outraged that the Ministry of anything has the right to dictate fashon. His rant is fantastic.
Next up was Al Mawalli over at Be in Oman, who was more amused than outraged at this latest peice of stupidity from MOCI.
Omanymous posted a selection of photos of some really outrageous Saudi Dishdasha, think Gene Simmons from Kiss, or Elvis in his twilight years. Go look, they are really rediculous.
Leo Americanus posted a yet another thoughtfull and intellegent analysis of the knee-jerk reaction of the Saudi Muttawa et. all to the revised saudi thobe designs. I think it's equally relevant here.
TI3GIB posted the sole voice in suport of the Ministries decision. Go read his thoughts on the matter here.
Famous Saudi Blogger Saudi Jeans is talking about the new cool thobes that are maiing appearances in Saudi. His commenters are not too sure if they like the style.
My opinion in a Nutshell:
- A bad, foolish, and ignorant idea.
- Dictating something like this is the thin end of the wedge.
- Next up maybe we should ban Non-traditional Toasted Shwarma.
- After that we should relegate our Non-Traditional toilet paper to the Pork Room at Al Fair.
- After that perhaps the government should look into the Non-Traditional Fast foods we are jamming into our gobs.
- And from Now on, you are only allowed to drive the Traditional Camel or Donkey, or if you are really important you can drive the Quasi-traditional Abu Shenab.
- Lastly, if MOCI wants to start attacking non-traditional choices of clothing, then let's start with the Abaya. An imported fashion statement (thank you Trickle-down Wahaabi Petro-dollar fashion!) which is decidedly not traditional to Oman.
End of Rant. OK guys, bring me some VIN numbers now!!!!
Friday, September 12, 2008
As you are going around town, or walking through parking lots, or shopping for used cars, or perhaps even driving your own car which was purchased second hand, can you do the following:
- See if the passenger side "Objects in Mirror" message is in English
- See if the speedo reads in Miles
- If so, can you write down the 17 digit VIN number and email it to me or post it in the comments section?
- You can find the VIN by looking through the windscreen from the outside. It's located at the front of the dash, in the bottom corner on the driver's side. It's 17 digits and/or letters long, no more, no less.
- Best find wins a ride in my new car, which is too freaking awesome for words.
As you no doubt will have guessed by now, we are getting rid of the Jeep. It is so uncool. literally. Being uncool is one thing, but being uncool and unreliable is another thing entirely.
If I am going to drive an unreliable peice of shit it had better be a rocking awesome unreliable peice of shit and not some soccer-mommy mobile with the faded remnants of a Jazzercize sticker on the back windscreen.
Anyway, I found my dream car and we're in the process of what will be a truly epic negociation to buy the thing. It's a grey market American export, the kind I blogged about here and Here and Here , and which The Week ran an excellent cover story on last August.
In case you don't want to read all about it again, here's a recap:
- Salvaged, Flooded and damaged cars are exported by the thousands to the Gulf from the States and Europe
- They are often rebirthed in workshops in the UAE, registered on Export plates there and then imported into neighbouring countries to be resold as new or lightly used cars.
- The dealers here are not to be trusted regarding the history on the Used cars they are selling.
- I was told BALD FACED LIES by salesmen and owners at ten different small dealerships regarding the history of the cars they were attempting to sell me.
- Twisted frames, unreplaced deployed airbags, damaged seatbelts and cracked engine mountings abounded. Some of the Cars they were selling were NOT SAFE TO DRIVE.
- So it's Buyer beware, in the used car game.
You will be delighted to know that my dream car passed the report with flying colors, barring the fact that it's a 1995 and not a 2000 like the dealer told me.
One other car we checked was brand new, and had no reported history of anything in the states. Pass! Two other cars on his lot failed the check, both had been in serious accidents and were exported from the states on Salvage titles. Fail!
Ok boys and girls, go get the VIN#s and comment or email them to me! Otheroman (at) gmail dot com
we have 30 days, Let's see what's lurking out there.
Tuesday, September 9, 2008
I realised three hours ago that I'm going to leave Oman as soon as possible. Things have changed here. I don't know it it's the arrival of Satellite TV, the trickle-down influence of Wahhabi petro-dollar Islam, or the gradual ascension of wastafarian youngsters who don't remember life before HM. Maybe I've finally opened my eyes enough to see that the other side of the baiza isn't quite so shiny. Mostly, I can't take the driving anymore, and it pains me to think about the underlying societal traits that the driving habits reflect.
Yesterday morning, my holier than thou, Uber-Pious Niqabi neighbour sat behind me at the local intersection and blared her horn while I waited for a safe gap to open up. I wanted to be like Maverick in Top Gun and jump out of the car, grab her by her super religious extra pious shoulders and shake the shit out of her while yelling that I will turn right when I am goddamn good and ready! Can you not see that my child is in the car and I'm not going to turn before it's safe just because YOU have failed to allow enough time to reach YOUR appointed destination???? I didn't though, I waved, and kept waiting. When she eventually overtook me a minute later, she shook her fist at me, eyes blazing.
This afternoon, I sat, radiator boiling, Thirsty and hot, child screaming, awaiting my turn in the que for more than an hour while people overtook from the left and right. Reaching the intersection the whole thing was blocked with cars that wouldn't let me make a left turn, even though they were going nowhere. They'd look over at me, and just slooowly keep rolling forward, blocking the entire intersection. Every single one of them was Omani.
I finally was allowed out by a kind guy driving a Jag, only to be cut up by three more cars illegally overtaking on the left, against opposing traffic, and turning right in front of me. ALso, unfortunately, Omani.
I have never, ever, ever, intentionally blocked an intersection, boxed someone in while parking, or cut in in a que in traffic. I'm sure many of you are the same, but can somone, anyone, explain to me why so many people seem to think this sort of behavior is ok? Why, Excatly is my time any less valuable than thiers? Why is My child's comfort any less important than thiers?
First, on the subject Muslim drivers, and the holy month of Ramadhan: You can fast all you want, be a Self righteous twit about your hijab, wax poetic regarding the importance of caring for the greater community, and pray your heart out, You'll still be an Asshole if you fail to show kindness, charity and compassion when only god is watching you.
Secondly, to my beloved ROP: I know you are afraid to really enforce traffic law, or to ticket for minor offences. I know that there is a worry about the sort of resentment and anger from ordinary citizens would alienate you and make your work that much harder. I know your hands are sort of tied on this but I am telling you for the record: Citizens and residents are ready and grown up enough for you to start enforcing the traffic laws. Yes, it will make you unpopular for a while but the society is ready for some critical feedback on their driving habits, accompanied by hefty fines. Please, Please, Please start enforcing the traffic law. We're ready, it's time.
Sunday, September 7, 2008
That accomplished, does anyone else notice that Door-to door begging increases by a factor of 1,000 during Ramadhan? I suspect that the beggars are mostly a hoax, or some sort of begging cartel that come into town during Ramadhan. Otherwise I would expect to have them ringing my bell year round, even if only occasionally.
But I feel really conflicted about turning them away empty handed. I try (though I often fail) to see the best in people, and to imagine myself in thier shoes. Things in my life would have to get Very, Very, Very dire before I could even imagine resorting to begging. That said, I would do absolutley anything, anything, anything, to keep food on the table for my daughter.
So it kills me a little bit to turn them away because what if one out of every ten is the real thing? What if that guy, or this woman really is trying to feed hungry children?
This year, finally, we have a solution. It's the Ramadhan-Ding-Dong-Care-Bomb. It's a box full of Food! It has:
- One kilo of Basmati rice
- One litre tetra pack milk
- One brick of dried apricots
- One small jar Kraft Cheese spread
- One kilo frozen chicken
- One sachet chicken stock
- One can Hummous
- 500 g. Sugar
- Five Tea bags
It's a three rial value, and we are ready and armed to give these away to anyone who comes by begging, provided that they don't mind hauling it home. I figure the fakes are unlikely to want to haul the food around but someone truly needy would be able to prepare a small meal for thier family.
Unfortunately, (or maybe fortunately?) we have yet to receive any beggars this year. I'll let you know how it goes when we do get one.
Stone took a picture of the Care Bomb, but I'll have to post it later because it's still on his phone.
Friday, September 5, 2008
Have you ever seen Japanise Aname where the gigantic robot with the death-ray blasters walks through the city crushing skyscrapers and people with each earth shaking step? Well that is what it sounded like outside my Bedroom Window at SIX SEVENTEEN ON A THURSDAY MORNING DURING RAMADHAN. I sat bolt upright in my shaking bed, all "Stone! Was that a Bomb?". I was thinking that the revolution had started, right here in Al Ghubra. (And why not, really? No big loss to civilation if this neighbourhood gets blasted off the face of the earth...)
The commotion outside was;
- A giant earth mover scraping hard packed gravel off the ground of the empty lot next door
- Three giant trucks emptying thier payloads of rocks and dirt into said lot
- One giant truck with a stuck release gate surrounded by three guys in blue suits banging the thing with sledge hammers.
- Outside My Bedroom Window at SIX SEVENTEEN on a THURSDAY MORNING DURING RAMADHAN
Ghalfar has, for the last month, been using the empty lot next door as a facility to mix dirt with rocks. There is one giant digger, and a procession of dump trucks filled alternately with rocks or dirt. The digger mixes the rocks with the dirt, and then loads the trucks back up with the mixture and they trucks haul it away. Seven days a week. Why the geniuses in the Logistical planning department thought it would be a good idea to set up a rock and dirt mixing facility in a residential neighbourhood, on a lot that does not belong to them, is completley beyond me. It does seem a less than commendable act of corporate citizenship, but who am I to judge?
The guys who work the diggers and trucks are adorable, and really nice to me and the baby. It's like having free daycare 12 hours a day. The kid will be a Youtube sensation once she can pilot one of the diggers herself, a feat which at this rate is less than two weeks away.
I don't mind the enormous, dark clouds of dust they kick up too much, although I have to wash my car once a week now instead of once a month. The house, and everything in it is covered in a layer of dust about 1 cm thick. We have decided to postpone further dusting until Ghalfar decides to move along, because it would be an act of futility given that the stuff just blows right back in ten minutes later.
I do, however, mind that Ghalfar is robbing me of an average of 10 hours of sleep per week. The noise is unbeliveable, and it seems to peak at seven o clock in the morning, and again right around afternoon siesta time.
I also mind that they have taken the local soccer pitch where the kiddies play, and turned it into a construcion site.
I mind that when they leave, they will leave nothing improved in the neighbourhood they have taken so much from in terms of inconvenience, collective lost sleep, dustfilled homes and cars, fasts invalidated by rage filled thoughts and threats of violence at Six Seventeen in the morning, and asthma attacks for the fat asthmatic kid adross the street.
The least they could do, as good corporate citizens is build a park for the children in the neighbourhood that they are imposing themselves upon. A safe, clean, park with grass and a swing and some trees for the kids in a neighbourhood with no park, and no public spaces.
I have tried to reach someone in charge at Ghalfar twice this morning, with no luck. I shall now apply some Wasta and attempt to reach the CEO directly through my own channels. I'll let you guys know how it goes.
Wednesday, September 3, 2008
But quickly, I'd like to address a few issues with Lulu that are slowly driving me crazy.
- Wonky shopping carts. I am telling you, I have never had a shopping cart there that rolled straight. I am a small girl, and by the time the thing is full, I look like some sort of comic superhero in blue jeans, feet sliding on the lino floors, body inclined to 45 degrees, frantically attempting to navigate the corner of the dairy isle.
- The produce department. It's insane. I got elbowed in the tit yesterday while attempting to select onions. I have a bruise!!! (wanna See? kidding.) Last week some woman snatched a bunch of corriander from out of my hand. The sweet, wonderfull girls who do the weighing are a delight, but there are rarely enough of them. The Q's are chaos.
- It is really time consuming to find unbruised produce. The guys who stock the apples, tomatoes and pears could not possibly put less care into setting them in the racks. They might as well grab a cricket bat, fast pitch them to each other and whack them into the racks from a distance of 100 meters. Seriously guys, what did that fruit ever do to you to be treated with such anger?
- There appear to be inventory control issues with the rotation of fresh veg as well. Red peppers, cabbages, Sprouts, and fancy-pants tomatoes are often on display in a state so moldy that I hesitate to feed them to the turtles, let alone my human family. Al Fair is really bad about that too, but that's another post.
- There appear to be some serious inventory control issues. 80% of the time I am unable to purchase an item in the trolley because the aforementioned item is not in the system. The cashiers are not empowered to take my word for what the thing costs. Contrast with Sultan Center, where the two times (in nine years!!) an item has refused to scan, they just asked me what it cost, rang it through, and made a note for the inventory manager.
- The staff at Lulu must hold the royalty rights to the Phrase "I dunno" I have never, ever, ever, managed to get anyone to answer a question there for me. The guys who sell the TV's are fantastic though.
- I had to buy some belts for Stone yesterday. There were no sizes on most of the belts. There was no order to the way they were hung. The poor guy who was attempting to create order out of chaos in the belt section was kind enough to try on a few for me so we could see what might fit stone. I really felt bad for him, having been assigned to organise something thathad no labels.
- The parking lot of the Lulu Al Ghubra and Darsait was, apparently, drawn out in india, and did not account for the fact that we drive on the other side of the road here. Don't belive me? Check Google earth images and tell me if the layout would make more or less sense driving on the other side of the road.
OK. end of rant and rave for today. I'm a freaking ray of sunshine, huh?
Tomorrow, a word for the folks at Galfar who have turned the empty lot across the street from my house into rock and dirt mixing yard. Seriously.
Tuesday, September 2, 2008
Do any of you guys set goals for personal self improvement over Ramadhan?
Having spent two hours in traffic today, while my radiator boiled over and my A/C quit working, while my two year old daughter cried and sweated in the boiling hot back seat of the car, many other drivers were doing thier utmost to test my resolution on item # 3. I am not sure how the month will work out. Give me strenth.
The Smiling and Complementing is going great, and on the roads today I let lots of people cut in front of me, used my turn signals religously, and never blocked intersections, and waved at everybody who pushed in front of me from the "emergency" lane. I even waved using my whole hand!
I did these things while trying to remind myself that I cannot know thier motivations for driving in such a mindbogglingly selfish manner and it's not for me to judge them. But inside my head I was still calling them Ass-Clowns. I just judged them, called them assclowns. Not nice. This is hard.
I'll be blogging intermittently over Ramadhan, because my beloved ( 5 years old!) laptop is going into the shop for a Rebuild.
Wishing you all a blessed Ramadhan. I hope it's filled with a spirit of compassion, empathy, kindness, service to others.
An Afterthought: I saw six accidents today, and just heard what sounded like a really big one as I was typing this. Huge crash, followed by squealing tires, and three other smaller crashes. Drive safely this month. Please, Please, Please, Please drive safely this month.