Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Other Seventh Circle Of Hell

The other day at Macdonalds, We listened to Air Supply's "All Out of Love" twelve times, so loud that it almost drowned out the ear splitting shreiking of my 2 year old, who was refusing to sit down and eat her goddamn happy meal.

As the song began it's 13th round on the PA system, I went to the counter and asked them if they could turn it down, or at least switch the song after every five repeat plays. And the guy behind the counter looked at me, shocked, and said "You don't like it??.. Whaaa?" He looked crushed.

What is the deal with the McDonalds playing 80's Power Ballads over and over and over again, at top volume, while the staff sings along?

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Used Car Review, Expat Wife Edition

Time, at last for another used car review, with your host, Suburban Muscat.

This week we are reviewing 5 popular SUV's favoured by expat wives in MQ and Qurum. The Toyota Prado, The Jeep Wrangler, The Jeep Cherokee, the Landrover DIscovery, and the LR 3. Strappy top, Oversized handbag, and snotty attitude optional, but encouraged.

Today, The pervasive and bland Toyota Prado.

The Toyota Prados I test drove were 1998, 2002, and 2003 base models. 2 stick shifts, 1 automatic transmission, all in pretty good shape and dealer maintained.

A Toyota Prado is the first car people will reccomend that you should buy when you move here. And why not? They are reliable, economical, great on graded roads and in the sand, and have an excellent resale value. They are also boring and ugly.

I really enjoyed driving the prado, despite it's hideous looks and the fact that it made me feel like a total gomer. Good power, prompt takeoff, easy to park, and excellent air conditioning. The Gearbox on both the stickshifts felt a little loose to me, but slipped into gear easily both up and down, allowing me to engine break my way down some very frightening roads.

The turning radious and visual feild is great, meaning that I could always get into and out of parking spots, regardless of how the ass-clown in the next space over is parked. The brakes are sharp and responsive, but the steering feedback leaves something to be desired.

All three models had gone through a few clutches, something toyota R&D might be interestied to know about. All three were also beginning to loose some of the rubber trim around the doors and wheel wells.

Inside, it seats 2 in front, and 3 in the back, and another two in fold-down seats in the way-back. Life is pretty luxurious for front seat passengers, but I thought the back seats were very cramped. The prado claims a carrying capacity of 7 passengers, but 7 adults would be deeply unhappy crammed into the deceptively small interior space. And lord almighty, it's boring to drive and look at.

The cargo capacity is ok for getting groceries and short camping trips, but not for moving say, furniture or a washing machine. A Nissan Pathfinder has better, and more usable cargo space in my experience. The controls on the dash are simple, easy to understand, and sturdy.

Getting your Prado serviced means taking it to Bahwan Toyota in Wattiyah, which is the closest thing I can imagine to the seventh circle of hell. Seriously, it is Craaaaazzzzy there. I highly reccomend that you, yourself, double check that they have done everything they claim to have done, as we have occasionally received a half-serviced car back. The guys who do the servicing and washing have somewhat sticky fingers, so don't leave anything you want to see again in the car when you take it for service. Given the thousands of cars serviced there daily, they usually manage to keep track of your cars, and have only lost (temporarily) two of mine.

Bahwan Toyota also maintains the database from which there is no escape. I once took a friend's car in for electrical work there, and to this day I still get calls from them asking if I would like to buy a toyota, and reminding me that it's time to bring my friend's car in for an oil change. Bahwan Toyota usually has any part you can imagine in Stock. Because they seem to have a good system for inventory control they can find your part within say, half an hour.

Tomorrow, Two Jeeps. After the weekend, Two Landrovers, and later next week, A tale of Two Chevys.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

General Update

So, to those of you who celebrate it, Happy Valentines day. I must relate a short story that Stone brought home from work yesterday, regarding Valentines day.

Scene: In the coffee room, with various associates, Stone enters, and overhears two of his more religous coworkers chatting. Coffee in hand Stone wanders over to say hello.

Long beard (LB): So I didn't have it ready for 09:00 But she didn't seem that upset!
Short Dish-Dash (SDD): But she has to present to the board this afternoon!
LB: I know, I thought I really messed up... Why is everybody so happy this morning?
Stone: Hey Guys, how's it going?
SDD: Stone, have you noticed everyone is really happy today?
Stone: Yeah, it's valentines day.
LB and SDD: So?
Stone: Well... you know...Valentines Day?
SDD: No... Um...
Stone: Well, Did you notice almost everybody was late arriving this morning?
LB and SDD: Yeah!
Stone: That's because usually on Valentines Morning you spend extra time with your wife.... You know, In Bed.
LB and SDD: Oooohhhh! <uncomfortable silence>
Stone: Makes you feel a little weird looking at your coworkers...

In other news, a few random thoughts from around here

  1. I note that construction on the Minister of Tourisim's new house seems to have been halted. Is it realted to the investigation of OMRAN? Related to how she obtained the land? Related to the costs of construction and availability of qualified electricians? I have no idea.
  2. Stone suggested that we spend a romantic valentine's evening at the pub watching rugby. Despite this, I love him dearly.
  3. I am such an awesome wife, that I volunteered to cook the kids dinner and put them to bed so he could go watch rugby with the boys at the pub. .
  4. I got all four cars reinsured 3rd party. Stone's small, light 3.2 litre sports car cost RO170. My 6.0 liter, 2.5 ton extra-wide, extra-long tank which could take out a schoolbus if I let my attention wander for even a second, cost RO 65. WTF?

More soon, I really do want to publish a few used car reviews, but just have not had time.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Why I am an Idiot, #2

Read below, a short Vignette which is typical of my attemtpts to socialize with Adults.

We were invited to attend a lovely party last night. The great and the good of Muscat were attending, and I was super excited to go and put my best foot forward.

The theme for the party was black and white. I agonized all day about what sort of costume to wear. Should I go as a Domino? A Zebra? A bride? Ultimately, I decided to go as a Chef.

I Whipped out my lovely Chef's Jacket with my name embroidered on the front, I found some black pinstriped trousers, a super sexy long black apron with red accents, and put a black sharpie marker in the pocket for the final flourish.

Stone said I looked gorgeous, and truth be told I did look really pretty.

To my great horror and profound embarassment, It wasn't a Costume party. Everyone else was in black or white Ballgowns.


Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Goodbye guys.

For 12 years, rarely a day went by without you. You were more than just friends, you were a part of me, a statement that I was still cool, still hip, still an individual. You have survived three international moves, tens of thousands of hours in a greasy kitchen, hundreds of international flights, two motorcycles, 18 cars, and three horses.

Why Yes, those are custom made stickers of Breasts with pigtails!

Look, beyond the dust and fading to see the painstakingly spraypainted designs

"Pimp Bitch" Down the back.

You were the best pair of shoes I ever owned. I wore holes through the soles, spray painted you silver, and during a windy, wet event in Qatar, you were customised by the most talented artist I have ever met in my entire life. I am genuinely awash in giref at the thought of getting rid of you, but following your soaking and subsequest misplacement in Cyclone Gonu, I , we Stone thinks the time has come.
I will never love again, the way I have loved you, in all your mid-calf, badass, super slidey on marble floors glory.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

It Sucks to be Srilankan

It sucks to be Srilankan, especially here.

Last night, my housemaid was hit by a car while walking to get a taxi. Thank god, it was a relatively low speed colission, and despite some interesting scrapes and bruises, she will be fine. The driver signaled her to go ahead and cross the street, and gunned the engine as she passed in front of him. We think we was likely gesturing to someone inside the car, or to another car, and never actually saw her until he hit her.

The driver who hit her leaned out the window as he pased, and mumbled "are you ok..." but drove away without so much as a further word of concern, let alone an oppology. Nobody managed to get the registration number, but it was a white Midsize Sedan, now likely missing the reflectors on the left front quarter panel.

The ROP felt there was nothing that could be done, (despite the fact that she was hit less than 100 meteres away from ten uniformed officers) Since nobody managed to record the plate number. She was scolded for crossing the street in the way of a car.

What makes this sort of interesting to me, (beyond the fact that it's my housemaid) is that this is the fourth person with whom I am Personally acquainted who has been on the receiving end of a hit and run this year. Here in Oman.

My housemaid was lucky. The others received, a fractured hip, One broken arm, and one had his dog killed, received scrapes and a 1,000 rial vet bill. All were pedestrians on residential roads, not on the highway. In all cases the driver was a young male, who slowed down to look at what he'd done, and then sped away.

Today, My housemaids best friend was coming to visit her, when she was stopped by the ROP. She handed over her totally valid labour card, her passport, and explained that she was going to visit a friend who had been hit by a car.

The ROP Arrested her, and took her to the station, demanding to see her sponsor. The implication being, that a Srilankan housemaid must be up to something bad if she is not physically present at work at noon on a Sunday.

She was doing nothing illegal, other than walking while Srilankan. Her "papers" were in order. She is a portly, matronly, 50 year old woman, and a grandmother to two. She has been working for her sponsor for 20 years, and is, effectively, a part of thier family. She speaks fluent arabic.

She was in the station for the better part of eight hours, and her sponsor had to leave a meeting in Sohar to drive down and meet the ROP personally before we got it sorted out.

Our road deaths and crime rates are shocking, yet evidently, the rop feel that a better use of thier time is to persecute chubby sirilankan grandmothers. Her pointless detention resulted in 10 pages of paperwork, and the waste of at least 20 hours of ROP time. For no reason whatsoever.

Omanis who bitch about being persecuted when traveling in Europe / USA and being subjected to offensive questions by airlines or law enforcement, should be well aware that it happens here too, except here the victims are effectively voiceless.

In like 20 years of living in the states, I knew one person who was the victim of a hit and run. Look for a future post on comparative numbers of crime experiences stateside and Europe VS here.