Monday, October 26, 2009

My First Tweet Up!

This is a quick one, because in like 13 hours I am supposed to be at the airport to go to Abudhabi to work my other Job for a week.

Yes, Funemployment was brief, but enjoyable.

So I hosted a minor tweet up at my place. 4 of the smartest, classiest, sanest people I have ever met came by my house and graciously listened to me rant and rave for like, 3 hours. They even brought Pizza, and Cake. I cannot tell you how much I enjoyed a chance to talk to a group of people who sort of live on the same planet as me, and to have like, the first REAL conversation I've had in six months.

I discovered a few things:
  • Strange internet people are really nice.
  • I like Pizza from Pizza Inn
  • That apparently, many people think I am Omani. What a complement!
  • I did not need to down two giant galsses of Wine in order to calm my nerves
  • I did not to drink a further two glasses of wine to facilitate my ability to talk to strangers.
  • That I really have some opinions on Omanisation, and that maybe I had better put into a blog post, if only to spare everyone from another hour long rant on the fobiles of the government.
  • That I can fearlessly host a larger Bloggger / twitter gathering, and not have a nervous breakdown at the prospect of facing so many scary unknown people.

In Summary: it was all good! Hi5!

OK. Many many Many thanks to @Alucard187 @blue_chi @sbtm77 @kifa7 You guys are fantastic.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Putting the Fun in Unemployment

That's right Bitches, I'm Funemployed.

I am so Funemployed that I am typing this wearing nothing but boxer shorts and a tiara*. I drank champaigne for breakfast this morning* and tonight I'm going to buy a high powered sports car*, and then go skydiving* and make love to George Clooney*. Because that's what Funemployment is all about.

I chucked in my job on Thursday, which was a genuinely a heartbreaking decision as I really loved the work itself, my boss was among my best friends, and I really do like working.

Why would I choose to throw away my best mate and a fantastic job? Do you guys remember six months ago when I wrote about the crazy guy I work with? No? You can read it here:

This isn't the place to go into details, but things with Crazy Guy just kept getting crazier and crazier. I Should have taken Muscato's advice Waaay back in March, because he was totally correct. Live and learn.

I am now accepting suggestions with what I should do with my newfound 40+ hours a week of spare time. Maybe I should take a class? Buy another used car? Work on my tan? Stone suggests that I think about cooking my goddamn husband dinner once in a while.

So that's what's new with me. What's new with you guys?

*none of that is true, but it could be, because when you are Funemployed you can do whatever you want.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Local Humour

Just a quick one today, I want to encourage you to read a really witty local blog.

It's written by what I assume to be a long-term western expat couple, one of whom is a really talented cartoonist. The wit is Dry, dry, dry, occasionally self depracating, and the entries are generally bite-sized. Also, they would appear to know how to spell, which will make delightful reading to those who usually cringe at my hideous spelling.

Start with this post: essential reading for every muscat resident. I have printed off the diagram and stuck it to my office wall.

Then go to the blog and read the rest.

In other news, my big kids are in town for the week, so look for an upcoming post "from the mouths of Babes"

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Getting stuff printed in Muscat.

I would like to highlight an extraordinary bit of beurocracy that we have here in Oman. Play along boys and girls!

Here is the scene:

You are a legitimate Omani company, Omani owned, have a commercial registration number, registered with every business regulating entity in the country and engaged in totally legitimate business endeavours. You are, for lack of a better term, an awsome company, making headways into an international business market.

Let's say you want to attend an overseas trade show, and you want to take with you 3 different sets of 1,000 printed brochures detailing the services that your company offers. Simple right? you ring up your printers, take a disk with the artwork in, and they print it. Presto! a week later you have 3,000 gorgeous glossy brochures to take with you to your overseas trade show. Right? Right?


Here is how it works if you are my company, or any other small company in Muscat.
  1. Call your freelance graphic designer, and get the stuff designed
  2. Burn it to a bunch of disks, and take it to the printers
  3. Finalise the layout, and approve the proofs
  4. Ask how long it will take
  5. Be told that it depends on Ministry of Information approval, and Muscat Municipality Approval.
  6. And it costs 10 bucks per design
  7. Tell them it's for overseas distribution, you shouldn't need approvals
  8. Be told that it does not matter, everything printed in the whole goddamn country needs approval.
  9. Tell them to go ahead and get the approvals then.
  10. Be told they need a letter on company letterhead, with the company stamp, and a copy of the company's commercial registration document to procede.
  11. Spend a day in the office sorting out everything, finding the C.R. paper, and extracting the stamp from the grimy claws of the accountant.
  12. drive from Ruwi to Qurm and back to get an authourised signature for the letter.
  13. Return to the printers with all the stuff.
  14. Be told the letter must be in arabic.
  15. try not to scream, or rip your eyeballs from thier sockets.
  16. fail on the first count.
  17. Re type the letter in arabic, stamp it when nobody is looking, sign it yourself.
  18. Hand it all in to be taken for approval.
  19. Go home and pour yourself a triple gin and tonic.
  20. Next afternoon receive a call from the printers. Your proofs have been rejected because they are only in English. All flyers must be bilingual.
  21. Wail, gnash teeth. explain that they are for overseas distribution. In like, Europe.
  22. Printer says he will send somebody back with a new proof and try to get it passed the next day by a different guy at the ministry.
  23. Ministry #1 approves all your proofs next day.
  24. hear nothing for 3 days.
  25. Receive a call from the printers that Ministry #2 will not approve the flyers because your business falls under the auspices of a different Ministry (ministry #3).
  26. Explain that you don't fall under the auspices of ANY ministry, since the government, as far as you are aware, does not own your company.
  27. Printer says he will send somebody back with a new proof and try to get it passed the next day by a different guy at the ministry.
  28. weekend.
  29. Receive a call from the printers that Ministry #2 will not approve the flyers because your business falls under the auspices of Ministry#3 . Ministry#3 must approve your flyers before ministry #2 will approve your flyers.
  30. Tell printers to go see Ministry #3 and try to get someone there to stamp the proofs.
  31. Printer guy goes to see Ministry #3 four seperate times trying to get someone in the ministry to stamp the proofs.
  32. Despite the fact that you are a legitimate business known to everyone in Ministry #3, Noone in Ministry #3 is willing to stamp the proofs since they have never been asked to do so before.
  33. With the deadline looming, Call in a favor, Apply Wasta, Cry, and drink yourself to a stupor.
  34. Ministry #3 finally acknowleges your existance. Send printer to get approval from Ministry #2
  35. Ministry #2 rejects your proofs because they are not bi-lingual and Arabic, only English.
  36. Ask the printers if they could just please print the notally non-objectional shit you need without seeking any approval.
  37. Printers say no. There are really heavy fines for unauthourised printing.
  38. Give up.
  39. Send Ro 800 in business that could have supported Omani companies to Dubai, and have the printing done there.
  40. Pay an extortionate amount to have it delivered here.
  41. Beat your head against a nearby wall until you bleed profusely. Apply bandages.
  42. Repeat twice a year.

Want to know what the kicker is? Offset printing requires approval, but if I wanted the stuff lazer printed or color copied at Bishara Xerox, I don't need any approval whatsoever.

Offset printing? Approvals needed. Same document, Xeroxed? No approval needed.


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Overheard in Muscat, adult edition

At the Tyre Shop
Tire Guy: (Job Done, dusting his hands off) OK! We are all Penish?
Me:Ummm.. What?
Tire Guy: Penish! All Penish!! (Huge smile)
me: I'm sorry, we are Penis?...
Tyre Guy: (spreading arms wide, pointing to the truck) Yes!!! We are all Penissss!
Me: (Backing away slowly) No, I really don't think we are Penis.
Other Dude: Madam, he means Finshed. He is finished fixing your tyres. You can go now.
Me: (Sheepishly)Oh, right... How embarassing.

Early Morning: I'm in Bed, Stone is in the Bathroom
Stone: (coughing, gaging, hacking, spitting)
me: Are you ok?
Stone: Yeah, except I gagged myself while brushing my teeth.
Me: Again? Are you suffering from Bulemia?
Stone: No, but my gag reflex is crazy
Me: Dude, you are so lucky you are not gay, because you would be really bad at giving blow jobs!
Stone: Woman, what is wrong with you?? Seriously?

Seriously, I'm still not Saudi... ***
Old ROP Guy: (looking at my Iqamma) Oooh! Al Saudia! You is Saudi?
My PRO: La, look at her baba, does she look saudi to you?
Old ROP Guy: (looking at me, in blue jeans and a pit shirt) You are Saudi! Yes?
Me: Nope, I'm American.
My PRO: Here, see this is her passport, American!
Me: I like Shagging Infidels! And Drinking Whiskey! And running around stark naked!
----- (Baffled silence)------
My PRO: (whispering) What the fuck is wrong with you? I'm never bringing you here again!
ROP Guy: Hmmm... So, Not Saudi?

*** No trip anywhere that requires me to present my Iqamma is complete without some version of the above conversation. It is beginning to get old.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Feelin' Crazy

To the tune of Simon and Garfunkel's "Feelin' Groovy"

Slow Down, The car horns blast
Ass-Clown drivers go way to fast
kick the neighbour kids down a hill of stones,
Don't own a gun cause I'm feelin' Craaazy.
Ba da Ba da Ba da Ba da... Feelin Craaaazy!

Around this time last year I was feelin' a little crazy. Not like G.W. Bush crazy, just a tiny bit crazy.

The kind of crazy that makes you want to kick your infant child down the stairs, run other people off the road in a fit of rage, or kill your self crazy. So really, just a little tiny eeensy weensie bit crazy.

Following a rather heated Freak Out discussion with Stone where he dutifully tried to persuede me that it's everyone else who is crazy, I convinced him that I maybe needed some professional help. Screaming at him in a restaurant full of people and throwing a plate at his head may or may not have helped to reinforce the point.

Seriously, I've never felt as out of control and frightened as I was feeling then. Because a Year ago, I couldn't stand living in the old neighbourhood for One. More. Fucking. Minute. I wasn't sure if I could stand living with my family for another minute. The barking dogs, the heat, being unemployed, attempting to mother an obnoxious toddler and an obnoxious teenager simultaneously, and the horrendous neighbours were totally doing my head in.

So I visited a psychatrist and cried my eyes out and begged for drugs or a giant rubber hammer or something, anything that would chill me out enough to prevent me from hurting myself or someone else. Tears, wailing, snot. In hindsight, I made kind of a scene.

And the highly trained Psychiatrist was like "I'm from Pakistan, and I know about life sucking. Your life is pretty good, so you should suck it up" All of that is completley true, but it wasn't quite what I had in mind as far as mental health advice went. He charged me 60 rials for 20 minutes of his time and sent me home with a package of anti angsiety pills and some really potent sleeping pills. He said to come back in three weeks.

Un helpfull psychiatric advice aside, the drugs were sort of good, and even better was standing up and telling my famiy that I really needed help. They listened, and were really supportive. Within a ouple of weeks, the angry girl inside me got a little quieter, a little more manageable. A few months later when the neighbours broke into our house (Twice!) instead of opening fire on the local elementary school, (or hunting down the little fuckers and ripping thier toenails out one at a time) I put my foot down, leaned on Stone, and we moved out of the neighbourhood the next week.

And it's like, a year later, and things are still pretty good. I could do without the racket from the construction next door, but I have only once marched over there in my bathrobe to scream at them, which I think is progress.
  • The new neighbourhood is like something out of a norman Rockwell painting.
  • I now have a job, which gives me things I enjoy doing, and also gives me things to bitch about that are relitavely minor, and which I am empowered change instead of wanting freak out and kill a neighbour over something major that I have little or no control over.
  • I only took the pills for a week or two, though I still use sleeping pills occasionally so I can sleep through the night. I never realised how much I need sleep in order to be a functioning, rational person.
I don't really know why I wrote this post, except to express some gratitude that I have a life where I can remove 90% if the stuff that is driving me crazy by taking sleeping pills for a week and making a single phone call to a moving company. If only everyone's problems could be resolved so easily.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

What's up with the little kids begging?

Twice this week I have been approached by little Omani Kids begging at the supermarket or Mac Donalds. They were between the ages of 7 and 10, and once there was an older kid who looked aout 12 with them. In the US or Europe, this would be reason for Child Protective Services to seize the kids and place them in care. In India and Bangladesh and a million other places, this is sadly commonplace, and part of an economy of exploited children. Here, this is just plain unusual... I don't even know if we have Child Protective Services here.

To say I feel conflicted at the sight of thier outstretched hands is an understatement. I sort of want to take them home and adopt them, feed them, and shower them with love and adoration, or at least give them a bath and something nutritious to eat. Can I just take them home with me? Is that ok? What's the deal?
  • Are they homeless street urchins or orphans upon whom I should take pity?
  • Are they part of a Begging family, and mom and dad are nearby begging too?
  • Are they part of an organised Begging cartel, masterminded by evil adults?
  • Are they Demonstrating commendable entreprenurial Zeal? and Should I help them set up a lemonaide stand?
  • Or what?
Your thoughts would be appreciated.