Sunday, October 13, 2013

Long awaited post!

So, I haven't written a blog post in about a month, and I've officially been in Oman for a month and three weeks! Wow! It both feels like I've lived here forever and like I got here only a few days ago. I'll just do a quick recap of what has been happening, then hopefully I'll get back into the habit of blogging.
I've had a bit of a rough first month and a half. Of course, there have been outstanding good parts. Going to Dubai for visas (and subsequently having a blast with both yes and nsliy girls), making Omani friends, moving into a great host family with many young siblings, picking up snippets of conversation in Arabic and adjusting to a school have been among them. And yes, I did switch host families. My first family were great people, but for various reasons it simply didn't work out. I am currently sharing a host family with Mae for a little while, and they are simply awesome! I have three sisters ages 2, 10 and 12 and a brother who is 7. We have a blast all the time, and the three weeks I've spent with them will certainly be a time to remember. Pretty soon, though, I'm scheduled to get my own, permanent family. I can't wait to find out who they are!
School has been a challenge as well. As a life long homeshooler it was certainly an adjustment to sit in a class all day long. I think I am starting to fit in more now, though. Plus, it is very fun to make Omani friends in my classes!
Stay tuned for another blog post, hopefully with pictures! (My laptop has been malfunctioning and won't allow me to upload pictures. Inshallah that will get sorted out soon!)

Friday, September 6, 2013

Chabatis and School

So, remember when I said I was going to catch up on things? Well, since that didn't happen then I'll take care of it now!
About a week ago my host mother and I made a type of flat bread called chabatis. They are very tasty and now, because of my helpful pictures, you can make them too!

I missed most of the preparation stage, but I believe that you simply combine water and flour and a little oil until a dough is formed.
Next sit on the floor of your kitchen and knead for about five minutes before dividing the dough  into several small balls. Squish each ball, then roll it out into a nice circle. You want it to be very thin so that it will cook evenly!
Turn the stove on to the lowest temperature and drizzle a little olive oil into a pan. 
Add a circle of dough and poke it while your host mother cracks up about how you can't turn on the stove.

Eventually you will get big bubbles, as shown in the picture about. Don't worry, this is normal!

Use a spoon to check for golden brown spots on the bottom. When there are a satisfactory number you can flip it over, but I don't recommend burning your fingers on the edge of the pan while doing so!

Once the other side has its fair number of spots you can place the completed chabati in a container or on a towel with the rest.

They are very tasty!

So, what else have I been up to? School! Here I am in my lovely uniform.

School has been really interesting. It seemed a little overwhelming at first, but I made some friends and have some really informative classes. It will probably take some more getting used to before I'm completely comfortable, but we're definitely getting there! 

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Grand Mosque

Hello hello!
I'm currently at Amideast, where I can finally upload my pictures. So, I'm going to try to catch up on what I've been doing.
A few days ago we had a tour of Muscat. One of my favorite stops was the Grand Mosque, a beautiful and expansive area including separate prayer rooms for men and women, an Islamic library and many gardens.
Almost all of the areas were connected by outdoor hallways, sometime I truly appreciated due to the extreme heat we were facing that day.

Before entering the prayer rooms we took off our shoes and put them in these cute little cubbies. If anyone is curious, my shoes are on the left. :)

We also covered out hair, which was an entertaining feat. In our day to day life we only have to cover our shoulders and knees, but that day we all wore long sleeves and pants to be appropriate for the mosque.

First we went to the women's prayer room. Here are Mae and I in front of some really amazing woodwork. It have beautiful patterns as well as passages from the Koran carved into it.
Next we went to the men's prayer room. I had thought that the women's one was big, but it was nothing compared to the men's!
As you may know, mosques almost always have lines on the ground to mark where to stand, as in this picture:
The lines face towards Mecca and are often are worked beautifully into the tiles on the floor. For the Grand Mosque, however, it was very important to the designers that there be a genuine Persian carpet in the men's prayer room. They were so caught up in creating a beautiful floor that they entirely forgot to put in the lines! This caused a problem involving crooked lines and complaints, but the carpet had been made and so it was kept.
(an incongruous picture of a door to break things up)
Recently, a mosque in Dubai decided that they wanted the same carpet in their mosque. However, they learned from the Grand Mosques mistakes and added invisible, raised lines of knots to the carpet to distinguish lines.
This is a chandelier in the men's prayer room. I believe that is was built in Iran and shipped over in six pieces, but don't quote me on that. It was really hot!

Well, that's it for now! I hope you enjoyed reading about the Grand Mosque.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

1 Week

Hello readers!
Well, I have officially been in the country of Oman for one whole week. It seems a little like I have lived here forever, but also a little like I only arrived yesterday. I suppose that is what life it like!
I have done so many amazing things this week I can't believe it. Lets see what I can fill you in on without the use of pictures (as wifi in Oman is a little spotty and I haven't been able to upload any yet).
For most of the first few days we did orientations. Most of them were actually very interesting, though some had already been gone over to the point of exhaustion at the PDO. A very exciting thing happened on my first day in Oman though, and that was meeting our host families! I live with a young woman and her husband and two year old daughter, though I haven't met my host father yet. They seem very nice and accommodating of the crazy American living in their spare room, for which I am very thankful!
On Wednesday we went on a tour of Muscat. I saw the grand mosque, mutrah souq and a museum of Omani history and culture. All were very interesting and I did actually take pictures but I have been unable to upload them as I mentioned before.
Yesterday we went to visit my host mother's family in here village. It was really great to meet my first few Omani teenagers and to see a different slice of life in Oman.
On Monday I'll start school, so stay tuned! (By the way, the week in Oman is Sunday-Thursday, but I am starting school on Monday in the same way the Americans might start school on a Tuesday)
Sorry about the short and jumpy post, but I better go take care of a couple things!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Well, this seems to really be happening

I am in Oman! We stayed last night in a hotel in Muscat, which was wonderful after the 30 odd hours of travel it took for me to get here. My first impressions of the country:
             It says "Muscat".
  • It is really hot. And HUMID. I'm talking the camera lens fogged up when I tried to take a picture and my jeans stuck to my legs after about 30 seconds exposure.
  • It is SO pretty here! The building are beautiful, especially when I saw them in the dark last night.
  • The plugs are, indeed, different. Luckily I have an adapter and am, of course, brilliant so I figured it out. I even figured out how to put pictures on my computer! (Are you proud of me mom?)
  • There are a surprising number of trees, in this part of Muscat at least. There is plenty of desert stuff too, but when I look out the window of my hotel room I mostly see green. That's nice, as  Portland has lots of trees and I like seeing them.
Is this not the prettiest city you've ever seen?
Here I am with one of our first views of the city. Yep, I do look exhausted. I have reason, I promise!
Landing in Muscat!
Alright, hopefully I'll do a more coherent post later. For now I'm a little too tired for my words to sound good! We'll see how I do meeting my host family this evening.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Flight info

So, I'm ridiculously excited about something that happened today. I got a letter from YES Abroad (my first actual paper letter from them) with tips for checking bags, how early to arrive at the airport, etc. for my journey to Oman. That's a little mean, I thought, as I don't actually have my flight info yet. Then, through the page I saw the familiar grid that heralds flight information from YES. I removed the top page so fast that it flew off into the distance and excitedly scanned the paper, while yelling for my parents to come and see.

I'm flying to Dulles in the early morning on the 24th of August, then from there I fly to Zurich. That in and of itself is very exciting, as one of my best friends happens to live in Switzerland. But, the next part is even better. From Zurich I fly TO OMAN!!!!!!!
Muscat, here I come! Now I just need a host family. :)

Friday, August 2, 2013

Arabic and reality

This blog post will come to you in two lovely parts! Are you ready?
Part one: Arabic.
Do you remember when you where first learning to read and you would sit with a big book full of pictures sprawled across your lap and slowly trace the words, making each sound  carefully and individually? Finally you would end up with a cluster of letters, rrrrrr and uuuuuu and nnnnnnn but  despite the encouragement of teachers or parents you still couldn't quite understand that those little black marks were the same as the action of running?
It's okay, I don't really remember either, but if you can imagine how that would feel you can begin to imagine what it is like to learn Arabic. My typical reading pattern goes a little like this: first I painstakingly sound out each letter, sometimes flipping to the pronunciation guide for a little help. Then I finally figure out the sounds. Yay! But unlike reading my native language the battle doesn't end there. Instead I simple move on to figuring out what in the world the word means. Saa'iq? Did I even read it right? Could shubaak actually be a word? Once I've discovered the meaning of the word I have a little celebration. Yes! I am so awesome to have read that word in less than two minutes! Woohoo!
As I'm sure you can tell, I am totally a language prodigy. Watch out Arabic!
Part two: reality.
So, I'm leaving for Oman in about three weeks. Sitting here in my grandparents house, surrounded by family it doesn't seem real. Sometimes i still can't believe I even got the scholarship. Often I'm out of my mind with excitement, but in the back of my head there is a niggling seed of doubt. I know that by the end I won't want to leave Oman, but here and now  it just seems a little too hard to say goodbye to this family.
So that's my life right now. I am totally thrilled and completely terrified. I'm annoyed that I still have so much trouble pronouncing Arabic words and super proud that I've come as far as I have. I'm ready and I'm not. In short, I'm I little bipolar, a little hesitant and I lot excited. Stay tuned!