Friday, June 13, 2014

How we got here and details about Ibri. And stuff.

Again: I am not writing this on behalf of CLS. I speak for myself and only myself in this post and in every other blog post and in every tweet throughout my two months in Ibri, Oman.

So I'm writing this as I wait for my host sister to come pick me and my classmate/friend up. We're supposed to spend every other weekend with our host families and the weekdays in our dorms. Details below on how things have been so far, how we got here, and so on.

The Orientation in Washington, DC
This is simple:  CLS students are from all over the U.S., and we all met in DC for an orientation for a couple of days and then left the U.S. together for Oman. During the orientation, we were told what kinds of things to expect, what to avoid, how to obey every single Omani law (legal or cultural/social, or even what the host family's rules might be). Things are a little better than what we were told to expect, but I think CLS is doing a good job in preparing us for what we might least expect, so I appreciate that.

Mucat, Oman - better pics once I visit there for a longer time
We had a couple of government officials, former CLS-ers, and folks from the Omani embassy in the U.S. come speak to us about Oman, Arabic, and related stuff. I didn't take pics, so.

One of the things we were told not to do while in our classes was to eat--drinking isn't prohibited but eating is, though it may vary from teacher to teacher--and to just walk out of class just like that without asking for permission first. It's out of respect for the teachers and the educational  environment. (It was the same thing in Pakistan when I was growing up there, too. And it's also the same until high school in the U.S. as well.) I've a funny anecdote about this later below. I clearly live to embarrass myself.

Ibri, Oman
Oh, it's uncommon, if not unacceptable, for Omanis to speak ill of their government or king or the Sultanate of Oman (the country's official name) more generally, so if I witness or experience something negative that has to do with the government or otherwise politically, I will not discuss it. Until I'm back in the U.S., maybe. Apparently, Omanis are avid users of the internet and read random blogs and all, and if they see anything negative about their country ... I don't remember what happens. But honestly, so far, I've liked the people I've met and the things I've seen. Still, you never know. I loved Meknes, Morocco, for some time in the beginning, too. And then reality happened. And now I miss Morocco a little bit and do plan to return at some point in my life but never to Meknes. Except to say hello to my host family there. (God have mercy on them. They were good people.)

The Flight
I forgot to take a pic the first round; this was my second plate. ha.
This is simple, too: We flew in from DC to Frankfurt to Abu Dhabi (a half an hour wait as some people got off the plane while the rest of us remained) to Muscat. We arrived in Muscat around 11pm, and stayed there till around 4pm the next day. This included a visit to the U.S. embassy in Muscat to get more information about what it's like being in Oman as well as some important contact information and guidelines on what to do and who to call in case of emergency.

And, oh, yes - for lunch at the hotel in Muscat, we had Thai food. See pic on right.

The Program / Schedule
We live in apartments by ourselves with a few other Arabic students or former Arabic students who are not in CLS. The females and the males are segregated, so the boys live far, far away from us. Or something like five minutes away in a bus. They live next to a restaurant that has the funny words "Tasty Chicken" on it. The only time we see them is at the institute, on the bus, and, like yesterday, at excursions. It's half as many boys as there are females, and even before we got to Ibri, we self-segregated without realizing it, the boys hanging out only with the boys and the girls with the girls.
We took a break here on our way to Ibri from Muscat.
The last week, which was also our first week in Ibri, I didn't have internet at my place, so I'd sleep around 8pm, wake up a couple of times in the middle and realize there was literally nothing to do here (too hot outside to take a walk, visit places, or see anything at all), so go back to sleep, and then wake up around 5am or so and study or do homework. The bus picks us up at 8am for classes, which begin at 8:30.

We have Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) classes for the first two hours, then another MSA hour of something media-related after a 30-minute break, and then Dialect classes. Omani dialect is different from the Jordanian one I learned somewhat while in Jordan, and it's absolutely nothing like the Moroccan one. Then again, the Moroccan one doesn't even feel like actual Arabic, so no surprise there. Then we have lunch for some 45 minutes, and then: speaking partners!

Speaking partners are local Omanis (females for the female students and males for the male students) who talk with us in Arabic--we're supposed do most of the talking--for 1.5 hours two days a week; they also provide us with information about good local places to visit, what's acceptable what's not, and so on. AND they're our host siblings. Most Omanis live in a joint family system, so some of the CLS-ers are grouped with members of the same family. It's two students to a speaking partner, and my speaking partner is cousins with the speaking partner of two other students from the program. Interestingly (and I was surprised that this is the case), two of the males' host family is the same as two of the females'. Meaning that their speaking partners are siblings or cousins and live in the same house. They'll still be segregated, though, so the boys have their own little quarter inside the home that they're not supposed to leave except to go outside, and they don't get access to the rest of the house, even the kitchen or the living room. Or so we've been told so far. We'll see how the reality might differ from family to family. Then again, boys have infinite freedom outside the home, so it's not like these poor guys are being disadvantaged severely or whatever. More on gender segregation and my personal thoughts on it another time, probably once I'm back in the U.S.

We don't have meetings with our speaking partners on Thursdays, which is like the Friday in America, since weekend here is Friday and Saturday. So yesterday, we went on a hike on a mountain nearby. More about that in the next blog post with pics and all, promise.

When we ate together in my apartment last night
The bus picks us up around 3:45. We chill for some time, some of us hanging out at each other's apartments, doing homework or just talking. Last night, some of us ate together and had a blast laughing and all. I like this group of students :) They make me happy. hamdallah.

The Institute (the teachers and all)
So far, I like everything at the institute. The teachers are funny, patient, and kind. Our MSA teacher's hilarious and so adorable! He's probably in his 50s (a possibly wrong estimation of his age). Two days before classes began, he was in China, and he and his wife studied in Malaysia. God bless them and their marriage infinitely, aameen. So he sometimes makes references to his travels in China and Malaysia. He likes traveling, so I'm sure we'll hear more of his stories gradually as well.

He's a good guy.

Our 'Amia (dialect) teacher is good, too. She's more strict, though. Okay, so I mentioned how we were told not to eat in classes and all, right? Yeah, well, since our lunch isn't till like 1:15, I start getting hungry around 11 and definitely by 12, which is when our dialect class begins. So I take cashews with me to eat. I took them out during dialect class yesterday, completely forgetting the rule about not eating in class. She sees me and goes, "It's normal and acceptable for you people to eat in class in America?" And I was like, "OMG I'm so sorry. I completely forgot. The program told us not to do this. SO sorry! Yes, it's common in America in some levels of education." (I might have forgotten to add the last part about "some levels of education," though, making her think it's acceptable in all schools in every levels. Oops.) And then she goes, "Well, here, it's not common, and I don't like it." But she said it with a stern smile. She's very straightforward about her expectations, which isn't a half bad thing at all, of course. Ya. And ... I think she's set to convert the non-Muslims to Islam. It's a little obvious from some of the things she said. It's funny at times, lol. This one time, we were talking about theft at some point, and she goes, "Yeah, in Oman, no one steals anything from anyone because we're Muslims and Islam forbids stealing." We're like, Ahhh, gotcha.

A view from the roof of the institute

The Internet
This simple: Internet is generally very slow here! It's not bad on the computer at my place now, but on the phone? Totally inaccessible. At the institute, it sometimes doesn't work on my computer, either, and it rarely works on my phone. Depends, too, though, on the location. 

The AC / Heat
Our apartments, the bus, and the institute are all AC-equipped. My heart breaks for those Omanis who cannot afford AC; I've no idea how they're managing to survive. God bless them and give them strength because the heat here is directly from hell, and there's no doubt about that at all. Maybe they've gotten used to it, I don't know, but I don't think they have. I still don't see anyone walking around here, and we're told it's because of the heat.

Also, cold water is hot and hot water is sizzling hot here. At least in our apartment and at the institute. I imagine that's the heat's fault.

I'll write on this once my visit to my host family is over, inshaAllah. Lots to say on this, so. But generally, it looks like all of Ibri is under construction. I'll show pics.

Ibri around sunset (view from top of a mountain near here. More pics of this soon)
Omani chips

People selling their livestock for Big Eid (Eid-ul Adha - the Festival of Sacrifice)

Somewhere in Ibri, I think.

A bazaar/market near our institute

A castle near our institute. I'll write about this soon, with pics.

It's the season of dates!! Date trees all over.

CLS students, one group taking a tour through the castle nearby us.

Another view from the roof of the institute


  1. There are actually no "poor Omanis" cause Oman is an Oil rich welfare state with tax-free incomes, so many if not most of Omanis sit back at home and enjoy and that's why they get people from all over the world(particularly South Asians) to work for them; most of the laborers are treated terribly and have to live in cramped dorms without air conditioning, they can't even go back to their countries cause their employers confiscate their passports, and what's even worst is that non-Omanis can't marry Omani women(that's true for all Gulf Arab states), you need permission from the Sultan to marry one of their women.

    If an Omani ends up killing an expat, he doesn't need to go to prison because all he has to do is pay some "blood money" to the victims family and he's off the hook, it's absolutely terrible.

    Stay safe.

    1. Thanks for your insight, Anonnie!

      I'd agree with you all except the part about there not being any poor Omanis at all because Oman is an oil-rich nation. People think this of all these Gulf states - and it's such an inaccurate claim.

  2. Means Omani people are not give fair share from the oil ? How could humans be so selfish !

  3. Means Omanis not given proper share from oil ! Humanity at its bad !


Dare to opine :)

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