Touring the city...and the hospital

Trip Start Jul 01, 2012
Trip End Aug 17, 2012

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Monday, July 9, 2012

We have done so much since we got here. Our days are absolutely full which is why I hardly have any time to post blog entries. Actually at the moment it's 6:30 am (I believe I'm a little jetlagged) which seems like the only time to post.

So two days ago (already?!) we took a bus tour of Muscat. We saw all the normal tourist sites, the parliament, the Sultan's palace (which Steve accurately described as out of candyland), the Al Bustan Palace hotel, etc. We also got our first exhilarating visit to the Muttrah souk, the biggest marketplace in Muscat. Once they see your fair skin they immediately raise the prices so you actually have to haggle a lot to get them down to normal. Kat and I, having no experience with haggling, did pretty well for our first time I think. That day we also had our first day at the school/center, where we did a little language "interview" and had our first "FGLL". FGLL - pronounced "figgle" - is an acronym made up by Jerry Bookin-Weiner (an amideast coordinator extraordinaire in DC) that stands for Facilitated Group Language Learning. Apparently they used to just call it peer groups, because that's what it is...haha. Five of us talked with the friendliest teacher, Amira, for about an hour, as our first class. She taught us a lot but we also just talked with her about life in Oman and how it compares to life in America etc.

That night we ate dinner with Hannah in her room and ordered out from a couple different places. It was all delicious. Also, a lot of us got to get to know each other better and that's a valuable thing in this first week, because starting soon, we won't be allowed to talk in English except in emergencies. Luckily Hannah has made the language pledge a little less strict having experienced the strictest language pledge ever with Middlebury which apparently hindered her somewhat.

The same night, another girl in our group got very very sick and had to be taken to the hospital in an ambulance. Steve ran all the way from his apartment to the hotel to be with her! As I was hearing about this I also started to feel sick. I assumed I was just psyching myself out and went to bed, but I still felt really sick the next morning.... and all day yesterday.... in fact I still feel sick right now! I never got as sick as the other girls but yesterday I felt too sick to be in class so they took me to the hospital to get checked out just in case. Everyone here is working so hard to make sure everyone is taken care of, that there's always someone in the hospital, etc. I was the fourth person to be taken to the hospital on this trip! Luckily we have the trip coordinators from heaven who will do anything to make sure we're safe and happy. Anyway, they gave me an IV and some medicine for the nausea and cramps but didn't really know what was wrong with me and let me go home. I ate some plain rice and went to bed and now I'm writing this.

The other thing we did yesterday in the morning, which I kindof struggled through, was that we volunteered at the Access english summer camp. This is a state dept funded program to teach underpriviliged Omani kids english over the summer. Yesterday it was just boys there, who we helped and talked to in groups. They were in 9th and 10th grade, but as some people warned us they would be, they often acted like they were 12! They were good at English though and very friendly. Some got a little too friendly... one asked Sammy whether she had a boyfriend and whether he could come visit her at the hotel! They were great kids though... Steve had taught them English and they are obsessed with him haha.

I don't know if I can really accurately describe what Muscat is like. It's very spread out and there are only a few areas where you can really walk around in the city. People drive everywhere, and drive absolutely insanely. On the street you will see a lot of guys and most of them are in dishdashas, which are like long white robes with a tassle coming off the neck, and either a cylindrical embroidered hat or a wrapped turban/scarf thing on the top of their head. Most of the women are covered, the vast majority with the hijab and abaya (a black loose over-dress that they apparently wear really tight, fashionable clothes under). Some take the slightly liberal route and let a lot of their hair show, while most cover all of it. I haven't seen that many people with the burka/niqab on but it is definitely present. All the signs are in Arabic and English but what's hilarious is that they actually transliterate instead of translate the english words a lot of the time. There are so many signs that I read and then think, wait a second, that just says the same thing in English! Also, the Sultan has an obsession with greenery so he spends tons and tons of money to keep up green places and grass around Muscat. 

To finish this post, I want to say that this started for me as a trip for myself. I would say, I am going to Oman this summer, I will learn arabic, I will live with a host family. Now it is all about this wonderful group of girls that I do everything with. They are some of the kindest friends I've ever met and sharing this experience has and will only bring us closer. When I got home from the hospital at least three people ran up and hugged me... and I only had a stomachache! I love each and every person here.

Ma Salama from Muscat 

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