Thursday, June 16, 2011

Good Bye Yaris! Hello, Beast!

I am like my Dad when it comes to buying a car I want. It only took me three years to buy an SUV. I remember seeing the FJ Cruisers when I first went to buy my Yaris. I thought about getting one, I didn't. The Yaris has served me well. It has been to the desert, the beach, Dubai and Abu Dhabi. This year I upgraded to the FJ Cruiser that I was eyeing when I first arrived. One of my friends saw it and said it was a wanna-be hummer. I thought the same thing too, but it is less obnoxious and oh so functional for Oman. Best thing about it, I would never own a car like this if I didn't live in Oman.
What finally made me make the switch? Opportunity knocked. I had a friend leaving Oman, sad. But he was selling his car and he was more than thrilled to sell it to a grateful owner, thats me! I Christened it by taking it to Sifah Beach. It proved itself in the deep sand. It fit four three of my friends and our camping gear.

A few weeks later, I took it to Jebel Akdhar twice. Then I lent it to a friend to take it back to the mountain. He was so excited! Another Beast follower. His snapshot is below.


Misconceptions of living in a hot climate

When I first moved to Oman, I had no idea that what 115 degrees felt like. When I watched the movies with people parched, dragging their feet and dehydrated, I had no conception, sympathy or empathy. And once I moved to Oman, I thought I would get used it, acclimate and eventually appreciate it. In some ways I did.

(on the right: Mom and I at the beach)

Walking outside of the airplane onto the tarmac the air stood still. It was 10 pm dark, humid and about 95 degrees. The heat hit me like I was walking into sauna. Jet lagged and disoriented I was told to sit with the other new teachers to await our visas. All of us sat in silence staring, smiling slightly, I knew the others felt the same. It was too hot outside for it to be 10 pm with the sun down. What was it going to feel like at noon?

It took a year for my body not to react adversely to the constant dehydration. One late morning i decided to go shopping and soon found out why the majority of the Omani population and Indian immigrants shop at night. I wandered around the store dazed, looking for my oasis. Dragging my feet. When I got home only two hours later, I was exhausted. I gladly sat in my living room watching TV with the lights out and the air on 18 degrees Celsius. I had joined a running club and we ran in the evenings when the sun went down. You know the saying, “The fog was as thick as pea soup?” I could see clearly, but the air was thick like trying to breath through pea soup. Once again I dragged my feet, coming in last in the group. A few weeks later, the training seemed to pay off. I got my best 5 k time! But then suffered from systems of dehydration for the next few days, not fun. Time to invest in the sports drink. Ahhh, the sports drink. Trainers will tell you never to drink that sugary chemical drink, but I will take that over two days of dehydration!

The following year I discovered why people seek shade from the midday sun. The heat from the sun is so intense, you can feel your skin burning only after 5 minutes. The shade is only a few degrees cooler, but relief from the direct light is crucial. Hence the shopping at night. drivers park their cars under “trees” (you might call them dying shrubs) and will bl

ock in other cars just to park in the shade. Hardly anyone walks during the day. Those who have to use umbrellas or newspapers to block the sun. I have invested in some large framed sunglasses so that my eyes are completely covered. I rarely walk anywhere.

(On the right: It was probably close to 80 degrees in this picture...I was cold)

Acclimation comes on quietly. I woke up one morning and it was overcast just after the storm. A rain day was called at school, so we didn’t have to go. I chuckle at rain days, but seriously people can’t get to work when it rains. Between the flooding and the traffic, most people look outside and stay home. My friend from Bombay laughs at the intolerance towards rain and flooding. She is accustomed to a city that keeps running rain, shine or flood. i suppose it is all a matter of perspective and determination. When it snows 5 or more inches in Colfax, CA, school is called off. Most people stay home instead of braving the roads. The roads become dangerous to drive on. But by noon the snow has melted.

But I was talking about heat! I walk out it had just rained and it felt chilly. My friend and I were discussing if we should go grab a sweater or not. Then we go into our friends’ car and the thermometer read 80 degrees. sweater needed. I guess I am acclimatized. It is all a matter of perspective.

This year is my third year. As I right this, I have survived another two weeks of heat. Working out in 95 degree weather with humidity, getting into a car when the temp is 112 degrees. Burning my feet on the hot sand while waking to my car after church. This year, I was done with it. It is just too dang hot!

(To the left: Students seeking shade in one of the largest trees I have seen in Oman. Note that it is February and I think it was 90 degrees that day.)

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Salalah Again!

What do you get when you have 17 teachers, two kids, and one dog? An adventure to remember for a lifetime!
Last month 20 of us (including the dog) drove to the Dhofar region to catch the end of Khareef. I cried when I saw the green hills north of Salalah. I forgetwhat rain looks like!
Enough really is a sight. In Tanuf north of Salalah you remember that Oman is mostly desert and then you drive 5 km and you are transported to another land. It is like walking through the wardrobe to Narnia. You can see the rain line.
After driving through green hills we decended to Salalah: A metropolis (for Oman), a beach town, a tourist attraction and a historical port town. Salalah attracts Omanis and tourists alike each June to September who want to catch site of some precipitation. Each year the monsoon, Khareef in Arabic, blows in from India and cools off the southern coast of Oman.
There is more to see than the green hills and the rain. East of Salalah, Khor Rowri, sits peacefully. Once the site of Queen Sheba's port, Khor Rorwi invites the traveler back in time to wander through its alleys and ruins. In the states this site would be fenced off, but here you can touch the stone as you look out to the Indian Ocean and imagine the bustling township it once was.
North of Khor Rowi one can climb the green hills again, but this time to Wadi Dam. Our plan here, was to camp and explore the wadi and maybe even find fresh water. The only problem was the bugs. All of us were attacked by gnats from the moment we set up camp to when we packed up the cars the next morning. It rained all night and I was in heaven, hearing the drizzle and patta pat on my tent. We ultimately left because of the rain. Also, we found out there is a parasite that lives in the water at wadi dam. Next adventure, Mirbat...
There is a long stretch of coves and beaches east of Mirbat. It is a great place to camp except during Khareef. The water is treacherous (for Oman) and the beaches are windy. The village of Mirbat is beautiful. You drive through this little village and see abandoned houses just on the coast.
Luckily, while a few of us were checking out the fishing village, our compadres found a better camping site. Not just better, THE BEST.
The last few days we spent packing in as many sites as possible, the blowholes, the souk, Job's Tomb, even a banana stand. That day was also the day we found fresh water. It happened to be the same spring I swam in two years ago when I first went down to Salalah. Wadi Ain winds through a desolate canyon. The ground is covered with round stones which makes hiking down to the water a challenge. Once beyond the round, loose rocks, the face of the cliff can be scaled, but it is a team effort. We had to spot each other and give boosts. All the teamwork paid off. The water was chilly and refreshing. There are plenty of rocks to jump off of, if you can get to them. Yet another team effort, getting out of the water.
On shore none of realized that there weren't banks to climb to get out of the water. The first of us in had to wait for the experienced climbers to get out before we could! Fresh Water = Trip highlight.
And now for one of my favorite subjects while traveling...FOOD. I will brag a little now. BBQ lamb is amazing, especially when I make it. The hot coals nearly char the surface of the meat while the inside stays rare. Wow! I found some lamb Masala and it was a perfect dry rub.
The next night we headed into town for Lebanese food. Too bad i can't remember the name of the restaurant. I do remember how to get there. So if you are in town, just ask me ;-)
The last day after going to the souk we found Bin Atiq, a chain of Omani restaurants serving traditional Omani food. This is one of the few truly Omani restaurants. There aren't tables and the waiter won't give you silverware, unless you are a tourist. Each group sits in a separate dinning room. Some rooms have TV. Traditionally Bin Atiq caters to traveling Omanis who want a taste of home while away from home.

Next Post...Where will I travel next????

Halloween 2010

A walk down memory lane:
Halloween, we all dress up. It took less time for me to get ready that morning because I was Marie Antoinette. Let them eat cake! (Actually I found out Marie was misquoted! The journalists twisted her comment to continue her unpopular reputation. She had a chance to flee France, but they would let her take her daughters. So she stayed with her daughters.)
The judges for the pumpkin carving contest are picking the Jack-o-ripper winner. It was down to my pretty pumpkin and a Budwiser pumpkin. Bud won :( it was probably because I kept trying to convince one of the judges mine was better. It was quite a controversy. The winner won a pirate toast decorator. Quite the coveted prize I must say.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Jordan and Egypt Highlights

On June 9 I will have completed my 5th year teaching and my second year here in Oman.
I could take this time to reflect on time and it's passing. You already know that time passes at a constant rate but our perceptions of it are not as linear.
What you really want to hear is what I have been up to. This may take a while, so I will break it up into three parts: Jordan and Egypt highlights, Salalah, Another Day in the Life of Lydia.
Back in early April I visited Jordan and Egypt. I went to Jerash, Petra, Amman, Cairo and Luxor. It was great to hang out with the Marczaks and Emily. I be"held" the Giza pyramids and finally rode a camel.
I had mixed feelings about Egypt. I am glad I went, but it wasn't the most pleasant place to visit. And then again, I should not complain about seeing Karnak Temple, Hapshipsut's Temple, or The Valley of the Kings. Oh and a mummy. Actually I will complain about seeing the mummies at the Egypt Museum. That was creepy. Scientifically speaking, it was fascinating to see the pause in the decaying process. Emotionally and psychologically speaking, why did I pay did see a corpse? Pictures weren't allowed, so you will have to go there yourself. I should have bought more post cards.
In Luxor we, Emily, her friend Alexis and I, went for a hot air balloon ride. I was more entertained by landing than the ride. Not because I am afraid of heights or only having wicker bewteen me and air or having fire burning at my back while in 100+ degree heat; but the process of landing was unexpected. Supposedly the hot air balloon companies pay farmers to land on their property. The ground crew followed on the road untill the ride was over. Then getting a signal from the pilot they drove towards us and started to run guessing where we would land. The captain then threw the ropes overboard and the ground crew helped guide the basket to the preferred landing spot. Then once on the ground, the crew picks each passenger up out of the basket. You don't have the option to just jump out yourself.

I love Jordan! You can touch the Roman ruins at Jerash. The red poppies bloomed amid the green foliage and gray stones. As I walked down the main road of the ancient city I tried to imagine being a citizen of the ancient city, but was frequently brought back to my own time with the new city of Jerash just to my right.
Back in Amman, I stayed with Mike and Suzanne and their two daughters. We went to Chili's, McDonalds, the mall and church. It was like we were back in Roseville, only the traffic was horrendous and the roads were more confusing and there were sheep in the Marczaks' back yard. I tried to drive there, it lasted 5 minutes.

See the sheep?

I took an overnight trip to Petra and wandered up, around and through the carved out tombs and treasury. Have you seen Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade? In the movie Indiana and crew finally find the place where the Holy Grail has been stored. They ride through a canyon which only looks like a canyon. Actually it is the Siq at Petra and it is a gorge. I learned that a canyon is formed by water erosion, while a gorge is formed by the rock being split by an earthquake. The Nabians carved Petra out of the sandstone. The Siq leads to the treasury. The guide I hired could lead me to the trail that went around and down into Petra, but only knew a little about the history of Petra. This area of Jordan is beautiful. The rock has many colors. The carvings are spectacular.
Not far from Petra is little Petra. Now this is what I gathered while there. I could be wrong, but I believe that Petra was the metropolitan area and little Petra was the suburb. Before you reach the Siq, there are various caves where people lived. The Treasury is in Petra along with tombs and the market place. Above this area are the High Places of Sacrifice. I tried to get my tour guide to tell me what God they worshiped with sacrifices, but he didn't know. Again, a better field guide. Also above the city of Petra is the Temple. Then if you continued walking past the tombs you would eventually end up at little Petra with the dwellings. Now I say eventually because it is just my understanding of the place.
Although my guide couldn't tell me everything I wanted to know about Petra, he was a local, so he invited me to a bbq with his family in Little Petra. This was an amazing cultural experience. His mom and his aunts taught me some local slang. I ate bbq chicken liver and enjoyed it! Only himself and his uncle knew English and my Arabic is limited. I believe that there was some discussion of marriage at some point. Not that I was involved in that conversation, but towards the end of the night, I ended up sitting in between the father and the mother with the uncle asking me what I do, where I work, etc. According to Mike, this could have quickly changed into a marriage proposal. Who knew? Not me! Don't worry, I didn't accept! At least I don't think I did...
One of the last days in Jordan, I went to the Dead Sea. Wow! Now when I was imagining the Dead Sea, I thought, "okay I will go, I am here, I can't miss it. That would be a shame, but I probably will get bored. I don't have to stay that long. Just a quick dip and a picture." Well three hours passed and I wasn't ready to go! Can anyone really capture the experience of buoyancy? I will play my Math Teacher card here and say, I can't! That's why pictures are great. All I can say is, you have to go! I think I floated for at least two hours. The water is a perfect temperature and even though the salt left a greasy film on my skin I was in heaven. I could have floated happily till dinner time!
In the next entry I will share my third trip to Salalah, a beautiful city in South Oman. But you may have to wait a couple days. It is time for bed!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Adventure to Jerash

Remember to bargain with the taxi cab driver before getting into the car. Also, when you go to Amman bring warm clothes. I was ready for Oman weather with my sandals and only one jacket.
My friend lent me her shoes so that my toes wouldn't freeze. But we noticed that the soles were starting peel off. I didn't think anything of it.
Jerash is amazing.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Another Rain Day

Tomorrow there is no school, due to a rain day. I truely wasn't expecting another rain day, but weather reports predict at least another two days/nights of rain.
I used to laugh at the rain days, but now I know why they are called. It is scary to drive out there on roads that are flooded or washed out. This morning it took people 2hours to get to school when it usually would take only 30 minutes.
Tonight and tomorrow I will be at home putting towels by my windows to soak up the water as it seeps into my apartment; All of this while I grade exams. I might be able to finish grades, if the electricity is still on. Let's hope for the best.

Just pray that people are safe, it isn't fun to drive in traffic here let alone when every other road is flooded. It's a nightmare. Keep us all in our prayers.