On Thursday, September 15, 2011, I would leave Washington for Oman; I’d be on a plane from Dulles International Airport (IAD) at 10:50 p.m. on Qatar Airlines. After a stopover in Doha, I would arrive in Muscat, Oman at 10:30 p.m. Friday evening. It would be about 15 hours of flying time.
Since I first got an offer from the university in early July, I’d been reading everything I could get my hands on about Oman, which wasn’t much. My friend Ed from the State Department, who was in Ethiopia for a 2-year stint, told me that when foreign service officers were assigned to the Middle East, they hoped for an Oman posting. He said they considered it the paradise of the Middle East.
On Amazon.com I found a number of books about Oman, but was especially happy to find two self-published books by Matthew D. Heines, an English teacher in Sur, Oman from 2001-2003. These books told first-hand the life of an American in Oman, teaching English at a university in Sur (not the one where I’d be of course ~ mine was in Nizwa). In the first book, My Year in Oman: An American Experience in Arabia During the War on Terror, Matthew had an intense romance with an Indian woman who taught at a university in Muscat while trying to navigate through difficult teaching dilemmas with an administration in a privately run college where there was more concern for collecting student tuition rather than providing for a good education. He told of snorkeling adventures (apparently there was great snorkeling all over Oman) and camping adventures in the mountains and wadis. He loved his students, especially the women who worked especially hard since they then had an opportunity to get an education by the progressive Sultan Qaboos. Although Matthew encountered many frustrations and hurdles in teaching, overall he had a great experience.
At the end of Matthew’s first book, his Indian girlfriend left him for an arranged marriage insisted on by her parents back in India. This despite assurances she had given Matthew from the beginning that she would never submit to an arranged marriage.
camels in Salalah
In his second book, Another Year in Oman: Between Iraq and a Hard Place… (American Experiences in Arabia), Matthew continued to suffer heartbreak from his Indian girlfriend and then began a clandestine romance with an Omani woman, which really amounted to rarely meeting in private, a lot of intense phone conversations, and meeting “by chance” in the local souq (market). He had more adventures and a slightly more positive teaching experience. Through it all, he loved his students. He left Oman at the end of his two years, knowing that his Omani girlfriend would ultimately end up in an arranged marriage with her cousin!!
I loved reading these stories because they were told from an expatriate’s viewpoint and he was a university English teacher, as I would be. I couldn’t wait to experience Oman for myself and create my own adventures!
palace of Sultan Qaboos
Omani boy in Nizwa souq
young man in Nizwa souq
Another book I read was Oman – Culture Smart: a quick guide to customs and culture. This book gave me a good, but brief, overall guide to what I could expect culturally when I got to Oman.
In talking to an English teacher who had been at the university for a year, she told me that we would be provided a one bedroom apartment with a king-size bed, a living room with couch and TV, and a fully equipped kitchen. She said they would show us several apartments from which we could choose. She also informed me we should wear long-sleeves or 3/4 sleeve tops, long pants, and would want to wear sandals year-round. She said there were about 70 English teachers in the university and there were many new ones coming in as enrollment had increased quite a bit for the coming school year. She said she was 62 and that there were lots of teachers there in their 50s and 60s; this made me happy after my year in Korea, where I was by far the oldest teacher there!
goat in Wadi Bani Awf
Al Areesh desert camp
I would take a number of other books along with me to Oman, including Lonely Planet guides to Oman, UAE and the Arabian Peninsula, Dubai, and Middle East. I hoped to explore all over Oman and UAE while there. One book was about living and working in Oman, which I would begin reading on the plane on my way there.
In a nutshell, here were my goals for my time in Oman:
1. Continue my Arabic studies and try to use the language as much as possible wherever I go in the region. Aim to achieve some degree of fluency.
2. Make some good Omani friends, as well as fellow expat friends. Love my students!
3. Save money and pay off debts.
4. Explore Oman’s nooks and crannies, mountains, wadis and beaches.
5. Explore UAE, including Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
6. Delve deep into the culture and learn to wear it like a second skin.
7. Read the Quran. Try to learn as much about Islam as possible.
8. Write a lot of blogs.
9. Take a lot of pictures!
10. Take two trips during the year, one to Jordan and one to Greece.
11. Revise my novel. Begin working on another book.
12. Try to learn as much as possible about teaching in an Arab country and add a year of university teaching to my resume. Be the best teacher I can be and establish a great rapport with my students.
These were my goals for my first year in Oman. My time there stretched into two years, but that wasn’t planned at first. 🙂
hotel on Jebel Akhdar
Nakhal Fort and palm plantations
Royal Opera House in Muscat
*Thursday, September 15, 2011*
“ANTICIPATION & PREPARATION” INVITATION: I invite you to write a post on your own blog about anticipation & preparation for a particular destination (not journeys in general). If you don’t have a blog, I invite you to write in the comments. Include the link in the comments below by Thursday, June 27 at 1:00 p.m. EST. When I write my post in response to this challenge on Friday, June 28, I’ll include your links in that post.
This will be an ongoing invitation, on the 4th Friday of each month. Feel free to jump in at any time. 🙂 If you’d like to read more about the topic, see: journeys: anticipation & preparation.
I hope you’ll join in our community. I look forward to reading your posts!
the ~ wander.essence ~ community
I invite you all to settle in and read posts from our wandering community. I promise, you’ll be inspired!
- Sheetal, of sheetalbravon, wrote with much enthusiasm about her first ever international trip to Italy and Sweden. You’ll want to go along with her!
Thanks to all of you who wrote posts about anticipation and preparation. 🙂