My final plane yesterday touched down in Muscat around 8:40-a full 50 minutes earlier than planned. I felt a bit gross after 24 solid hours in the same clothes with no shower, and a bit tired-but more than anything just excited to be back in an Arabic country.
The Muscat airport isn’t too large, so finding your way when disembarking is a fairly easy process. The first thing most people go for is the currency exchange and visa purchase. The currency exchange is not so hot–2.7 US dollars for every 1 Omani riyal. Add in the service fee for the exchange and it might as well be 3. I purchased a tourist visa for 30 (the other option is 10) days, although I will have to renew it at some point as I am here for a grand total of 6 weeks. Why my program advised that instead of some sort of student visa is beyond me, but they’ve been around a bit so I trust they know their stuff. It cost 20 Riyals. Then I snagged my bags, went through some loose security, and voila.
Immediately outside of the security area, Dr. Larry Brown, my program director, was waiting to pick me up, and greeted me with the IU fight song, as he is also an alum. He’s a cheerful man and his wife is equally peppy, both incredibly welcoming and friendly. They don’t speak much Arabic, which really surprised me at first, but since they run the administrative side of things I suppose it’s not much of a shocker. I was picked up at the same time as two other girls who will be in my program, one of whom is my actual roommate. We’re staying in some apartment suites at a hotel (pictures wil come later, apologies for the lack of them so far) with two other girls who arrived yesterday, all in the same program. The two other girls are studying for their master’s degrees, one is 33 and the other something like 24ish I imagine, but both come from the same university and are already good friends (which is fantastic because our apartment gave us one room with a queen bed and one with two twins, so they share). So far I think I lucked out, everyone is friendly and right up my alley in terms of a good sense of humor. We’ve got a kitchen, living room, and THREE (whoo!) bathrooms, so hopefully we’ll never run into living issues.
After our arrival, my roommate and I talked to our two suite-mates for quite a while, and then decided to pop across the street to get some food. Our street, I should mention, is LINED with…Turkish restaurants! Why? I do not know. But I’m soooooo not maaaaaad. And they’re “Turkish” restaurants, I should say, in that they serve doner in addition to regional things like hummus, shwarma, etc. We picked the one dead across from the hotel, and it was terrifyingly delicious, and according to other students a favorite around here. Go team, leave it to me to find the good eats. 😉 And of course, while we were there, I had one of my favorite beverages, Omani-style…tea with milk.
I’m sure you’re thinking “Becky, tea with milk is universal. Shut up.” And that’s true. But in Jordan milk is added to coffee more often than tea, and they tend to use Lipton Yellow Label black tea, so when I came to Oman last year on spring break and was constantly served “mumtaaz” red-label tea with milk, I was in heaven. It’s a bit like Indian chai but with less spices…and it’s magic. Sitting there sipping on that tea whilst getting to know my roommate made me a fairly happy camper around 1 AM. It felt like coming home–not because Oman is home, necessarily, but because I am back in the Arabic world I am ever so crazy about.
Today is our orientation around the city, and then free time later (aka shop for some groceries time). My major concerns so far about Oman and this program are pretty personal: One, I really wanted a language pledge, where you speak only Arabic. This is what I had in Jordan, and it is WHY I learned so damn much–I had no choice. Here, there is none, so I’m worried I won’t get as much out of the program as I should if everyone is speaking English after class hours. My roommate seems interested in using Arabic though, so this could be a good step. Second concern: I am a gym rat, and need to find one here that will let me join for a short amount of time and not a ton of money. Our hotel does have a gym, it’s a room with a treadmill, stationary bike, some free weights and one weight machine, and would work on lazy days, but I would love to have a larger one in general. I was really hoping to join the local crossfit gym (yes, there is one), but frankly that depends upon how far away it is–taxis are EXPENSIVE here, and I need to not spend an hour every day in transit. So I will have to poke around for a bit.
This is getting to be rather drawn out, and I promised I wouldn’t do that as much this time, so I’m cutting myself off.
Until later, dears.