Monday, January 20, 2014

Goodbye Davan

      A couple days ago one of my seven exchange sisters left Oman. It is not my place to share her reasons for leaving, but I will say that she is one of the strongest, most passionate, enthusiastic people I have met. Whenever she was struggling or even when she was crying, she would try to shrug it off and say, "But it's fine." Even when she was dealing with things that were very far from fine. Being an exchange student is hard. There are many things that are out of our control: food, transportation, sometimes weekend plans, etc. I am so impressed that she admitted that things weren't getting better and that it was time to return stateside. I probably would have remained miserable for all ten months and waster a year of my life.
     I would like to thank Davan for what an amazing friend she has been. She was my bus buddy, the sole witness to my eating of a jasmine flower, she helped me when I fell off the bus seats, I was the one who taught her that Kit Kats were an American brand, and I will miss her so much.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

It's pretty chilly there...

So the past couple days I've been getting reports of the severe cold in my home town of Vermont. It's hit -28 C, whereas in Oman it's been a balmy 20 C.  My dad sent over some pictures that made me thankful for the warmish weather.
Some poor soul's bicycle has been trapped in an ice prison. 

Those treacherous wintery roads.

Despite the frigid air, it is quite beautiful when winter comes
and the land is hidden in snow. 

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

New Years and New Flavors

        New Years resolution: write more blog posts. I apologize for my ridiculously long absence from this blog. The holidays have passed, the exchange students celebrated Hanukkah and Christmas with each other. I expected to be more homesick on Christmas than I was, but thanks to the arrival of a package from my dad and friend, my host family, the other exchange students, and the American family I stayed with on Christmas day, I had a cheerful Christmas. New Years is very underwhelming here. My only celebration was lighting a candle at midnight in honor of my New Years resolutions.
         Truth is, when I get comfortable and relaxed things like blogging and journaling become very difficult for me. Why do I need to blog or journal? It's just my life. Now my journal has been left in the corner of my drawer for over a month, and this blog has faired no better. Luckily, I feel guiltier leaving the blog behind so I'm back.
         To keep this from being boring, and to help those of you that made a New Years resolution to try new things, here's some unexpectedly delicious flavor combos I have only had since coming to Oman:
  1. Nutella and cream cheese (well Puck Cheese spread, but I don't think you'll find that.)
  2. Plain yogurt and rice (this is so good!)
  3. Instant coffee in your oatmeal, especially with peanut butter.
  4. Chips Oman, Puck cheese, hot sauce, and flat bread. Since you can't get Chips Oman outside the Gulf, try: cream cheese, barbeque chips, hot sauce, and pita bread, I hope it's just as good!
  5. Peanut butter covered Oreos in chocolate cupcakes.
  6. Cheese or corn puffs and hot sauce, be very very liberal with the hot sauce.
  7. Spaghetti with tomato sauce and tuna.
  8. Eggs, cooked any way imaginable, with hot sauce.
  9. Avocado smoothie with milk and honey.
  10. Green mango or canned corn, lemon, and chili flakes.

Monday, December 2, 2013

One Hundred Days in Oman

One hundred days, one hundred nights
Of hot Arab desert, and brilliant sunlight
Of laughter, joyful glee, and smiles
It has been a long while

One hundred dawns, and one hundred setting suns
Some long beach walks, and short breathless runs
Some chips Oman and lots of rice
My host mother has a way with spice

One hundred midnights, one hundred noons
And many meals without a spoon
And with my host sister many deep talks
A few tears welled up from culture shock

One hundred afternoons, one hundred morning tides 
Several frustrating struggles inside
Several sub par grades beheld 
Too many Arabic words misspelled

One hundred evenings, one hundred wee hours
Numerous friendships like blossoming flowers
Numerous sights of beautiful things
Such of Nahal's hot water springs

One hundred days, one hundred nights
Since the day my heart took flight
Since I became limitlessly blessed
And my world view vastly progressed

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Pie and other blessings

         On Tuesday the YES and NSLI-Y girls all went over to the US ambassadors house for an early Thanksgiving dinner. It was very enjoyable, the ambassador was very welcoming, members from all our respective host families were there, we met members of the embassy's staff, and the traditional thanksgiving food was delicious. Despite the turkey, mashed potatoes, and stuffing, this Thanksgiving felt unfamiliar. It was very formal and reserved; there was no kitchen on the brink of chaos, with screaming aunts, no eating contest like mania where everyone stuffs as much into their mouths as quickly as possible, no debate over which apple pie is superior. Afterwards I was left feeling homesick for my crazy extended family, my disjointed immediate family, and the binding effect warm food and wine has on all of them. The true meaning of Thanksginging survived though. It was a night to wonder at my new home with my caring host family, my new friends who I have been blessed with, this beautiful country, the Amideast staff who work so hard to make this exchange possible, and so much more. 
Grocery list on an
embassy napkin.
         On Wednesday I was to melancholy to study for my semester exams that will take place this coming week, instead I ate oreos with peanut butter, talked to my US friends, and went to the beach. Most of my host family had taken advantage of the two day holiday and had left for Dubai. The house felt empty in a pleasant way the reminded me of home. 
        Thursday, turkey day, the day of thanks and counting blessings. I took an expedition to the cold store to procure the ingredients for apple pie and mashed potatoes. 

I had to go back for more apples.
My bigger dinner which will include stuffing, gravy, and pumpkin pie has been postponed for my host sister who will return from the UK soon. I spent the whole day in the kitchen very inefficiently baking apple pie with my mother's secret recipe. 
Crust, filling, and crumb topping.

Fresh from the oven.

I need practice so I serve slices instead of heaps.
After one failed crust, numerous cuts on my fingers from peeling sixteen apples, and lots of dirty dishes, I emerged with a beautiful apple pie covered in crumb topping. I did not burn the house done despite having to light the oven manually. I also made mashed potatoes which my host sister only liked after a large amount of lemon juice was added to them. 
We ate hot fresh pie with vanilla ice cream, followed by mashed potatoes eaten in front of the TV with pineapple juice. 
      A call from my father, brothers, aunts, cousin, and grandmother was the perfect end to the day. They shouted over each other, told me that camels have Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome, and asked me to talk in Arabic, 
Mashed potatoes!
      I am left feeling thankful for everything in my life, both here and in the US. I have two loving families who are equally crazy, friends with bright smiles and kind words, and two extraordinary countries. I am also thankful for the leftover pie I will have for breakfast tomorrow.
         I will leave you with my favorite stuffing recipe which I did not have the chance to make today:

McVeigh's Home Stuffing
  • 12 pieces of bread (whole wheat, whole grain, white, artisan, the more variety the better) 
  • One small onion, finely chopped
  • Three stalks of celery, finely chopped
  • 3 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/3 dried apricots, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp. poultry seasoning
  • 1/2 tsp.s salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp.thyme
  • Two eggs, beaten
  • Chicken broth
  1. Leave bread out for the night or toast so as to make it dry. Then rip it into 1 inch chunks and place in a large bowl.
  2. Saute celery and onions in 1 tbsp. of olive oil until softened.
  3. Add celery, onions, remaning olive oil, cranberries, dried apricots, and seasonings to bread then mix thoroughly. 
  4. Add eggs and 1/2 cup broth, mix again.
  5. Add broth and mix until bread is well moistened. 
  6. Bake in an oven proof dish at 350 F. 
  7. Serve with gravy and enjoy!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Three months gone by...

     Firstly, I will start by apologizing for these past two weeks without blog posts, I really have been lazy! Secondly, I will state what has already been in written in my title, today, November 25th, marks my three months in Oman! What an amazing three months it has been! I have gotten so close with my host family, made friends with many different nationalities, and seen some amazing sights! I am so thankful for everything that this scholarship has given me, thank you US Department of State! Here are some of the things that happened in the past two weeks.

1. Shia Muslims, including several of my friends, mourned the death of Prophet Muhammad's grandson, Hussein. This happened during the week of November 14th. Each night worshippers gathered in mosques or halls to grieve together. In some places the mourning occurs with a great deal of self harm but luckily most Shiites in Oman only beat their chests rather than using chains or whips.

Nizwa Fort, a rooftop view
2. YES Abroad and NSLI-Y went to Nizwa and Jebel Shams. We spent two days outside of Muscat traveling first to Nizwa fort and then to a mountain called Jebel Shams. The mountain was actually quite cold getting to around 40 degrees F, which made me realize how lucky I am to have warm Muscat weather. It also rained a good deal.

Some slight trouble at Jebel Shams

Happy National Day!
Rain soaked Muscat
3. Oman's National day, the Sultan's birthday was this past week on November 18th. In honor of Sultan Qaboos and Oman people decorated their cars and houses, my school played Omani music at the entrance, and a classmate handed out pins in the colors of Oman's flag with the Sultan's picture on them. The Thursday after national day everyone came to school in Omani dress, even the international boys wore dishdashas and cummas, and the girls all came decked out in their best Oman formal wear.

3. It rained in Muscat! My fourth rain shower since my arrival, but my first ever in Muscat that I was awake for. My host sister and I ran around in the rain for and hour until my eye was attacked by a vicious umbrella.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Hijra with my host family

We stopped in the morning to pick
good smelling flowers.
Mashakeek on the fire>
        We started the morning by packing the car and driving for two hours, everyone except my host sister who had to study for college midterms. Twelve o'clock found us over 120 kilos from Muscat, off road, jolting through the rocky desert. The only trees big enough to provide shade grew along a dried river bed, we found one that lent
it's shade to flat ground and unrolled our mats and unpacked our meal. The main course was mashakeek, a shish kebab type dish of goat meat marinated in garlic and tamarind, speared onto wooden sticks and smoked on a portable fire grill. Eaten with many different condiments: more marinade, ketchup, mustard, and a creamy white garlic sauce, the chunks of meat were greatly satisfying.
As the last of the meat was cooking, a smattering of rain came down bringing a strong wind with it. It was not even enough to call a drizzle but it was the first precipitation I've seen so far in Oman. 

Ominous rain clouds over the desert of our picnic.
      My host brother, sister, and I then went for a walk in the stone filled desert. We attempted to walk to the mountains but were fooled and misjudged the distance. Meanwhile the rest of the family had tea and dates. After washing with bottled water my host family prayed in the shade of another tree, then we packed up and went home.
Nakhal, with all it's green.
     We then journeyed to Nakhal, a village which gets its name from the date tree: nakheel. We drove half an hour through the rocky, grey, flat, desert, when suddenly as we reached the mountains. Date trees and green grass erupted between them. Driving through the town the street curved to avoid water that rushed over rocks and ran right through the middle of the village. At the top of the slope the town is situated upon the source of the water became clear, fresh springs gush water over rocks and into the land below. The beginnings of the springs were crowded with people: mothers washing their children, boys swimming, and even a drum circle. Men sold donkey rides to children, and green mango flavored with lemon and chili. We hiked past all this until we found a pool deep enough wade in. As I reached the water I braced myself for the icy temperature of Vermont rivers, instead the water was shockingly warm. The mountain's springs are hot springs. My host dad, brothers, little sister, and I swam and played in the warm water for an hour. None of us brought changes of clothes so we were all soaked on the ride back home.