Friday, July 3, 2015

Eid Link List for How to Live Like an Omani Princess

Neither OPNO will be in Oman for this upcoming Eid--- we are celebrating Eids in Singapore and Canada this year (weird huh?) so [by request] here are the links to some previous Eid posts;). Hope your Ramadan is going well.

WHAT IS EID in how is it celebrated in OMAN?:

LAST EID AL FITR (eid after Ramadan) for one OPNO blogger:
EID AL FITR controvery in Oman

Eid al Fitr 2013 for one OPNO blogger:

Eid al Adha 2013 in Muscat for one OPNO blogger:

Eid as a single gal in Al Athaiba, Muscat:

Eid gift guides:

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Things Oman Lacks part 1: Bookstores

I have visited real bookstores. I mean, real actual bookstores. Forget about postal service, Other Oman in the US of A;) [ ]. Bookstores are what are really missing from Oman.

Dear Oman, a real bookstore sells books. They do not sell (at least not primarily) stationary, they do not sell toys, they do not sell school supplies. They sell books, paperbacks, hardcovers. Depending on the bookstore the books can be used or new, the bookstore can be specialized (antique tomes, children's, or fiction or travel etc.) or general (as in an assortment of everything). But they still sell books. Real, live actual books. And I have been buying books... too many of course, so scary thought for my suitcase... but how I have been reading again since I have been here. I think I read more in one week than I do in a year in Muscat, and I read and write for a living in Oman...

People ask me how I know a little about so much about so much (at least in Oman among people who've always lived in Oman) and its because I read. As a child I used to be baby-sat by the library... I read everything about everything, especially history, design, archeology, religion, military tactics, ancestry, and literature (with a good dose of fiction thrown in for good measure because it is so enjoyable). Why do people in Oman not read very much or know less than some other places in the world? Because there is nothing to read beyond the internet, I swear! Media is too limited to trust TV to teach much in any way of variation of subject matter.

Unless you order it online, stuff is just not available, and... books are heavy. Shipping sucks. Back to Other Oman's post, postal service sucks. Getting a PO box... can suck.
I loved used bookstores the most... that's where I find the greatest treasures...
 And quaint little specialized bookshops have their charm too of course...
We even have a "haunted" bookshop... back in the land far and away (pictured with green awning behind the local band). It was closed when I got to it, but maybe I'll go back? I've never seen a ghost before;) but I've been in their store... Its slection is pretty solid.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

In the land far-and-away, on their National Day

My last post resulted in some responses, and I guess I used to care about government.. in fact once I tried out a life in politics. Serriously. Wasn't me. There's still holes in parliament carpet from my stillettos. Not exaggerating. But happy Canada Day to my fellow Canadian expats in Oman. I spent my Canada day long weekend at the Lt. Governor of Canada's (or some province) house (ironically-this was the last place I visited while deciding politics wasn't for me over tea and cucumber sandwiches). I came for rose gardens, but wound up in the ballroom which I'd never seen). I guess if you take citizenship they have a swearing-in ceremony here? As far as I know, Oman's interior ministry has nothing of the kind...

Monday, June 29, 2015

A Funny Omani Observation About Expats

(MOP) [my husband]: You know, its funny, You, and other [from-the-land-far-and-away] expats... You are awfully conversational about all aspects of Omani society, government, politics, etc..., but back in [the-land-far-and-away] how many of you, did really care that much about your own government and society?

OPNO [me]: ......

{I have an excuse at least, as soon as I found out there were roads that led to other places in the world, I wanted to go}

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

My Hate for E Max and My First Experience with Oman's Consumer Protection Section

This a post about my first experience with Oman's consumer protection section. And my second bad bad bad, much more horrible than my horrible first, experience with E-max []. Okay, so, I should have remembered the time we bought an adapter from E-max, only to get it home, and find out, look at the box, it was obviously used (and ruined) and returned, and then put back on the shelves for re-sale. Being the famously angry-OPNO that I am, I walked inside E-max with this adapter, put it back on the shelf, and walked out of the store with another, without going through the return process. Call it stealing if you will, but that's what I've learned to do in Oman. I paid for a working adpater. I got a working adapter. That's the life, and I don't think I am going to hell for it.

But this time, I needed a camera. A dying relative gave me money to buy a camera to take photos of my kids for them. Yes. That's why I am so so so emotional about stupid E-max, that I bothered with consumer protection.

I bought said camera. Also, I bought suggested batteries for camera recommended by its warranty. I set camera functions to work with recommended batteries. I took that cursed camera with me to take photos at an event, and it died after less than twenty minutes. Weird, but then I thought, maybe I did not charge the batteries correctly?

So I charged the batteries correctly. I tried to use the camera again. Same thing, died after taking 11 photos. So weird. So I thought, maybe the batteries are crap so we bought E-max batteries, we bought non-chargeable, the works, it kept dying.

So we went to the return section at E-max in the store. Staff who work there?: super nice people. They aren't really allowed to help you but they feel guilty for this and are super polite no matter how angry you get, especially the Omani and Philipino girls who work there. Can't complain about them.

However, even though I was returning said camera with all its contents, and original box, and receipts, despite the store poilcy being cash back is allowed with 15 days of purchase, I was forced to send the camera for maitenance "first". I waited more than two months for "maitenance" to "fix" it and when it was returned, the lense wouldn't open now either, and so we couldn't see if the battery was fixed.

I asked then, to get a new camera, or a different model and pay the difference.

They told me to send my camera for maitenance again.

My kids, by now, have not been photographed through many important moments. Recieving birthday gifts. Baby's first steps... Daughter's first doll house... But whatever. Send it again to maitenance and wait.

They said one week. After a month, we went to consumer protection. Then, E-max phoned and said they'd give me a replacement. So I went in and tested this time, in-store, the replacement.

It had the same problem with battery so obviously the model doesn't work and has something wrong with it. The service department girls agreed, they couldn't say the replacement was working either, and I told them I wanted another model of camera and I would pay the difference.

The Seeb City Center E-Max manager refused however, and basically told me, take the paperweight your dying relative sent you money to buy and like, throw it in the garbage, because E-max doesn't do refunds or "working camera" exchanges.

I was so so mad I freaked out and went to the camera section and ranted at customers buying cameras and scared all the customers away until my husband led me out of the store, and then took me to Cake Gallery for macaroons and coffee so I could calm down, and not cry in public.

I have no salary right now because my work is renewing my contract, I am paying a mortgage (Islamic loan) for a house, and I bought plane tickets to the land-far-and-away. I couldnt just buy another camera. I needed the money back from this one. Really I did.. I felt I was failing the person who got me this gift because it was a gift for them, not for me. Does that make sense?

So my husband, knowing this, went to consumer protection and demonstrated how the camera did not work. The E-max manager (City Center Seeb) promised consumer protection he'd fix everything for us.

SO we went to E-max to get another model of camera. But the manager told us that his camera expert would see us instead.

The so-called camera expert told me that battery-powered cameras only last taking 35 photos max.

Which is a load of bull-crap. Since I've owned digital battery powered cameras since the begining of this particular era, circa 2000 and the 2000 cameras lasted 2 hours on battery power. And even my stupid cellphone lasts an hour of photo taking.

If that were true there should be a warning when you buy, I said, so I asked for my money back or a replacement. When both were refused I promised I'd blog this, and the consumer protection would make them get me a new camera, so screw them. (I didn't say screw them, but in my head I said it, plus threw pies at their stupid faces) [the nice service people, I'd buy them a pie, for having to deal with angry people all day and a job that sucks, and they could eat it to, but not manager and his so-called camera expert]. I took photography as part of my art foundation in school. I am no idiot. I can even develop my own photos, dumbassess. Grrr.... Of course I can set the camera function for the right battery type...

As you can see, I am still very angry.

My husband went again to the consumer protection who forced the manager at E-max to come in to their office, and he was told, give me the money back, or give me a new model.

Of course, when we got to the e-max store, the manager still insisted we return EVERYTHING to get our money back, including the memory card (which most Omani will never do). However, I'd only managed to photograph floor tiles before the camera's batteries died...

So moral of the story is, don't trust E-max to sell you working items. Don't go to them for their return policy and always keep all original packaging and receipts and just go to the consumer protection from the beginning. Force the stupid store to see you, on your time, by appointment.

Thank you consumer protection, and "I hate you" E-Max and Manager and fake camera expert guy.


Being a Muslim Non-Omani Woman in Oman---with an Omani husband: Women's Rights Issues in Oman

Reading an article by Saudi woman Bayyan, posted by Susie of Arabia, I thought about being a woman in Oman I suppose, despite our blog's title, I am not really every girl in Oman. First, I am Muslim, not born that way either. I was an expat non-Muslim here years and years ago however (Brits, Aussies, South Africans, Germans, Americans, Canadians), so I get these expats, truly I do. I am also married to an Omani, from a conservative place in Oman. Even my Omani co-workers, get infuriated by his culture sometimes, as much as they love my husband as a person, saying "how different he is" depsite being "so from there". And, as a Muslim, I follow a very strict interpretation of Islam, stricter in form than what I follow admittedly, for what is right and wrong. I follow what Saudi Arabia "claims" to follow, but does so imperfectly, to tragic circumstance I suppose. So sometimes, girls from Salalah, I get even you too, although I have never been there, and have only male Dhofari aquaintenances it seems.

So, being a woman in Oman. In Oman, I can drive. However, if my husband or family did not wish me to drive, they could prevent me from getting my Omani national ID card, or I could sneak out of the house to apply for it, and, a brother or relative could probably go to the police to pick it up (for me) if they heard I had done so (someone might phone them, despite that being illegal in Oman). So in that case, as an Omani woman, I'd be prevented from travelling, free movement, and driving, since without a national ID card, I can't get a passport either. As I am still not an Omani citizen, and my husband is the one pestering me to get my lisence, this is not an issue for me, but it is for other Omani women, a mystery number the government seems to care nothing about. As I still don't drive... my fault, I face other issues, relatable to women in this situation.

In Oman, technically gender segregation doesn't exist. Although, it does. My husband's family is very hypocritical about gender segregation. It is claimed to come from Islamic intent, although if that is truth, then, well, I wouldn't feel so angry when I am neglected from social situations. The village has a company where many of the wives have equal ownership to men in the company. However, we are expected to have our husbands or brothers speak our business ideas on our behalfs, and the men in the company meet and make all final decisions without our presence or vote. As many more of the women worked in private sector or had formal education than the men, this seems loony bin to me, but whatever... It isn't "against the law" but it simply "isn't done". While it is perfectly fine for me to meet with men at my work, or in Oman's public sector, doing so "in the family" is so not. Don't get it AT ALL.

At work, my male co-workers occasionally say inapproproate things. A joke here, something there. Nothing against me at all, but definately not positive towards women in general. I was told, because I took a month and a half off to have a baby (even though I am the ONLY one working on the project AT ALL out of a group of FIVE male collegues) that I was becomming "an Omani woman" arguing, and "trying to justify" why I didn't get work done. Sorry, my usual caffinate myself and never sleep work routine was called off my doctors who told me to stop having heart attacks while pregnant, y'all. During that month and a half, I still replied to all emails, made reports, corrected spelling, and booked people hotel arrangements even though that isn't even in my job description---up until the day I went to the hospital. I was like, should I text my boss back while I  am having contractions and the nurse is fighting me for my phone?---nah. I returned as soon as I could walk without bleeding and I found childcare for a super newborn. It was really an offensive experience for me, that I haven't forgotten. Since not one of them have produced ANY work at all since making those comments, I feel quite offended, not for me, but for Omani women.

While there are no mutawaa (religious police here) sometimes I see women giving other women looks of disgust (judging their dress) instead of, like, befriending them, complimenting them on more culturally or Islamic suited choices... This comes from what I don't know in the culture. You can say Islam, but not really. Islam isn't really a judge-other-people kind of religion unless it comes down to to worhsipping more than one God/Allah. Even for the strictest of interpretations.

As I don't drive I can almost quote the Saudi woman's article comepletely: Perhaps it was the countless men who assumed that since I was out in public on my own I clearly was asking to be sexually harassed. Or the young men who shamelessly threw their phone numbers at me, or followed me in their cars for long-periods of time despite my obvious lack of interest. Or maybe it was the numerous times when these sexual-harassment car-chases became reckless and almost ended in accidents... I can add, the idiots who honk at me, who try to talk to me despite me obviously not being in need, despite wearing abaya and hijab and even face veiling...

In Canada I can wear abaya and that alone is enough to command respect of a sexual nature for men to leave me be, whereas here in Oman, obviously, something is wrong with the Muslim men if it isn't enough for them, but it is for non-Muslim men.

At my work, when they found out I was married to an Omani, the personnal affairs office asked me to get a "permission slip" from my husband to allow me to work the hours in my work contract. Apparently husband's sue the government sometimes so their Omani wife doesn't have to fulfill her own work contract? Like she was, I dunno, too dumb to know what her job is from the start and signs stuff without understanding? My Omani husband found this offensive more than I did...

While women are allowed to ask for things in their marriage contract, like financial provision after other-party mitagated conditioned divorce, or child custody, or rights a woman wants to maintain for herself that Islamically a man has to agree to, women are discrouaged by the man who wants to marry them, and their male guardians, from doing so, even this protects them, and in Islam, is what we are supposed to do. Asking for, like, 10, 000 OMR maher, seems pointless to me, if one is not going to work out future child custody issues, like if a man might marry another wife, what are the woman's options etc.... I, unlike many many women who complain on the internet (including the Saudi one) know that in Islam, a Muslim man IS allowed to marry another wife and even if you put that he can't in a marriage contract, he can, and that contract part is void in Shariah law. Like if a woman agrees in her contract that she won't go to a Mosque, but later she wants to... Certain rights can't be made legally null despite being a marriage contract. However, protections and incentives can be built in, like alimony to be paid (and right to divorce without return of maher) if a man marries again BEFORE he delivers any maher payment to a future bride, and custody rights.

However, in Oman, much of a woman's marriage is done without her. And can be done, without her knowledge if she is a virgin. Which, to me, is wrong on so many levels... Same with divorce. I don't know any women personally this happened to, however, but it happens it seems, according to other Omani women.

Women's visas are harder to get then men's. That is, assuming, people were abusing the system and bringing women to, like, work in a salon, or as a waitress, then they ended up working as dancers/prostitutes/massage artists, or something, but it really doesn't solve this problem the way, say, good detective/police work does, and set conditions for deportation, with due punishment for sponsors that abuse the category of visa they applied for. But whatever, I don't work for the Ministry of Manpower, so what can I say? From the my experience, the police in charge of enforcing Sponsor-and Workier Abuse of Visa Category are pretty corrupt They will take bribes (like sexual favours) to not arrest the prostitutes, so really, who are we fooling that this new law, did anything towards reducing this number? Do men, who get caught with prostitutes---get deported? Or at least, arrested and forced to undergo medical testing for dicesases? I rather doubt that... And punishing the poor Moroccan girl who was forced to become a dancer/prostitute by an evil sponsor whom she paid a large ammount of money to, to come to Oman in the first place as a waitress who needs to support, like, her blind widowed mother and ten brothers and sisters back in Marrakesh or Casablanca, with jail, fines, and deporatation.... seems wrong somehow. Many of these sponsors are supported by wasta people (I know because my husband tried to fight one of them and the best he could do in the end was buy the poor girl's freedom and return her to her family). Accountability isn't just for the lower castes of society, now it is?

I also, as a woman, am offended, when an old Omani woman has waited years now, for her free government land, and a girl walks in full makeup, and fancy abaya, to the housing Minsitry, and walks out with HER free government land the same day. That's sickening, and so obvious.

For the women out there living in Oman, are there other areas of life in Oman, that I neglected to mention, that make you feel diminished or suppressed as a person in this society?

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Ramadan Mubarak, Early; Eid Mubarak, Early

Last minute packing for me includes copying everything on flash drives, selecting windows and paint and kitchen cabinetry, and copying keys for the office. I am scheduling time to say goodbye to my children, to have time with them before I end up in Heaththrow, buying perfumes and watches for relatives.

It feels unworldly. I feel, I am not myself.

Everyone keeps asking me about how I am going to manage fasting Ramadan.

I know....It is going to be long this year.

Longer in the land far and away, than in Muscat. Fajr is at an ungodly hour, and Magraib is after eleven p.m. most nights.  Don't even get me started about taraweeah prayer because I am most likely not gonna do that at all this year, maybe one night, maybe two and that's it. Besides, the Prophet S.A.W never prayed taraweeah en masse, so I guess I am ok with not doing it.

Ibadhi and Sunni friends argue the etiquette for fasting for people far and away, where sunlight never ends, or darkness, for months. Go with Mecca, I am urged. Go with Muscat, whisper others.

At first, I told myself, I will pray traveler's prayers, and not fast.

But then, something happened to remind me about people who are poor who can't choose, well, I'm not gonna eat today...

I am going back to the land far and away because there is an illness in my family. Someone I am very close to, is very sick, and, unless there's a miracle, like Allah wills this person to heal, well, they will slowly starve to death, unable to eat... So fasting one month, even a very long time, while being with this person in this state, should remind me... Not everyone has the luxury of choosing to fast.

I remember, on this Islamic TV programme, people were phoning in, to ask the stupidest, most repetitive questions to the Islamic scholar on the program. Like, the same questions people always ask, that are in every book you ever read about Ramadan. Very annoying. Its why I don't watch programs like this, it annoys me. However, I didn't have sole custody of the remote control.

But one caller was different. I don't know where they were from anymore---some village in Africa--- but the person was calling on behalf of the entire village. He was like, is our fast still valid if we don't break our fast?

The scholar was like, you have to break your fast...

And then the man explained... We are intending to fast for the sake of Allah, and we would break our fast at Magraib, but we have no food usually at this time, to break our fast. Will Allah still count our fasting?

Everyone, and I mean everyone, was like, whoa....

The Scholar had tears in his eyes, when he told the man---and those people---Yes, your fast counts if you make the intention to fast, even you might not be able to break your fast.

It made me cry too, but not enough I guess, because in my heart, I still dislike fasting. I still don't get it, or maybe I forget, even though I have been hungry before, I've never been hungry for a month, not for months, not for years, not to death...

Seeing people die of hunger or not enough water is awful. I've seen it before, but was distant from it. I mean, I separated myself from it, put it in a box, buried it, don't think on it. I can be beside someone, when it happens, but it doesn't touch my heart or stay with me. I don't let it. Maybe this experience, too, I'll box it away, and try to forget it? I don't know.

But I can't be distant from it now at the moment, and being close to death from starvation, during Ramadan, I don't know if I should take it as a blessed lesson from Allah, or a punishment for me being so crap at caring about others' almost all the rest of the time during my life.

While I am happy it is Ramadan, I forget so many blessings. Health. Having more than enough. Being safe. Hell, being happy, even that, is so beyond some. I may not sound happy writing this, but sorrow makes happiness ever so more poignant. Like a cool glass of water after a day in the hot sun of Oman, fasting, or bread in the stomach after eighteen hours without food.

Happy early Ramadan to you all, and have a safe Eid Al Fitr, inshaAllah, my beloved Oman.