Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village

Hello Everyone!!

I know I said I was done with blogging, and I know it’s been awhile but I’m back! And it’s for the reason that most people ever do anything…I’m trying to raise money…🙂  But I promise it’s for a great cause and I figured that people who were interested in my blog about Oman might be interested in this too.

This summer I will be traveling to the Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village in Rwanda through my university. The Youth Village is modeled collective youth villages that were established in Israel to absorb the influx of refugees after the Holocaust. ASYV focuses on helping teenagers affected by the genocide rebuild themselves (Tikkun HaLev) and the world (Tikkun Olam) and has had truly amazing results.

If you are interested in learning more about the organization, OR making a donation through my personal fundraising page follow this link: https://fundraise.asyv.org/fundraise?fcid=441971

Thank you all so much and it’s good to be back on the blog, if only for a little while!

 

 

My Top Five – Senses Version

This is officially my last blog post in Oman. My flight is tomorrow evening but today is the last time I will have Internet while in the country. In commemoration I’ve made a list of the top five things I will miss for each sense. There are so many more things I will miss than just these and many of them I can’t even put into words. It was fun to make this list and think about all the little things that I don’t always notice but now wish that I had paid more attention to. I hope you enjoy a few of the more sensory!

SONY DSC

Sight

  • The ocean view from my classroom
  • Huge mountains rising up from nowhere and surrounded on all sides by desert
  • The Grand Mosque (or really any mosque) lit up at night
  • Street signs in English and Arabic
  • Men managing to look positively regal while wearing long white dresses

Sound

  • The idhan, or call to prayer that happens five times a day
  • The honk of the bus outside my house every morning
  • Arabic, English and Swahili intermingling in conversation on a daily basis
  • The laughter of my friends every lunchtime
  • My siblings shouting, fighting and laughing throughout the house, even when I’m trying to study

Smell

  • Bukhoor, or the traditional incense that can be found in any home and has soaked into all my clothes
  • Barbecue smoke on the beach
  • Lingering Arabic perfume in the bathroom letting you know that it has been recently occupied
  • Cardamom milk tea boiling on the stove
  •  The air freshener that goes off every thirty minutes at AMIDEAST

Taste

  • Dates and Omani coffee served in a tiny ceramic cup
  • Freshly made chapatti and other breads such as mandazi and chaliat nahal
  • The “Omani sandwich” with spreadable cheese, Chips Oman and hot sauce
  • Banana smoothies from the coffee shop that cost less than $1
  • Freshly cut green mangoes eaten with salt

Touch

  • The feeling of my abaya being blown by the breeze
  • Getting a warm, sweaty hug from the air every time I step outside
  • Finally getting home and being able to untie my hijab
  • Hand shakes with everyone in a room upon entry
  • The sticky aftermath of a tray of dates

Seeing Sea Turtles?

One of the coolest unknown facts about Oman is that it is one of the largest nesting grounds in the world for sea turtles, behind only Australia and Florida. Hundreds of thousands of loggerheads, leatherbacks and green turtles crawl onto the beaches east of Sur to lay their eggs each year and in the summer it is possible to see hundreds of turtles on the same beach! Ras al Jinz, the name of the area where the turtle reserve is located happens to be the eastern most part of Oman which also makes it the eastern most part of the entire Arabian Peninsula and technically the entire Middle East.

I visited when my American family was here in mid-April. It was quite a challenge finding the place since it really is as far out as you can go and thus in the complete middle of nowhere. In order to spot the turtles you can either go on a night tour just after sunset where you are more likely to see females laying eggs or in the morning right before sunrise where it is more common to see babies hatching and making their treacherous first journey to the ocean. The turtles are carefully protected, documented and studied so visitors to the beaches are limited and require a guide, or more accurately a chaperone since when we went he didn’t really tell us any information or speak much at all and I think he was just there to make sure no one tried to take a turtle home.

My family and I went on the pre-dawn session, which required us waking up at 4 am in order to drive from our hotel and arrive in time for the 5 am departure.  Our group consisted of about 20 people including an adorable French family that we continued to run into throughout the day. The reserve center runs tours every day of the year but the optimal time to see turtles is in the summer, on a night with no moon. We went on a night with a full moon and in the spring so not the best season but it was still a lot of fun.

We didn’t see any grown turtles but we did see a handful of babies hatching and then running towards the ocean. It was so cool to see them pop up from under the sand and waddle around confusedly for a while before figuring out which direction the water was.

We watched the turtles running on the beach as the sun rose on the East and the moon set on the West. And I could almost see India on the other side of the ocean!

In Oman Video

My friend Liz sent me this video today and although I had a different blog post planned I loved this video so much that I decided to rearrange. I don’t really know a ton about the guy who made this but he does an excellent job showcasing the beauty, and diversity, of Oman’s geography. It’s not every day that I find viral videos about the Persian gulf and this one is a great summary of a lot of what I love about Oman. I also like how he’s mixed the traditional sights and sounds with more modern adventure shots. I’ve been to almost every place featured in the video which was an exciting thing to realize! I hope you all enjoy it🙂

Video

When One Door Opens…

Well, I think it’s time I tell you all about my doors. I feel comfortable calling them my doors because I’m pretty sure nobody else cares very much about them. For my capstone project I have been documenting and analyzing the various types of doors in Oman and have amassed a collection of over 200 photographs!

It’s been a lot of fun and although the fact that there is almost no prior research on the topic was challenging at first it also meant that I got to create a lot (i.e. all) of the classifications myself.

The doors in Oman are incredibly unique and do a great job of demonstrating Oman’s progression as it has transformed from a traditional Arabian oasis to a modern, 21st century country. I’ve been drawn to the doors since I first got here, I think because they are just so different from anything I’ve seen in the U.S. Also I think its so interesting how doors – the epitome of the mundane and everyday – have been elevated to the status of art here. I’m not sure if this has been done purposefully or just out of a desire for a little extra style but there can be no arguing that they are something very special, even if most people don’t really notice.

In my project I have put the doors into three categories: Traditional Wooden Doors, Metal Doors and Modern Doors.

Here is a selection of photographs from each category:

Traditional Wooden Doors

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Metal Doors

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Modern Doors

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I loved taking the pictures and having the opportunity to study the doors more in depth but even more than that is the excitement in knowing I’ve helped other people become a bit more aware of the specialness in something so ordinary. And I always appreciate when people here come up to me to let me know about an especially interesting door they saw over the weekend, or even better Whatsapp me a picture of it!

I’ve abbreviated this project a bit for the blog post so if you have any other questions, let me know!

Tariq Stories

My host brother Tariq is three years old and he’s been mentioned on here a few times before but I thought I would take this opportunity to highlight some of his more amusing and unusual antics. For some background, as the youngest of five kids and as the only boy he is literally the king of the house and gets what he wants, when he wants it. He is also one of the cutest kids I’ve ever met, even though he is somehow perpetually sticky and dusty.

                                                                                                   ~~~~~~

            He often likes to talk about going to school with me or one of my sisters but because I’m the last one to leave in the morning he has occasionally realized that I am his last chance and so tried extra hard to get on the bus with me. I’m usually able to distract him long enough for us to pull away but one morning he did manage to jump on the bus, in his pajamas, with no shoes, and demanded to be taken to school. It took Muhammad and me a few minutes to convince him to get down and go back inside to watch Tom & Jerry on TV.

~~~~~~~

One morning during my first week in Oman, when I spoke about five words of Arabic, Tariq and I were hanging out in the kitchen. Everyone had already left so it was just us and in an effort to help me out Tariq started taking all of the drinks out of the fridge and lining them up on the table. He then tried to teach me the names for every one, from juice to milk to Mountain Dew (that one is just Dew in an Arabic accent). I guess one of the unique parts of a host family is having the chance to learn Arabic from a three year old.

~~~~~~~~

Tariq’s absolute favorite place in the whole world is the dukan or corner store that contains any and all chocolate and is understandably a three year olds paradise. Our corner store however isn’t actually right on the corner and is about a five minute walk away. One day when I was out with my sisters and dad we got a call from the storeowner. Guess who had just sauntered in, pajamas, dusty feet and all? Yup, Tariq. And of course he was given a free candy bar and sent home with one of the neighbors.

~~~~~~~

This kid is ridiculously messy and looking at his clothes is like looking at a menu of what he’s eaten that day (hint, its usually candy) but one of my favorite ways for him to make a mess is by drinking soda. But he doesn’t just drink the soda out of a cup. No, he prefers to take a spoon (the one time we use them!) and carefully ladle it into his mouth. Most of it ends up on his shirt but watching him try is adorable. I think I only find it funny because I don’t have to clean it up but regardless its hilarious, and very sticky.

~~~~~~~

As two people who are still learning Arabic, Tariq and I have some hilarious conversations. I was once trying to do my homework when he came up to me insisting that he had to tell me something. After I finally relented and paid attention to him he informed me that he knew what my sister Zakiya and I were up to. He pointed to the window and said that he knew we went out with harami (criminals or bad people, coming from the Arabic word haram or forbidden, particularly in Islam) at night and that we should really behave better. For some reason the fact that he then told me that all harami live in the moon didn’t make me take him any more seriously.

 

I could go on forever with stories about Tariq but I’ll restrain myself for now. Instead here are some other completely adorable photos of him doing what he does best – being the cutest, messiest three year old I know. I can only hope that he will remember me when I come back to visit in the future!!

It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane!

It's a Bird, It's a Plane!

This is also a pretty old photo from the Muscat Festival in January. I went with my family to see a flight show by a team of planes from the UAE. It was really cool to see, I had never seen anything like it before and the pilots were amazing! They were all perfectly in sync, although it was stressful because you knew that if they made even the slightest mistake then things could go very wrong. The colored smoke was supposed to be for the UAE flag but except for the black they also happen to be the same as the Omani flag!

Image

Previous Older Entries