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!

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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
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For Many Moons

My grandmother (American, not Omani) has always told me that whenever I’m far away or feeling lonely I should look at the moon and know that no matter where we are in the world we will both be looking at the same moon.

This advice was helpful to a six year old returning home from a visit to Grandma’s house, a ten year old at summer camp, a thirteen year old taking her first solo flight not under “unaccompanied minor” status and a fifteen year old going to Europe by herself for the summer but I think that it is the eighteen year old living in the Middle East who has appreciated it the most.

Eight months can sometimes feel like a very long time and something that has helped me keep my bearings while I’m here has been tracking the cycles of the moon. We left on a full moon, so every full moon I know we have been here another month. I took this as a sign of great things to come because although the moon in general has always been special to me, a full moon is somehow even more magical in it’s aura of completeness and invincibility.

Each month I watched the moon wane until it was a barely visible glimmer in the sky and then slowly grow round and full again, a process that was comforting in its enduring reliability and structure. No matter what happened or how I was feeling the moon would always be there to greet me at the end of the day, like the perfectly reliable friend that nobody actually has.

Maybe it’s just my own bias but I am thoroughly convinced that the moon is more beautiful here. It could be because of the lack of skyscrapers and tall trees meaning that there is little to obstruct the view but it still seems to shine brighter and more proudly than in any place I’ve ever been. Since I’ve been using it to track my time I’ve also become much more aware of it than I usually am. Something about how when you’re far away you realize all the little things at home that you used to take for granted – except that this one came with me and not only does it connect me to home, it also connects me to Oman.

In a way it connects me even more to Oman because of the way it is so visual and natural. It’s true that you can see the same moon anywhere but at the same time when I look at the moon here it is possible to feel as if it is shining only for me, and only in this particular time and place. And although it may be the same and look the same everywhere else in the world it is also uniquely mine to experience.

I have watched, sometimes in quiet apprehension, in excitement, in suspense or in dread as the moon has dutifully completed its cycle, each month bringing me closer to my trip home. Now it is a full moon, and my very last one in Oman. And so I feel as if things have come full circle – eight moons have come and gone, carrying my various experiences with them and now it is time for me to leave and view the moon from a new place. It might not have the same vibrancy as it does here but then again maybe now that I’ve learned to pay attention and see it more closely that vibrancy will accompany me home.

My very last full moon in Oman! Taken from the bus on my way home

My very last full moon in Oman! Taken from the bus on my way home

One thing I know for sure is that when I look at the moon in the future I will not only think of my grandmother but also of those many evenings on the bus home watching it rise up from through the back window and feeling that even if everything was wrong, at least the moon would always be right.