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.

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            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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!!

In The Home Stretch

A few days ago I updated my countdown widget so that instead of it saying when I would leave the US it is now counting down to the day when I leave Oman. It’s currently at 16 and I honestly cannot believe it! I’m of course thrilled to be going back to the US and seeing my family and friends (and just as important is Chipotle and Georgetown Cupcake) but I also can’t imagine waking up and not being in my room here or going to Arabic class at AMIDEAST. One of my biggest worries before coming here was that mid-way through I would get homesick and wonder what in the world I was doing half-way across the world. I have definitely had those moments but I’ve been more surprised at how fast everything has gone by – it seems like just a few days ago that I was celebrating my first Eid or going to Christmas Mass and now I have to start thinking about how I’m going to fit all the dates and Chips Oman in my suitcase along with my abaya and Omani dresses.

I’ve been inspired by my friend Liz who has decided to post one blog post a day until we leave so I will attempt to do that as well. I have a whole list of things that I’ve been meaning to write about so maybe I can use this opportunity to catch up on some topics. I know this is an ambitious claim considering my recent posting patterns but I’ll try!

To start off let me fill you in with a little bit more about what I did over break when my American family was here. We went to a lot of the common tourist sites in Oman such as Wahaiba sands, the Grand Mosque, Muttrah  souq, Jebel Shams and Nizwa fort which were all a lot of fun and even though I had already been to all those places it was fun to see them again after having been in Oman for longer. I definitely saw a lot of places differently, especially as I could understand a lot more of what the people around me were saying!

The trip wasn’t the usual tourist trip for my family because they also spent a lot of time with my host family and we did a lot of “untouristy” things like have lunch at my house and there was even a big family wedding that my mom and sister got to go to! It was great for them to get to see what weddings here are really like and my extended family was also very excited to meet them.

One of my aunts remarked to me that they had the same facial expressions I had when I went to my first Omani wedding. After she mentioned it I realized it was really true – they had the same looks of being in awe, overwhelmed and trying not to miss a single detail that I had when I first got here. Seeing them really made me realize how much I’ve grown to be at home here and how natural many of these situations feel to me now. Although no matter how comfortable I feel or how hard I try I will always stand out and be at least somewhat awkward. But I think that just comes with the exchange student territory.

 

 

 

Yes, We Are All Wearing The Same Dress…

This weekend I was lucky enough to experience what it’s like to sit on a bus for three hours while thirty of your closest female relatives sing non-stop in Swahili while dressed in their sparkly-est wedding attire. And of course banging on drums the whole time

I know, you’re so jealous.  Well to give some background information, we were going to a family wedding in the interior of Oman, in the Dachliya region (which translates to “of the inside”) in a village called Adahm. Since it was so far away we all went together on the tour bus of an aunt’s husband. Aside from the Swahili and the fact that most people were over 30 it had roughly the same atmosphere as a party bus on its way to prom.  The other main difference was that after about two and a half hours of driving we pulled off the road in front of a seemingly random house and then all filed inside as our spontaneous hosts set about distributing prayer rugs to all of the women so that they could complete their evening prayers.

I personally thought the wedding was interesting because it was much less fancier than the “city” weddings I’ve been to in Muscat and I was really able to see the difference between the people that live in the capital and those that live in the villages or in other parts of Oman –particularly the difference in clothing since almost all the village women were dressed in plain black abayas whereas my relatives were fully decked out in traditional, jeweled Omani dresses.

The vast majority of my experience with Omanis has been with people that live and work in Muscat and it took me awhile to realize that not all people live like the people in the city do. And that the whole country doesn’t subsist on KFC outlets, traffic and giant shopping malls next to giant mosques. My host family, extended family included, is very exposed to the outside world and I guess you could say cosmopolitan. They follow fashion trends, watch Hollywood and Bollywood movies and talk about traveling the world. They also talk about “the village” as this other world, one that is much more conservative, closed off and in their eyes, boring.

And I understand where they’re coming from – the village is interesting to me mostly because I don’t spend time there or have any previous exposure to it and I can imagine that it can get old fairly quickly. . But as an outsider it was fascinating to see the striking differences between the “villagers” and the “city-dwellers” if only for a few hours at the wedding.

But getting back to the title of this blog post – the next day, Saturday, we went to a luncheon at my aunt’s house (in Muscat) in honor of the same wedding and for some reason that I still don’t really understand almost every person there was wearing the same dress. Personally it felt like a bit of a mean trick because right when I start being able to get all of my numerous relatives straight they go ahead and all wear the exact same outfit! How am I possibly supposed to tell extended family apart if I could barely even find my own host mom out of the see of pink and yellow prints?!

Some of the food from lunch!

Some of the food from lunch!

I came to terms with it though when a cousin offered me an extra dress to put on. Not only was it exponentially more comfortable than what I had been wearing before (absolutely nothing can beat loose-fitting cotton housedresses) but also it was kind of fun to be matching with approximately sixty other women. And when I walked out of the bathroom from changing I walked straight into a photo-shoot of some of my other cousins, which delayed me from getting to the food for a good ten minutes.

Some cousins and I modeling our group outfit :) I'm on the right.

Some cousins and I modeling our group outfit 🙂 I’m on the right.

Me and my host sister, Zuwaina

Me and my host sister, Zuwaina

It was also cute to see how although everyone was wearing the same dress, each person had accessorized it or tied their hijab in their own way to show off their personal style. And I’m extremely excited to now have my very own housedress. Hopefully the people in my dorm next year won’t have a problem with it!

My Grandmother and I Have The Same Social Life

No but actually, it’s true. This past weekend I went to parties with my sisters on both Thursday and Friday night (the equivalent to Friday and Saturday in the US since our weekend starts a day earlier). When my sisters told me about the party Thursday they had done so in hushed voices and described it as very scandalous – it was in a hotel, there were going to be boys and the girls were all going to wear pants!

Having never been to a mixed-gender party here I was excited come Thursday night to see what it was like and had told all my friends about my crazy weekend plans.  We all got ready to go (makeup, heels and all) and then waited for our aunt to pick us up. Seeing as I was under the impression that this party was a little bit against the rules I was very shocked when the passenger seat window rolled down and I saw my grandmother sitting in the front seat.

Now don’t get me wrong, grandmothers are great, and I’m lucky to now have three – two biological and one adopted – plus one fabulous great grandmother, but they aren’t generally the people that come to mind when you’re heading to a not-totally-allowed birthday party for a 25 year old. And it turns out that we weren’t the only ones who had grandmothers in tow, there was a whole table of them front and center at the party.

Friday night was a surprise party for my first cousin who turned 19 and I was less surprised to see Bibi (a common word for grandmother) because it was much more of a family affair. Still it was a bit of a shock to realize midway through the party that my grandmother and I had the same exact weekend plans.

Bibi and me :) Sorry for the photo quality, it was taken by a seven year old...

Bibi and me 🙂 Sorry for the photo quality, it was taken by a seven year old…

I knew before I came here that social circles were much more centered around the family, very extended family included, especially since people generally live close to their relatives and it’s easy to get together often. However it wasn’t until that party that I realized how integral family really is to everything I do here. Family isn’t just part of the social life – it is the social life. My sisters have friends from school but they’re really just classmates, they very rarely get together outside of school and our weekends are almost always taken up with going to the houses of family members, having family over to our house or going somewhere else with family.

It is a saying in my (American) family that cousins are the glue of the family. I have realized how true that is here when on a Friday night my sisters and I will go to the beach or to a movie with a group of maybe 15 cousins, from both sides of the family, ranging in age from 6 to 26, something that, although I love all of my American cousins, I could never picture us doing.

The girls! Me and some of my cousins at a family get-together

The girls! Me and some of my cousins at a family get-together

I love being able to join such a close-knit family here and I have gotten to know my extended host family pretty well. However I can’t deny that realizing my grandmother and I were going to the same parties was a bit of a shock. It is fun though; Bibi’s a great dancer! Grandma and Bubbe, when I get back we’re definitely going to have to go out sometime!