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!!

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!

How To: Make Chapati

 

Chapati – a type of fried bread, tortilla-esque and the best food ever

Chapati, I quickly learned is a staple, and we eat it with almost every meal. Besides being just delicious it is also very useful because it can be used as a utensil to pick up those especially tricky foods. It actually isn’t an Omani food, the word chapati is Hindi but the version we eat has a Tanzanian spin because my family has roots there and we eat a lot African foods (more on that later).

The tricky part is rolling it out into a circle – the first few times I tried it were disasters and I think I ended up causing more work for my host mom. But I’ve gotten better over time and learned that it’s all about adding enough flour so the dough doesn’t stick. It really is harder than it looks though!

Step 1: In a bowl combine flour, water and ghee. Mix well

The container of ghee (clarified butter) in our kitchen

The container of ghee (clarified butter) in our kitchen

Step 2: Portion out the dough and roll it into balls

Step 3: Take one ball and roll it out into a circle. Spread a small amount of oil in the middle and then cut down the middle, leaving a small section at the top attached.

My mom rolling out dough

My mom rolling out dough

Step 4: Take the two sides of the circle and pull them apart so they are in a straight line.

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Step 5: Starting at one end roll the dough in a spiral until you get to the end. Tuck the edge into the top of the spiral. Repeat with each ball

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Step 6: Once you have the spiraled dough, roll it back out into a circle. The spiral helps layer the dough and helps it to keep its shape.

Step 7: Place the circle in a pan with a little bit of oil. Using a spatula move the dough around so it cooks evenly

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Step 8: Once it starts to brown on the bottom side, flip it over, adding a bit more oil to the pan

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Step 9: When it is nicely browned on both sides, remove and set on a tray to cool.

The finished project!

The finished project!

Step 10: Enjoy!