a week in Oman

Today marks the first whole week we’ve been in Muscat, Oman. The flights from Amsterdam – Abu Dhabi – Muscat were easy peasy though Rob’s beard caused some issues and required extra security checks (sigh).

Within 24 hours of arrival in the country, our shipment arrived and a crew of hot and sweaty men emptied the container, delivered everything to our 3rd floor apartment, and unpacked hundreds of boxes (did we really have that much stuff?!) Within a week, we had everything put away in it’s new home (where did I put the coffee again?!?!) and are just trying to figure out where to place all of our artwork.

This week has been a whirlwind of businessy stuff. Rob completed medical checks, received his resident card, and participated in a boat load of orientation work. The kids and I continued to get things settled and made friends with the neighbor kids (who just moved here from China). At night, we explored the city’s vast malls as we stocked our fridge and pantry with necessities.

Each adventure out of the house has been an exercise in patience. Our waze GPS has been helpful but when she urges us to turn right, we’re not sure which right she’s referring to as intersections include a menagerie of right turns, most of which lead you on to some expressway or on to the wrong side of a concrete divide. We’ve definitely spent more time going in the wrong direction than in the right one!

New staff orientation visits have included drinks (read: beer!) at the American Club, a traditionally lavish meal at Kargeen, and our Australian buddy, Peter, inviting us to visit the fish souk early Saturday morning.

The fish souk near the port in Mutrah (about 15 minutes from our house) is a real working market. Though smaller than I had imagined, it gave me a real insight in to the size of Muscat (small) and the Omani people (friendly!). The vast amount of fish (tuna, squid, shrimp, shark, lobster, mackerels, and sardines) was impressive, but the genuineness of the place was unmatched. We tromped through salt water strewn floors and negotiated our purchase with Omani men perched on small benches (the occasional cat eating a small fish at their feet). For 1+ kg of tuna and 1 kg of shrimp, we walked out having spent just under $20 with the idea of dinner quickly taking form in our mind.

Just a few kilometers down the road, we were enjoying fabulous views of beaches, forts, and mountains all while trying to add as many locations to our GPS as places we have to get back to!

Can’t wait to see what fun week #2 brings!

moving

I started “blogging” by sending emails to friends and family about our adventures in Kenya all the way back in 2001. Since then, I moved to a blogging platform which I used to write a public journal about our life and the exotic places we live. As we view our lifestyle as normal, to may of you… it is anything but!

That said, I’ve been losing my faith in blogging. Why put in the effort? Does anyone care what I have to say? And who am I doing this for anyway?

And then I realized… the act of blogging is cathartic! Taking the time to reflect on our adventures releases shots of joy that make the experience worth it.

So I continue (though moving from Blogger to WordPress) to journal this blog as part memory, part lesson, and private diary.

Welcome to our new-ish “home.”

the good, the bad, and the soaking wet

As I sit here on the last days of my October holiday, I have time (mixed with the desire to procrastinate on report card writing) to sit back and take stock of the amazing adventures we’ve had in the last few months. I do this while my senses are at their peak: my tongue is teased by the delicious mixture of grapes from the Southern Cape while I drink one of South Africa’s brilliant wines; my nose and eyes are burning with the smoke of our braai (the SA word for BBQ) as Rob prepares the charcoal for our regular weekend cook-out; and my ears are reaching for the distant sound of thunder as the summer storms (with their amazing light shows) are only about an hour from descending and deluging our humble abode.

 

We are lucky! We may be overwhelmed by the new move and the chaos of it all, but we know we are lucky.

Here is some of the chaos we are finding particularly challenging:

  • our HUGE school, which is going through an array of development transitions, is so big we don’t know who to talk to about what. That, and the changes it’s going through, makes the answer to nearly every question, “Well, it used to be…”
  • new colleagues, new rules, new curriculum, new students, new parents, and a TON of new names!
  • buying a new-to-us car
  • commuting 20-30 minutes to work (when, for the last 5 years, we’ve usually just been a short walk away!)
  • waiting [sometimes not so patiently] over 8 weeks to get internet, satellite, and working phone service
  • organizing essential tasks (like making dinner, doing homework, and organizing lunches) around our crazy schedules that has the four of us leaving the house by 6:00 am and getting home around 5:30 pm–we have had it really effortless for quite some time!
  • sharing the road with ridiculous taxis (which you may remember as matatus from the Kenya days) who abide by no road rules and stop in front of you without warning
  • trying to find a semblance of patience when the robots (or traffic lights) are out and the already terrible traffic jam becomes a near stand-still 4-way stop
  • the awareness that this is NOT Kenya and so our idea of, “The settling in process will be easier…” had to be laid aside
  • making new friends (a comment from the kids)
  • and the list can go on and on and on…
But all that noted, we are also quite amazed by the great things that bring us joy:
  • our school is physically lovely. Additionally, they have a brilliant vision and mission to give back to the country of South Africa, specifically to our local community of Diepsloot . They do this in a variety of ways, but I am most proud to work at a school that offers scholarships to 5-7 local township kids in 7th grade and pays their tuition (as well as room and board) through to their high school graduation!
  • how quickly our dog gained back weight and confidence once arriving here in our new home (though if her crazy wacky ways return, we have also made friends with a dog trainer!)
  • making new friends
  • having a pool at our house
  • the kids have their own rooms (though the current décor has left a lot to be desired)
  • the lightening storms are brilliant
  • variety! After spending 3 years in Indonesia we are amazed at the variety you can find here. Everything you can imagine is available (at a price). From breads, wines, and cheeses to game meats, pool equipment, and animal skins–most things can be purchased just minutes from our house (and even from the convenience of our own car!)
  • and the list can go on and on and on…
All those great things, though, cannot undo the number of unforeseen (and noteworthy) challenges we’ve faced. Getting internet, satellite, and a car proved far more complicated than we had anticipated. The satellite saga was so funny, I shared it with my students as way of modelling how to write a story in which the problem gets worse before it gets better. And internet. Ugh! Though we have it now, we’re still waiting for a refund from a company who said they could offer the service but couldn’t once they came to the house. But now that we have internet at home it has lessened some of the work strain and helped us reconnect with all of you loved ones!
But nothing was quite as challenging as the Friday we came home from school to a nanny who left early, the furniture company delivering our new bookshelves, a son with a high-fever, and a busted stop-valve in our master bathroom. Having never dealt with this in any of the homes we’ve lived in before, I must say, Rob and I did surprisingly well. After figuring out how to turn off our water main, we then we used the ever-popular “stomp-and-collect” method of soaking up water (think about Lucy and Ethell when they are stomping grapes and it should give you a visual of our cleaning method) and then twisting out towels in the bathtub. It was quite a feat (especially trying to get water out of the carpet), but also something we laughed about instantly (with a glass of wine in our hands!).
Over our holiday break we also made a pledge to do (virtually) no work. In lieu of work we lazed about, read books, made Halloween costumes and went on a short trip to Pilanesberg National Park. One of only 3 alkaline volcanoes in the world, Pilanesberg was formed over 2,000 million years ago when a huge volcano (even taller than Mt. Kilimanjaro) began erupting. The amazing geological aftermath is pretty staggering for those interested in geology. For those of us more interested in animals, visiting Pilanesberg is fascinating because its concentric rings and hills have created a number of different vegetation which, in turn, provides safe haven for a variety of animals. On our first-ever self-drive safari we were able to see giraffe, kudu, duiker, impala, springbok and klipspringer antelopes, zebra, wildebeest, warthog, baboon, a herd of elephants with two babies, two cheetah with a kill, and the elusive jackal. To top it all off, we camped–like real camping! After 13 years of marriage, we have never really camped. Yeah, we’ve done the tented camp thing on safari in Kenya, but with heated water bottles at the foot of the bed and running water that’s more like the the Shangri-La of camping. In Pilanesberg, it was real camping–tents, sleeping bags, annoying toads that belched all night, and RAIN! We (as well as our sanity, our marriage, and our children’s lives) survived. And we’re already planning the next camping adventure.
 Now, with just hours before bed and the start of another crazy week at AISJ, I will sign-off. I promise my next blog will be sooner and it should include some nice reminiscing details about adventures of our time with grandma and grandpa!

alive and well in Africa

Sorry about this delayed blog post. The internet “dongle” we are using at home doesn’t seem to like our house and it can’t regularly find a wireless connection to tap in to. Additionally, I think our house is in a vortex of communication suckage in that we can’t seem to get a great connection on our mobile phones either. No worries– that will all come in time. In any case, I’m at school now. I’m connected. And here’s the update:

The landscape of Johannesburg is dramatically different from that in Nairobi. Remember how we all envisioned Nairobi to be arid and dry upon arrival? Well, winter in Joburg is just that. Apparently, the combination of weather, altitude, and air pressure stagnate all the vegetation during the winter so everything stops growing until Spring (which begins in late September/early October).

The roads are such a contrast to those in Nairobi–these are flat, beautiful, and HUGE! We have moved to a massive metropolis. The city is bustling, the roads are robust, and the music is bumping. The one oddity we’ve seen thus far is that the shopping (including most grocery stores) close by 6 pm when a mass exodus begins and the taxis (which we remember from Kenya as matatus) all escort the local workforce back to their communities.

The house we are in is amazing! It’s a new build in the area of Fourways. Our house is just minutes away from grocery shopping, restaurants, good shopping spots, and a MASSIVE casino! We are in a lovely community a stone’s throw from old friends and new. The kids have met others they will go to school with next year and those that will be their neighborhood friends. We feel like we live at the UN with the number of accents and nationalities we live and work with—it’s wonderful to be part of such a diverse community.

As you may be able to see in the pictures, the house has a nice size living room and dining space with a gorgeous fireplace that’s getting a bit of a work out. Off the living room are three bedrooms and 2 baths. They do not compare (in size) with the bedrooms in Indonesia but the finishing is lovely and the house needs very little preparation for our shipment’s arrival. Just off the living room are two doors that open up on to a spacious garden. The covered area behind our fire place houses a built-in braai (the South African word for BBQ) which we tested out tonight. We are on the hunt for some outdoor furniture as we can envision many a dinner outside next to our pool. Yes, you heard that—we lucked out and got a house with a pool! Though some may consider it a fish pond, we believe that it will cool our weary minds after a long hot day at school!


The back garden is beautifully landscaped and the side garden has a lemon tree in hibernation. We are on the prowl for an outdoor dog house for our little Mele who will arrive here on the first day of school (if, of course, the pet movers don’t screw up the paper work… again!) It appears as if we won’t have regular house help so Mele is going to have to learn how to be an outside dog!

Walking in the front door and up the stairs is a family room space which is soon to house our couch, TV, piano, etc. The room has lovely windows that overlook the back garden and an indoor balcony that looks down on the living space below. But the pièce de résistance is the huge balcony built on top of our 2-car garage. The balcony overlooks the city of Johannesburg with little obstruction! Without a doubt, this space will come in handy whether it’s for enjoying the view and a glass of Merlot during a sundowner or doing some yoga early in the a.m.

Anyway, it’s time to get back to work.

Next update will be about our school which is…AMAZING!