Saturday, December 30, 2006

Long Catch Up Post 1 of 2

I never did go camping, but I've been on several interesting day trips. On the 29th I'd more or less recovered, but Mary, Dad and my sisters were still quite sick. So I headed to the coast with Mary's friend and her husband and their son . We went to a cove just past the Omani Dive center that seem to cater more to locals and non-European tourists.

Mary's friend studied hotel management and has been living/working in this part of the world for some time, so her Arabic is quite good and we were able to bargain for a boat. I understand most of the very basic elements of conversation here--greetings and goodbyes, as well as transactions involving numbers--but I'm not speaking with confidence. At any rate, two fellows took us out on a very basic motorboat. The older man in the dishdashi was clearly in charge, and the younger Inidan (but still Arabic-speaking) man in cut off pants and a t-shirt was his protege, and did the leg work.

They took us snorkling, and then left us on a deserted beach for a few hours before taking us home. The coral here isn't as spectacular as it is elsewhere, but the other marine life is fabulous. The coastine is very dramatic, all mountains and cliffs, with strangely shaped rock formations and islands, and small, secluded little beaches.

I saw loads of fish, including a scorpion fish, and swam through schools of flat, yellow fish with purple stripes. I also saw a decent sized turtle--not as big as they can get, but she (the younger man insisted it was a she and not a he) was quite large.

Once on the beach, I saw several herons of various sorts up close, as well as other shorebirds. The fish were jumping--every so often thirty or fourty fish would jump out of the water and skip across it on their tails--and the birds were having a great time catching them both in and out of the water. There were also loads of baby rays--not sting rays, but some other kind of ray--as well as these strange, flat silver fish that kept riding the waves, beaching themsevles in the sand, flipping around, and then going out with the next wave. Four of five sharks were swimming about 4 meters offshore, feeding on the fish and the rays. You'd see their fins pop up and then suddenly increase speed when they went in for an attack. They were fairly small sharks, just over a meter long, and not the sort that eat people. Nicole's husband waded into the water to watch them. Still, I watched them from a distance.

The beach is quite close to Yiti Beach, but separated from it by a lagoon which cannot be crossed safely in even in a 4 X 4. The government is building a road, and there are plans for development, so it's not likely to stay quiet for long. There were thousands of button shells all over the beach, and I spent an hour picking through them. I found several cowry shells, which made me nostalgic in the very best way for beach combing in PNG.

That evening I went to a party at a house out near the British Consul, again with the same friends of Mary. I talked with several expats, mostly English, a few British merchant marines, as well as other folks who work for the same tour company as Mary's friend. Want to learn Maldivian?--join the British merchant marine. Things I learned:
  1. Motorcycling is quite popular among the expats of Muscat
  2. The customs at the border between Oman and the UAE is lax--immigration and customs are miles and miles apart on the road. There are also roads between here and UAE that bipass immigration and customs completely.
  3. There are villages up in the mountains that do not use clocks (not suprising but interesting)
  4. The hours of the British School are shorter than the hours of the American International School, and they do not offer after school activities or encourage parental involvment.
  5. The American Women's Club here is considered boring by some.
  6. Several expat women here make jewlery.
  7. The people who really like it here do not like cities, in general.
  8. Most of the large houses that expats live in are paid for or owned by their client--again, not surprising.

After about 12:30, a some of the Scottish folks pulled out some insturments--guitar, bohdrum, bouzouki, and yes, bagpipes. They had a tin whistle that I tried to play, but it was bent. At 2:30 we hauled ourselves away from singing and went home. I had fun, but I don't need to go to another expat party for a while. Except for this evening, perhaps.

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