Sunday, December 31, 2006

Happy New Year


I'm headed to the bash at the Shangri-La this evening--the neighbours have an extra ticket, so off I go. I'll still miss Mark and you all in DC : ( but at least I can miss you all in a lavish environment! I'll be ringing in the new year ahead of you, at 3pm this afternoon EST. Time to get dressed.

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.

Yiti Beach

Friday, December 29, 2006

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

There's a US Navy boat in port. A destroyer or something.

Woke up from my drug-induced sleep to the very early Adhan (أَذَان). I don't hear it during the day because of the traffic from the highway, but at around 4:30 am it was clear through the open windows. The sunsets over the fig trees are lovely, even though the highway is ugly.

The camping trip was postponed a night, but that's just as well, since I'm still not 100%. Another night of sleep like last night and I'll be well enough to go. I would have gone this evening, but it probably would have been a bad idea.

I don't know what my body is reacting to. If it were my normal allergies, Id be havine asthmatic symptoms, but I'm not, at least not more than usual. My aunt is allergic to nearly everything. This worries me.

Muscat is busy preparing for Eid. Mary and I went grocery shopping at by far the largest supermarket I have ever been in, and it was filled with Muslim couples loading up on food and gifts. I also bought some mangosteens (I've blogged about mangosteens before) and some spices--a mix of something, and dried hibiscus flowers. I love how spices are sold in bulk, and touching, smelling, and tasting is encouraged.

The traffic here isn't as bad as it is in SoCal, but it will be in 10 years, if not before. Muscat hasn't exactly embraced public transporation. There is even less of it here than in north county--I am suprised by this.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

9:30=time for bed

It looked like it was going to rain today--dark clouds over the mountains and haze right here at the coast--but it didn't. I'm glad. Muscat floods easily.

I'm feeling better, although my face still looks like I've been attacked by red ants (ok, probably not that bad, but that's how I feel like it looks). Both Dad and Mary are quite sick.

We all slept in this morning, and I went up to the roof to birdwatch. I did see several different kinds, but will have to write up my notes tomorrow.

Muhammad the plumber was here off and on for most of the day. I've now seen him a few times, and so he greated me this morning in the kitchen while I was having coffee and eating Weetabix.

"Good morning, Madam," he said.

"Good morning, Mr. Muhammad." In Arabic, the titles are used with first names.

"Insha'Allah (إن شاء الله) I will fix the water completely today" he said.

"Maybe there's a djinn in the house," I suggested. He looked disturbed and so I waved my hands dismissively and said, "No, no. Insha'Allah (إن شاء الله) you will fix the problem."

The water worked, then it didn't, then they took the heater away completely to replace it (Michelle's idea all along). Then the water pressure went all weird and we had no water because the house next door has about 10 people in it right now, four of which were showering at the same time. And now we have it again. We considered just checking into a hotel, but all the rooms are booked up--lots of people vacationing here from the UAE, etc, and also Europe.

At around 3 my sisters and I went iceskating with a few of their friends from school. Apart from us (and the parents), there were two Omani young men on the ice--both in jeans and t shirts, a young Indian boy who skated at high speed, and a middle-aged man in a dishdashi. One of the parents had brought a tape of Christmas songs to play. "O Holy Night" was interrupted by the Adhan (أَذَان) being broadcast into the rink. I love the way the call to prayer sounds, but this was the first time I'd heard it in an ice-skating rink.

Sarah and I hung out together for a few hours before dinner while Michelle & Allison went to a movie with their friend. Sarah and I had hot chocolate and cookies from the huge Marks & Spencer tin sitting on top of the fridge. After that, we played with paper dolls, built a "temple" out of Jenga blocks. She showed me her sticker collection & box collection, then her ballet routine and all the things she learned in gymnastics. She is working on a pretty good hand stand, so I showed her my current version of pincha mayurasana.

If I continue to feel well tomorrow, I may go for an overnight camping trip in the desert with some of Mary's friends.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas & Christmas Update

Well, the hot water heater exploded for the third time this week, so there's no water again and the kitchen is flooded. We were having dinner at the neighbours, and Mary was actually telling the story of how it blew up the first time and she fell and hit her head, when Sarah came into the dining room and said "it happened again." Dad turned off the water, electricity and gas while Mary and I tried to get as much stuff out of the dark, steamy kitchen as possible. So, no hot water, etc. We've turned the electricity back on, but no water again.

The houses in this little enclave are ostentatious on the outside, but put together rather slapdash. Who the hell runs hot water through unlined PVC pipes?

I continue to have hives all over my face. I feeling telling everyone I meet "Actually, my face isn't usually red, blotchy and swolen." Allison remains the only non-sick person in the family, although Michelle seems more or less recovered and Sarah may also be on the mend. Dad, Mary and I are at various stages of a bug that starts with a congested head and then m oves into a sore throat and finally a congested cough. I haven't been sick in ages--so I suppose this is just my once every 3 years moment of being really sick. It's bad timing. But, Mary is a nurse, and I can get to a doctor easily and get prescription drugs for a lot less than I can back in California. So maybe it's not bad timing after all.

I plan to spend most of tomorrow reading my history of the Arab world & drinking tea with calamine lotion all over my face and neck. If I'm feeling really good I'll check out one of the parks in Muscat which is supposed to be a good place to birdwatch. The goal is for all of us to get better as quickly as possible so that we can go back to having fun, and so I can go adventuring. Dad gave me a guide to the birds of Oman, so I may simply sit on the balcony (again, drinking tea with calamine lotion all over my face and neck) and try to identify every bird that comes into the yard.

~


This is Dad and Winston on Azabia beach, Christmas Eve. Azabia beach is just down the road from where they live. Very big, flat, and empty.

All of us are sick, but we've had a good Christmas so far, and in a few hours we'll go over to the neighbours to eat. They put the turkeys (which were "slaughtered by hand with a knife as per Islamic rites") on the BBQ. I've never had turkey this way, but it should be good.

Allison says: "Even though it is Christmas in Oman, it is very hot! (Singing & dancing) I wish you a merry Christmas, I wish you a merry Christmas, I wish you a merry Christmas and a happy New Year."

Sunday, December 24, 2006

It's been a low key day. We're all getting ready for Christmas tomorrow, and recovering from the past few days of activity.

In Oman, expatriates and some non-Muslims can get a kind of passport that allows you to buy alchohol. The stores are very nondiscript buildings with no windows and secured doors. The one we went to was called "Asian and African Import Export Store." The words "Alter Ego" were written on the counter by the cash register. The fellow behind the desk recognized Dad's car (which he could see drive up because of a hidden camera) and already had a case of Tiger beer waiting for him. We also bought wine and champagne, etc for Christmas dinner.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

I arrived. The trip was long but fairly easy. I made my connection in London, but my luggage didn't--hopefully it will be on the British Airways flight this evening. Amazingly, someone spilled something with me on every leg of the trip. Water, coffee, tea, red wine, in that order.

Muscat, what I've seen of it, is spread out--it actually reminds me of southern California to a certain extent. The new housing developments are basically suburbs, a golf course is planed, etc. The coast line is lovely and goes on for miles. Starfish. Colored rocks. Boys playing soccer. It's greener than I expected--they must be doing some serious irrigation and landscaping. Dry craggy mountains just beyond the city.

The hot water heater exploded shortly before I arrived, and Mary has a concussion from slipping and falling to get away from the falling heater and the exploding, scalding hot water. I was sorry to not be able to shower, but also kind of nostalgic--I've lived in many places overseas with exploding hot water heaters, no water, or both.

I also have hives all over my face! Hives aren't unusual for me, but I haven't had them in ages, and I haven't had them on my face in ages. I met the neighbours with a layer of white anti-itch cream smeared all over my face to help prevent me from tearing off several layers of skin. It sounds even better than it feels.

There are other, more interesting things to say. But I've really only been awake for 10 hours since I arrived. Taking notes. There's a coffee shop behind the house, between the gas station and the highway. I can't really go, but I can watch the patrons sit outside from one of the windows in the house. They drink coffee and watch either soccer or bellydancing projected onto an outside wall. Tomorrow I'm headed down the coast for the day. I have not spell checked this.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Wow, what is better than airline customer service? Almost everything.

Today we took Lester to the vet to be boarded. I spent a half hour arranging is cage with familiar toys and perches so he'd be comfortable. He's in a nice, sunny room with other smaller parrots, so he'll have plenty of company.

I will get up at 4:30 tomorrow, take a train at 5:27 down to San Diego, and get on an 8:30 flight. By late Wednesday morning on the east coast I'll be in Muscat.

I called the bank to let them know I'll be traveling so they don't put a block on my check card. I told the woman, "I'm going to be in London, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates," and she said "oh, so you're going basically everywhere in Europe." Way to go, Bank of America!

Time for a run.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Hooray etc

Yay! I just finished all my grading--I one class had final projects due last night at 11:59 pm last night (that deadline was not my decision, by the way), and so I spent today grading. Yay! Mark did our laundry, so now I actually have some clean clothes to pack. Yay!

Friday, December 15, 2006

Important Questions

Will my manicure last until I get to Oman?

Will I have to stay in London overnight because I only have 1.5 hours in Heathrow which is tight for an international connection and I don't have to collect my luggage but I will have to check in again because my ticket to London is on United and I fly BA from London to Oman? I've already written a poem based on spending too much time in Heathrow. Last time it was 48 hours. I didn't have any money so I couldn't go into the city. This time I have almost no money, so maybe if I get stuck I won't have to stay at the airport.

Should I make a gratin to go with the ham?

Should I make another batch of ginger cookies.

Will I make it to yoga on Sunday, or will I be still grading?

Will I have time to go to Boots when I'm at the airport in London? Perhaps that will be the only good thing about an extra long layover.

Will I finish editing the 15 articles about snow sports before I return from Oman?

Will I finish the prose project I'm working on that can only be finished in an airport?

Thursday, December 14, 2006

1-10

1. The women on weather channel have over-plucked eyebrows.
2. Making yourself a character who talks to your other characters is fun, but not innovative.
3. Also, pink and red-toned eye shadow doesn't really look good on anyone. Pearly pink is lovely, but anything darker is terrible.
4. I can relate to my students who have read Kurt Vonnegut and want to put themselves into their stories in sophomoric, obvious ways; but I can't relate to my students with children.
5. Ever since I 5th grade, when kissing suddenly seemed more serious, I have been hyper aware of the fact that women get pregnant, and men don't, and that pregnancy is problematically more serious for women than men.
6. My right tricep is very sore. Why? Do I favor it when trying to come up out of back bends?
7. I own almost no t-shirts that aren't sloppy. Mary says that wearing t-shirts is the norm for foreigners in Oman, but I don't really have any t-shirts. I have big, burlap bag-like t-shirts that I sleep in, and tight slutty t-shirts I haven't worn since college and can't believe I ever wore, but nothing that is short-sleeved, nice and modest. Actually. I have three. Three short-sleeved shirts that will work. So I will bring them.
8. I clipped Lester's wing feathers yesterday.
9. Dear people, there are lots of things to do other than get married and have children. Dear friends who live in fairly urban or academic places who think "yeah, of course," you are unprepared for what our country is like.
10. Who among you is able to plan even the most basic of events?

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

I redeemed part of a gift certificate and got a manicure and a pedicure this morning. It was nice.

Mail:

The Arabs: A Short History, by Philip K. Hitti
A pair of Irish dancing shoes and corresponding championship length socks for Sarah

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Hazy

There are so many small presses and small small presses and micro presses and presses that used to not publish interesting work that now sometimes do publish interesting work, sort of, and this has something to do with Fence and Verse/Wave, and has something not do do with this, and it has something to do with who is teaching at MFA programs and where, and the fact that some Language poets are kind of respectable even to folks who despise Language poetry, and that some "Post" Language people have jobs and are kind of respectable and even are interested in lyric. It has something to do with the fact that in poetry land even the Language, Post Language and Post Post Language poets are talking and writing about things other than 9/11. And something to do with blogs. And something to do with style.

It could also be that I am old and over worked. For example, untangling the connections between poets and people and new presses and magazines seems as daunting a task as going to Ikea.

Also, I only listen to 90s music and Sonic Youth.

I have a t-shirt with Creeley on it. If I were really stylish. I'd have just written, "I have a t-shirt with Bob on it." I cut off the collar and wear it to the beach where I read trashy sci-fi and fantasy novels. Also, I like to wear it to the beach at sunset, where I look out over the ocean and think about my greatness and how everything on earth is interconnected.

Monday, December 11, 2006

I need to clip Lester's wing feathers. He thinks he's a big bad bird, which he is, but I don't want my big bad bird flying out the window and being carried miles by the Pacific breeze.

Send me your address if you're going to be somewhere other than where you are over the holidays. We all know that I don't ever send any mail, and certainly not correspondence...which will make it all the more surprising if I do, you know, send postcards.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

I'm not going to grade one more student essay. I'm going to go have a drink.

I said I was going to grade one more student essay, but instead I'm blogging.

Mark and I are going out to dinner with some friends this evening at the Armenian restaurant. I've never been, so I'm excited.

I worked on Urdhva Dhanurasana today, and came up to standing by using my hands at the wall to come up--another first. I'm going to try and lug my mat with me to Oman, we'll see. I haven't been able to find any studios in Muscat.

Friday, December 08, 2006

I got into Pincha Mayurasana without props today and stayed there. Yes, I was near the wall--but no block and no strap. I probably balanced for all of about five seconds before having to put my foot back on the wall, but I could imagine what it might be like to stay up there a while.

I like inversions. I'm not afraid of being upside down. A weak back and tight shoulders used to limit me in Pincha Mayurasana, and my elbows used to splay outward without a strap buckled and looped over my arms. Not today.

I'm a long way from being able to put my feet on my head, though.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

I think I may have shocked some of my various employers by telling them that I'm going to be in Oman for several weeks over the holidays. I wouldn't have mentioned it at all, except that it's a reasonable explanation for saying that I won't have access to email everyday.

According to Mary, my sisters have already decided on several activities. Sarah and Michelle have concluded that since I am "younger than Mom and Dad," I will be more energetic. However, Allison has cautioned them that I'll also need "quiet time, rest and space."

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

No more articles about snow sports.

Of weather and clothing in Oman my stepmother says:
The mornings and evenings are a little cooler right now, the afternoon is still hot...90's. I sometimes wear a cardigan in the evening, and even wear jeans through out the day. The dress code is fairly relaxed for foreigners as we don't wear the abyaa. I still wear long skirts, pants, and shirts with sleeves. You'll also get away with wearing capri pants while out and about. We only wear shorts at home, at the american club and on the beach, (where bikinis and reg bathers are also OK. )

~

I do NOT want to finish this article about snowkiting. Or the next article about ski bobbing--also known as ski biking or snow biking.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Lester woke up this morning in a good mood

That means he slept in and, when he did get up, he went right to singing. This is not how I wake up, obviously.

~

I made ginger cookies. They are possibly the best looking and tasting cookies I have ever made. I put cocoa powder in them because I use it in my gingerbread and decided it would be good in the cookies, too. Of course, I don't know what the cookies would have tasted like without the cocoa.

Mark and I have been grading. I have been writing articles about snow sports. I have also edited some things.

I think the hardest thing to get students to do is be specific. 8 out of every 10 comments I make in class and on student papers have to do with the need to be specific--whether that means supporting arguments and ideas with evidence from texts, making characters less generic by giving readers information relevant to both character and the context of the story, or asking them to consider mood, tone, & connotation in their poems.

~

Christmas shopping for my sisters (or "the Herd," as Dad calls them) was stressful, even though I did it online. My gifts to them are fairly boring in terms of initial wow value. I've ordered three books:
  • The Phantom Tollbooth, by Norton Juster (for Michelle)
  • From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, by E.L. Konigsburg (for Allison)
  • Wonderful O, by James Thurber (for Sarah
And then they're each going to get something small. Michelle is getting a pair of fold-up binoculars, Allison is getting a pink shirt that says "I love dogs" (except "love" is a heart and "dog" is a picture of a dog), & Sarah is getting a bunch of Hello Kitty stuff.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Packing Ideas / Popup Books Again

I may dig out my old salwar chemise / punjabi suit. It's light, packable, and modest.

I dreamed that I built the gigantic pop-up book I've been talking about for years. I hadn't worked out all the technical elements though. At one point, I kept trying to walk through a door in one of the pages, and the arch of the (very blue) door kept melting on me. In the dream I wasn't frustrated, just puzzled.


Saturday, December 02, 2006

Denver Post / Social Discipline / Manuscript / Hash Browns

The Denver Post news article interviewed my parents about their experiences in Iran in 1978 and 79 and about being Baha'is. I find my dad's discussion of "social discipline" odd and interesting. There's a scan of the full article on flickr.

~

I'm going to put together a book manuscript next year and send it to people who are willing and able to comment on it. I don't write book-length manuscripts--more like interrelated 30-40 page chunks. I'm having trouble putting something together because my tendency is to focus on similarities between my various projects as opposed to differences. So. I will focus on differences.

~

I'm increasingly convinced that hash browns can actually be good--that they don't have to be gluey, semi-frozen bits of stuff that only vaguely resemble potatoes. The Village Kitchen and Pie Shoppe (yes, it has the extra e, but we go anyway) makes excellent hash browns. They are super crunchy on the outside and creamy on the inside. I suppose their hash browns are like a thin, oddly shaped latke. They're good.


In San Diego and its environs, "scrambles" are common items on all breakfast and brunch menus. Not so in DC. They're like omelets, except more homey--they require little skills and no specialized pans. They are good with hash browns.

Friday, December 01, 2006

And so on


Do I like Fleetwood Mac?
Do I identify with the rock hyrax?
Is Peter Matthiessen's At Play in the Fields of the Lord one of my favorite books?
Would I like Jean le Carre if I'd ever read any of it?
How did I come to live with Lester the green parrotlet?