Thursday, July 14, 2011

Oman again

This might be a huge long fat blog post, but since everything we did in Oman is connected to everything else, I don't want to split it into two. You'll just have to deal with it.

So. We went to Oman, again, for two nights and three days. Our trip was full of ups and downs but in the end it reconciled into an enormously positive net gain.

We had a cookout at the beach near Sur.

We went to Ras al-Jinz and saw an amazing process at work - green turtles digging pits in the sand, laying their eggs, and then covering up the holes and returning to sea, all by moonlight. While we were there, a family of blonde people showed up. They stared at us (I assume because our kids are also blonde), and so help me, I stared right back at them. I was so mesmerized by their hair. Look what I've become! Next thing I know, I'll be asking to take a picture with them.

We went to Wadi Shab again and swam in some of the natural pools there.

We drove up to the (almost) top of Oman's highest mountain, Jebel Shams (not pictured, but it's part of the same range as these), and camped. Even in the hot hot hot summers of the Gulf, the top of a mountain is a cool enough place to camp.

A mountain is also a great place to play soccer.

Also, we drove. A lot. Also also, we got lost. A lot. Oman's roads are maddeningly confusing. The signage is dreadfully insufficient and what little there is is inconsistent. And for some reason, Oman is keen on throwing together fancy expressways willy nilly from one random destination to another...and then not updating the maps or signs to reflect the new, awesome route. When we were in Oman in November, we quite literally by accident found a fabulous, gleaming dual carriage freeway that led right to where we needed to go - and it was almost entirely devoid of traffic. I would guess that's because nobody knew it existed. We tried to find the same road this time around and were unsuccessful. Now please let us never again speak of the FOUR HOURS we spent driving from Bidbid to Sur on a two-lane podunk winding highway where camels and extremely slow-moving trucks lurked around every turn.

Really, getting lost in Oman was the same drill as getting lost here in the UAE, but on an exponential scale. You take a wrong turn in the city here and you spend an extra 30 minutes trying to undo your mistake. In Oman, well - you better be dang sure about every turn you take.

In the end, it may have been a wash since on our way from Sur to Jebel Shams, we stumbled onto not one, but two brand-new freeways. Nigel the GPS had to adjust the ETA downward so many times that he could hardly keep up.

Now, a little more about road signs in Oman. When you're not stressed out about divining some actual information about your route from them, some of them are inexplicably hilarious. I cannot get this one out of my mind. It was huge, and it said in giant block letters: ORIENTAL KRUSHERS. What the heck, I ask you??

There was a mystery sign that popped up every once in a while that said: 60t, and in Arabic, 60ط. We spent a good long while pondering that one and Jeremy thinks it has something to do with the weight limit on bridges. But how helpful can that be? If you're barreling along the freeway and you weigh more than 60 tons, then what?

The best sign was one we spotted when we were driving on a hilly, winding road from Sur to the turtle conservation beach. Right at the edge of one sharp curve was a dingy brown sign with a paragraph written on it in small English letters. As the driver, I only got through the words "DEAR TOURIST, AHEAD OF YOU IS A TIGER SKETCH--" before I had to start paying attention to the road again. I have to admit that I was seized by a momentary panic at seeing the words "ahead of you is a tiger" on an unfamiliar road in a foreign country. Fortunately, before long we turned another corner and saw this:

Tiger Rock

Pretty neat, but they need to reword that sign so that it doesn't give poor unsuspecting drivers a heart attack. (We tried to read the full text on our way home but there was too much writing on the sign and not enough time to read it.)

A major low point of the trip was when Magdalena threw the biggest fit of her life inside the ladies' bathroom of the Oman border crossing station. Now, I don't want to make a huge sweeping generalization or anything, but I will intimate that a mainstream form of discipline in the Middle East is that when your kids misbehave, you give them candy and sweets until they stop crying. I wasn't about to do that, and that's how I ended up in the bathroom with an audience of about five bewildered Omani ladies staring at the freak show that was me wrangling a screaming and flailing Magdalena. I am so sure they were shaking their heads in sadness at my parenting ineptitude  and wondering, "why doesn't she just give her some candy?"

(I'm not saying I'm the best parent ever or that I have never given my kids candy in a difficult moment, but this was one of those times where you just have to take a stand against the tyranny of a tantrum, you know?)

Sadly, Jeremy left not one, but TWO pairs of shoes at Wadi Shab. It was one of those situations where he put them down outside the car in the midst of changing from one to the other, and then somehow we drove away without that ever happening. We had to stop in some village near Jebel Shams for him to buy a pair of cheap, too-small flip flops to last him until we got home.

I was right in the midst of consoling Jeremy over his loss when I realized that I had left my swimsuit, board shorts, and rash guard in a gas station bathroom. I stewed over that for quite a few miles until I reasoned out that of all the possessions I had with me on that trip, if I had to lose any of them, my swimsuit and its accoutrements wasn't that bad of a choice.

At least it wasn't my shoes, right? Ha ha, just kidding, Jeremy.

Lastly, and most importantly, road trips like these tend to bring out some very strange discussions. On this trip, it was the lyrics to Paula Abdul's "Cold-hearted Snake," a cover of which I had the foresight to include on a mix CD for our journey. After our umpteenth listening, Jeremy submitted that "All the world's a candy store/and he's been trick-or-treating" didn't make sense because you don't trick-or-treat at candy stores. I submitted that it was a 1980s pop song we were talking about, so.

I can't wait to go back to Oman again! And you can bet I'll be keeping a clear eye at all the swimming holes for someone wearing my suit.


Jeremy Palmer said...

In Sur, I saw two different spellings - for what I think is the same service - at separate locations which were actually not too far from each other.

1) Laddies Toiloring

2) Ladies Tailoring

In other news, the Arabic many people speak in Oman is soooo different from the dialects I have studied. It's like starting over.

Jeremy Palmer said...

These signs are in addition to all the hair cutting salons spelled SALOON. Get a hair cut. Have a drink.

Liz Johnson said...

They actually have hair salons/bars in Guanajuato, Mexico. Dead serious. You really can have a drink while getting your hair cut!

Also, Oriental Krushers? Obviously that's advising them of a possibility of encountering Godzilla. Sort of like a "deer crossing" sign... only this time, you might be crushed by The Oriental Krusher of them all, GODZILLA!!!!!!!

That tiger sketch is quite possibly the best roadside attraction I have ever seen in my life. I almost peed my pants when I saw that.

Liz Johnson said...

Also, I can understand losing one's swimsuit, because hey, you don't wear that all of the time. How on earth do you get back in the car, barefoot, and not realize something is amiss? Jeremy, is there more to this story?

Kathy Haynie said...

I bet the blonde people or the candy ladies stole the swimsuit. And the shoes.

Susanne said...

This post was funny! Thanks for sharing about your trip. I cannot believe sweet little Majd would have a tantrum.

I'm with do you not notice you aren't wearing shoes? If I didn't know he was Mormon I'd suspect he went to one of those hair-cut saloons and had a drink. ;)

Jeremy Palmer said...

There is more to the story about my shoes. I was trying to be modest by changing from my swimsuit to civilian's in the car. I took off the water shoes and placed them on the ground. I put my street shoes next to said water shoes planning to retrieve them all after changing. That last part didn't work out as planned.


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