Teacher in Muscat, Oman
Sarah Evans is a teacher in Muscat, Oman. Here is her experience.
In some ways it feels like a lifetime ago and in others it feels like only yesterday when I first stepped off the plane at Seeb Airport, Muscat all nervous and excited about starting my new life in Oman.
I remember the panicking about the little things – customs checks, losing my baggage altogether, flight delays etc. In hindsight I think those worries were merely diversions for my overactive imagination in order that I didn’t completely freak out at the idea that I had LEFT BEHIND MY ENTIRE LIFE AND WAS MOVING TO THE MIDDLE EAST!!
Anyway, I arrived at 11:30pm local time to be greeted by one of the staff of my new school and myself and the other new arrival were as quickly as possible whisked off to our new homes.
I’ll NEVER forget the first step outside of the air-conditioned airport. Wow! Very much like stepping into an oven.
My first impressions of my new home were a little weepy to be honest. It seemed bare and unloved and I couldn’t get my phone to work to call my mum (who was on holiday in Austria at the time). I had to contain myself with trying not to cry down the phone to my sister instead
The first few weeks were a whirlwind of introductions to other staff members (new and old) and much bonding amongst us all. We were to all intents and purposes each others’ new family, and we needed to be there for each other. We also had our medicals (having someone hovering over you with a needle speaking entirely in Arabic is not the MOST comfortable experience I can assure you!) and generally took care of a lot of administrative business before the start of term.
Another complication was the fact that it was Ramadan when we arrived. So no alcohol to be had anywhere (not such a problem actually – it was far too hot to drink), and more devastatingly no eating or drinking in public between sun up and sun down. So, not only were we all adjusting to temperatures between 35 and 40 degrees centigrade but also we were unable to drink even any water to get us through it. I have to say right now I have the utmost respect for anyone who manages to complete Ramadan successfully.
Then school began. The whirlwind stepped up several paces from there. School begins at 7am each morning and finishes at 3pm. This means a get up time of 5:15am. Eeek!! This is something a confirmed sleepaholic and someone who is definitely not a morning person dreads more than anything else in the whole world: getting up in the middle of the night.
All in all, my first weeks in Muscat were a whirlwind of activity, confusion and happiness mostly. My initial teariness on arrival was almost immediately forgotten.
Funny things/cultural differences I have noticed/have had happen to me since moving out here:
Men and women aren’t allowed to hold hands or be affectionate in public at all. Men together however are quite allowed to rub noses in greeting, kiss each others cheeks and wander around holding hands. Seriously. The funniest example of this I have seen were two security guards in full uniform walking around the City Centre Mall hand in hand. Bless!
A taxi driver who tried to befriend me by turning up on my doorstep with a HUGE cat. Surprisingly he obviously knew immediately I was a cat person and also surprisingly it didn’t work!!
My first visit to the hairdressers was a curious pantomime of miming what I wanted to the hairdresser (who spoke no English and my Arabic is not progressing as I would like). It also was a surprise to see two women having immaculate hairdos done only to cover their heads again before leaving. The best coiffed and kept secrets in the world possibly!!
I feel like more of a veteran now and I have settled in well, making friends, falling in love and working so hard I thought I might keel over. I am very glad I made the leap into the unknown and I feel lucky to be having these kind of experiences.
To anyone else who may be thinking of doing this kind of things I would say – go for it!! You never know what you might find out there in the big wide yonder of the unknown!