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Monthly Archives: November 2013

I got my car as you can see.  It is a 1995 Ford Explorer and has 143,000km on it.  It’s more that I wanted but it’s not too bad.  The ride is decent and I had less than a quarter of a tank of gas.  It cost me $16 to fill it.  Gas is cheap here, but not as cheap as Saudi Arabia, but who wants to live there?

car

School is boring.  The kids aren’t stupid, they are just lazy and ill-behaved.  Not all of them, but too many of them.  So I throw a few out and some are heading for permanent banishment.  I gave a class homework to write a paragraph about the most wonderful think in their life…25 out of 25 students handed in something which was amazing.  I caught 3 plagiarizing but the worst one was the one who plagiarized from the Christian Bible.  I couldn’t believe it.  Couldn’t he plagiarize a Muslim?  I told them they can’t cheat in English because it’s easy to see if the English is too good.  I told them they can’t cheat because everything is on Google.  Are they dumb?  I guess so, but more than that, they are extremely lazy.  Their school day is a fraction of China’s.  I like the Chinese classes better because you can joke around and after a while they get it.  Here you have to be wary of the girls.  They are warming up to me but I won’t be lying on their desks asking them to marry me (which is quite funny).

Like all schools there are some that really care about learning and some that should just go home and stay there.  I tell them that but no one quits.  My goal is to get them to quit.  I can’t explain how lazy there are.  A class is officially 2 hours.  The normal teaching time is 1 hour and 40 minutes.  About 1 hour into the class they start telling me class is over.  The only thing holding them there is that I will mark them absent and they won’t get paid for showing up.  These kids have to pass to start University.  They must be proficient in English.  I’m tired of a lot of them.

I spoke with the head of the English department and very tactfully I told him that I would be of more value to the school if I was teaching the “real” University students.  He agreed so I have high hopes for the 2nd semester.  I’m older, I have more experience, I don’t have a Phd (they love those) but still people call me Doctor Martin.  Maybe I should take that stethoscope off my neck.  The work is not stressful which is good, but it’s not fun.

I miss Shujie.  I haven’t really done anything because I’m waiting for her.  I still need my resident card and visa before she can get hers.  If things don’t happen soon, I’m temped to blow this joint.  Omani’s are lazy.  If you look up Omani in the dictionary, you’ll see their picture.  I may play the bluff card which is get the visa now or I’m splitting.  I am bonding with George (head of the English department) since he is moving to Toronto to be a Permanent Resident.  I am the Toronto expert.  He needs me for his questions and I told him he can ask anything and if I don’t know, I’ll find out.  So I think I will get him in 2 weeks to request they move a little quicker because I’m so important.  (I can dream, can’t I).  I don’t want to see things without Shujie so I won’t be bored the 2nd time and it will be new for both of us.

I got this wireless modem yesterday.  It’s not great but it’s cheaper than going through my phone.  I want a real modem so I can use my Toronto number.  No one phones me (is my family cheap?).

It was a long weekend this weekend.  We’ve been off since Wednesday and don’t return until Sunday.  One student invited me to his village and I said I would go.  He didn’t email me directions (he forgot) so that’s been put off.

In one of my classes there are 5 girls and they want the room cleared of boys when they have to do their presentations.  I said I would talk to some people and I was told “no way”.  That was fine and I agree.  It’s a co-ed school and they will be entering a co-ed work place.  I’ve been told there is a lot of texting that goes on between boys and girls, but no dating.  It’s different.  There are some cute faces and I’d love to see their hair and their bodies (I’m honest), but that’s not going to happen.  I told Shujie I’m going to take one of them away for the weekend and she just laughed.  After her father and brothers cut me up I will just be several parts of a teacher.

I will survive this semester and concentrate on how useless and easy this job is.  I would prefer to be useful and have a challenge, but I should have stayed at a Chinese University.  Who would have ever thought I’d miss China.  I had to get out, but I miss the kids (the highlight of my time there).

Here are some pics or what I’m in.

My palatial estate.  One of the apartments is mine.

house

Across the road:

outside

Down the street:

street1

The Backup Bathroom:  It’s small.

spare bathroom

The Master Bathroom:  It’s smaller.

main bathroom

The Living Room

living room2

The Master Bedroom where nothing happens

main bedroom

Kitchen view one.  There are no drawers and no top cupboards and I’m afraid to put anything below because of leaks when it rains.

kitchen2

Kitchen view two:  A stove, and oven, an automatic washing machine.  Ayoob (the boob) who looks after me tells me I keep running out of water because I use the washing machine.  So does everyone else.  But what everyone else has that Ayoob doesn’t have is a brain.

kitchen1

The Spare Bedroom:  Where I also put my clothes to dry.

bedroom2

 

A Third Bedroom:  What could I possibly use it for?

spare room

I rent it to Paul McCartney.  I have to make a buck (or a Rial) somehow.

PaulAcoustic

I will take my camera to school but I don’t know if I can take pictures of the black crows.  We shall see.  I’ve noticed I can stand closer to them now and they don’t seem too scared.  My next step will be grabbing their breasts.  I figure that will be okay because after all, I’m “Doctor Martin”.

 

I don’t care that he’s dead.  I don’t care that he lived until he was 97.  I don’t care that he was one of my favourite actors, but I believed him.  He used to come on TV and assure me about American Express Traveler’s Checks and I shouldn’t leave home without them.  Liar!

I went all over this town trying to cash my traveler’s checks and no one would take them.  A student was going to drive me to the airport where he assured me that they would take them at the moneychangers.  He didn’t know what he was talking about (but a nice kid) because I phoned and they said no.  I called American Express and they told me that they shouldn’t have sold me any if I was coming to Oman.  God bless the Chinese and their knowledge of nothing.

My students took me all over the area, which was extremely nice of them.  People here in general are very friendly.  They trust you right off the bat and then if you screw them, they won’t trust you.  In the West we tend to distrust people we meet until they earn our trust.  I like this better.  It’s less stressful.

The American Express office (when I was through yelling at them) gave me the name of a place that would take the checks.  That place is more than 2 hours away.  I called them and they told me a closer place (about ½ hour away) that would take them.  The guy (Omar) who I am buying a car from drove me there since I could give him the money and we could get the ball rolling.  I am paying in advance for a car sight unseen.  Other teachers have bought from him; one of them has bought 2 cars from him.  I met him and I think I can trust him.  Why would he steal my money or try to rip me off when the college gets him business?

So Wednesday evening he had my $4000 (for my Ford Explorer with less than 100000km on it) and he was off to Dubai on Thursday.  He looked around and found the best running car (they come from Japan) but it was too late for him to change the ownership there so he’s going back Sunday to get the car.  He’ll bring it to Rustaq and do some service to get it in tip-top shape and then give it to me.  It looks like Tuesday.  We can’t change the ownership until I get my labour card, which will be in a week or two but he’ll give me the car first.  I’m excited.  Now when I want to go to the store, I can.  Now I’m prepared for Shujie and she’ll have a vehicle.

I had my real classes this week.  I have two different classes, one is 10 hours a week and the other is 8 hours a week.  They are both “foundation year” classes, which means they’ve finished high school but must get their English to a certain level before being allowed to begin their University courses.  The levels are A (highest) to D (lowest).  I have a level C and a level A.  The A’s are better behaved than the C’s but I’m doing a little butt-kicking and they are coming around.  The classes are too long and I’m whipped about 1 hour and 20 minutes with them, and they’re whipped too.  I usually let them go then.

After my 2nd day the head of the foundation program wanted to talk to me.  What were my crimes?  It seems the girls felt I stood too close to them.  Maybe if they spoke so I could hear them, I wouldn’t have to stand so close.  The head told me that she told them to speak up.  They complained that I didn’t do anything from the book that class but the head and I agreed that I don’t have to follow the book every class.  They said I threw people out of class before class started which was a bold-faced lie.  I don’t think the ladies and I will be bonding.

I told them the next class that they shouldn’t run to Sharifa (the head) to tell her, “Martin did this and he didn’t do that”.  I told them to grow up and tell me if there is a problem.  I think they understood.  At least I hope they understood.  What do they think?  I stand close because I’m so attracted to those black mummy wraps they wear?  The boys are much easier to connect with.  I think the girls will be virtually impossible.  They stand on the side of the stairs if I’m walking on them and I have to go in a door first before they will follow.  It’s weird and it’s their culture and I can adjust.  But grow up children.  If I do something that offends you culturally because I’m a stupid foreigner (and I’m not joking), then tell me and I will cease and desist.

All the marks are based on exams, which I hate.  I can’t complain to the school as it comes from over their heads at the ministry.  However, unlike China, I won’t let it depress me.  I will try and sneak in my subversive thoughts.  It will work out.  I have made a personal commitment to myself to stick out this year so we can see the area.  The job is not stressful.  I came overseas to relax and work and I need to do that again.  I did the first year, but I lost it.  I want it back.  Everything can’t be perfect but it’s a give and take.  I’ll manage.

I still don’t have real Internet so it’s costing me a fortune using my phone as a “hotspot”.  Ayoob (the boob) says they need the plans to the apartment and the guy with them lives far away so it will be a week or two (or 22).  I should have my visa is a couple of weeks and then Shujie can get hers.  I’m excited about her coming.  Omar (my car guy) says he knows some students she can tutor which is great.

They have lots of 7-UP Zero here so that is nice.  I never saw it in the West.  I don’t miss China except for my Grade 10’s.  It’s hot outside so the car will help.  I will advance with the classes but we will see how that works out.  We filled out a sheet as to what we would like to teach next semester.  I don’t have much hope of getting what I want as the PhD’s will get first choice, but you never know.

I told the head of the department that I’m here for the year and I’ve made a commitment to myself to see it out and do my best job.  (I’ll suck up when necessary).

There is no window in the living room, which isn’t nice.  It could use one.  The apartment is comfortable as there are lots of air conditioners.  Gas will be cheap.  I think it will work out but I have to put my sightseeing on hold until Shujie gets here.

Greetings from whatever this place is.  Every time I chat with Shujie online she says, “should I still come”?  I understand that.  My track record of late hasn’t been the best but I’ve made an “executive decision”.  I am staying here for this year even if school is hell so I can see this part of the world.  I want to buy a car ASAP (and it might be this week) because I live in the middle of nowhere and it will be good for making weekend trips.  Gas is cheap but Internet is a small fortune.  But this is it for this school year.

I had my first class on Wednesday and these animals make the Chinese look like angels.  They talk and they don’t shut up.  The boys are horrible and I threw a few out.  I’m allowed to evict students so that’s what I’ll be doing so I can teach those who are interested.  The girls who talk, talk quietly among themselves but that will stop too.  There are teachers here who think it’s wrong to throw out students, but these teachers can’t teach anything because they are too busy telling the students to shut up or trying to talk over them.

If a class starts at 10AM, I’m told to shut the door at 10AM and no one can enter.  They are absent.  It seems that students get paid for each class they attend.  (Don’t ask me, it’s not my system).

I only had the 1 class this week and next week I have my regular schedule which is 18 hours.  Classes are 2 hours which is about 1 hour and 40 minutes (no break).  I have the mentally challenged for 1 class and I have another class, which is supposedly a higher level.  When this semester ends I think they ask the teachers what they would prefer to teach and mix things up.  I’m holding out for that.

The school isn’t that big and it’s quiet.  I have a shared office with 2 other foreigners, one from England and one from India.  This school has over 20 foreign teachers from all over.  The ones I’ve met seem decent and I’m reserving judgment on the kids.

The boys and girls sit on opposite sides of the room and I was told if I make groups I shouldn’t try to mix them.  That’s fine.  I never touched the girls in China so not touching here will be no problem.  I think of them as crows because they are all in black.  What I don’t understand is if you are going to wear something so unflattering, why bother with makeup?  There are some pretty faces and I can talk to them in class.  If I see them outside I should only start a conversation with a girl if she looks at me.  If she doesn’t look, don’t talk to her.  I’ll catch on.

This apartment has had no water twice this week.  My washing machine isn’t working.  I’m getting Ayoob to do things for me (I guess I put the fear of Allah into him).  I hate calling and asking but if I have a problem, someone has to solve it.

My ear infection seems to be slowly going away.  We shall see.

I went to a big supermarket in a city about 40km. from here with 2 other teachers.  It was pretty nice.  We shared a taxi that took us, waited, and then brought us home.  His price was fair.

I signed up at the Internet/Phone store to get my home checked to see if I could get a fixed Internet line.  They were going to come in a day or 2 but no one came.  I went to the office today and they couldn’t find any paperwork on me so I re-applied.  I asked, “are they coming this week”? and the answer was, “Inshallah” (god willing).

One of the guys in the store had a car he was selling but I wasn’t that interested after seeing it.  He knew a dentist around the corner so I looked at that but I wasn’t that interested.  The woman in the phone store told me her brother has a car to sell so supposedly he will come by later to show me.  (I won’t hold my breath).

I met a guy in the phone store who was very nice and was telling me to buy a new car.  He also said I should get a 4-wheel drive (I’ve heard that from others).  I don’t think I can afford a new car.  He told me that Omani cars are not good to buy 2nd hand because Omani’s don’t take care of their cars.  I should find a car from the U.A.E. and buy that.  He then drove me home.  There are nice people here.

There is a teacher at the school who knows someone who brings in used cars from the U.A.E. so he’s going to hook us up in the next couple of days.  I may be able to get a 4-wheel drive in decent condition for about $4000.  I’ll be happy.  I need to be able to get around.  Every time I want to leave here it’s a struggle.

I was thinking of making spaghetti for dinner but I keep forgetting to buy matches for my gas stove.  And I should have bought a 2nd pot so I can cook the spaghetti and sauce separately.

So I’d like my wife here so she can join in the festivities.  The car will be a must for her so she’s not trapped and her 3-hour walks might just boil her head.  Almost everything is closed in the afternoon and reopens at 4.

All I worry about is that these men who seem to know my crime, will surely come a second time.

Here I am in Rustaq.  Today is Tuesday and it’s the afternoon.  I’m not working.  It’s an Arab holiday.  It’s hotter than hell outside but I’ve been out.  Let’s start at the beginning.

I arrived in Muscat Friday morning at 10 local time.  It took more than an hour to clear customs.  Why?  Because these people are so slow I don’t even have a metaphor for it.  They talk to their friends, tell stories, do everything except process people in a quick and efficient manner.  I waited over 1 hour in line.  This does not please me.  I know everyone doesn’t have to be in a hurry, but c’mon people, let’s be a little “customer-friendly”.

I got my bag and there was someone from the company (Filipino girl) and a driver (from India).  I know there are Omanis lurking about.  They were the useless ones at customs.  They didn’t have guns (I was surprised to see computers) and it was nothing like North America.  I had to change planes in Doha (capital of Qatar).  It seems here that your plane doesn’t let you off at the terminal.  You get off and then go in a bus to go there.  Fine, whatever.

I have 5,000RMB (about $800) with me.  I go to the money changer in the airport and they don’t want Chinese money.  No one wants Chinese money.  They drove me somewhere else and it was closed until 4.  Don’t arrive on the Sabbath.

I am told that I won’t be going to Rustaq now but the company will put me up in a hotel in the middle of nowhere all expenses paid and I can have my meals there.  Oh joy!  If I want a Coke, I pay.  If I want to use the Internet, I pay.  And someone will be by tomorrow to take me to Rustaq but don’t hold my breath.

At 4PM I hired a driver at the taxi to take me to get my money changed.  No one wants Chinese money.  This is a problem.  Finally, the last place we go to will take it.  So now I have Omani money.  The Internet said this place is cheap.  The Internet lies.

On Saturday the company calls me and tells me that I’m leaving on Sunday and get another day at the hotel in the middle of nowhere.  I’m just thrilled.  I told them I’m using the Internet and they are paying and that is that.  I could have worked 4 days longer in China (not that I wanted to but money helps) but because they were in a rush to do nothing, I suffer for it.

I decide to take myself out Saturday afternoon (after 4 because this is the desert).  The hotel guy (Indian) tells me there is a nice market with lots of restaurants.  I guess he doesn’t get out much.  It’s explained to me I take a “shared taxi” which is like a mini-bus filled with people who smell worse than I do to someplace where I change to a different shared taxi to go where I want.  I try it and I arrive.  I walked around a bit (it’s not quite the Arab market in Jerusalem) and the restaurants were nothing to write home about so I just stayed a bit.  Then I found my way home (I can fend for myself) and it’s back to my room to read.  The excitement never ends in Oman.

On Sunday a driver comes to get me for the 2-hour drive to Rustaq.  It’s desert.  You make a left at the water and drive some more.  There is a resort or 2 about 40 km. from here.

We arrive in Rustaq and he brings me to my apartment.  The company’s fat and useless representative named Ayoob meets us here.  I drop my suitcases and it’s off to the school to check in.  This is important so the company that hired me can start getting paid.   A lot of Arabs.  The guys all where white robes (I should get one) and the girls were black with their heads covered.  No facemasks and I try hard not to look.  The people I meet are friendly.  I get signed in and talk to the assistant head of the English Department for a while.  He was nice and then I can go but Ayoob is gone.  So I phone him and ask him where he is, and he says he thought I was through but I tell him I’m not so he comes back to get me.

He takes me back to my apartment and he’s ready to take off.  I say, “wait a minute you fat tub of shit” or words to that effect.  I need Internet, I need a sim card for my phone.  I need groceries.  Isn’t it your job to help me? “Yes, Mr. Martin”.  Manners are good but so is actually helping someone new in town when it’s your job.

He takes me to the Internet/phone place first.  There are no calling plans here.  It’s pay as you go.  Internet is a fortune.  If I want unlimited downloads and a speed of about  3 to 5 mbs a second and that’s about $62.50 a month.  I may have passed out here.  Dorothy, you’re not in China anymore.

It is explained to me that I should have a phone with a “hotspot” on it and then I can use the Internet.  No downloading but it’s the cheapest.  My phone doesn’t have a hotspot and I can’t update the O/S because my Iphone is unlocked.  The sim card here won’t fit in my phone.  So I must buy a new phone.  They will send someone out sometime to check my apartment to see if I qualify for Internet in my apartment.  If I do, then maybe in a week they’ll hook me up.  No one has shown up yet.

The phone store doesn’t sell phones but I buy a sim card (about $5) and Ayoob tells me he’ll take me to get a phone at 4PM because they are closed until 4.  Then he takes me to the supermarket and asks how long I’ll be.  I tell him ½ an hour so he says he’ll be back.  The supermarket was worse than a disappointment.  Eating here might be worse than China where I’ve adapted and had about 4 different things I could have at home.  I bought some stuff and was ready to go in ½ an hour.  Where was Ayoob?  Oh, he came 15 minutes later.

On the way home he points out a place he says it’s good and tells me I can walk there at 4.  Of course it’s good, he doesn’t have to do anything.  I ask him how I get to school in the morning and he tells me to knock on the door across from me and the   teacher living there will tell me.  So goodbye.

I start looking at my apartment and it’s grungy, it looks like people were eating the walls, brown spots on the floors and so on.  All the furniture is new but it’s in the middle of nowhere and it’s not exactly clean.

At 5 I visit the teacher across the hall who has been here 3 weeks.  He tells me he pays about $25 a month to have someone pick him up and drive him home to/from the school daily. Okay, it is what it is and I get about $150 a month transportation allowance.  His apartment is not clean but he doesn’t complain.  His wife is in Singapore and is Chinese but I’m not sure when or if she’s coming.  I borrow his phone to call the taxi driver who brought me to Rustaq (he lives here) and ask him if he’ll take me out to get a phone and a few things.  What can I do?  Ayoob has dropped the ball (a specialty of his).  Bashir (the driver) tells me okay and he will be here in 30 minutes.

Bashir comes and takes me to phone places.  It’s obvious he doesn’t know the good ones.  However, I got a phone for a decent price (I think) and it’s an older model Samsung.  It works fine.  I pick up dinner to go and he brings me back.  I ask him how much and he says, “I don’t know”.  I tell him he has to tell me (it’s his test) and he tells me $20.  He failed.  I paid him and said goodbye.  So I have Internet by setting up a hotspot on my phone, I have some food, and I know how I’m getting to school.

On top of all this I have an ear infection that is killing me and I need to see a doctor but I’ll have to wait another day.

I get to school the next day (in my shirt and tie).  They like the teachers to wear shirt and ties but I think that will disappear quickly.  The head of the department meets me and he has 1,000 things on his mind.  There is no timetable for me.  They have no classes for me.  He says they need the teachers but everything has been running in the first semester so he will try and whip something up.  He asks how my apartment is and I tell him, “it’s a dump”.  He is not impressed and calls Ayoob who hems and haws and the director (George) tells him that he will send cleaners from the school but the company I work for will get the bill.  He phones the company in Muscat and tells Marivic (from the company) the same thing.  He then tells me to go home (I have no classes) and get the place cleaned.  I also told him the shower was useless and Ayoob said he would come at 4 to replace it.

George gets another teacher to drive us to my house.  (It’s a fair size.  3 bedrooms (2 in use), 2 bathrooms (but no bath), a kitchen (fridge, stove, oven, washing machine), a living room).  The cleaners start to clean and point out what they can’t clean.  I call Ayoob and he says he will come and see.  He actually shows up and he tells me it’s calcium deposits from the water and there is nothing that can be done.  I show him the shower and he tells me not to worry, he’ll fix it at 4.  I tell him I need to see a doctor and after telling me I can walk there (wherever that is), he says he’ll take me at 4.  He will be here between 4 and 5.  The cleaners finish (who did a good job on what they could do) and I begin to wait.  Naturally there is no Ayoob by 5 so I phone him.  His phone is off.  At 5:30 and my ear full of pain, I set off to walk to the hospital.  After 20 minutes I make it but I can’t find anyone so I thought I’d try another building.

At 6 o’clock Ayoob phones to ask me where I am.  I tell him the hospital and he tells me to wait and he’ll be there in 10 minutes.  30 minutes later he arrives.  He had a bad headache so he turned off his phone and went to sleep.  I told him he should call me if he’s not showing up.  He’s a total ass.

He tells me I can’t use the hospital until I’m a resident so he takes me to a private clinic.  For about $12 I saw a doctor, was diagnosed, got a prescription and a pain shot in the rear.  I got my prescription filled and asked Ayoob to stop so I could get food to bring home to eat.  He did.

He brought me home and told me that he would be here at 10 this morning to replace the shower.  For sure.  At 10 he wasn’t here but shortly thereafter he called with today’s tale of woe.  His best friend who is his cousin was in a serious accident so he has to be with him.  He will call me later.  What will it be next time?  Maybe the dog ate his homework.

I took a taxi into what passes for town to buy some household goods at the supermarket.  It cost me about 50 cents but they drop you near but not right at your destination (that costs more).  I bought a lot of things and they were big.  I dragged them out to the road and a taxi driver offered to take me home for about $5.20.  I said no.  He lowered his price but he didn’t get to $2.60 which was all I was going to pay.  It’s better he sits by his taxi earning nothing instead of giving a fair price.

Another taxi came along and our prices matched and I gave him the directions in Arabic that Ayoob the Idiot gave me.  My area doesn’t have street names so it’s not so easy.  The one landmark he mentioned stuck in the driver’s head and he wanted to take me there.  I kept yelling NO!  He drove me around but wouldn’t go where I said.  I called Ayoob and he answered and told him to talk to the driver.  He did and the driver started to listen to me and I made it home.

So now I’m here with my non-working shower and no dinner food really.  I have to find a butcher because it seems like the supermarket butcher doesn’t have chicken pieces.  I want chicken breasts.  Will Ayoob show up?  Do pigs fly?

We will see tomorrow what school holds in store.  Who knows, maybe this place will make me miss China.  I wish I lived closer to things.  I’m going to write an email to Marivic complaining (it’s my specialty) and tell her Ayoob is a boob (but not in words so nice).  We shall see what our God in heaven has it store, One Day More.