So this is it?

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.

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1 comment
  1. Jan Abbey said:

    I’m sorry for your troubles but I laughed my ass off reading this. It’s reminiscent of my first job in Urumqi. My Chinese was not good then and your story brought to mind all the hell I went through for the first 3 months of my “career” teaching English here. It was not unlike your experience, everyone was too busy to help and assumed (ass + u + me) that I knew everything that I needed to know to live in a totally foreign culture. Example: the second weekend the electricity went off. Well, you must put money on your card. What card? Where do I pay? What do I do with the card?? AARRGGHH! I could go on and on…

    What I’m getting at is the shit of your arrival is a pretty common experience and that your should hang in there. You will get used to it and have fun with the little victories, such as finding a good place to buy chicken. You already tackled the hospital by yourself and that’s quite an accomplishment. (I hope it helped).

    Also, hot climate cultures have a totally different sense of time and don’t live by the clock like we do. Adjust man, and lower your expectations of timeliness! It will lower your blood pressure. (I know, it drives me crazy too. The Turkic people here are the same way and sometimes I could scream!)

    Anyway, look at it this way. You have time and you have internet so you can keep us up to date (and entertained) with your experiences. You can call it “The Adventures of Ayoob and Me” lol!

    Hang in the man. I’m rooting for you!

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