Karl Malden is a liar!

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.

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