Monday, December 26, 2011

Pictures from Christmas Day

Dear Readers,

Here are some pictures Emma took from Christmas: We were at Darcy's kitchen of course ;).
This is a picture of Noah opening his present: Poptarts!!!!

Here I am opening one of my presents:

 Drawing a Winter Wonderland on the whiteboard:

Here is Bailey reading a beautifully made Christmas card

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!!!

Dear Readers,

Today was Christmas, and it was one of my favorite Christmas Celebrations ever. To start the day, we planned to go to Darcy's kitchen, which is where I was last night on Christmas Eve with Bailey ;). Of course the driver got lost, and we were about an hour late, but we got there eventually. 

All 5 of us, and Mama Fatin. We ordered, talked, ate, and eventually exchanged presents. We did a Secret Santa routine, which worked out fantastically. It makes me think we should always do Secret Santa!

Then we went to AmidEast, and watched Elf. Will Ferrel is totally insane and hilarious. Here's my favorite scene, the dancing in the mail room:

I found a white board and we decorated it:

After AmidEast we went to the house of one of our program director's friend, to have a Christmas lunch/dinner. (We tried mixing those words earlier today, and linner, and dunch just don't sound right).

This lovely family were really cool. They had lived most of their lives in Africa, so they had a really cool background, yet still felt like a homegrown American Family. We ate Turkey, yams, mashed taters, and stuffing. All that you could ever want for a Christmas Dinner.

We had some really great conversations, and laughed a lot. They even gave us presents!! All the girls got a scarf and Jewelry. Noah got one of those tangled metal puzzles, in which you try to separate the ring from the enigma it's attached to. 

I love these puzzles, so I tried to solve it. Then I tangled it worse. Hehe.

After handing it off to Noah and our host's son, they couldn't figure out how to put it back to normal. I took it back and fiddled with it again. 10 minutes later: "Aha! I got it!" The toy laid there in its original unsolved position. 

Later in the evening I tried to play with it again. While listening to conversation, I sat there clinking away with the ring and chain and triangle. Then all of the sudden - "ting!"

The chain broke, and the ring fell into my lap. No one noticed, so I waited for a pause in the conversation. 
"Dude," I said to them "I broke it."

The room erupted, and everyone was laughing at me. I started cracking up too, because it was just so sad and funny. 

"Hey she solved it, the ring came out!" someone said.

The rest of the night was just as nice and lovely. There was a football game on, which was the first football on television we've seen since leaving the States. All the food was American, the language English. The love in the house was happy. It was an awesome night!

To end it Noah, Bailey and I went to the beach area, to hang out at Starbucks and the shops. We walked along the black beach, and took in the beautiful country Oman. The stars were beautiful. 

I can't imagine leaving. 

The first semester is almost over. But for today its Christmas, so we'll stay in the present, and we'll focus our attention on the significance of the day. It may be important for family gatherings, and love in community, but its also the celebration of the Savior coming to Earth to fulfill hundreds of biblical prophecies and begin (what is to me) the most significant life for humans. So Happy Jesus' Birthday!

Or, more simply put, Merry Christmas. 

I hope your day was filled with joy, and God Bless!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Eve

Dear Readers,

I couldn't have had a more unpredictable Christmas Eve. After asking 2 people what time I should be at the Church for christmas, I was sure the service would begin at 7:30. I texted Bailey, and told her to meet me there. Tonight I got ready, dressed up for the occasion in a nice Christmas outfit, and even allowed my host sister to apply my red lipstick. ;)

After being all dolled up, I was psyched for church. I LOVE church. Especially on Christmas! After my brother-in-law dropped me off, immediately I knew I was told the wrong time. There was Bailey on one of the Church doorsteps.

"Hey, Girl!" I called

"Hey, so theres a service going on next door, but it looks like its already started a while ago." (We were a half hour early.)

We found a Greek pastor, and he told us his next service wouldn't be till nine. It was 7:30.
So Bailey and I went over to the Church next door. There was a line for communion. We put our stuff down on some seats, silently greeted out pew neighbors, and got in line.

That's one thing I love about Church. It doesn't matter how late you are, people are glad you came.

We took communion, and then were privileged enough to sing some christmas songs. We lit candles, and it was beautiful. But we came so late it finished in 20 minutes!

After we left we walked around the Church grounds, looking to see if the Catholic Church, or Greek Church had masses/services sometime soon. We were out of luck.

"We should just go out to eat." Laughed Bailey.

(Sigh) "I'm okay with that."

We walked over to Bailey's car and told her driver in terrible arabic that we wanted to go to Darcy's kitchen, the British restaurant with awesome pancakes and waitresses that speak English.

It was an adventure finding it, but sure enough we got there. It was a nice night. :) Me and Bailey!

We talked all night, about exchange kid stuff. Ya know, the usual: politics, the upcoming election, government, religion (Muslim and Christianity), other students, other students' host countries, and our own personal stories.

I was content. But I do miss my Christmas back home. Not only do I miss my Church and fam fam, but all the charity work done around Christmas! There are so many opportunities to give back to the community. I can't wait to go caroling again next year, and to work in the soup kitchen!!!

Well, my wonderful mother sent me a package of presents, and there is one gift marked for Christmas Eve. :D I think I'll go open that now!

Here are a few pictures of my host sister's marvelous Christmas Cupcakes I ordered for out celebration tomorrow: Aren't they adorable!?!

P.S. This was posted at 11:11! Isn't that lucky!?? Merry Christmas everyone!!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Dear Readers,

I've had an uneventful week for the most part. But my life here is filled with many little things that make me laugh. Today I decided to relax and hang out in my room - kind of secluded myself by setting a date with a good book.

Later when I decided to go downstairs, everyone was gone! In the TV room I saw Marie our housemaid watching TV.

"Quin! Come, come!" She gestured.
Gingerly I slugged over, grabbed a pillow and sat down. She was watching a Bollywood show in Hindi, with arabic subtitles. Marie and I both seem to have an affinity for Indian shows so we were pleased.

After about 5 minutes of watching the show and being able to get the gist of what the actors were saying to each other, I turned to look at Marie.

She looked back at me.



"Do you have any idea of what they are saying?"

She responded with a sheepish smile and a shake of her head. I laughed out loud, and she joined in. We were laughing together for a good minute or two.

"I have no clue either!!" I told her.

Then we went back to watching it, even more amused trying to guess what the characters were saying.

These little moments make all my troubles disappear, and make me feel at home.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Presentation of Education in Oman

Dear Readers,

Here is a long long video of a presentation we saw at the World Learning Center. It may be boring to some of you, but if you listen closely to what Miss Sergon is saying, it can be quite interesting. Or maybe I'm just  abnormally thrilled by Global Education. Who knows?

Friday, December 16, 2011

Sweet Weekend

Dear Readers,

I had a wonderful and relaxing weekend. On Wednesday my Host Mom and my Host Sister (with her adorable little 1-year-old) came home! We all drove to the airport, packing our family into 2 cars to meet them there. My little brothers yelled with joy when they saw my host Mom. We all said hello and hugged each other. Everyone flitted around my little niece, who just might be the cutest baby in the world. We went to McDonalds to get dinner. The Drive-through took about 35 mins, tainting the name: "fast food".

When we got home everyone sat in the living room sharing stories and talking about the cold weather in England, which is where they had just flown in from. My host Mom showed me videos of the rain and hail. It made me NOT miss the weather of Pennsylvania.

To top the evening off, as we sat in the living room, my host mom and older sister unloaded their luggages to shower us with gifts!! We all got some really cool souvenirs!!

Here are some:

I know, those slippers are hot, and my Host Family spoils me :)

The rest of my weekend was just spent hanging out.  Having the whole family together feels so nice. It really does feel like Christmas.

In FACT, us Americans have a whole plan for Christmas. After Church on Christmas Eve, we'll spend Christmas Day at AmidEast, watching movies and exchanging gifts. (We're doing a Secret Santa Exchange)

I even ordered some cupcakes from my Host Sister's Cupcake business. :D

Half of her presents -from my older Host Sister who just came home, were decorations, tools, and fondant. Oooooooooo.
I've been really excited to see my Host Sister work with fondant, because with her skills I knew she would make amazing designs.

Here are a few:

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Presentations at the World Learning Center

Dear Readers,

Today we (the American kids) went to the "World Learning Center", which is a fancy name for the building where foreigners - mostly Americans - come to learn Arabic and Omani culture.
Getting permission to be let out of school was quite the adventure itself. Noah, Bailey and Jaira all came into the front office with our driver to "sign us out". The polar difference between my experience at free-for-all, anything-goes ABQ, and N.B.J.'s with Al Ibda'a is easily laughable. I'm pretty sure the receptionists at Al Ibda'a thought Noah, Bailey, and Jaira came right out of the depths of hell to cause chaos with their American ways, and temptation with their v-neck shirts. But we won't get into that.

After being released from school and driven to the World Learning Center, we managed to enter the building at the absolute worst time, bursting in loudly, laughing about something, and disturbing the crowd upstairs watching a presentation. Typical. :)

Despite our late entrance, we were able to take in a great deal of the discussions, and interesting speakers.

So what were these presentations??

The American students attending courses in the World Learning Center were given the assignment of researching a social issue/aspect of Oman, and their conclusions on the topic.

The knowledgable scholars spoke about Physical Disabilities (blindness), Marketing in Oman Business, Education in High School and the scarce Universities, Youth Organizations, and Human Trafficking/Workers Rights.

We were enthralled. These presentations covered the questions we had been asking in our heads for a long time. Especially the Workers Rights Presentation, which included an explanation of the contract of Maids, and what the Minimum Wage, laws, and policies were. Because we spend every day with the Maids we live with, interest and empathy is inevitable.

The presentation on Education was also extremely intriguing, because we were eager to see what this other woman had to say about the research and interviews she conducted.

I'll be posting some of the presentations online soon, but because they are not ready yet, I thought I'd charm you all with a couple pictures :)

You'll like the one with Obama. It was just hanging on the wall there!!!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

While I'm recommending other blogs......

Dear Readers,

In my previous post I mentioned my best friend in Korea's blog. I also want to recommend my friend in Ghana's blog:

My friend Avery Segal is on the same YES Abroad program, except he is with AFS in Ghana. 

Although all his posts are quite intriguing, I'd day his most recent post, on Homosexuality in Ghana is the most eye-opening, and down right conspicuous. The fact that he knows his Ghanain classmates and possibly his Ghanain relatives are reading what he writes, yet still has the courage to right what is the truth, is very brave. 

Here's an excerpt from the entry:

"Earlier this month I told my Ghanaian classmates that I have a few gay friends, and that I don’t let their sexual orientation affect my friendship. They were speechless for a few seconds- until one girl meekly asked me, “Have you tried informing them that they’re abominations to God?”" - Avery Segal

If you don't find this captivating I don't know what would be!

Friends around the World: Even in South Korea!

Dear Readers,

One of my very best friends of all time is an aspiring novelist in South Korea, named Aekyung Sin. Her and I met as far back as 6th grade in Pennsylvania. One year later, she moved from America to South Korea, not having had prior experience in the rigorous Korean schools! Despite her obstacles (of handling a nasty high school experience, and dealing with the some of the most feared relationship issues) she has been able to work her way up to an International Class, and remain a healthy, wise person.

She is the bravest and most relatable girl I know. That being said, I encourage you to go read her blog! She named it "Fruit tree inWinter" - Sort of a symbolism of her hopefulness. When everything is going rough, she is able to relay her feelings into her blog while remaining realistic and moving to her readers.

Check it out! You might get a laugh, and you may get a few tears. Either way I'm proud of her. And I, at least, appreciate her work.

Love you, Aekeee!!!!!

                                                     Above, my Friend Aekyung.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

SAT Day......Without the SAT (Continued)

Dear Readers,

As I was telling you in my previous post about my SAT day, I was dropped off at the wrong place. After being led through the college, where I soon discovered did not host SAT exams, I had to figure out my plan. My phone had died, and I didn't remember anyone's number. (Omani phone numbers are more confusing than American phone numbers).

So what was I going to do???

I then had a flash back to last week when I was talking to Noah, the other YES student here in Oman.

Me: "I'm so curious as to what your school is like."

"Yeah!" Emma agreed

Noah: "Hah, well you could probably just come on over to ABQ and say you were a new student, and they'd just let you be part of the class."

Jaira: "Hahaha, they SO would!"

Hmmmmm, I started to think.

As I sat in this college with my sweet tour guide looking concerned and helpless about my abandonment, I contemplated my options. Sit in the College and be bored all day....or I could walk across the street.........

I got up from the table, told the girl I was going to go to ABQ, and walked out the door. I walked past the security guards, and (gulp) I crossed the street!
Crossing the street in Oman is quite dangerous due to every road being a highway. But because the street was congested and slowed due to the school, I was surprisingly safe.

'Laadidadida, here I come' I said to myself.

Then, like an angel, I saw one of Jaira's or Bailey's cousins emerge from a car, looking at me in a curiously surprised face.

"Are you coming to our school today?"

"Ummm, yea I hope!"

We walked inside, with not a problem at all. The British-run school was nothing I expected it to be. It was surprisingly bright and happy-looking.

My friend's cousin walked me to the front office, a desk in the middle of the lobby.

I explained my situation mildly.....hoping to fluff everything up so that it sounded like I was sort of supposed to be here.

"So your spending the day with us?" The receptionist asked me.

"Uh, yea! I hope so."

"Okay, sit down and wait for the principal."

I sat patiently talking to the nice girl next to me. Then the principal came, said hello, recognizing me from AmidEast conferences, and told me to have a nice day.

I was OVERjoyed. Although, I wished I had worn semi-normal attire. With the British system, there are many rules on dress code. Closed-toed shoes, hair up and tied, and school uniform. The fact that I was wearing flip-flops, leggings and a sweatshirt was INSANE.

But, hey, I was a new American. I'm expected to make these mistakes. :)

From the Balcony Noah and Bailey spotted me, completely ecstatic that I was there. They waved like excited little kids, and scurried towards the staircase to meet me.

"Quuuiiiiiiiinnn!! What are you doing here!??"

I explained my situation, laughing through the whole thing, amazed that I was getting away with being a nomad for the day.

I went on to be a little tourist. They took me to all there special spots, showed me around, fed me lunch, and introduced me to all their teachers. It was AWESOME. Finally I knew all the people they would tell me stories about.

In the classes I was able to compare mine to theirs, which was priceless information to me - since I'm very curious about global education.
 Meanwhile, all the teachers were totally cool with me, or didn't have the time or energy to care. Most were apathetic, and just treated me like an extra person to copy papers for and give tests to. I even ended up taking a Biology exam!! (I'm hoping to get it back someday and see how I did ;)

So how did the day end?

Well, I used Noah's phone to text Jaira, and when she got the news, she responded:

"Oh God, WHAT are you doing there!? Holy....

tta, Aweee, whatever that's fine, Fatin will take me back to ABQ and pick you up in exchange."

Haha, so I was getting a ride home after all!.

Lucky, lucky, lucky was my day. And I really enjoyed it.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Dear Readers,

This week we've been recognizing Muharram. Or, more so, Mourning Muharram. This is one of the 4 sacred months in the Islamic year, which is majorly a part of the Shia Muslims' traditions. It is well-know because of historical significance and mourning of the martyrdom of Jussein ibn Alu, the grandson of the prophet Muhammed, who sacrificed himself, along with all his family for the sake of his people.

 Mourners, both male and female, congregate together (in separate sections) for sorrowful, poetic recitations performed in memory of the death of Husayn, lamenting and grieving to the tune of beating drums and chants

Because my family is taking the day off of school, and because most of the class is Shia as well, the school is bereft of most of its students. This called for a fun day of catching up on work, or, being unfathomably lazy.

Lazy? Oh yes. In Physics class today, our hardworking teacher was adamant on teaching us. We however, were trying our very best to evade any work.
Teacher: "cough"
"You're too sick to teach, Sir! Go home and take a nap!"
"Yea, yea! Go home, Sir, you need rest!"

At a later point, we went so far as to try to tick him into thinking we left the classroom.

"I'll be right back." He told us.
"Quick, everyone! Get under the tables!"
We all plummeted to the ground, giggling.

To our dismay, another class had tried this on him earlier, and we were caught.

Nonetheless, it was a pretty good day. We're on our way to Arabic class now, so wish us luck. We need the focus fairy to sprinkle some concentration into our craniums.

BTW: I haven't forgotten I need to finish my story on the SAT adventure! Keep checking for the rest of it!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

SAT Day....without the SAT

Dear Readers,

Yesterday I attempted to take my SAT. But I failed sourly. Despite my efforts to study, the day prior, I had this ominous feeling that I was not meant to take the test. Instead I constantly switched back and forth between my SAT book and "Twilight", a last-resort-book series of mine, many thanks to my host sister who has the entire collection ;). 
Now I find this is ironic, because my goal this year was to become a Harry Potter nerd. Instead I've been lead towards cranky wolves and a pitifully obsessed teenage girl, who happens to smell reeeeeally good.
I'm sure Harry Potter will always be there waiting for me anyways.

So as I fought over my will to study, I was also having a dilemma of printing out my admissions ticket. But it wasn't just my ticket to print out, but also Jaira's (the other YES student)! It took a good 4 hours, but finally the printer caved in and gave me our tickets. The delay, yet another portentous sign. 

The next morning I woke up extra early. I dressed comfy, wearing some leggings and an oversized sweatshirt, throwing on some sandals to walk in. A totally innocent outfit for the SAT wouldn't you say?

Well, after the driver picked me up, Jaira welcoming me with a good morning, and embarking on the day ahead I would soon learn that I was unexpectedly very unprepared for my day.

The driver took me to where I told him - the Modern School. It sits right across the street from the school that Noah, Jaira, and Bailey attend, so the area was familiar enough. 

I walked in, considerably early. After waiting a good 15 minutes, with no sign of other students, I immediately got a suspicious feeling, that I was at the wrong place. Then, walking through the giant college doors, came a girl who seemed to know me very well. "Quin!!!" She embraced me like we had met before. And I must admit she was familiar.

"We met at a wedding!" she told me. 

With the relief of some familiarity, I embraced her like a sister, and just went with the flow. 

I told her all about the SAT, and that I though I was taking it here. She looked confused, and my fears were confirmed. I was in the wrong place. With no battery in my phone. And with no numbers of my contacts.
I couldn't call my coordinator, and I couldn't call my host family.

 But my stressful situation didn't stop her from wanting to show me a good time at the College! 
"Here, I'll show you around!"

We walked up the stairs, into the vacant and dark hallways. Each time we turned the corner we would "open" the lights. "We're like the sun aren't we??" I mused.

That girl took me all throughout the giant, vacant, building. We snuck into rooms to poke through whatever we could find, and it was quite entertaining. But then a very important detail started to nag my conscience. How am I getting HOME!? The driver wasn't supposed to pick us up until 1, (I was guessing this) IF he was coming at all.

It was fun talking to this girl, who turned out to be the cousin of one of my close friends (everyone here is cousins with everyone else), but she was going to have to go back to class soon......

So what was I going to do!??

Unfortunately I can't finish the story right now. But I will tomorrow! Right now I have to catch up on some much needed sleep.

Thanks for reading! But, check back tomorrow for the rest of my adventure!!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

A Day at the Wadi

Dear Readers,

Remember how I was telling you about the Wadis? Well I went to one today! It was quite a lot of fun. And guess who showed up? My inseparable partner EMMA. Yes, her lovely family set up camp next to my lovely family.

To get to a good spot, we had to drive through the wadi, really fast so we wouldn't sink. We got a nice car wash and my little brothers in the back were screaming with joy. "morethania morethania!" Which means: "again" in Arabic.

It was a fun day. We ate good food, and walked through the stream. I brought sunscreen this time and didn't get burnt. Here are some pictures from the day:

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Raining. In Oman?!

Dear Readers,

It is, yet again, raining! In a country where it usually only rains once a year, you can imagine it being odd. And my mother laughed at me for packing a raincoat! Tehe.

Last night we went for a family cookout at the old farmhouse. The rain started when we were driving on our way there, and by the time we got out of our cars, each raindrop was the size of a shoe!

Okay that may have been an overstatement, but we were drenched! It did however, stop long enough for us to play soccer and slide around in the mud. One awesome thing about my family's farm house, is that it has a little soccer field, with grass! Green green grass. It was a lot of fun.

But besides all this fun, the rain can be very dangerous. There are parts of this region that contain "wadis". They are parts of the terrain that are barren during most of the year, but fill up with rain in what seems like a flash! They can be in the middle of roads oftentimes, which makes driving less safe.

After the rain ends, the wadis are very beautiful. This is why they are a common destination for Omanis when it rains, and therefore calls for more precaution, with the attraction of all the sight seekers.

Today, it rained again. My little brothers got really excited, as always, and we all went outside to soak up the wet weather.

I got a chance to catch some pretty hilarious footage of my little brothers acting as windshield whippers as well. Enjoy:

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Thanksgiving at the Ambassador's House

Dear Readers,

Tonight we had a formal but fun Thanksgiving dinner, hosted by the Ambassador himself, Dr. Richard J. Schmierer. It was hosted outside, in the backyard, with white round tables and a buffet style food service.
Here are the pictures I took:

It was a great evening. Not only did I get to see Noah, Bailey, Emma, and Jaira and their host families, but also the alumni who went to America last year! We were also joined by people from AmidEast, our school principals, and the fun-to-talk-to workers from the Embassy as well.

Now don't worry, it wasn't stuck up and fancy shmancy, but more so a relaxed get together, that brought everyone in this program together for a warm and welcoming rendez-vous. I got to talk with the Omani alumni, who had stories to tell of their experiences in the States, which was really cool to hear. I even heard some new stories from Haya and Hadeel, two girls I go to school with! (They both went on exchange to America last year, and have been very sweet with helping Emma and I adjust to our new school).

Here is a picture of the five of us Americans together: I wish I had a picture with the whole group, with the other alumni! I'll post one tomorrow if I can.

Note to Emma: Sorry about this picture :}

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Staying In Touch

Dear Readers,

When exchange students like Emma and I feel like knowing what is going on in the U.S., we like to use the wonderful world wide web to connect us with our dearly missed society.

There's no measurement for the joy we find, reading about how the Government just passed a bill making pizza a vegetable, or what's up with the Twilight stars (tehe), or who the "Top Celebs" are on OR, even for what's going on with the Occupy Wall Street Hobos.

We love the news, and I thought I'd share it with you: Click these entertaining links!

Congress Calls Pizza a Vegetable

Breaking Dawn and the Box Office

But let's not forget America's finest news source:

Here's where we got our enlightenment on Occupy Wall Street:
The Demands of Occupy Wall Street

Bank Executives on 15th Floor Gambling On Which Occupy Wall 
Street Protester Will Be Arrested Next