Friday, January 30, 2009

Lucy Pevensie, Hermoine Granger and Suzy Chapstick present....Friday

Momma broke out the sewing machine this week so that Lucy Pevensie (Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian) could attend "Favorite Character Dress-up Day" for Book Week. As C.S. Lewis does not include an exact description of his character's apparel, we had to be inspired by the movie. Now if I could be as inspiring in my writing as C.S. Lewis...... And Hermoine Granger was ready for Hogwart's today. She wanted to wear the tie 3 days ago but I x-nayed that. I winged the tie - thank you mom for the sewing lessons so very long ago. This is a fun day for the kids and bonus - it doesn't come with bagfuls of candy that I end up throwing out after a month.

Here's the part where I'm going to be a stinker and say: Wish you were here!!!

I'll deal with the guilt of enjoying myself in, say 15 years or so. When the knees are officially worn out. I rejoined "the ladies" and instead of freezing rain and ice this week, we had blue skies and perfect (PERFECT!!!!!!!!) snow. OK, I'm done being a brat.

As you can see behind me (above) and in the distance below: the 'Nebelmeer' or 'Sea of Fog.' This fog covers everything about 800ft and below - especially on the lakes. It has been a dreary winter with the cold and fog. Most people head up to the Mountains to escape on the weekends. If you're going to be cold anyway, might as well make it cold and sunny.
Just for fun - the frozen fountain in Zurich. You have to 'find' it. Right behind the Tommy Hillfiger and Gucci stores - no, I didn't buy a thing. But left some fingerprints on the windows.
So ends a busy but nice week. As I write this, there are 5 little girls spread out in sleeping bags in the living room watching the UK premiere of a Disney movie - Cheetah Girls. But they are chatting and distracting me from the movie - come on! Quiet ladies! No sleepover though - there's skiing to be done this weekend and none of the parents wish to rush around dropping off/picking up kids at 8am. Whew!
I wish you well and am still trying to catch a picture of the poster I must share - look for "Freedom of Speech" to come soon.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Thoughts running through my head

It's good to know there ARE thoughts running through my head. Bart will be especially proud. Hah! My mom even asked me "so I read what you wrote in your Blog and wondered what's going on, what are you thinking about?" Now, I cannot pull anything like that out of my Blog but she's mom and I had to admit to her that "well, I've been rather reflective lately" and I just couldn't seem to write anything down. Besides posts about travel and kids on camels.

I will attempt, in my small way, to share what's been touching me, hitting me and otherwise making me think lately. These things combine to make sense to me - I don't know whether it will fully make sense to you.

You see, a short while ago I did something that has now put me in touch with people I've not had contact with in a long time. 20-25 years long time. It's a strange feeling. I'm as introverted on the computer as I can be in person so I feel a bit vulnerable in having reached out this way.

When you think of your past, especially those High School or University days, do you focus on the fun or the not so fun?

I tend to be quite critical of myself - Bart can attest to the fact I can give myself my own best beating. I have a tendency to focus on things I should have done differently/better, instead of what I did well. I worried very much about what people thought. Legalism really got in the way and I didn't understand at the time it was that (legalism)which I rebelled against. (fyi background info. on me - I went to Christian schools from Kgarten to 12th grade not knocking Christian schooling, just had some issues with certain things that would take forever to explain) Not that I rebelled very hard, but for me it was real. And through that time, I lost touch with people for various reasons. Finding it hard to turn back once the 'reasons' no longer existed.

So that is something I've been mulling over.

OK- switch gears a little. Our Bible study this year is "A Heart Like His" - a study of King David. Last week we discussed the passage in 2 Samuel where David and the Israelites are returning the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem and I'll share these bits which add to my thoughts:

vs.14 - 16 "And David was dancing before the Lord with all his might, and David was wearing a linen ephod. So David and all the house of Israel were bringing up the ark of the Lord with shouting and the sound of the trumpet. Then it happened as the ark of the Lord came into the city of David that Michal the daughter of Saul (also David's wife) looked out of the window and saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord; and she despised him in her heart."
vs. 20 - 22 "But when David returned to bless his household, Michal the daughter of Saul came out to meet David and said, "How the king of Israel distinguished himself today! He uncovered himself today in the eyes of his servants maids as one of the foolish ones shamelessly uncovers himself!" So David said to Michal, "It was before the Lord, who chose me above your father and above all his house, to appoint me ruler over the people of the Lord, over Israel; therefore I will celebrate before the Lord. And I will be more lightly esteemed than this and will be humble in my own eyes, but with the maids of whom you have spoken, with them I will be distinguished."

OK - so Michal tries to get King David to be ashamed of his actions but he said, forget it, I'm not out there to impress you, I'm out there to impress God. So that started us (ladies) on a discussion of how we worship God and are we inhibited in our worship because of the people around us? Is it personality? Culture? Church denomination?

Which then brought me around to those thoughts about the past. There were several blog posts that also touched me along this realm and really helped round out my thoughts. My mom said that each season of life brings new reflection and new ways of looking at life.

All of the above allows me to make a conclusion re: those thoughts: Life has led me down some wonderful roads and I am foolish to even for a moment, look back and think of the far past critically. Except for learning :). My path is my own and God has been so faithful. I am not the person I was 20 years ago and I'm ever so thankful I have grown much in that time. To reconnect with people I enjoyed from the past and have fun with it. To have friendships that are enduring and experience worship in a way that is meaningful between me and my Creator. If others are worshiping alongside - Wonderful. But my worship does not depend on them and I am not dependent on what they think about my worship. (Unless it happens to be a Sunday I'm leading worship and then it's a whole 'nother ballgame)

"Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Thy sight, O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer." Psalms 19:14

Bart would have me put this in the "deep thoughts" category :).

Friday, January 23, 2009

Finishing up Oman

Oh, what a busy week it's been. But don't count the failed ski attempt. With freezing rain and icy roads, the "ski ladies" from church opted to stop in Einsiedeln at Cafe Tulipan and have a little brunch instead. While we weren't able to hit the slopes (none of us are so hard core as to ENJOY skiing in freezing rain), we had a wonderful time of visiting. The other 3 ladies work - at a real, paying job - and while, having taken a day off and not been able to ski, are glad to have the fellowship time. Plus our afternoon was then freed up to do other things - M was headed to the grocery, L to the auto shop and D, well, she was in Barcelona for work (we are usually a 4-some and I temporarily forgot she couldn't make yesterday).

What I did with my free afternoon was clean the kitchen (exciting I know!) and then download the remaining pic's of Oman that I wanted to share. I don't think I can go forward with the Blog 'til I finish Oman. It's an illness - I know. I need help.

So, where we left off was night-time in the Desert. Here is Kendra enjoying the music of an Omani man who shows up quite blurry in the right side of this pic. I don't like using flash too much at night if there's enough light BUT, of course, anything that moves becomes a blur. I was trying not to blind everyone with my flash - unlike the people from another country I won't name but who's language I attempt to speak (not Switzerland - cause we know I can't speak their language). Sorry, I know that sounds a little catty but several times during the trip it happened enough where we and our guide found it a bit much.That night, the girls had insisted they would sleep in "their" tent alone. Bart and I had mixed feelings: safe country but out in middle of nowhere, electric generators go off at 10pm, yes - we did get 'torches' (flashlights) for the girls, visions of girls crying for us in middle of night and waking everyone within a 300 ft radius (the whole camp), they were the ONLY children out there - hmmmmmm.

We humored them, said goodnight and left with promises to check on them in 10 minutes after we were ready for bed ourselves. Between their tent and ours, we had already decided to split up - Bart with Rachel and Kendra with me. First we would give them "time" by brushing teeth, etc... Bart had no sooner picked up his toothbrush when we heard sand shuffling outside and Rachel bursts in saying "Kendra's crying and scared and doesn't want to sleep alone." Kendra follows - panicked. Bart & I were laughing as I tucked Kendra into our bed and he went to get the "things" she needed for sleeping.

We then laughed the next morning as it got pretty cold in the middle of the night. I used Kendra as a teddy bear - fortunately, she slept solid during the night. BTW - the stars in the middle of the night were beyond spectacular and had to say a little prayer of thankfulness for such beauty to our Creator.

Next morning - after a good breakfast and nice COLD shower for Bart we headed out of the Dunes. Time for a little more dune-bashing. In this pic, we are headed straight down a very large hill - sliding every so gently. Salah had some fun by "washing" the car with sand.
The hill we had just come down. Must admit, the dune-bashing was one of our favorite parts of the trip (even though I was 'nervos' at first).
For your viewing pleasure: baby camels. Salah said the one on the far left was probably just a week old. The young ones are almost white and when they are laying down (that one had been sleeping and I didn't even see it) they blend in with the sand.
Bart having his first cup of coffee - EVER. My husband is not a coffee drinker - sigh - but did not want to refuse the hospitality of the Bedouin. I too, got a cup of coffee (it was delicious by the way) but only a little, expresso sized cup as the girls had items they were trying to purchase and I had to assist.

Rachel got her camel ride. These are 'one humped' camels (the 2 hump camels are Egyptian) and they ride them by balancing on the rump just behind the hump. It's not easy. Rachel declared it much harder than riding a horse. Kendra opted out - too tall and 'scary' for her.
We left the Wahiba Sands and drove along the coast of which our final destination would be the capital city of Muscat. We stopped along the way in Sur: a port city known for 'dow' manufacturing (teak-wood boats). We also stopped at a white sand beach and a sink hole where the girls were able to wade in beautiful clear water fed from underground.
Interesting - we drove on what will soon be the newly opened Toll highway from Sur to Muscat along the coast. This route was previously only off-road and most people traveled by the interior paved road which takes about 2 hours more. The toll gates are closed BUT there are open lanes on each side for construction access, and at various parts of this highway, you are routed to the opposite side or have to work around detours - a beautiful wide highway still under construction. The public uses it but it's not officially open - or finished. This would never fly in Switzerland where they must test roads, bridges and tunnels for months before anyone can go on it.
City of Muscat.
The Grand Mosque in Muscat. Finished 6 years ago. The girls wore the Omani outfits they bought as souvenirs. They loved the pretty colors and sparkles. Most Omani women/girls wear very colorful outfits - influenced over centuries of trade with India. We think Salah enjoyed them (the girls) - he laughed alot at their enthusiasm and made an effort to include them in interesting things. We were only the 3rd Americans (family/group) he's had in 3 years of conducting tours. He also said not many people brought their children along. Most people with children stay at the resorts.
I took many pictures here - loved the symmetry of the buildings and the colors. Very muted outside - color provided by gardens and buildings kept simple but with fantastic craftsmanship.
However - once inside - beautiful craftsmanship and ornate. Below is the men's prayer hall. It has the largest, handmade silk carpet in the world, the center chandelier is of Swarovski crystal and weighs 10 tons and the tiles (colors were blues, greens and gold) and woodwork were just beautiful. We are not Muslim and differ in our beliefs because we recognize the Deity/Sovereignty of Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit and salvation by grace, not works. But we do recognize the gifts that God gives to man as He has created man in His image. That these gifts have been bestowed upon those who accept Him and those who reject Him(His son Jesus). To clarify briefly if you don't know much about Islam(muslim) - they do believe in the same God - the God of Abraham - just as Christians and Jews do. Our differences are in the acceptance of Jesus Christ as Messiah and salvation by grace, not by works/law = there are other things but just as a broad summary. Thus, we very much enjoyed our visit even though we don't share the belief. It is an absolute work of art.
And yes, the women's prayer hall was much smaller and while, beautiful, not nearly so ornate. Jus' sayin.'
After the Mosque, we headed to the FishMarket in Muscat. The girls LOVED looking at all the different 'fish' displayed for the morning - people buying, selling, cleaning. Here we also had coffee from the coffee man (his Omani pot was strapped to a basin with hot charcoal to keep the coffee hot - and it was HOT) and went through the produce market (where I got a 5lb bag of delicious dates for the equiv. of about $2.50).
The Muscat palace of Sultan Qaboos - they like the blue, green & gold theme.
The Arabian Gulf Cup was hosted by Oman this year (football/soccer) and started while we were there. This is only 1 example of the flag/sign/colors up in every place we went on our trip. Even some cars were fully decked out -Salah had a flag on both sides of our vehicle most of the trip. As well, the Gulf Handball championships were being held in Muscat. Not the handball in a racquetball court - arena handball (still trying to figure that one out, kinda like I don't think I'll ever get crickett). So - we saw teams in our hotels as well. Quick - get to the buffet line before they do!
The Mutrah Souk at night. We had fun shopping and looking - incense (we brought home a bag of Frankincense - no Myrrh though, didn't care for the smell), scarves, Indian fabrics (I declined the 'belly dancer' costume and Bart passed on the Omani cap :) ), Ali baba shoes, silver, carved wooden items - so many things to look at.
We finally came to our final destination on the coast. And Salah hugged the girls goodbye several times - they gave him pictures they had drawn. We felt we had made a friend in Oman. But he still only shook my hand after I offered it - :) - the customs run deep and I don't know that one can truly understand it all even if one lived there. Just like I still try to figure out some Swiss customs and perspectives (speaking of that, there is a poster here that I'll have to share next week).
After 4 days of running around, we spent 4 days of doing - nothing. Which my husband truly needed. The hardest decision was what to choose from the menu/buffet. I fell in love with the local food - heavily Lebanese influenced. A lot of Lamb, rice, hummus, mulbalah (sp?)(smoked eggplant stuff - DELICIOUS), baba ganoush (like an eggplant/tomato salsa - yum) with the flat bread. I didn't know I liked cardamom and tumeric - still don't know how to make dishes with these items but I might have to find out.
Lastly - 4 hour layover in the Dubai airport. Which is not a bad place to be - see the comfy chairs you can find to wait in. Bart looked at this picture and said "Well, at least 3 of the family of 4 entered the technology age." Hey! I used a digital camera to take the pic and I can do email and stuff!
Just because I still have a Daytimer that I purchased in 1992 while working at McGladrey(it's a nice leather one - still looks new, why throw it away?), and order calendar refills each year does NOT mean I'm technically challenged. I just need to physically write things down in order to remember them. I do NOT single-handedly keep DayTimer in business. So there!
OK - now I'm done with the longest post ever. I can move on to other things.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Some posts I've liked this week

A well written post re: prayer:

A well written post on avoiding "modern day Pharisee-ism" :

'pharisee-ism' isn't a word - made that one up!

And my (former DJ) bro-in-law has a thoughtful mix over at Kris & Jason (in my sidebar) - Jan. 12 post.

Last but not least is my blog friend Linds:

I am thinking many deep thoughts lately but can't seem to write anything down - so I'll share the deep thoughts of others - Enjoy.

I took a break

I will share a few more pic's of our Oman trip later this week. I took a bit of a computer break as my Mom flew in on Sat. morning and I put her on a plane home yesterday (Tues.).

We had a great visit. It was just a visit - no skiing, mountain climbing/hiking - just shopping, eating and spending time as a family. As she's coming back in February to stay with the girls and I during Ski Week (and yes, there will be some skiing done that trip!), we had her load up at Target and Walmart for us. She checked 2 bags coming over and her own packing only took up about 25% of the space. She had only 1 bag to check going home.

I think the most popular items with the girls were the 'fruit by the foot' (which I think are nasty and just one good reason to have a limited snack selection here - go ahead and BOO me, I don't care) and the giant box of Fruit Loops. Bart and I were happy with our Crest toothpaste, stash of Dayquil capsules - and a last minute request granted: a Costco size pack of AA batteries. AA batteries run about $.85 per battery here so we were thrilled to get a big, cheap pack. It's the little things we are content with.

The girls and I watched the Inauguration together last night - very convenient with the time difference. Rachel was very interested and asked a lot of questions about Obama's speech. In particular: "Mom, when he said that kids are failing in the schools, does he mean he'll tell the teachers to give them (kids) more time to finish their tests?" Oh that it were that simple. We've had some good discussion (civil rights, freedom of speech and voting, right to disagree but still be respectful, praying for our Nation's leaders) and it has given a sense of pride and community/history to the American students at the school. They (US students) miss out on some of that by being so removed physically - we have to take the time to give them that sense of community.

So another week begins (even though it's Wed. :) and I continue to try and catch up with 2009. I know the Bloggy info. has been a bit dry lately. I am really working on how much time I spend on the computer. There are other things: laundry, photo's, bathrooms, grocery shopping (ugg), bible study, worship schedules, skiing; that are calling my name and the computer has been too compelling in the last few months. So I am setting boundaries. And learning to work better within them. Which means I need to go now.......... :)

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

the Wahiba Sands

If you don't like sand or sunsets, I'd advise you to click somewhere else for today. 'Cause that's all you're going to get.

We love sand and sunsets so we found ourselves having a very special day into evening last week.

The desert floor with the Wahiba Sands/Dunes rising in the distance. This stretch of sandy sea measures 200km by 100km. Not a place you want to be stuck in during the summer when it's 50C (I forgot to convert to F - around 120 - 125 I think). Here we are driving up to the Sands after the village pit-stop to let air out of the tires. Everyone driving into the dunes stops along this road at the entry point and has the tire pressure decreased in order to drive in the thick sand. Makes sense. Little did we know yet how much 'driving' we'd be doing.

To remind - we are being driven around by our Omani guide, Salah, in a Toyota 4wd Land Cruiser. DO NOT go into the desert without these essential items: Salah and the Land Cruiser! Update: Water is also essential - definitely a good idea :).

Camels and a Bedouin in his truck. The girls kept saying "look a camel!" "look - another camel" "camel!" OK, enough! - it's like pointing out cows in Switzerland or corn in Iowa - YES, there are camels in the Desert of Oman. Mind you - expensive camels - do not hit one or it's Bedouin owner will expect repayment which can be as high as $120k USD.

Salah told us the best cars for the Bedouin are Toyota's. We read that a Bedouin will choose his truck based on whether his camel can sit in it. I kid you not - we saw a camel sitting down (and strapped for safety) in the back of a Toyota Forerunner on the highway! We were on the road and thus, no picture - too bad. And re: Toyota - they pretty much have a monopoly on the auto market there.

If you aren't familiar, the Bedouin people are those who essentially live in the desert/dunes, raise camels, live in tents/date palm shelters - they have for 1,000's of years. I would liken them to a type of desert gypsy but gypsy doesn't quite fit - very self sufficient, known for their hospitality and helpfulness, move around with the seasons (no one can live in the desert during mid summer) and they drive like bats out of hell on those desert roads.

Here's Salah showing us what the car can do. Especially after getting up in the dunes - oh, were my palms sweating. Of course, the girls were in the back seat doing their impression of King Julian (the naughty lemur) from Madagascar 2 "Put your hands in the air, it's much more fun!" I wasn't so sure when we were sliding sideways. They call it "dune bashing" - it's a lot different from the 4-wheeling I grew up with. This is much softer.
A look back at where we had come from so far. The tent camp we stayed at that night is over 50km into the Sands. We had just climbed "up" into the Dunes from the valley below.

I messed with this picture below so you could get a better idea (depth perception via photo) of what we had to get up into. See the high tire tread on the hill to the right? Those are probably Salah's. And yes, we were in the car. I decided Salah was a maverick. If he saw a set of treads in the dunes, he had to go higher - like Captain Kirk - Go, where no man has gone before. Palms were sweaty. Children having a great time.
To get up the hill pictured above, they essentially floor the gas pedal going toward the dune aka wall of sand and once they hit it, they work the wheel back and forth til the top- the car essentially scrambles up the sand. If you drive into it straight, you're toast! Stuck! Turns out - Salah is known among the tour guides for being quite the driver - he trains the other guides in desert driving. They call him "Crazy Desert." And he rarely gets stuck.
I have to admit it was a blast! Excuse my 80's exclamations - can't help my generational time period. I could add 'awesome dude' and 'radical' but am getting a little old for that. Rachel said "awesome dude" a gazillion times for me.

Here we are at dinner - toasting to a great day. I took a fantastic, cold shower in the open-air/ceiling bathroom attached to our tent. No hot water in the desert unless you catch it mid-day - warms up in pipes in the sand. That said, the facilities and food were fantastic! "Thousand Nights Camp" - we would have stayed another night if we had known how great it would be. They even had a nice pool for an afternoon swim. As it was around 87 - 90F, afternoon swims are good in the Desert during early January. You can ask Bart how his shower was - he opted for morning - Ahhhem.

Here's a shot of the Camp. All the tents are wood-pole framed with heavy, wool blankets for 'tenting.' If you look closely, you can see small cemented attachments at the back of each tent - with turret style tops. These are the attached bathrooms - a small sink, a shower nozzle, a toilet and open ceiling to the stars. Beds were comfortable and we all ended up snuggling as it did get cold at night. Will have to post that specific story later with more pic's - we always have a funny family story to share.
Here is Salah (seated right) with his friend, another guide. By this time in the trip, we had decided Salah was a pretty "cool" Omani. He was always very coordinated in clothing - it's not all about throwing on whatever clean dishdasha you have. He likes wearing a Bedouin style turban - tied just so - instead of the embroidered cap that many men wear. He said the cap was for when you are in a hurry and don't want to "take time" with yourself in the morning. We saw him once without the dishdasha - jeans and a striped polo: very preppy.
I also don't have many shots of people this trip. In spite of how interesting the people are.
They do not like having random photos taken without their permission. There was an incident with some French tourists years ago which soured the general population on having their pictures used for purposes out of their control. So - I did take some general scenery pictures with people or shots from behind - my overall standby. Salah encouraged me to ask people and I think he appreciated that I did not just "shoot away." They are willing to have the pic's taken - just want to be respected.
Salah sliding around while we watched the sun set.
Sunset with the goats headed for home.
More sand.....
I'll leave you with the girls enjoying the sunset. The sand was so soft and warm - and deep (you just sink in). Until the sun went down. Amazing how quickly it cools off. R & K love playing in sand and loved running up and down the dunes - practically sliding down in some places. They had a lot of fun. We all did.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Another day in Oman

Walking out of the water pools in Wadi Bani Khalid (wadi's - valleys where water runs through). The girls are walking along the edges of the falaj system. The falaj irrigation system is seen all over the place and has been used for, oh, a couple thousand years. This particular system is still in use and provides the village below drinking and irrigation water. Enjoying a nice, cool dip in the water pools. Yep, the same water pools that provide the drinking water to the village below - lalalalala. Funny, there were families in the water pool fully dressed - it was hot, they had no suits, so in they went.
OK - here we are in an old town and driving through NARROW streets. This particular entry required folding in the side mirrors and squeaking through with bare inches on each side. And we thought some of the streets in Italy were narrow!
The same village with the narrow streets. We couldn't catch the name but this was the square that conducted the notorious business of slave trade in Oman when the Portuguese occupied Omani ports several hundred years ago.
A view from above of the Wadi Bani Khalid - water pools. Hard to believe these barren, arid mountains have any water flowing under them at all.
Lastly for today, an abandoned village in the Jebel al Akhdar. The Jebel al Akhdar region has only been accessible by asphalt road in the last 4 -5 years. Prior to that, it was accessed via donkeys. Even with the road, there is a checkpoint and only 4wd vehicles are allowed due to the steep grade. Prior to the 4wd restriction, regular autos were having accidents due to high desert temps and melting brakes.
I took this pic from a similarly abandoned village across the way. They both had well developed falaj systems - even today. It helps for the villages still occupied below. These villages were built from mud brick with date palm trunks for support frames. The date palms used in construction last only 150 - 200 years. So eventually, the villagers must rebuild or move. I personally think they got tired of crossing the hot mountains with donkeys.
Hope these posts don't bore to death with facts, figures, etc... I just found it all to be so different and interesting.
For those of you in the freezing climates - thinking about the in-laws in Minn. with -30F - warm thoughts going out to you.

Monday, January 12, 2009

My head is swirling

It's hard to know where to start with this trip - the Sultanate of Oman. It made such an impression on our family. Although we had this trip booked for about 5 months, and had done some research, we left for Oman still not knowing quite what to expect.

Many tourists to Oman primarily go to resorts that are set up along the coast and taking day trips here and there for shopping/touring. The temperatures were 25 - 30 C while we were there and it is a huge draw for cold Europeans during winter (primarily heard UK, German & Russian during our stay) months.

Before we headed to a resort for sun and relaxation, we spent 3 1/2 days with an Omani guide, Salah, and traveled through a portion of their Country. Oman is bigger than Switzerland but the population size is only approx. 2.5 - 3 mill. (depends on who you ask). One third of the population lives in the capital city of Muscat - a port city. Until the 1970's, when Sultan Qaboos came into power, Oman was relatively closed to the rest of the world. Fact - in 1970, there was only 10 km of sealed (asphalt) road in the country. A very conservative and struggling country. Since then, the Sultan and the people have worked hard to bring the Country into the 21st Century and it is evident in the roads, hospitals, schools and ministry buildings - everything is relatively new, efficient and they embrace technology while trying to preserve their culture and heritage.

OK - enough of the history lesson today.

Random thoughts/experiences re: our trip:
  • We grew to enjoy the smell of Frankincense in the air (80% of Frankincense comes from Oman)
  • the Dates - tasty!
  • Omani coffee - a blend of arabica beans, cardamom and rose water - delightful if you like trying different coffees. I do - and Bart drank some to be respectful with the other men - His first coffee ever! Drinking it in a Bedouin tent and at the Muscat fish market - in little porcelain tea cups rinsed out in warm water. I don't know whose germs were on there but it would have been rude to refuse our hosts.
  • Ladies - take your own tissues/TP for the toilet. Only in hotel and/or museum facilities will it be available. And wearing a skirt is better than pants. I never thought to take a pic of a potty there - a whole blog in itself! Anyhoo - they were typically what the girls call a 'squat potty' - not a seat but porcelained floor potty with a hose bidet for 'rinsing'. Believe it or not - there are countries that find the use of TP to be unhygenic and backwards. Enough of that.
  • an old Omani man touching my arm in the Souk (market) and holding out his hand without looking at me. As an Omani man would not touch a woman without her permission (they only shook my hand if I offered it), I figured he really needed some Rial. I won't forget how that felt.
  • watching my girls dress in Bedouin clothes and how beautiful they looked
  • looking at all the differences in dress - the men in their neat, clean dishdasha's (white or earth toned) with caps/turbans and the women in everything from black decorated abeyas to colorful wraps to full abeya w/ birka (face veil). There were many degrees of dress if you took the time to look. And in the heat/sun, being all covered up in loose, light clothing makes a lot of sense.

First stop on our tour: Birkat al-Mawz (Banana pool). A pretty village of date palms, banana and mango trees. We drove through on our way up to the Jebel Akhdar (green mountain) area where we spent our 2nd night. The mountains themselves are not green - it refers to the areas below which support a variety of agriculture during the cooler months when rain accumulates in the wadis and terraces.

In the Nizwa Fort - traditional pottery and chests found in many homes. The New Year dessert buffet our first night. We stayed at a hotel by the airport, got rested and acclimated before the touring began. It was quite a feast and the girls enjoyed the New Year noisemakers and party hats they were given. The desserts? We had to force ourselves to stop!

The Nizwa Souk: we were so overwhelmed by all the items here. We did buy Bart's khanjar (a traditional Omani curved dagger) and Omani outfits for the girls here. I need to go back though - they had things that I didn't find in the Mutrah Souk!!!
Rachel looking over Nizwa from one of the Fort rooftops. More later. It's Bart's Bday and I need to bake a cake. Happy 4-th Birthday Honey!!!!!!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

We brought them home....

.....Our little Bedouins. Had we been willing, we could have negotiated husbands for them. They (Rachel & Kendra) did say they wanted to live in the Desert all the time. We respectfully declined - amid a lot of laughter from the Bedouin hosts. I won't show the other pic of R on the Net with the mask off and the Kohl rimmed eyes - no makeup for that girl! Too pretty and grown up - I want to keep her young for another couple of years if I can.

I am trying to sort through all the pic's and get laundry done.

What an absolutely unique experience - we were sorry to see it end. It was great to have a full get away. Bart especially needed it and hopefully is fully refreshed as he has to jump back into work with both feet on Monday. We didn't even have email while we were gone. I'm sure we could have paid for it at the hotel(s) but it was nice to be fully disconnected for a while.

I know I said I wouldn't bore you all with Oman when we got back but, too bad, life is back to school and housework and our trip was full of so many different experiences that it is all I will have to share this next week. We feel really fortunate to have had the opportunity to go and hope you will enjoy reading about the experience and enjoying some pictures this next week.

Happy New Year!!!!!