Let's pretend this is the Tower of Babel. I know this is the Burj Khalifa, but I am working with the pictures I have. It's a very tall structure.
I have the privilege of attending Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) here in Muscat, Oman. We meet on Tuesday mornings at 9:15, at the Protestant Church of Oman. This week's lesson was on The Tower of Babel, from Genesis 11. Just to refresh your memory, the people of Shinar decided to build a very tall tower. They had three reasons for doing so. First of all, they wanted to reach heaven their way, on their own. Second, they wanted to make a name for themselves and get all the glory. Finally, they wanted to stay put in this place, and not spread out, as God had commanded. God was not pleased. He thwarted further plotting by making them all speak different languages so they couldn't understand each other. Until that time, the whole earth spoke just one language. I learned today that there are now over 6700 recognized languages on earth!
Sometimes I feel like Muscat is home to a big chunk of those languages. There are people here from all over the world. The barbers are from Turkey, the moving men from Pakistan, the gym personal trainers are from the Philippines, the gardeners are from Bangladesh, etc. In my BSF discussion group, there are women from India and Nigeria. My children go to an 'American' school, where 50 nationalities are represented! When I was thinking of how life would be in Oman, I never thought of how I would communicate with everyone. Well, here's the thing-- everyone speaks English! Well, the vast majority do. It is the unifying language. When we go to the bank or the mobile phone store, we are served by Omanis speaking near-perfect English. The waiters in the restaurants, the clerks in the stores, and the people pumping the gas all speak English. I have heard an Omani woman at a nail salon speaking English to the nail technician. English is how all these cultures converge. For which I am very grateful.
I am also grateful for all the signs in Arabic and English. I think of all the debates in the US, about making English the official language and not offering so many things in alternate languages. I have a whole new perspective on the matter. I am very relieved I don't need to be fluent in Arabic to function in this beautiful city. So, for now, I bid you ma'a salama, or good-bye!