Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Tower of Babel-- From One Language to Many

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!

Monday, November 26, 2012

It's a Mall, Mall World

Our first trip out of Muscat was to Dubai.  We had a great time going to the Mall of the Emirates and The Dubai Mall.  We were not disappointed.  We set out early Thursday (our Saturday) morning, for the 4 1/2 hour drive. 
We drove through desert and mountains.  Finally, we got to Dubai!  That is the Burj Khalifa below, the tallest building in the world.  It stands 2722 feet high.
Savannah, at the Mall of the Emirates.  Our main mission?  Find iphone 5's!

This is how you get two teenagers to move across the world! 

Austin was happy to find a Dunkin' Donuts.  Sweet memories!


Now for the real attraction of the Mall of the Emirates-- the ski slope!  Yes, you can ski in the desert!  For about $50, you can enter the winter playland, ski, and enjoy all the activities.  Your fee includes coat, snow pants, and boots.  The temperature is a chilly 28 degrees inside.

Now, for The Dubai Mall!  While the Mall of the Emirates has over 500 stores, The Dubai Mall has more than 1200!  This sign was posted at the entrance to the mall.  I am not sure if you can see all the restrictions listed.  You should keep shoulders and knees covered, and no public displays of affection.   Unfortunately, this sign was not very well heeded.  I saw lots of shoulders and knees, and other body parts.  That is probably one of the biggest differences between the malls in Muscat and the malls in Dubai.  Westeners are very much in the minority in Muscat, and modesty does not seem to be an issue.  Way different in Dubai!  Much more of an international crowd, and lots more skin!

The Waterfall sculpture in the mall.

Joe thought it looked kind of painful.  His words, not mine. :)

Love this picture and love the name of the store.  We did see some Christmas decorations for sale in several stores, especially the American chains like Crate and Barrel.  The mall itself was not decorated for Christmas, but I have heard that Santa does make an apperance.  I miss hearing Christmas music in the stores, if you can believe it. 

You can take the Holmes family away from Texas, but Texas is never far away.

Neither is Chicago!  The caramel popcorn was every bit as good as in Chicago, without having to brave the long lines in freezing temperatures.

Outside, at the front of The Dubai Mall, is a huge pond.  There are dancing fountains that move the water to music, like at the Bellagio in Las Vegas.  We were disappointed to miss the fountains in action.  In the background, you see a closer view of the bottom of the Burj Khalifa. 

Back inside, we see the 3-story aquarium.  It is amazing!  By the way, the man you see in white, is dressed in traditional clothes and head coverings from the Emirates or Saudia Arabia.  They dress a little differently in Oman.  More on that in the future.

See the scuba divers in the tank?  Who cares about us?  :)

Our last picture at The Dubai Mall.  A great time was had by all, and we are planning another trip to Dubai soon.  Next time, we will stay two nights instead of one.  There is so much more to see and do!





Monday, November 19, 2012

And We're Off!

"Oman?  Is that a city or country?"  Those were my first words to my husband about nine months ago, when he casually mentioned that his company would be building a plant there.  Joe asked me what I thought about living in the Middle East.  I thought of my friend, Monica, who has lived in several places throughout the world.  She always seemed to have such interesting stories and experiences.  So I said, "why not?"  So here I sit now, in a partially-furnished house with a for sale sign in the yard, tackling a to-do list a mile long.  Getting ready to embark on a journey of a lifetime (or at least 3-5 years!)

Joe and I will not be going on this journey alone.  We will be bringing our two younger children.  Austin is 15 and a freshman in high school.  We have stayed in the country this long so that he could have one full season of high-school football.  Let's just say he is not chomping at the bit to move thousands of miles away.  Then there is Savannah, who is almost 14.  She is in 8th grade and can't wait to move to Oman!  She is counting the days.  We are leaving behind our two older children and  son-in-law.  Amanda and Seth live in New York City and our son Jared lives is Phialdelphia.  They are looking forward to visiting us in our new home. 

It is kind of fun telling people where we are going.  When people hear we are moving, they usually assume we are moving back home, to Texas.  When I tell them Oman, my most common response has been, "Oman?  Oh my!!" 

I look forward to sharing with y'all our new journey.