Wednesday, July 18, 2012

18 July: Omanis to the rescue

18 July

I was shaken to learn that one of our friends/hotel staff was in a car accident two days ago.  I noticed that she was not in yesterday but did not think anything of it.  When I saw her this morning I could not hide my astonishment; she looked haggard and has a quarter-sized gash on her lower lip/chin.  She told me the story of the accident—her taxi driver was drunk and crashed into a road barrier.  Thankfully, she escaped without major injury but she showed me how her lip had either been bitten or pierced through, and described the massive bruises on her back and legs.  I feel terrible for her...and feel extra dread about transporting my little girls to and fro without car seats or even seatbelts!  Sobering thought.  And the best I can do is pray we are blessed with sober drivers.

Another rocky start this morning but less dramatic than yesterday.  Yumi kept on demanding “right now!” about a few things and Emi conked Ayame Little Pants on the head.  A fracas—the best word to describe it.  Cacophony–another apt word.

Oatmeal with fresh apricots, peaches, AND pears cheered them right up.  Nate came back from his workout in time for me to take Yumi down to breakfast and to use the internet available these days only in the lobby.  Pita, fuul, fatoush...a tasty breakfast. No oatmeal for me, no matter how fruity.  My girls may not embrace Arab breakfast but I sure do.

Mayumi left for camp with Nate and I strove to get in a mini workout.  We got up a bit late this morning and, what with the fracascacophony, we were behind “schedule.”  We had plans to meet friends at the embassy pool and needed to arrive by a certain time to be checked in by them.  Thus I had only about 25 minutes for a workout which was interrupted by a call from Nate.  Seems as though Yumi did NOT want to be left at camp after all and, seeing as how he needed to get to class, could I come pick her up from his school as soon as possible? Sigh.  I also knew he felt under pressure to get to class and aggravated that Yumi was not cooperating.  Yet if I agreed, we would have to nix our plans to go to the pool.  Collecting her would make us too late.  I did not want to change our plans because of another Yumi fit.  I advised him to apologize to the staff but, considering he had already paid, ask them to just try their best to cheer her up.  As I heard nothing from him after that, I assumed everything was fine.

I had been at the embassy pool for only 5 minutes, however, when my phone rang. Yumi’s camp counselor Farah was on the line, informing me that Yumi had not stopped crying since her arrival.  Double sigh.  I told both Farah and Yumi that I would be there to pick Yumi up at two hours.  Maybe I should have gone to collect her right away; she IS only four, after all, and in a foreign country at a camp without any friends.  But I really REALLY wanted her to try to sort out her problems and turn her morning around without me.  And since I did not hear from Farah again, I assumed everything was fine.

Pool was fun.  We left in time to reach Sports City by 1pm.  I called Farah when we were just a few minutes away to ask her to bring Yumi up to the main gate.  She apologized but said she could not get Yumi to come with her.  Apparently things had not improved. Triple sigh!  I am not sure why I did not ask the taxi driver to wait; I suppose I figured it might take longer than would be fair to ask him to wait for us.  We found Mayumi and Farah outside the gym, Yumi in tears. Farah explained that Yumi had perked up some after her initial distress at being left by Nate, but then had an “incident” on the playground; I assumed Yumi had been wronged or at least took offense and just could not recover emotionally.  At least she was not flailing about on the ground.  She was, however, crying, and did not stop when she saw me.  She did not even seem that happy to see me.  I apologized to Farah and led Yumi away.  That was when she told me that she was sad because she had thrown some sand at a boy on the playground and had been reprimanded.  I cannot imagine she was punished harshly; not that they shy away from firm discipline here but surely they would not be rough with the four year-old daughter of an American.  Don’t take that as a sense of entitlement but just an assumption based on experience.  No, I doubt they did anything more than make her sit in “time out,” but she took it hard.  On a positive note, she admitted her wrongdoing to me of her own accord and explained that her sadness was because she had “chosen the wrong.” 

Getting out to the main street was simple enough; finding a taxi proved to be more difficult.  I had the girls sitting in the shade against a storefront and Aya/I were out in the street trying to get a taxi to stop.  For about ten minutes.  And then a giant SUV pulled up next to me.  Picture this: a Gulfi man in flowing white robes at the wheel, a woman completely covered in black (barring her eyes) in shotgun, and a prim Indonesian woman with a headscarf in the back seat.  Non-taxis will often slow down while I am out trying to catch a cab, the drivers leaning over with a head shake a and hand twist that means “where are you going?”  In former days, I would have jumped right in.  My hesitation now is not so much out of concern for my daughters but for the kind Samaritans offering the ride.  They do not know what they are getting into when they are offering me and my ticking time bombs a ride.  So I do not let them. 

Today was different.  I needed to get these girls home.  Without hesitation I began to toss little girls into the back seat.  The kindly woman in the front jumped out and began to help me.  Emi caught sight of my water bottle and asked for water.  Hearing this, but not seeing the bottle, this woman ran into the nearest store to search for a bottle of water.  I assured her husband we were well equipped with water and he called her back.  The Indonesian woman—unquestionably their maid—looked on, silently. 

These were Omani tourists here for Ramadan.  As they did not know the streets, I had to direct them to our hotel which, luckily, I could do.  As we drove and chatted, the wife began plying the girls with fruit and treats.  Thankfully, my girls were gracious and well-mannered.  Sports City is near our hotel so we arrived within minutes.  Without hesitation the Omani woman took my backpack and Emi by the hand and crossed the street.  We parted, kissing cheeks.  The whole experience, commonplace during my hitchhiking days but a first for this summer, was a refreshing reminder of why I love the Middle East.

This evening: Pretty basic.  “Pretty basic,” however, is still relatively intense when compared to our old life.  After saddling myself up with Emi (on my back), Aya (in the stroller), Yumi (walking) and yet another batch of laundry (stroller), we headed off to our usual afternoon destination: Abu Manal’s shop.  We made it quick; we had a date to meet Nate in 20 minutes in front of the hotel.  We all went to “Thaqaafa” street for shawarma, veggies, and fruit cocktails.  Tasty and uneventful.  We saw two rabbits in someone’s yard.  We got the girls ready for bed quickly and yet it was 8:30pm by the time we turned the lights out.  I am glad for the exercise but tired after carrying Emi/Yumi on my back roundtrip 2 miles.  People often ask why I would carry one of the bigger girls and leave Aya in the stroller but I like to give the little Chub a break from the Ergo when possible.  At any rate—as positive end to the day.  I know my last few posts have been rather negative so I am happy to report that I have had a generally positive outlook today.  A few more things to report: 1) I was in touch with that couple from Arlington, VA today and it looks like we will get together on Friday. 2) I may have found an Arabic conversation partner/teacher who will come to the hotel to practice and speak with me several times a week. 3) I also may have found someone to come and watch the girls for me while I meet with said teacher.  We shall see! I report on these events as they develop.

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