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Archive for August, 2009

Alright, a friend of mine that works at a private college gave me this picture. What you see here is an example of the cheating habit students have in Oman. These here are called “Barasheem”. Students take their teacher’s notes and copy them in a 10% scale. What they get are these small prints of the notes. I have no idea how they use them, but my friend tells me it is almost a daily thing, so I guess it works great for them.

Barasheem: Students preparing to cheat for an exam at an Omani college

Barasheem: Students preparing to cheat for an exam at an Omani college

Cheating is a common problem within the Omani educational system. It is common throughout the whole Gulf region. Students (mainly males) cheat their way through school and college – and they wonder why no one wants to hire them! – I mean, what a waste!

Students spend more time trying to find out ways to cheat than anything else. They cheat through phones, watches with tiny screens, tiny papers, writing on their knees..etc. I remember when I was in high school and attending my final exams. There were guys honking on their cars outside our classes… honk honk (question 2) *silence*  honk honk honk (answer c)… honk honk honk (question 3) *silence* honk (answer a)

If you wonder how they got the answers (supposedly, no one can get the questions before the exam starts), well, they get it once the exam starts.. they go to their tutors, get the answers.. and spread them around!

The problem starts in school. There are no harsh measures for those who cheat! In school exams, some students discuss questions with each other and open their books while one teacher helps them out and other.. well, guards the door!

As some one told me one day…

No one studies, we cheat in exams and if we can’t do copy/paste for our papers then we pay some Indians 30 rials to write them for us!

Disappointing!

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Omani Women in 1977

Here is a picture that I have received that I wanted to share with everyone. It is “astonishing” to see fully grown high school girls in those days (Some might already be married). I wonder how no one labeled them as “sluts” !? hmmm

I mean look! they are not wearing SCARFS!!! OMG!! Only “bad” girls do that these days!
and look! they are wearing BELTS!! Defining their waists..!!! HOW DARE THEY!!!!? bad bad bad girls!

Oman National Day in Buraimi 1977: "Jameela Bu Huraid High School Congratulates His Majisty Sultan Qaboos for the Seventh National Celebration"

Oman National Day in Buraimi 1977: "Jameela Bu Huraid High School Congratulates His Majesty Sultan Qaboos for the Seventh National Day Celebration"

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Crazy Drivers

On my way to Sur…..

No wonder people die from car accidents!!

Crazy drivers on a one lane road

Crazy drivers on a one lane road

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Many people look at the extent of shopping that happens in Ramadhan and wonder.. What do these people eat!?

First, I will have to explain the regular food we eat in a regular month:

Here, in a typical Omani family house, the day starts out with a cup of milk and Omani bread. (Omani bread is very thin and you dip it in the milk before you eat it). The day goes on and people might drink coffee at work and housewives might eat some fruits. In the afternoon, the typical lunch is rice with meat and some salads.. (Don’t forget the watermelon)! Then, people don’t eat until its dinner, which consists of either some soup or a western/eastern dish. Whichever it is, it’s just either one or two smaller dishes.

On Ramadhan, we fast, but in reality we eat more! Here is my average day in Ramadhan:

The day starts out with sohoor (breakfast before sunrise). Now, to get the maximum food in your stomach that would digest slowly you would have to eat rice and yogurt. Some people eat rice and meat! But which ever… it is a heavy meal –Of course its a bad idea to sleep right after that, but we need to reserve energy! – Then, we wake up late and go to work. Since we only work for about five to six hours a day –its actually less, remember we are tired and can’t concentrate much– we get home early. At 2pm, I would go into the kitchen to help out with the cooking –actually, I’m usually hungry and want to make sure that what I’m in the mood for will be served! – Today I made some sweets (including crème caramell of course!!).

At the Iftaar table (sunset breakfast), the whole family would gather around the food and stare at the watch. We all want the guy in Oman tv to stop reciting the Quran and call for prayer! The food consists of samboosa, 3 kinds of pastries, about 3 or 4 kinds of sweets, dates, fruits, juice, water, more juice..etc. Once the Imam calls for prayer I start grabbing everything I see in front of me: drinking a bit of juice, then a samboosa, then a pastry, then some sweets.. all at once and before the call for prayer is over! Then, barely able to stand up, I go to pray with a full stomach. After prayer, we gather at the table again. This time, more food starts to come out. We would have the soup of the day along with more samboosa and pastries. We eat more and more, till our bellies hurt. Then, we take some rest. The men go to prayer (its about 8:15pm by now), and us women clean and try not to eat more. Once everyone is back, we are back to serving dinner. It would be about 10:30 to 11pm. The regular lunch that would be served in a regular month would be served as dinner. So we eat more.. take some zantac or tums, and eat more. Stuffing more food in your stomach than what you can handle, but all you think about is how hungry you will be the next day if you don’t!

Is the picture clear now!

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The Wannabe Empire

Today, I was watching CNN international on Japan and their diesel-producing algae. They have mentioned that Japan has been producing diesel from algae, and have been used in cars already which is great, but it got me to think. If the world started to rely on algae for diesel, where would the Gulf stand?

For the past forty years, the Gulf has been exporting petroleum to the world, but it did not take advantage of this opportunity to flourish intellectually. The Gulf now, and will stay for a long time, a rich region with poor minded people (in general). Oman; for example, has been a very poor country before 1970 and when its economy started to become better, the people became a bit more educated. The root of the problem is the mentality and the culture that people are so intertwined with. For example, as a child you have many questions about God. Even though faith allows you to question and explore, the culture condemns you if you did. Every one would give you the “how dare you!” look. You are shut down from a young age. You learn not to ask and not to think critically. You would hear people answer you by saying “Well, that’s just how it is” or “its our culture”.

I want to have hope for the region to change positively, but I doubt that would happen in my time. Once money started to flood through the region, people became too good or too proud. For example, if you ask someone to work in construction, they will reply, “Are you serious! You want ME to work on construction?”. So, basically, the mentality here is that we are too good to do hard work. “And why work hard if we can have lower people do it? Or if we can just pay for the service?”. We have been paying a lot of money for these services, and our money has been going out of the country instead of circulating in it. So, basically we are making other countries rich. We rely on them. The reason we have about 6% unemployment rate (I don’t think they count the unemployed women) is because the country needs services that its people cannot fill.

Also, the region has a negative attitude. They look at the advancements of the West and far East as a result of being far away from God. “They are advanced because they have no fear of God and have no morals”. As if morals have been given to the Gulf people only. Unless you live with them and are part of them, you won’t see the extent of their negativity. Complaining is part of the culture and they dedicate an enormous amount of time to complain about their misfortunes and bad luck. Not that they are working hard to change it or to achieve. No, they want it to come to them.

But most importantly, its a culture that does not read. At least not beyond the religious books. A regular day in an Omani life does not include reading. Probably the newspaper a bit because we are in a region that is in the middle of war zone. Or at least we are close that it concerns us and we need to know what is going on. Oh, some people but mostly girls read translated romance books. I remember my cousins hiding those novels from their parents because they were taboo. However, the average Omani stops reading once they are done with school. No wonder we are so behind.

So, why do I call the Gulf region the “Wannabe Empire”, well its because people build their own empires..not so much here. We have the wealth to be an empire but not the attitude!

Note: I know the post is negative, but its my dedicated “complaining” time of the day!

Here is an article about the algae producing gasoline.

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Ramadhan Kareem

I had to write this post about the month of Ramadhan. This is my first time for almost ten years to be in Oman for fasting. It is a lot different than being in the US.

In the US:

  • You fast, work full hours, and take classes at the same time.
  • Your work or classes sometimes are during sunset. So you can’t really eat till later.
  • Having Ramadhan in the summer is the worst because its sunny ALL day. You break your fast, in some places, at 9pm.
  • The Muslim community in that area comes together and organize awareness lectures on Islam and Fastathoons for non-Muslims to participate.
  • You walk all day long around while people are walking with their donuts and coffee mugs.
  • You pass the student union area and the smell of food chases you around. Everyone is eating and chatting away, while you look at them and curse “I hate all of you!” while tightening your belt so your belly does not ache.
  • You go home and cook something quick before you go back to your second class or writing your research paper.
  • After breaking your fast at 9pm, you are too exhausted to do anything so you go to sleep leaving you with a single meal a day.

In Oman:

  • You wake up at four and eat the lunch that your mom, wife, maid have made (important to notice that its a female!).
  • You leave for work at 9am- if you feel like it that is– and sit at your desk doing nothing.
  • You read newspapers and yawn at the same time.
  • At 2pm, you feel like you’ve accomplished too much for the minimum amount of energy you have.
  • You grab your keys and run to your car, drive home, and sleep till 6pm.
  • You wake up and look at the watch wishing it was already sunset. Realizing its not, you take a visit to the kitchen to see what food you will eat that day.
  • Your mom complains you haven’t helped her in the kitchen and you complain you’ve been “working” all day long.
  • Once its sunset, you eat, pray then eat more and more..
  • You watch all the new series and TV shows they’ve been advertising the previous month.

My comments….. I’m glad I’m not experiencing the REAL Ramadhan for once!
Ramadhan Kareem to ALL… and to all Muslims in non-Muslim countries…. suck it up! lol!

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The Qur’an states that a man can marry up to four wives. There are many restrictions and conditions for polygamy in Islam. However, here I will talk about polygamy that has been taken out of its religious context into –my favorite of all – the cultural context. Yes, there is a difference.

Polygamy in Oman is, well, acceptable by most men and rejected by most women. You might find the practice common to some families and rejected by others. Personally, I would love it if it were illegal. But –and that’s a big but – you cannot ask to change God’s laws. So, how do we women manage to work around that? Well, women really don’t, or better.. they can’t other than ask for divorce. So, let me tell you what happens in this culture.

Many men, here, believe that it is their religious right to marry more than one despite their wives feelings. What some do –many of them- is marry a second wife in secret. The whole thing goes on for months or even years. Some men dare to take money from their first wives to pay the expenses to marry the second one. Build a new house under their names, dowry, wedding expenses.. etc. Once the scandal is out, then the woman either tries to divorce the husband or lives with him for her kids’ sake.

Why do men marry more than one? Well… because they want to. Some of the excuses that you might hear is… “There are too many unmarried women in the country and we just want to do a good deed”, or “I felt sorry for the girl, she was unmarried”, or “just because –the only honest one”. So, how do first wives feel…. Hurt, stabbed in the back, regret, and all other emotions that go in your head once you find out that someone cheated on you!

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