Jillian R.
It's not every day that I get to see the slums.


And I still will not ever get the chance if we hadn't gone looking for a washing machine. Yes, we went looking. Here's what happened;


Our flat comes with a manual washing machine. Who uses these nowadays anyway? I've never seen one until now:-
1. You turn on the water yourself;
2. Stand over it and watch it fill, turn off water yourself
3. When it finishes washing, twist the dial to "Drain" and then wait some more.
4. Repeat Steps 1-2 to clean clothes off soapy water, sometimes it doesn't do a very good job;
5. Repeat Step 3;
6.Transfer wet clothes by hand to the spin section, change function to "Spin".
7. Wait 5 mins for the spin cycle to finish while enduring loud clunking noise of washing machine trying to run around.


I'm not kidding about No.7 either. All in all, it's not even about the manual labor which I can't stand, I have really gotten quite used to it after a couple of times. It's the LINT which gets me. The washing machine has a lint trap which does not work AT ALL. Whenever a wash our cheap kitchen towels, the lint falls off and ruins the entire wash. After 3 weeks; I think I've had enough.


Since our flat is a rental and we still haven't decided if we're staying put in Oman, the best bet is to get a used washing machine. Our friend (and neighbor) offered to take us to where most of the used furniture stores were. Of the maybe 10 shops available only one had automatic washing machines for sale and they were too expensive. Our friend then told us that we should call out the price that we want loud enough so that other vendors in the area would overhear and try to match the offer. Eric did.

Less than a 5 minutes later, an Indian man approached us and told us that he had the washing machine we were interested in at his house. We followed him in our car for quite some distance until we got to an almost undeveloped part of Oman. Large heaps of sand could still be seen everywhere. The houses looked small from the outside, but inside, it was unbearably sad for me.

 (At least everyone had nice cars...)

(And the scenery is not all that bad)


The Indian guy lives in one of these houses with his wife and 3 boys; one was only a toddler. The queen-size bed was placed in the living room only room in the house while the kitchen was maybe the size of our 2-seater dining table. The washing machine was in the bathroom which was in a, um...very unsavory condition. The floor and walls were made from cinder blocks and wasn't even cemented over. I hated myself for trying not to touch anything because everything looked oily and/or dusty. I thought no amount of bleach could clean the place out.


Well, since he was selling the washing machine which looked fairly new at a very good price, we took it. When we came home we bleached it, well, I mean, ran an empty wash with lots of bleach in it.


And once again, our clothes will be clean and lint free!


It's kind of ironic though isn't it? Buying a washing machine from the slums of Oman?
Jillian R.
Going to the supermarket has always been an adventure; back home in Penang, you can see 10-11 year olds being pushed around in shopping carts. In Korea, you have to be extra vigilant because there's a constant risk of someone running you over with one. Here in Muscat, well, two weeks here and already the adventures are beginning...


You know what they say about the camera; when you don't have one handy, you will often stumble upon the most interesting sights. Actually, I don't know if that's a common enough saying, I am merely quoting the husband. A couple of days ago, we were at Lulu Hypermarket to pick up our weekly groceries. There, in its outdoor car park, was a camel tied to a pole; literally parked among the cars! I have never seen a camel up that close before (or any real ones from far in fact, except on TV). I believe I shrieked; "OMG, it's really cute!", but it was - with it's long eye lashes and a red saddle strapped on its back. Like I said, no camera; I didn't even have my cellphone with me. I must explain that even though we're in the desert (literally) camels are very rare out here in the city.


Anyway, after staring at the camel for a few minutes, we went about with our shopping. In my previous entry, I've written about how amazing the supermarkets here are compared to Korea. Korean supermarkets tend to only carry Korean products and/or ingredients to make Korean foods. Being in Korea for a year has truly turned me into a country mouse; somewhat. I felt slightly overwhelmed in the Baking Goods aisle. Simply put, Koreans do not bake. Remember how hard it was for me to find a muffin tray?


The one thing I really don't look forward to here is checking out. For some reason, not only at Lulu's of course, but at some of the other supermarkets regardless of their size, the cashiers always have a disgruntled look on their faces. I know, you can find these everywhere. However, usually if you smile or say "thank you" afterwards, they would at least give you a head nod or whatever. Not over here.

I've been subjected to quite a few very unhappy employees before but this cashier took rudeness to a whole new level. Here's what happened; as the family in front of us was half done, we started to look around for the counter divider;


(Counter Divider)

...but the only one available was being used by the cashier himself. He was using it to stop the customers' items from rolling off his conveyor belt. Correct me if I'm wrong, but aren't we, the customers the ones who were supposed to use the divider? At first I asked him nicely if I could have it. He said "No" very curtly, with a very annoyed look on his face. As if he didn't belong there and was forced to work instead of smoking some shisha (hookah) with his friends.

I was honestly quite embarrassed by the very mean look he gave me so I started to back away. Eric however, smilingly reached over and took the divider from the cashier and stuck it behind the family's last item(s). With this the cashier lost it (I think), so he snatched it back quite rudely. The mother from the family in front of us tried to help by saying "Maybe later he will give it to you". But really, why would we need a divider when it's our turn?! By then, the cashier had such a look on his face which oozed such meanness and anger that I was beginning to feel quite intimidated. Imagine a person being forced to smell faeces, you get what I mean? Not only that, he kept saying "You go over to the other counter! You go!". He got even angrier when we decided to stay.

The furious cashier then started scanning our purchases and threw it over the other end of the counter, I'm quite amazed that nothing broke. He even threw our white towels over an extra dirty spot - just to get us. Before leaving, Eric and I both said "thank you" politely in our effort to get him to lighten up. He ignored us.

If you have been reading my blog (religiously, I hope), you will have guessed that I will not take this lightly. That cashier got what he deserved - a long complaint card. The staff at Customer Service were very helpful and they kept making sure that I was okay. I even saw one of the girls kind of jabbed another girl on the arm when I told them which cashier it was. That gave me the impression that this happens all the time.

Despite all my gung-ho attitude there, when I got home, I started to feel a little worried. Really, if you had seen the look on the man's face, you would understand what I'm saying; he had such a scary, menacing look on his face - I was sure he was going to seek revenge.

I had nightmares that night, two separate ones in fact. Pink, fur-less dogs and being sent away without Eric...that kind of thing.

I don't know if they keep customer feedbacks anonymous but I know this; the next time I shop at Lulu's, I will be avoiding checking out where that cashier is; and oh yes, dark sunglasses might help.

Now, Eric - well, maybe a hat too!
Jillian R.
As much as I've grown to love Muscat, there seems to be another minor inconvenience; it seems quite impossible to walk around alone (as a non-Omani woman) without getting harassed on the street.

Yesterday, I decided to go out by myself to pick up a few grocery items whilst Eric was at work. I walked to the nearby market square where we've been to countless times as a couple (people were always friendly). It was barely 11am and already the small supermarket here in Al Khuwair was bustling with the locals. I had quite a number of things on my shopping list so I was busy deciding which aisle to hit first. I didn't notice initially but when I did, I saw that in every aisle, a local man was staring at me - with a cellphone in hand.

I started to feel a little self-conscious so I looked down at what I was wearing; a knee-length pair of khakis, a fitted-T and a big shawl wrapped loosely over my entire upper body - this was more modest than what the other foreign women were wearing. So I continued to look around the shelves. Then it happened; a local guy (who had apparently been standing beside me for some time) said to me "Hello, can I have your number?". I won't deny that it was flattering at first but then it got creepy. Politely I told him that I was married and then I turned back to the shelves. The man then said "Why? We can be friends". I didn't want anything untoward to happen so I again, said "No, thank you, I'm married" and I walked away.

At the next aisle, the same thing happened with another man. This time he just asked for my number bluntly. Again, I declined twice. It was a very small supermarket and within a few minutes I finished. After I left the store, I was more aware then, that there's always someone staring at me from any corner of the street.

I quickly picked up a few more things I needed and I began to walk home. When I turned the corner into my neighborhood, another man who was standing in front of an apartment building called out to ask if he could give me a lift home. This was itself a very creepy question; strangers do not offer rides to anyone on the street, do they?

I quickly said, "No, thank you, I'm married" (here in the Gulf, saying that you're married is very important, I was told) and continued walking, in a faster pace now. A few seconds later, a car slowly crept up behind me and the same man, rolled down his window and asked to give me a ride and he also wanted my number. And for the last time that day, I uttered those few magic words, "No, thank you, I'm married". He apparently would not give up, because he slipped me a small piece of paper with his number instead; "Call me, we can be friends", he said.

Later a friend who had been living here for a few years told us that the men probably assumed that I was Filipino. Filipinos are reputed to be...well, escorts, if you may, here. Of course, this being true or not, it's not for me to decide. However, being a South East Asian anywhere is proving to be quite a challenge.

Why does everyone have to assume that I am Indonesian or Filipino? I am not saying it's shameful to be either one of those, these people are of course, hardworking and self-sufficient, they travel all over to world to become white or blue collared workers. It's time for the world to see the positive side and not just the negative. Till then however, I want it be known that I am Malaysian - but even so, is it any different?
Jillian R.
We are finally here in Muscat, Oman and so far, I only have good things to say about this amazing city.


Okay maybe the Internet isn't all that great; an unlimited monthly plan is almost non-existent, the best plan so far is a 20GB-limit per month package but it's not available in our area because they have reached their quota. Currently I am using one of those USB modem thingies which gives me a 1GB per day limit. No more streaming all day on Youtube! It's a far cry from what we are used to in Korea (unlimited, fast connection - and comes FREE with the apartment!), but I guess one can never have everything...


Besides the minor inconvenience, Muscat is truly a great place to be.


Going to the supermarket for example, there are aisle after aisle of local and imported products with labels in both English and Arabic. Again, this is a very refreshing difference from Korea where we have to play guessing games each time we go shopping. The cereal aisle has always been my fascination everytime I go grocery shopping. There are hundreds of choices and I just can't say enough how amazing it feels to be boggled with choices instead of just being forced to choose either the ONE imported brand or the 4-5 Korean brands which I knew would be terribly sweet. And of course, the fresh produce aisles are absolutely normal - bear in mind that in Korea, the only greens available are radishes and 3-4 different kinds of weeds! When I saw the few different kinds of small, green chili peppers, I knew I was home.

Muscat is truly a beautiful city; all the buildings are no taller than 10 storeys (it's a law) and are all painted either white, tan or beige (again, it's a law) and during the hours of sunset or sunrise, the shadows cast upon them gives the city an almost mystical look. Even after seeing these buildings everyday for the past week, I still find myself holding my breath in awe every time drive past a cluster of houses.



Another change which I still need to get used to is the kindness of the Omanis. So far all the people we have met were so genuinely kind that it seems almost unbelievable. First of all, let me say that besides taxis, there are no public transport available here. The reason is, I am told is that the Omanis would rather drive any where because gasoline is so cheap here (approx. US$0.30 per liter). So, we were walking around for hours looking at different apartments and I was slowly dying inside (luckily it wasn't that hot, it was in the mid 20's Celsius that day) because I couldn't seem to find a public bathroom that wasn't locked! Anyway, a taxi driver had seen us walking around quite aimlessly at that and had offered us a free ride to search for the place. I didn't hear the initial conversation but later on Eric told me that the taxi driver stopped and asked where we were heading and he offered to help. When Eric asked how much, the driver said "No no, don't worry about it, you look like you need help, I want to help you". Later on that day, again we were lost and we stopped an Omani passer by to ask for directions. He tried for a few seconds to explain and eventually just took us to his car and drove us there. On another occasion, when we were eating at a coffee shop, a young man came up to us and started chatting with us, inviting us to join his horse/camel riding party, and then when we told him our plan was to spend some time at one of the malls, he drove us there, for free. I am sorry to say that at first when he asked if he could sit down and chat with us, I thought it was to sell us something. But like I said, the kindness and hospitality which the people here show are absolutely unbelievable. It's a bit too much to take in sometimes.


Anyway, with the limited download on the internet, I will need some time before I can upload some pictures. Do expect lots because there sure are some amazing things to do here! 
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