Jillian R.
We live in a cut-up villa with maybe 6-7 other people. We’ve yet to meet them all in person. There is one man, however, who needs no personal meeting – because we could smell him. Literally.

And it’s not a pleasant smell.

One floor above our apartment lives an Egyptian neighbor. I don’t know if he speaks English as we’ve never spoken to him before. The thing is; this guy probably has the worst body odor I’ve ever smelled in my entire life. Yes, ENTIRE life. I don’t know what it is with this guy. Another tenant thought it might be his shoes which were left outside his apartment, so that tenant (apparently) spoke to the landlord and the Egyptian was asked to put his shoes inside his apartment (can you imagine what it would smell like in there? Yikes!). This did not help, if anything, I think the stench got worse.

The funny thing is; this guy is not a physical laborer. He must be working in an office somewhere because he wears a dress shirt, slacks and a suit jacket every time we see him. Anyway, I will try to describe his smell the best I can – it smells so bad that whenever I walk out of our apartment I gag and want to throw up. Sometimes I think I do; a little in my mouth. It’s not even the smell of sweat, it’s like the smell of month-old sweaty socks, rolled up into a ball and left in a heated, humid room to slowly rot and simmer into something else entirely. It smells like despair and death.


(Old, smelly socks)

Or let me put it this way; it's good for my diet plan. Why? One time I had a passing thought about the stench during lunch, just a passing thought, I lost my appetite entirely.


All I can think of is; poor little Jester, with his sense of smell, walking into a cloud of THAT smell. Usually when I take him out to go to the bathroom, I will make him sit and wait in the doorway – y’know, for training purposes. However, when the guy is home, I say “RUN, JESTER, RUN! C’MON, RUN!” and Jester will. Sometimes he looks at me anxiously when we walk into the hallway. It could be the smell of it could be that he REALLY needed to go. Heh.


I do the same with Eric – “RUN, ERIC, RUN! HURRY! CAN’T BREATHE!”

We often have to light incense to cover the awfulness of it all. I didn’t know a human being could even make smells like that. Let me tell you, I’ve smelled people who work in the sun before, I’ve smelled the boys at camp (when I was a girl scout) who didn’t shower for a few days, but this, this tops it all.

So there you have it, another strange tale from Muscat!


[Edit 5/24/2011: We had the pleasure to speak with our Egyptian neighbor yesterday. He is one of the nicest people we've one here. NICEST! And he speaks very good English and he LOVES dogs. I find that this is a very rare quality in this part of the world. He DOESN'T have body odor, he just has really smell feet I suppose because he doesn't smell like anything when we talk to him. So it really WAS his shoes which were stinking up the building. And it's been quite some time since we smell the stench, so I guess he has been keeping his shoes inside his apartment now. Bless him!]
Jillian R.

I’m starting to see that every day, no matter what it is, getting things done here in Muscat is a challenge; like ordering drinking water for example. Simple task, no? Well, think again.

Like many Gulf Countries, water here is desalinated. While it is okay for washing, it doesn’t taste quite right. One can taste the faintest hint of saltiness in the tap water, even after it is boiled. Also, the water seemed to have a more “dense” quality to it when compared to normal drinking water. We bought a (Omani brand) water filter which does a very poor job of filtering the water. The saltiness is still there, although very faint, but more importantly, little black specks of the filter sometimes appear in filtered water. Yeah, like I said, it does an extremely poor job and I am stopping Eric from buying another one (of a different brand even) because I don’t think any filter would be able to filter out the taste of the water.


Our other option is to order bottles of drinking water to be delivered. We already have the dispenser, so all we need is the bottles to be delivered every few days and we’re set, right?

On Saturday morning (the first day of the work week), I called Oman Oasis to place my order.  I didn’t just order 2 bottles (5 gallons each); I told them I wanted to buy their coupon booklet of 20 bottles. The man on the phone told me this, and I quote; “We will try to deliver today or tomorrow”. I asked him if it was “today” or “tomorrow” most probably and he repeated the sentence.

It is now 11pm, Sunday night. No water. No courtesy call. Nothing.

I really miss our Korean water guy back in Daegu, we called him in the evenings when we were running low on water, the next morning,*BOOM* he was there with 2 5-gallon bottles of water which he carried by hand up 3 flights of stairs. If these people here would be half as efficient as he was, I would have been happy.

So help me understand this, we’re talking about water. A very essential human need and they don’t even bother to deliver on time. What if we didn’t have our sorry excuse for a water filter? Now I’m re-thinking ordering water from these people. Who knows what would happen after we pay them for the booklet. They’ll never show up again.

Oman has a lot of potential, the Sultan is such an amazing leader, but why can’t the people just…just work for a living?
Jillian R.
I know everyone has been (anxiously?) waiting to read the next episode of my experience living in Muscat. Well here it is; and no, it’s not a pleasant one.

Last night was one of those rare occasions which we eat out. We usually eat at home or wait until the odd weekend (Thurs and Fri) where we try a new restaurant. Foods here are typically fried, grilled or pickled then served with bread, therefore we choose Health by eating at home.

Anyway, last night we were at an open air coffee shop; a restaurant where they do the grilling by the entrance and has tables and chairs set up outside. There are always a few tables inside the restaurant which are mostly empty, customers who sit inside either get to enjoy the A/C if it’s switched on or cocooned in hot, damp air.

We always sit outside.

As we waited for our food to arrive, Eric had his before-meal cigarette. I could never get him to stop doing it. Bear in mind that smoking in coffee shops is NOT prohibited here in Muscat, furthermore, we’re in the open-air section. Cigarette butts could be seen on the ground around our feet. Shortly after Eric lit the cigarette, a waiter immediately brought him an ashtray. As we were talking, the same waiter came over and told him very politely and apologetically that “certain” customers were complaining and could he please put it out. Eric did. We looked around and everybody seemed to be talking and/or enjoying their food. We guessed that it was two Omani men sitting closest to us.

It is NOT rude for a person to ask another to put out a cigarette; it was just that the situation last night was extremely rude due to these circumstances:

1/ We were in the open-air area

2/ There was the smell of insecticide in the air. The spraying truck had probably left less than 30 mins before. Insecticide = Poisonous Fumes

3/ The sent a waiter over instead of telling us themselves while pretending to be deep in conversation the whole time.

4/ The grilling was ongoing as we speak. As far as I know, Grilling = (Oily) Smoke

5/ Instead of asking him not to light another one, Eric was asked to put it out. Asking another person to put out a cigarette is just plain rude.

And finally;

6/ The coffee shop was situated by a busy street; where people (who can’t walk 5 feet) pull up (in front of a coffee shop!), honk for the waiters and wait in their cars with engines running while they wait for their take-aways. Car engine running = Carbon Monoxide

With all these elements in the air, you would think these two Omanis would just get on with their lives and not bother another patron who just wants to enjoy a cigarette (I really wish Eric would stop, but that’s a separate issue). Also the pure rudeness of the situation was simply aggravating. I have seen people coming up to Eric and asked if he could step further away from them while he smoked because of their sensitivity to cigarette smoke, kids, or some health issue, etc. He is not an unreasonable person; he would always apologize and get out of the way. This however, is new. Customers from a table that wasn’t even that close, in an open area, by the street, with insecticide in the air, asking a waiter to ask another person to put out his cigarette!

I don’t know what else to say about Omanis. I HAVE met some really nice ones, like the taxi driver who drove us for free because we were wandering in the heat or the one who offered to take us in his car when we asked for directions, but the nice ones are extremely hard to come by. It’s the unreasonable, probably uneducated ones whom we meet every day.

These days I live by this one thought; it must be hard being an Omani (man), having to muster so much grumpiness on a daily basis. Well you know how the saying goes; it takes more muscles to frown than to smile. I don’t think these people get it.

Maybe it’s the heat. 
Jillian R.
I feel like I need to apologize before I go further; the tone of the entry will be somewhat unsavory.


So. Living in Muscat for three months and counting. What's it like? I shall quote a friend who said the same thing about Korea, first, there is wonderment, something and something else in between (I'm sorry, I don't really remember what he said), and finally, acceptance


I'm still in the wonderment stage of settling down in Muscat and I don't see a future where there will be acceptance.


Wonderment
I've never seen such lazy, ignorant people in my entire life. The beaches for example, are in a very sad state, there are (often broken) bottles every where I look, not to mention bags of garbage (yes, bags!) lying around when there are clearly garbage cans places every 2 meters or so apart. My husband recently went on a beach outing with his university students. They drank cans of soda and bottled juice while waiting for their hired boat to take them on a trip. When the boat came, they left ALL the empty cans and bottles and rushed off. Eric managed to grab a student and asked if they were going to pick it up. The answer was this; "It's no problem, it's a public beach". 


Also, I'm continuously amazed by how far people go to NOT do anything. Like cleaning their cars for example. I thought it is easy enough for someone to drive to a car wash or use those automated ones. Well here, every house has a "houseboy". usually a Pakistani or Indian guy who cleans the car and takes out the garbage everyday. I mean, taking out the garbage takes no effort at all. Admittedly, the garbage system here is pretty strange if you ask me. Instead of having individual garbage cans outside our houses, there is a big dumpster for every 10 houses or so. So the boy has to walk quite a bit carrying some stinky garbage; plus I feel bad for House No 10.


Yesterday, I took my dog out for his morning walk. 7am in the morning, I wasn't fully awake yet and probably still had bed head. Halfway through the walk, a Pakistani (or perhaps Indian) car wash man who looked quite friendly walked up to me and here was what happened;


Car Washer (CW): Dog! Dog! What's his name?
Me: *thinking it wouldn't do much harm answered* Jester *started walking away*
CW: Where are you from?
Me: *thinking: Oh Lord, it's started* I'm American (I've recently realized that no matter where I say I'm from people will still TELL me that I'm Filipino).
CW: What? Where you are from?


I walked far away enough by now that I didn't hear whatever he was still mumbling. I continued walking Jester up the street for his morning business and then on the way back, apparently CW hasn't given up being nosy or whatever, i don't know anymore.


CW: Hello? Where are you from?
Me: *scowls*
CW: You are Filipino?
Me: NO! I am American
CW: You are Malaysian?
I ignored him, went home and made a mental note to pepper spray him the next time he talks to me.


So now even the Help thinks I'm Help? You know what I mean? Because I'm Asian?


I don't know what's the deal with Filipinos here in Muscat. What are the girls doing here besides clean houses and take care of children? What's going on on the side making all these men go crazy when they think they see a Filipino? It's not my place to care but it bothers me that people see my as one!
Jillian R.
I think many (women) will agree with me when I say that Weight is our common enemy. Before you judge me by size, let me tell you, when I was in my teens, I could eat as much carbohydrates and fat as I desired and not gain a single pound. Yes, I went hiking with my parents at least 4 times a week back then and as a result, I legs are as toned up till today, but that’s besides the point. The amount of food and the accumulated hours I napped and slept in a day would even out the numbers.

When I hit 21, it was all downhill from there. From age 21-23, I gained about 3 kilos from my original weight, which some might call it being on the upper end of being underweight.  I struggled to keep those pounds off, I joined the gym, crossed out “Frosted Flakes” from my shopping list; and in its place, I wrote “expensive cereal” – because in Malaysia, the more expensive the cereal, the more healthy it gets, I’m not joking! And I refused to sit down for at least 30 mins after a meal. None of those worked so I gave up and accepted my new weight – 43 kilos. Back then, I thought the slight weight gain was devastating, but the worst was yet to come. Oh yes, Mid-Twenties caught up with me.

I met Eric when I was 23; he is someone who shares my passion for cooking and trying out new recipes. The difference between us is that he knows what he is doing. I used follow every word in the cookbook, occasionally I substituted ingredients, but that was all. I do however; know cooking techniques and terms well (or even better than my husband) because I went to college for it. When I moved to Korea at 24, I’m proud to say that I’ve mastered some of the Malaysian dishes which I’ve grown up loving. Anyway, this means more cooking, more experimenting, and some more weight gain. Plus, the first 6 months I lived in Korea, all we had was Korean rice (sushi rice) which has extremely high gluten content. I tried to stay away from it most of the time, but occasionally I did eat half a bowl here and there. We occasionallyd cycle around campus, and I worked out on my stepper machine almost every day, the weight didn’t come off, instead another few kilos latched on.

Now, I jog with Jester and sweat like mad each time. I mop the floor daily, sometimes twice a day, and I chase and wrestle the little monster every day. I’m also in the process of reducing my food intake.

But alas, we bought a bathroom scale last night.

There’s no reason to complete this entry.
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