Jillian R.
You know, it's not always true that money can't buy happiness; sometimes it CAN.

We haven't always gotten good service when we eat out, but in Pavo Real; a Mexican restaurant here in Muscat, there was nothing I didn't like.

The prices were a bit steep, but the food was really good and most importantly, authentic. And the molé sauce was so spicy that it made me cry and my legs tingle.

Yes, what's not to like about margaritas and fajitas? Nothing!
Jillian R.
The world was rumored to end yesterday. Today I am still here, still blogging.

Therefore, instead of my usual rants, let me share with you one of my nostalgia-driven stories. A story which will probably change your perception about me being one who complains about everything, to “the real me”; who really is a small town girl, and who loves her mommy.

Strange as it is, I don’t really remember much about my teen years (13 – 17), those four years kind of floated by me, I remember watching lots of TV while eating bags of chips (and never gaining weight) and wished that I would someday marry a Val Kilmer or Dean Cain look-alike. When I met my husband, everything fell into place; but that’s another story. While those years are a blur, I have a pretty clear memory of my life as a child of 3 (and up, or course).

Those days, dad would be away working in the family plantation (granddad owned oil palm and fruit plantations back in the day) so I would spend the entire day with mom. She would either be sewing something for me on our old foot-operated sewing machine, crocheting (again, always something for me) or reading nursery rhymed to me. I’m sure she did other things too, but as a child, those other things didn’t matter to me.

(At age 5; wearing one of mom's crochets)

Anyway, one of my earliest memories is how much I loved to read. I could read simple nursery rhymes when I was about 5; I remember as this was when I attended kindergarten and I could read. Once every couple of weeks, mom would take me to the Times Bookstore in Penang Plaza; which back then was known as FIMA (it was owned by FIMA Supermarket). The place had never been “hip”, it was the kind of place where expensive clothing boutiques were there to boost the rich housewife’s ego. Mom didn’t care for it, and me, I just wanted to go and browse the children’s books. I remember doing everything I was told, or else mom would tell me that the trip was cancelled. Yeah, we’re Chinese. Chinese parents like to threaten.

I can’t remember how many times I was threatened that if I misbehaved I would be given away to the bottle collector when he came every other week, dad said he could put me in his (the bottle collector) bicycle basket and take me with him. Or I would be sold to Chettiar merchants and I would be taken away to be a slave on their ship(s). I must say I was most afraid of the Chettiar threat, so I’d stop whatever “mischief” I was doing even if it was only not finishing my lunch (I’d finish every bite).

Anyway, sorry I got so carried away. I would enjoy afternoons with mom in that bookstore, which was really just a mom-and-pop kind of store, it is still there today, some big bookstore chain took over and it will never be the same. Sometimes dad would come along and I remember not liking that, because my dad has no patience you see, he would come in for 10 minutes and complained that he wanted to go home and take a nap…or something like that.

So mom, thank you for all the times you took me to bookstores and read to me before I could. That was probably the best gift one could give a young child; the gift of Knowledge. 

My love for reading has been planted at a young age and I am now reaping the plentiful fruits that come with it!
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Jillian R.
Friday, May 20

6 am: Woken up by Jester’s cold nose poking my thighs, arms and face, followed by having the covers pulled away and then more poking by his cold, wet nose.

6.05: Opened bathroom door groggily only to be instantly hit by a thick wall of heat. Fully awake and sweating by the time finished brushing teeth.

6.10: Took Jester out to pee-pee, as soon as we stepped out of the apartment, I felt like walking into an oven. Thought to self; "maybe misread the clock, maybe it’s already 8am".

6.30: Came back inside, completely drenched in sweat, still in pajamas. Checked time, yep, 6.30am.

6.45: Started making coffee; while waiting for electric kettle to boil, sweat dripped from forehead into eyes despite attempts dry self with some paper towels. Thought about all the winters I will be missing in Korea and how I’ll never get to smell rain and grass ever again.

From then on, it was a downward spiral into another bout of depression.

11am: Attempted to take a cold shower. Yes, it was only an attempt as the water come out scalding hot (heater was OFF), yelped in pain, curses flew.

I had to adjust the faucet dial to “HOT” as the “hot water” was cooler than the scalding tap water*.

*tap water; we don’t really have fresh "tap water". Our villa has a water tank on the roof and it pumps water into all the apartments. That's how every household is set up here. It is the desert after all.

11.30: Stepped out of shower, started sweating almost immediately. Angrily picked up A/C remote to adjust temperature. Saw that it was already set to 16C (coolest setting). Puzzled as it was blowing hot air at me.

11.31: Started yelling and crying. Jester got off the bed and lay on the floor. I followed. It cooled me off a little. Go Jester!

12pm: A/C stopped producing cool air because it couldn’t handle the heat outside. It was fixed just the day before. I had gone hysterical at this point. Standing in front of fans do not work as it just circulated hot air and blowing it at me

While all this was going on, the dining room and kitchen; which didn’t have an air-conditioning unit was heating up nicely. I couldn’t go in there. Eric got banished into the dining room whenever he wanted to smoke a cigarette. He comes back into the room covered in sweat.

12.30: Decided that if I wanted to ever take a cold shower again it will have to be out of a bucket. So, a bucket of scalding water was left in the bathroom to cool. *felt like we're living in a rural area*

1pm: Eric decided to buy an A/C for the dining room. I tried half-heartedly to talk him out of it because this is a rented apartment. In the end we agreed; it was essential. I don't know which got to him first, my constant b*tching or the heat.

2pm: The temperature got up to 45C (felt like 50C) outside. I declared, as I lay on the floor that I’m losing too much sweat and was about to die.

3pm: Took Jester out pee-pee again. Poor boy quickly did his business and ran in. I was again, drenched in sweat.

3.15: Another hot shower. Water in bucket still warm.

3.30: Stood in front of fan, armed with a spritzer bottle. Misted self with water to cool off as the fan blows hot air on my face. Felt a little better.

4pm: Had completely lost my sanity. Watched “Hall Pass”. Fell asleep sweating on floor.

Fast forward a few hours later, A/C guys arrived, installed the unit, and then couldn’t get the wiring in order. We had to hire electricians to come in the next day. Great.

7pm: A/C started working normally again. Yay.

8pm: Took a shower with bucket-water. It made a HUGE difference. Yay.

8.15: Watched some TV in bed. Still sweating a little, but had lost the will to live. Didn’t care.

10pm: Took Jester out for his last pee-pee of the day. Came in, drenched in sweat. Went to bed.

Conclusion? I will never take the following things for granted ever again:

# Cold Showers
# Not getting burnt when I wash my hands
# Chilled water; we were guzzling so much water that the fridge couldn't cool it fast enough
# Trees
# Grass
# Rain
Jillian R.
The following tales conversations show just how ignorant the residents here in Oman are about dogs.

Dog Lover (DL): We play catch with our dog on the balcony.
Ignorant Soul (IS): Catch?
DL: Yes, we throw the ball and he goes and catches it then brings it back. He loves it.
IS: Oh, what happens if I throw the ball over the balcony? Will he go after it?
DL: Well *joking tone* I think he would be going after you because after the ball, you’re next.
IS: *sheepish look*

Teacher (T): Animals have different physical qualities to adapt in different climates. Like polar bears; they have thick undercoats to keep them warm.
Ignorant Student (IS): Polar bears? What this “polar bear”?
T: You might have seen them on TV, they are *ya-da-ya-da, explanation*. Anyway, many animals have undercoats, my dog has an undercoat and he is shedding A LOT. There’s fur all over my furniture.
IS: Why don’t put him outside?
T: Outside? No! It’s too hot!
IS: Then kill it!
T: Kill it? Nooo! He is my friend!
IS: Why your friend? He animal. We no friend with animal.
T: *too appalled to say anything*

Ignorant Guest (IG) comes to Dog Lovers’ (DL1, DL2) home for coffee. One of the dog lovers; (DL2) has their dog on a short leash because Ignorant Guest has never seen a real dog and is afraid.
DL1: Don’t worry, he’s not going to bite you, see he likes you *points to dog with ears down, tail wagging*
IG: Yes, yes I know…but I am scared
DL1: Don’t worry, DL2 is holding him, he can’t come near you.
IG: My friend’s brother’s wife’s cousin has a dog and it is very vicious. They put him outside and train him to attack.
DL1: Oh that is wrong; a dog will attack intruders if it senses that its owners are in danger. Like him, if someone hits DL2 on the street, he will attack them.
IG: Oh…what will he do if I hit him now?

Woman takes her dog out for a walk and a local approached her and asked said “I throw stones at dog?” Woman got annoyed and said “How about if I throw stones at you?

Dog Lover (DL): Do you want to see a picture of my dog? I have a few on my phone.
Local Friend (LF): Uh ok *sees picture* AAARGGHH!!! OH MY GOD!!! *pulls away in fear* It very scary!

(The face of Fear itself?)

The above are actual conversations either I or people close to me have experienced. I don’t understand it. Like in case #2; “kill it”? Why would someone suggest killing a dog just because the shedding was annoying? Yes, he could be joking but certain jokes are just not funny. Plus, he only sees dogs as an “animal” and should definitely be tortured in the heat or killed.

Well, me, I always make sure Jester’s leash is hooked on securely before we leave the house. I know that if he gets loose, I will probably never see him again. The consequences are too horrible to even imagine.
Jillian R.

When God made Jester He told him, "Don't play in the puddle of milk!". Jester immediately jumped into the puddle of milk, getting all his paws "milky"

God then picked him up by the scruff and said, "Off to Oman!"

Jillian R.
I will try to make this entry as short and painless as possible.

I just want you to stop and imagine, just for second, what it’s like to be me.

Last night, we went out with an Omani friend. Eric’s friend, not mine, he can’t even get my name right and he kept calling me "Gilly". Not even with a “J” sound; “Gill-y”… like I have gills or something. Oh well, at least he tried.

Anyway, he is a very, very nice young guy, but this is just how he was "programmed"; either by his parents, or teachers, or whatever and this guy had studied in the UK before. I was talking to him in fluent, crystal clear American English, and because his English wasn't very good, I even emphasized words more clearly than usual. When he asked what I did during my free time while Eric was at work, I said I write blogs or read, cook, and that I was hoping to work on writing a book, apart from doing other “things around the house”.

He then turned and asked my American husband if I spoke fluent English. I mean, I was doing the act itself; speaking fluent English, RIGHT FREAKING THERE! The guy didn’t mean anything rude I suppose, it’s just how he was programmed since he was young; Asians don’t speak English. When my husband told him that I was completely fluent, he didn't seem to believe us and kept asking questions like "No, I mean, can she understand everything?, What I mean is can she read?"

"SHE"?! Like I'm not freaking there?!

Finally I had to jump in and said that I am qualified to teach. Only then did he stop asking.

Of course, I’m Asian, why WOULD I be speaking English?
Jillian R.
In my last entry I talked about the quality of service at Lulu’s. It IS bad. Bad service is one thing, but when it comes to bad, low standard products, I have to draw the line.

We used to do our weekly grocery shopping at Lulu’s because we live very close by, but like I said before, after learning the driving route to Carrefour, Al Fair and Sultan Centre, trips to Lulu’s had dropped to only once a month or none at all because they have nothing to offer.

The first “bad” product we got from Lulu’s is a batch of chocolate chip cookies from their in-house bakery. You’d think “How could anyone screw up chocolate chip cookies”, right? They’re the easiest things to make and the ingredients are almost always available. Well, you can, if you’re a big supermarket chain and try to cheap-out on the customers. The cookies looked normal; dark brown rounds, with big chunks of chocolate chips. That’s how Eric got attracted to them (my husband gets drawn to sweet treats like ants) in the first place. He snacked on them for about 2 days when I decided to have one too. The first bite was actually SHOCKING. You see, I have a thing for coconut oil – I hate it. When it’s cheap coconut oil, it’s even worse. The cookies do not taste like cookies at all; instead of tasting a buttery smoothness which crumbles in your mouth, they were hard, and almost broke my front tooth. I think I figured out the mystery, they were too cheap to use butter so they substituted it for cheap coconut oil; and therefore changed the texture altogether. They were not cookies; they were Chinese Throwing Cookies Stars.

(Hi-yakkk!! Ninja!!)

The cookie issue didn’t really stop us from shopping there due to the location convenience. The next item I’m about to describe is by far the worst I’ve ever tasted in my entire life. Not even buggy honey can top this.

Last week, we went to the Lulu’s in Ghubra to pay the phone bill. I didn’t really have a long grocery list so we decided to just pick up the few items and be done for the week. On the way to the cash register, Eric grabbed a bottle of carrot juice, labeled “Freshly Squeezed”. It’s one of those in-store juices. Eric took a sip of the juice and handed the bottle to me. A slight rotting smell hit me but for some strange reason I was so beaten from standing in line at the cashier that I drank it anyway. Not only the carrot juice tasted rotten but its texture had changed and it was bubbly and thick. That wasn’t even the worst part. THEN, something slimy touched my lip. I didn’t spend much time judging what it was as I threw the bottle away. I had a hard time convincing myself that a piece of rotten carrot did not get juiced and that the something was just carrot. The piece was slimy though, and it had a rounded tip, at least I thought so as it touched my lip for a fraction of a second. It could be someone’s finger for all I know.

I had goosebumps all over and I was about to cry. Apparently Eric doesn’t pay attention to what he’s eating/drinking. I don’t know how that rotting smell and taste didn’t put him off, and then he handed the killer juice to his wife. Nice.

I wanted to go lodge a complaint but again, the line of people everywhere was sickening. Plus, I’d lost my will to live.

So yeah, Lulu’s has the longest lines at the cashiers, I don’t know if they have three times more customers than the other (GOOD) supermarkets or that their cashiers work three times as slow; but in any case, the long lines I can take, the inefficiency of their staff, I *can* somewhat manage but with food/drinks which I consume, I draw the line.

For now, it’s Goodbye Lulu’s. I hope I never step foot in any of your stores ever again, and why should I? It’s not like you have anything to offer. 
Jillian R.
Ever since learning the driving route to Carrefour at the Qurum City Center, I’ve been telling Eric that we have to stop shopping for groceries at the LuLu’s in Ghubra. I don’t know if all the hypermarkets in the chain are the same or it is just this one; due to poor management.

(LuLu Hypermarket in Ghubra - looks like a casino, doesn't it?)

We have had so many bad experiences at this Lulu outlet that I'm starting to lose count. However, it doesn’t mean I’m going to stop trying. Let’s start with their Service;
-          Remember the rude cashier who sneered at us; customers? You can read the story here.

-          Once I wanted to buy a pair of Reeboks, there was only one pair there; the one on display. The pair fitted me but I wanted to try a size smaller just to make sure (like a normal person would). We went to a nearby sales assistant, who was engaged in conversation with another staff. The sales assistant took one look at the shoes and told us that it was the last pair. That’s it. No “I’ll check”, or “maybe they will come in next week/year/etc”, NO, just “Last Pair”…THEN, continued with her conversation! Well, the outcome; I had to buy that pair because my Nikes were torn and I needed to run every day. They fit, luckily.

-          Also, apparently no one who works there knows ANYTHING. On several occasions, I couldn’t find something on the shelves and I asked employees nearby; who were, just a minute ago re-stocking the shelves, you’d think they might know SOMETHING, but NO, the employee(s) did the head-bop thing, y’know, the one which doesn't mean yes or no…and told me that they didn't know. I've since given up asking; if I don’t see it on the shelves, I just carry on with my life.

-          This is not always the case; but at the cash register last night, we had a bag boy help us bag our purchases. I actually prefer bagging our items ourselves because the bag boys use WAAAY too many plastic bags; sometimes one item per bag. However, after putting together ONE bag, the boy decided that he wanted a break and just left – without a word. At first I thought he was called to another register for a sec and will be right back. He never came back. I don’t know why but I started laughing and kept repeating loudly “DID YOU SEE THAT, ERIC? HE JUST LEFT! *laughter, lots of laughter* ” The cashier felt bad seeing a poor woman (me!) lose her mind so she helped us bag. The help really wasn’t necessary but it was a nice gesture.

(Let me be clear; these are thick, sturdy plastic bags, not the flimsy kind which disintegrates in the trash)

(People just piling up on bags. We don't buy this much stuff but every trip to LuLu's gets us at least 10-15 bags)

Don't get me wrong, I do try to tell them that I don't need so many bags, but I usually get ignored. Once I wedged a pack of dish cloth between two plates we bought and handed it to the bag boy but he pulled out the dish cloths and bagged the plates separately - one giant bag each. I use these bags for garbage, and now I can dump liquids (not that I do, but I *can*) in the trash without worrying about drips.

In the next entry, I will tell you about the shocking quality of their products.

Meanwhile, be thankful that you, my dear reader, are not subjected to Living in Muscat!

…but if you are, well, guess we’re in the same boat, here’s an oar, let’s paddle, paddle away!
Jillian R.
Jester’s 5-week Obedience course ended last Saturday. Once a week during the course, dog owners “parents” bring their little one(s) to the class to learn basic obedience such as heeling, sitting, lying down, and following general verbal and physical commands. I might be biased here but I think our boy Jester did extremely well! After watching an episode of “Dog Whisperer” which featured Viper, and further Googling, we’re almost positive that he is a Belgian Malinois mix. There might be some Canadian Jebel in him too. The Belgian dogs; according to the American Kennel Club website, are “Intelligent and trainable”.

Well Jester would follow commands after one training session (15-20 mins).

Anyway, a funny thing happened on the final week of the course; when the dogs were suppose to have an “Exam”. Owners would be giving commands and the trainer would grade the dog based on how well they follow them.  To continue with the following story, I have to first explain what happened the previous week. There was a lovely Saluki mix who also attended the course, and in the past few weeks had been mingling with Jester pretty well. She snapped at other dogs but had mostly acted calm around Jester. So, a week before the exam, Jester and Trixie; the Saluki were cuddling each other, “kissing” each other on the lips, and smelling each other. It was the sweetest thing; think of the scene from “Bambi” when grown-up Bambi saw grown-up Feline again.  We started joking about Jester having a girlfriend.

(Trixie and her owner)

Last Saturday (day of the exam), when the two of them saw each other, they were sniffing normally and suddenly, Trixie decided that she wanted to be the dominant one. Dogs do this by standing over another dog and sniffing the other’s neck. Since Jester has an extremely dominant personality, he wouldn’t have any of that and started snapping at her too. We tried several times (both Eric and I *and* Trixie’s owner) to get them to mingle normally again but the two of them wouldn’t stop trying to bite each other so we had to pull them apart.

(Jester; praised for heeling, sitting and laying down very well)

(...and there's the beautiful little Trixie)

Think about this; boy went to school for his major exam and the girlfriend broke up with him a few minutes before it. Both went for the exam anyway and didn’t do so well…

Typical high school drama much? 
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