Jillian R.
This entry does not have anything to do with my vacation - or anything, really.

I just thought I'd do a quick entry so that everyone can see that I'm still here alive. We are leaving New York for Muscat (unfortunately) this coming Wednesday. Anyway, the Borders bookstore in the Galleria Mall (Middletown, NY) is closing and they're offering "rock-bottom" prices on all their books and fixings; everything in the store "must go"! So we spent about 3 hours grabbing cookbooks, photography and pet training guides and a few other interesting reads, some costing as low as $1.99. Yeah I know, amazing but sad all at the same time, right? People just don't read enough anymore.

So I was working out which book(s) to bring in my carry-on as reading material for the plane. I don't know about you, but I'm the kind of person who tries to avoid being judged by others if I were to read in public. For example, I would never read a book entitled "How to Become a Millionaire in 10 Simple Steps" if I was sitting all cramped up in Economy or "10 Fabulous Hairstyles for the Travelling Girl" while I was sitting there with limp, oily hair. You know what I mean?

The truth is, as human beings, we like love to judge. Let's face it, the world is harsh; what crosses your mind when you see an overweight person eating a very big ice-cream cone, or a homeless person laying on the sidewalk (instead of looking for a job)? My sister brought up the subject once and I've worried about being judged ever since.

Oh right, there IS a reason for my blabbering; I was contemplating reading "The 17 Day Diet" by Dr Mike Moreno on the plane, but then again, I can't really bring myself to do it because it can only go two ways, people will either think; a) it's quite obvious that she's not following any of those tips, or b) SHE thinks SHE'S fat? See, I don't really quite know if 10 pounds overweight is really being overweight.

All things considered, I think I shall be reading "Dog Training for Dummies", can't go wrong with that.

So tell me, what would YOU like/want to be seen reading in public? Enter your comments below.
Jillian R.
I am getting married, again. And to the same man.

Before you start imagining the whole white-dress-flowers-cake-and-people-throwing-rice-at-us kind of thing, stop, because you are wrong! The only props at tomorrow wedding ceremony will be a few sheets of paper and a pen or two. Let me tell you about my other weddings.

#1, #2 and #3 "Wedding" in Korea, Dec 2009
We were living in Daegu, so we had to travel to Seoul to get the paperwork done. We went to the American Embassy where Eric had to swear that he was never married, we filled in some forms, signed them witnessed by the officer in charge and was pronounced man and wife. This was the only easy part of the whole marriage process. Read on. 

We then headed over to the Korean Ward office with the American and Malaysian paperwork (which I had gotten months before moving to Korea). At the Korean Ward office they got extremely confused over the Malaysian papers but due to their limited English, they couldn't explain what the problem was. In very broken English, we were sent to the Malaysian Embassy. Oh, and because the Malaysian Embassy in Seoul was only open between the hours of 9-11am (yes, everyday!), we had to stay with a friend and go back the next day. At the Malaysian Embassy we were told that my Malaysian papers were missing ONE important STAMP and I had to send it back to Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur to be exact, my parents live in Penang, a state 300 kms away) to have it stamped. It was the ONLY way we could be married. So I sent the papers back to my mom, who flew to Kuala Lumpur to get that one stamp, and then sent it back to me.

We made our way back to the Malaysian Embassy, where they registered our marriage and sent us to the Korean Ward office again. This time fortunately, there was no confusion and after a few hurried stamps on our submitted papers, we were married. No "Congratulations", no one clapped, nothing. Just a simple "Ok, next!"

#4 The Malaysian Wedding, Jan 23 2010
I planned the entire Malaysian wedding thinking that our "real" wedding would be in New York the same year (or the following, whichever we could manage). So instead of a typical 8-course Chinese style wedding, I opted for a western, buffet setting - which according to most of my friends were "better anyway".

#5 Wedding in New York, July 19 2011
We drove about 2 hours to get to the judge (who is a friend of the family)'s house. I was amazed when we got there that the "house" was a very charming one set in a hundred acres of nature. There were two ponds, geese and two Airedale terriers; one of which was blind, and we later saw the younger, bigger dog walk the blind one by her leash. That brought me to tears. Our wedding was attended by Eric's parents, whom I adore very much, the judge's wife, and a number of frogs and geese. It was a simple wedding, yet everything I've ever dreamed of. I've always wanted a small, quiet wedding in a nature setting and that's exactly what we did. Except we all thought we were just going to sign some papers and have dinner with some friends, hence I wasn't even wearing a dress.

The evening ended with a lovely dinner, and homemade wedding cake. I really could not have asked for more. It was a perfect wedding.

After all, it's our fifth time getting married, we should be able to get it right already!

Jillian R.

For the past few days I’ve been walking Shayna, the family dog at least twice a day around the neighborhood. While my in-laws are complaining about how hot it is, Eric and I just laugh and say “this would be a COOL day in Oman!” Anyway, no matter how hot it gets, because of all the trees and grass around, it’s always cool. I might have complained about the heat here last year but since it’s always a thousand degrees in Oman, nothing in suburbia could ever scare us ever again.

Walking the dog has never been this wonderful. No one threw stones, honked, stared, handed me a piece of paper with their number on it or barked at us. After having to deal with these daily in Oman, not being harassed feels extremely exhilarating.

I look forward to walking her (Shayna) everyday, just to feel normal again, and also to smell the trees. It rained last night, so even though Eric said we should do it later. I walked her around the block anyway because “it’s nice and dewy outside”. Shayna is not used to heeling so I had to correct her with the training lead almost the entire way. By the end of our stay here, my goal is to get her to heel perfectly, like our boy Jester back in Oman – who’s currently at “summer camp”; a kennel in Muscat which also provided daily training and activities for dogs.

In her last email, his trainer said “he wasn’t himself for the first couple of days, but now he’s warming up to us”. See, our little boy is brave!

I know, I’m all over the place in this entry, will write something more worthy of your time soon.

(I hope this picture of Shayna will make up for my lack of interesting subjects in this entry)

With love from Monroe, NY

p/s: Oh, I'm marrying Eric again for the FIFTH time on Wednesday. Long story, read all about it soon.
Jillian R.
Day 4 in Monroe and here's an update on my To-do List,

Take a picture (or pictures) of a clean street

(The road along Round Lake)

(Round Lake) 
and [done]!

Lay on the grass in a park or in my in-laws’ backyard

Watch people walking their dogs and smile [done]

If it rains, run and play in the rain [it hasn't rained yet]

Eat lots of pickled herring for breakfast (or any other time I feel like it) [done]

Look at clouds (if you must know, I haven’t seen clouds here in WEEKS)

(No way a parking lot shot in Muscat would look like this)

Call somebody (ANYBODY!) on Skype at least for a few minutes [mom wouldn't answer the phone]

Eat a Burger King Whopper with bacon [had a Subway wrap with EXTRA bacon, it counts, so done]

Enjoy drives without maniacs breathing down our bumpers and say “TAKE THAT! MUSCAT!” [done]

Watch as many Youtube videos as I can without getting annoyed at the red bar that won’t load [done]
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Jillian R.
By this time tomorrow, we’ll be on the plane heading to New York; or what I like to call it, back to the normal world where I don’t have to ask myself “is this skirt too short?”, “should I bring a shawl just in case someone starts staring at me weirdly?” or “are these jeans too tight?” every time I leave the house.

Here are a few things I MUST do while in New York;

1.       Take a picture (or pictures) of a clean street
2.       Lay on the grass in a park or in my in-laws’ backyard
3.       Watch people walking their dogs and smile
4.       If it rains, run and play in the rain
5.       Eat lots of pickled herring for breakfast (or any other time I feel like it)
6.       Look at clouds (if you must know, I haven’t seen clouds here in WEEKS)
7.       Call somebody (ANYBODY!) on Skype at least for a few minutes

Note: If I hadn’t written about this before, Skype and other forms of online calling programs are blocked in most of the Middle Eastern countries. There are ways to get around the block but since I don’t have anything I want to say which I can’t type, I don’t bother.

8.       Eat a Burger King Whopper with bacon
9.       Enjoy drives without maniacs breathing down our bumpers and say “TAKE THAT! MUSCAT!”
10.   Watch as many Youtube videos as I can without getting annoyed at the red bar that won’t load

While these are things which you take for granted, dear reader, they are IMPOSSIBLE to come by in Muscat. So run along, run along and go roll on the grass. It is fun.
Jillian R.
I'm about two days late reading the Saturday edition of the Oman Tribune over breakfast. Then Eric pointed this out to me.

(Snapshot of the comic strip from the Oman Tribune)

Really? Censoring a comic strip now, are we? What's wrong with saying "beer"? We all know Hagar's favorite beverage is beer. Also, you'd think they'd do a better job of matching the font.

So I took it upon myself to look for the original strip.

....aaaand I found it:-

(Link to original website here)

So adding to the un-utterable list of words here in this part of the world is "beer", along with *"pork" of course.

*I first discovered that "pork" is censored when I was watching an episode of "Australian Masterchef" on the local cable. The contestants were cooking a pork dish and the word "pork" was silenced out every time they say it. Example; "I marinated the ---- then grilled it. The ---- drippings are saved for ---- stew" - yeah, doesn't even make much sense, does it? Especially when I (the audience) can see the lips going "pork". HA-HA
Jillian R.
I was reading an email about made-in-China products which were detected to contain melamine and was taken off the shelves in Malaysia; makes us wonder how many others are still undetected, right?

Anyway, reading the email made me think of this incident which occurred when we first arrived in Muscat. It was our third day here; we haven’t found our own accommodation yet and were still staying at the small beach hotel in Qurum which Eric’s company had put us in. That morning, we were having brunch at a nearby coffee shop* when a local guy approached us. I can’t recall his name so we shall call him “Walid”. So Walid introduced himself and asked if he could sit with us. We were still getting used to the “Omani hospitality” so we shook hands and said “Sure! Please join us!”.

Walid admitted that he wanted to practice his English and he apologized for his limited vocabulary. We found him to be quite pleasant. While we ate our mediocre sandwiches, he told us about dessert parties where we could “ride the camels”. At this point I was convinced that he wanted to sell us something, possibly the camel rides. Also, he kept saying “come with me” – present tense; which sounded really pushy at the time. 

Eventually Eric asked how much do we have to pay for the camel rides. Walid looked absolutely shocked and said “NONONONO, IT’S FREE!”.  After lots of hand gestures and explaining in very broken English we finally understood that he was inviting us to a dessert party when there was one.

When we finished eating, Walid asked where we were going, we told him we were going to the mall. He said “I take you”. Usually, this means the guy runs a transport service and wants to make a profit right? No. He was just being nice. During the drive he talked about visiting Malaysia and possibly Thailand during his upcoming vacation. I looked out the window and zoned out a bit while Eric told him about places to visit there.

Then Walid suddenly spotted my Ray Ban aviators.
Walid: Your this…this… err (makes two circles around his eyes with his fingers)…very nice

Me: Oh my sunglasses? Thank you

Walid: Name what?

Me: These are Ray Bans, I really love them.

Walid: Ohh I want buy sun…glass. How much?

Me: Oh I got these for $ xxx , I’m sure you can buy them here too

(Actually, my Ray Bans are limited edition ones and I'm pretty sure he CAN'T get them here, but I didn't tell him, of course. The hand gestures would be too complicated)

Walid went quiet for a while, I wasn’t sure he understood me. Suddenly I remembered that I had a pair of sunglasses which I never wore in my purse. I got them from Korea a couple of years back and had only worn them once. They were one of those unisex frames. So I thought I would give it to him as a thank you gift for driving us to the mall.

Me: Here, I can give you these. I buy from Korea. Wear only one time. For you.

Walid: *took sunglasses, turns them around in his hands while driving, tries them on* This very nice.

Me: You like it? It’s yours. Thank you for taking us to the City Centre. It’s very nice of you.

Walid: *took off sunglasses, looks at them more closely now*

Me: (I thought this is quite rude but then again, different culture, whatever, no judgement)

Walid: This, made in China, this? *shoved (yes, shoved) me the sunglasses with the part which said “Made in China” clearly* I no like China.

Me: Uh…yes, um, I didn’t know (I honestly didn’t!! I bought them in Korea!!) *took sunglasses back, embarrassed, shocked, slightly insulted*

Walid: Sorry, huh? Sorry! I no like China.

“Sorry”? Wha-? I felt like I was trying to sell him the sunglasses or something. I was only trying to be NICE!

(The scariest phrase on a product?)

I guess I should never again attempt to give a local anything with “Made in China” stamped on it.

*Coffee shop; a (usually small) shop that serves hotdogs, shawarma (meat wrap), French fries and other fast food with sodas, juices or instant coffee.
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