Saturday, June 30, 2012

In which we are orientificated

From literary references to Edward Said, visits to embassies and monuments, and of course, the hours of cultural preparation via powerpoints, "orient" was the word. 

It was the cause for a buzz in the air, created by new friends that all felt like old friends, as the windowless conference room slowly filled with teenagers whose wildest dreams were unfolding. It was license to speak passionately, inquire incessantly, and note-take wildly (okay, more like occasionally). 
Future Omanis
I spent the past four days in DC, where all the YES students converged for a cultural crash coursee. It was also the first time the entire Oman group came together and we really got to know one another. I feel so blessed to be a part of and travel with such an awesome group of people. 

I think I spent most of the time asking questions, whether it was to Mother Hen Noah (so as not to be confused with Little Noa, who is Morocco-bound) the alumnus and group leader who bribed us with Doritos and attempted to field our often tactless questions with some tact (though we wore him down in the end), or to important-looking public servants behind State Department conference tables, I questioned until couldn't think of anything else to ask and then I asked some more. 

I'm the sort of person that hates and has to break group silences. The kind that emanate after an ominous "Any Questions?" lingers in the air for longer than a few seconds. It's not that I want to say something, it's just that, I don't know if you've noticed, but with every second of awkward that passes, a raging fire of uncomfortable rains down on your brain and it will grow bigger and more painful until someone, please, for the love of shawarma, somebody breaks the silence. I envy those of you who can sit by in silence and ignore the firestorm of pain. 

But even for someone like me, and even for someone desperately eager to learn as much about Oman as humanly possible, there comes a point when you recognize that the answers given to you can only go so far. 

Not that I think I've learned every cultural subtlety, or asked every question possible. I'd be delusional to even come close to thinking that. But, an orientation is only a pointing in the right direction. This week I've been inundated with metaphorical maps, and compasses, flashlights, and maybe even a tent or two. 
Also, a mug

I'm thankful to everyone who's helped orient me, but now it's up to me to move. I want to find my own answers, make my own mistakes, live through my own embarrassing anecdotes. I know it's coming soon but August 25th still seems eons away

Friday, June 22, 2012

Ma'a salama Maryland

That means goodbye-state-where-I-was-born-and-only-place-I've-ever-lived-because-I'm-going-to-Oman-next-year in Arabic. It's a very succint language.
I've become one of those people that gets a crazy scholarship to study abroad in a country no one's ever heard of. I used to think that these characters were more on the unicorn side of the actually-existing spectrum, but here I am, a 2012 finalist for the Kenedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study program. And I'm going to live in Muscat, Oman for a WHOLE YEAR.
(Ohhhh, that Oman)
While the last blog I had (way back in 2008) focused primarily on bad zombie poetry, whiny posts about how boring my life was, and other material that will never see the light of day, this blog is for documenting my first experiment in international living. I invite you all to creep on my life like white-coated scientists observing lab rats. Muscat Lab Rat, maybe that should've been the blog title. 
Now I can't garuntee that there won't be bad zombie poetry, but I hope that you all will follow along. In all seriousness, this is the most most amazing opportunity I've ever had and I'm incredibly blessed to be chosen. I wholeheartedly believe in the mission of YES and can't wait to learn about Islam and Arab culture, while hopefully sharing about my own culture along the way. 
This will be quite the adventure