Sunday, 29 April 2012

As we settle into a rhythm......

Goodness me, it's been almost two weeks since I posted - mainly because I've been working on the T-thing and feeling guilty if I'm at the computer and not working.  Ruth, if you're reading.  I am working, really I am.  There will be an email soon......

So where are we after almost two months?  Well, we have a post box number, we have an Omani bank account with money in it (yay!), we have two cars (yes, we have two cars for basically the first time ever - the Mazda 2 and an Hyundai Sonata, yes the sonata is bigger and more manly so the blokes at work can stop teasing David), the curtains are coming on Friday, I got over the 'flu eventually, I've joined Horizon gym and have had my first PT session.  Now to work off all the weight that I've put on over the last three months.

Into a David lap cat...

Into a stealth cat...
Into a 'helpful' cat....

Into a must help Katrina lap cat
The important stuff.  Bundle has grown!  David tells me we're going to rename her, but we haven't quite managed yet.  She's still little enough to see her growing almost in front of our eyes.  Her favourite thing is both her people being in bed - with her of course!  Luckily for us we have a king-size bed, because it has been turned into a kitty play haven. Mostly she understands about claws and keeps them in when she's paying attention.  Of course, when she's not paying attention all bets are off. To try to minimise the lacerations, we bought her a cow.  Cow comes to bed with us to be part of the gym equipment.

Meet Cow, saviour of skin!
Her teeth are very, very sharp so she doesn't need to have kitten food kitten food anymore (so she thinks).  Apparently Omani cats mature very quickly and have to stop having kitten food, they need sauce and they need lumps (apparently).  Also pate, toast, cherry jam(!) and anything else that pops by.  She's definitely not fussy - except when it comes to kitten food.

It's rather nice having a cat again.  I'm not very good without cats.

We are going to try to get somewhere new each weekend, but that got blown out of the water by a very late Wednesday night at the Grand Hyatt celebrating A Taste of Australia with the Australian Business Group Oman.  I wore heels which necessitated a pedicure and alcohol.  The wine that was served was not wine I would have paid money for in Australia (shudder) but the food was fantastic.  An Australian chef had been flown in and it was marvellous.  I shall put photos up on the food page...soon...I promise. Of course the next morning was a little...slow...there had been a lot of alcohol consumed and we had hit the sack at 1:00am - well past our bedtime.  So we settled for picking up a second hand Ikea bookshelf for not a lot of money and going out for a late lunch on Friday after we had both got some work done.

The weekend before saw us drive down to Sawadi Beach.  It's not far out of Muscat, only about 65km on a good road.  It's a beautiful place and anyone coming to visit will be dragged down there to enjoy it.  It's a very shallow beach and has a series of islands just off shore. 

Sawadi Beach from the beach, looking across to the largest island

Sitting in the boat waiting for the driver and looking at coral

Pakistani lads playing African drum patterns
Later, they walked/waded/swam out to the bit island
I had left all my photographic equipment at home, so these are David's rather beautiful photographs.  It seems to be a favourite picnic spot and there are a series of shelters and a little Indian restaurant - with excellent cheap (and abundant) food.  There is a resort attached to this beach, but we didn't go there and I don't think we missed anything.

The largest island with its Tower.
There are a series of boats on the beach, with drivers (I'm sure that's not the right word, but it will do) and we didn't haggle about the 5 rials one suggested to us for taking us right round the islands and dropping us at the large one so we could climb to the tower on the headland.  I know that's not very sporting, but hey, we can afford it.  He took us for an exhilarating whip around the islands - at great speed!  Apparently there is excellent snorkelling to be had off a couple off the islands and each of them are resplendent with little caves and sandy beaches. Sawadi is renowned for its shells, so you can imagine the fun I had.  The lad dropped as at the island and promised to come back in an hour, so off we went.  There is a laid stone path all the way to the tower, with lots and lots of steps.  We thought we would be clever and go up the side.  Okay, so we both changed our minds after the first 100 metres.  This was what we were heading for:

The tower.  I'm not sure where this was taken, it could have been from a long way since David was playing with his zoom.

Climbing, climbing, climbing.
There were conveniently place rotundas along the way for those of us
who were sensible and didn't want to die on the way up.

Almost there.......

Oooh look, a really cool carved door

The ghost  in the tower.
It was very, very dark.  I could see absolutely nothing
and I have the bruises to prove it.
Of course the new camera can see in the dark.

Look - fragrant flower on large rock in the middle of the sea.

The view from the top.
Those are the other islands in the background.
The young man came back with his boat to discover us lazing in the water, not far from where he'd dropped us and zoomed us back.  We nipped into the restaurant for a quick meal and then made our way back home.   Strangely enough we both were in need of an afternoon nap.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Still alive and (mostly) breathing

Well it's been a week of blergh and staying very close to home.  I'm very tired of everything smelling like the inside of my sinuses and nausea which goes along with the junk running down the back of my throat. Cack, cack, cackity cack!  Is all I can really say! Of course I gotmiserable.  It's been quite a while now since laying eyes on my sons (of course I would be cursed with sons who don't post pictures to their mother) and while Brooke has promised some..............

So what to do?  You guessed it! We got a kitten!  I wore David down with my constant cries of  "Look a little kitten who doesn't have a home" so he finally said yes. We tootled off to the other side of Muscat and met little Bundle.  We resisted her manfully (at least David did) while we were introduced to her favourite toys.  She had been an inside cat for precisely 2 days.  The people who were looking after her had just managed to catch her mother and take her to the vet to be neutered, with Bundle turned up.

Bundle aged 6 weeks
There are many cats in Oman.  They are of course native to the land.  They live in bins and around the wadiis and breed like breedy things.  Vets have started fostering services and will do cheap neutering if people bring them in.  They keep them until they're recovered from surgery and then pop them back into the streets.  Bundle had nowhere to she came home with us.

She discovered quite quickly that we were trainable and that there were certain parts of the house that were her playground.  She went from running and hiding to stalking in about 24 hours.  She's been practising running, jumping, attacking, getting on chairs, attacking, leaping around pouffes, attacking, discovering boxes, attacking, eating, attacking, springing into the air, attacking, demanding attention, attacking skidding over the floor, attacking.  Yesterday she turned on her purr.  She's not a cuddly cat yet, but time will tell (at the moment she's hiding things behind the printer for later.

Our ten boxes o'stuff arrived a couple of days ago.  I now have a study full of papers and books.  Mmmm maybe turfing all those folders and shelves was not such a good idea. I may have to find a little man to make shelves.  It's amazingly easy to get shoe cupboards, but not book shelves.  Maybe the odd filing cabinet as well.  At the moment there are piles of paperwork on the floor.  There is a kitten on the floor.  This could prove messy. Our DVDs and CDs have all been seized by Customs for viewing.  We have no idea what we will get back but it might take a while..........

We are now also the proud owners of some dining room furniture.  We bought a large square dining table with eight chairs and a matching display case/cupboard. We got them second hand from a Canadian who is down-sizing - believe it or not she used to live in Hope - Canada! and has relatives in Australia.  We're both pretty please with them.  The owner also gifted us with a camel, our first piece of non-functional furniture!  It's amazing how much more homely a place is with a camel and a kitten. - even a kitten who is EATING MY EARPHONE LEADS!!!!
The dining room with furniture

Our Salalah Camel

We now have a bank account - no pay yet to go into it - but we are still battling to get a PO Box.  David was given access to one at work, which turned out to be the wrong one and the eight copies of our wedding certificate are now sitting goodness knows where in ROP.  David has tried a couple of times to get a box, but there are apparently none available at the moment "Come back next week" was the answer.  We'll keep doing that and see how things go.

Let's see what a return to health for the weekend brings!

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Errgle glug sniff, but I'm Legal!

Is there anything more miserable than a dose of the 'flu in a foreign country?  Yes, yes there is.  Having a dose of the 'flu in 37 degree heat and no Soothers.  Strepsils, yes, soothers no.  Before any of you travel, make sure you have a supply of your favourite 'fluey comfort lollie.  What I would give for the feeling of a soother melting through my system, or even a butter menthol, an anticol.  MMmmmmm.  We have a limited supply of Berocca as well.  On the upside, you can buy 800 (!!!!) mg ibuprofen over the counter.  Still, turning the A/C down as low as it goes and hopping under the "doona" is also comforting.

I am, as my darling husband put it, a card carrying legal alien! Hooray!  All in the day before my tourist visa ran out.  We were a little concerned that our marriage certificate wouldn't cut the mustard as far as proof of marriage.  While David was being assured that everything would be fine, I was being regaled by horror stories of needing to get certificates attested to say that, not only are they a true copy, but that the authority is a legal authority. It didn't help to realise that the piece of paper you get on your wedding day is not, strictly speaking, a legal document.  However, it's the only one we've got and the truly stupendous Michelle DHL'd it to us after a splendid muck up when ROP apparently gave David the wrong PO Box number...... Somewhere in Muscat are several certified copies of the certificate in two separate envelopes, goodness knows where.......  Michelle made copies and certified them to with an inch of their lives.  It worked and we were shepherded through the maze that is the resident card process.

Muscat is not very short on official buildings.  There is a building for getting your license, a building for paying your parking fines, a building for filling out your resident form, a building for having your photo and fingerprints taken, a building for having your photo taken again and your card made.  You have to go to a different part of that last building to pick up the card.  David will have gone to even more buildings today since they had to add the category of Customs Expert to their database before they could issue the card.  Thank the Lord for having the lovely Sultan to take us round.  I'm sure we would have managed eventually, but it certainly helped having someone who outranked almost everyone else making sure the queues were jumped and that someone spoke English.  I, of course, will spend the next two years with an ID sporting a photograph of me with the 'flu, at the end of a hot and long day.....

I've leapt into the pool of the Women's Guild in Oman.  They have coffee mornings each Wednesday and lots of other activities, including a book group.  I've never been in a book group before so there you go.  It was an interesting coffee morning.  I travelled there with Hilda (our British next door neighbour) and Phyllis an ever so slightly mad Irish woman.  We escaped the very badly organised coffee shop (they had been warned two months in advance, but still only had one staff member on) and Phyllis introduced us to the new golf club.  You know, that's one of the most amazing things about Oman.  It has practically no rain, except for the little sprinkle that only happens just after having  the car washed (there are lovely little men with trolley thingies in the mall car parks.  You give them 1.5 rial and they wash your car for you while you shop. Why do this you ask?  Well it is illegal to have a dirty car in Oman, no, I'm not joking.) but they have not shortage of water.  None.  Water is flung around right left and centre.  After years of programming in Australia, it certainly makes us twitch.

Desalination is their answer.  That's the only way that a very, very, very green golf club can exist at the edge of the Gulf of Oman.  The edges of the free-ways can have green, green grass with miles of sprinkler system underneath it.  I don't have any good photos of the green yet, so you'll just have to make do with these.

Looking down to Qantab (I think)

The same spot looking the other direction
The landscape is brutally powerful.  Just the thought of the seismic disturbances that thrust these mountains up out of the earth takes your breath away.  No two pieces of rock come from the same direction, they just rear out of the ground and dominate everything.  They are dry and crumbling away with no vegetation to hold them together.  It makes parts of the Australian desert look positively polished and lush.  Then, in stark contrast, there are the Wadiis.  Here there is water and plant life in abundance.  Not to mention young men washing their cars.

Wadi Shab.
A picture of extremes.
Neither Hilda or Phyllis could understand why the Omanis use desalination.  They thought it a little unsanitary really.  Phyllis especially was indignant "They've got mountains!" she exclaimed "That's where water comes from."  I demurred and muttered that there was a little more to it than that and that mountains weren't the only thing you needed to have a water supply.  "Oh," she said brightly "Do you have water problems in Australia?"  Oh dear.  I'm afraid I chickened out at buried myself in my lunch.

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Distant voices

Our weekend started on Thursday at 4:30am with phonecalls to BJ (for his 21st birthday), parents and my sister (51st birthday).  A good way to start a weekend.

It's amazing what a difference hearing voices makes.  These days we can communicate instantly all over the world. This week I've chatted live with my nephew (hi Fraser!), James and George, and Stanford and Maia.  I've written my blog and I've facebooked along with the best of them, not to mention texting.  But nothing quite beats the sound of someone's voice at the end of a telephone. In the absence of sight, we really need sound to confirm reality; at least I do.  Maybe once I delve into the world of Skype that will be even better.

I really enjoyed the quick catchup with mum, dad and Judy, hearing BJ sound so much more relaxed and happy than he has sounded recently, the natter in the car park while picking up David (it was 35 degrees and sweltering, but I didn't feel a thing - thanks Michelle!).  Little natters with people who know you really well just can't be beat.

The sounds in the Muscat are very different to the sounds in Canberra.  There's the constant tooting (like New York, drivers like to talk to each other with their horns), children playing, a peacock squawking, the rooster over the back crowing (not to mention his wives laying), Indian miner birds yelling, sparrows twittering, cats fighting.  But overarching all of it is the ever-present call to prayer.  That alone tells you that we are somewhere not quite familiar. I thought I'd share with you dusk in my tiny backyard.  You can hear the mosque across the road, but if you listen closely you can hear other calls wafting in on the breeze.

Monday, 2 April 2012

Connecting to the World

The last three weeks has been frustrating from the digital age point of view.  The television, to which David has attached surround sound (good grief - but hearing it in the marble tomb is awkward), was not liking the satellite decoder one little bit.  Nor would the only one of four cable points that we wanted use, work.  Apparently the bloke who used to rent the house put the cable in himself.  He saw himself as a bit of a "handyman" (in more than one sense of the word) but his efforts seem to be a little...well...useless really.  Once Zahir, our lovely landlord, shown David which particular plate in the the wall hid the maze of cables, my actual handyman husband (yes in more than one sense of the word) was able to splice things up in no time.  It's amazing what a difference not being able to veg out in the evening in front of the televish will do to you.  "Read a book" I hear you all cry. Whoops ran out of books that wind the brain down enough to relax and there are only a few English book shops in Muscat.  That had me twitching, I can tell you. But now I have a new piece of trash I can relax at night even if the television is sulking in the corner. I foresee a bit quite a bit of Book Depository coming on. Once we have a postal box to send things to.  I had mention there is no home delivery of mail?  I'm sure it's because they couldn't find any postman capable of understanding, following or giving directions. I'm slowly letting go of my slight OCD love of maps.  Today I even drove into uncharted territory - that's right, the 2012 road map of Muscat doesn't have a whole chunk or Muscat on it - the bit next to where we live.  The bit with the gargantuan bulk hypermarket in it.

Internet wasn't much better.   We having were having very little joy getting home internet connected because the provider needed a scan of David's passport.  Where are our passports?  With immigration.  Why are they still there?  Immigration is still waiting on copies of our marriage certificate (which we were told we needed the day before we flew out - it is locked in Canberra - BJ has sent copies, but they are apparently walking from Australia).  So we've been hot-spotting from our phones.  That's mostly been just fine.  Except that David's phone (the galaxy aka bitch fiend from hell) wouldn't talk to anything but my phone and sucked the data like the vampire it is.  It also got the tablet hooked on the Katrina's iPhone habit.  So, download spiralling out of control I was beginning to get a little panicky, not to mention blind from reading my phone.  As luck would have it there is only one provider covering this area and it only covers it wirelessly.  Good grief.  Anyway David managed to get a scan of his passport from Immigration and we are now the proud owners of a little purple and white wireless modem, which NAWRAS calls a fixed line modem.  Why? Because it's fixed by location apparently.  THAT caused some interesting issues getting customer service when it would go.  But now it does go.  Yay us!

Pretty minor stuff really, but we're both running out of the adrenaline that we've been using for the last few months.  Suffice to say, we need to slow down and smell the roses - or the frangipanni in the the garden, or the so far unidentified creeping thingy that opens its little trumpet-like flowers in the evening and fills the air with perfume -  or perhaps eat some figs out of the tree next to the kitchen.

What we see as we lie in bed in the morning

The view from the kitchen table during a morning cuppa