Saturday, 14 July 2012

Time to Knuckle Down

Well, the moment has come.  I have an absolutely final date on the doctorate 1 January 2013, no more extensions.  So life is going to be mostly house bound for the next five months with only a couple of exceptions.  Visits to the gym, morning coffee on Monday mornings (aka sanity break), maybe (if I'm very good) book group meetings once a month and oh, that's right - a two week visit to Europe to visit Kiriel and cheer Christoph on at his wedding!  Luckily (depends on how you look at it really) we booked the tickets before word came through of the deadline, so we couldn't change our minds.

It's a little bit exciting really.  We'll be flying into Amsterdam midweek and David will be catching up with some Customs blokes (he's suggesting a tour of the port of Rotterdam - I think I might be in a museum that day) and then on to Brussels for more catch up with Customs blokes for David and some touristing for me.  I think there might be a visit to the Musical instrument museum in my future.......
Then things get a little blurry and, if David has anything to do with it, very fast.  A wander down to Namur to visit the nuns who look after medieval gold works, a visit to Luxembourg and its millions of castles (which apparently will only take an afternoon) and then on into France just because.  I think we're planning to hit Geneva Monday or Tuesday and throw ourselves on Kiriel's mercy.  We can visit all of Geneva and its surrounds in a few days I'm sure.  Up to Basel and then back to Geneva and home.  I'm sure the planning will turn into real planning soon, so if you've got any suggestions, let me know.

In the meantime I'd better look into some cat sitters.  Speaking of cats (notice how I deftly slipped them into the conversation - good hey?) the two kitties are getting along like a house on fire.  They are eating in the same place, using the same kitty litter and playing like maniacs.  Button's nose is a little out of joint, but she loves the company and our kitty cuts are mending.  I don't look quite so much like a battered wife anymore.  Bluey is slowly getting to like people and to trust us a bit more (at the moment he's trying to work up the courage to jump on the keyboard - nope, chickened out, off to wreak havoc in the study cupboard) and even curled up next to David in bed last night
Blurry but beautiful

One out of joint nose and a forgotten tongue

Then this morning, while I was doing the dishes..................................................................................

Mmmmm, they can get up to all sorts of things when left to their own devices.  The toilet paper was stolen from the cupboard that was left ajar when David fed them earlier.  Bluey is rapidly finding all the toys Button has lost and hiding in places she can't fit into any more.  Let's just say that they are either playing or sleeping, not much in between.

In other news, David is off visiting border stations for the next week.  There will be no excuses for not getting work done! 

Friday, 6 July 2012

A Birthday Abroad

Well, it happened.  I had my first birthday far away from all my family and friends and I survived!!!


I confess to a partial melt-down a few days before.  I almost stayed home and moped until it dawned on me that going to a coffee morning with a bunch of girlie expats would be a good idea, so off I went.  I had a little cry, got reassured that I wan't being silly and felt much much better.

Then I got proactive and decided to have some people over for dinner the night before, so we had a little dinner party. That was an excellent idea and we all drank a little too much and were vastly entertained by the antics of young Button and a lovely little 9 year old girl - Elise.  Elise has never had much to do with animals and was as uncertain of Button as Button was of her.  The result was a lovely evening of squeaks, squawks and high speed chases.

We spent my birthday morning in bed. How divine!  Lying around, watching David's hangover and chatting to friends and family on the telephone.  I can't tell you how fantastic it is to be living in the 21st century and living a long way away.  Oman is definitely not Australia and sometimes I feels every one of the thousands of miles it is from home, but the digital age has made is sooo much easier to keep in touch and shorten those miles.  It was not that many years ago that I would have had to go into the post office to arrange a long distance call, hoping that someone might be on the other end.  Now it is possible to call quickly and cheaply.  Even better, it's possible to call using Google Talk (Oman's internet speeds are too slow for video images and government really doesn't approve) and chat away for ages for no money at all.  I spend a lovely hour or two every Wednesday chatting to Joanna, just the way we did in person on a Friday. Sure, sometimes the connection is interesting (to say the least) and you have to persevere, but it's lovely to just chat with someone you know well. Viber is pretty good as well. As long as your telephone is running through a network. It also gets wonky, but that's a small price to pay for chatting regularly to family and friends.

But there's something to be said for a good old fashioned letter. My mum always claims to not be very good with technology and has been writing regular letters - just little chatty notes with a bit of gossip and a bit of family news. They're lovely to read over and over again and reinforces the power of the written word. When we went to the Handwritten exhibition at the NLA at Christmas, I felt the same way about seeing the handwriting of those people. It's a personal connection that you feel, knowing that someone touched that same piece of paper.

Trashing wrapping paper is exhausting

Birthday Perfume
David decided he was getting me perfume for my birthday.  He's never given me perfume before so he dragged me off to shop for perfume. Sniff the perfume, sniff the coffee beans, sniff the perfume, sniff the coffee beans and so on...  A young lad who had very little English, but was a very clever salesman, sold me on a rose/musk combination.  Perfume here is a high art and taken very seriously; not just the mixing and making, but the presentation and the selling.  There are perfume shops everywhere, and Muscat is home to the most expensive perfume in the world.  I have no idea how much this cost, but the bottles, display case and box are beautiful!  The lids screw off and they have glass rods that sit in the oil.  You only need one tiny dab on each wrist and you're perfumed for 2 days - including showers! It makes the bed smell rather nice too.

Birthday top all the way from Australia
(in record time - 4 days!)

Birthday flowers
Ali and Bob (who came to dinner) presented me with the most gorgeously huge bunch of flowers, which necessitated the purchase of the birthday vase!  After all that lying in we popped off for brunch at the Intercontinental - expensive and lush -if only David could have appreciated all the food!

All in all a very satisfactory day.

And introducing............
 The young lad from our backyard.  He was enticed in last night and will hopefully be joining the household.  He's been living wild with mum here and there.  Someone's nose is distinctly out of joint.

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Goodness gracious it's July!

How on earth did that happen? We've been here for almost four months now and it is still a little surreal.

Last night we went to the last class of the ten week Arabic course - I'm surprised we made it.  There is a final test on Sunday, which we are postponing for two weeks because neither of us would pass the test at the moment.  It's been a massive roller coaster.  We are the only people on the course who started with no Arabic at all.  The grammatical rules, at this point, are very straight forward, but there are sooooooo many of them and they affect everyday language intimately; but that is not really the issue.  The issue is the vocabulary of more than 500 words that we really should have memorized by now - not to mention the 29 letter alphabet that we were introduced to last week!!!

The alphabet was the straw that broke the camel's back.

We hadn't made the first session (it's the only one I've missed in the whole ten weeks- 48/50 hours is not bad!) because a certain little kitty snuck out between my legs straight into the welcoming killing machine that is "Mother Cat" in our back yard. Mother Cat (who is not Button's mother and is pregnant again) didn't take kindly to Miss Button's appearance and proceeded to drive her out of "her" backyard - with extreme prejudice. It was a very subdued Button who curled up with David that evening. The next morning, Button was not quite her usual self and slept in a dark corner most of the day. She came out just as I was deciding to drag her out. Surprise, surprise there was a very sore lump on her side with a puncture wound near it - along with several other puncture wounds. A call to the vet...they opened at 4...over the other side of town...if they kept her overnight we could go to Arabic...if it didn't take long we could take her to Arabic... we could rush her home and come back to Arabic late... Of course none of those things happened. It didn't take long - she either had an abscess or she had perforated her thorax - we needed to watch her breathing closely and feed her antibiotics twice a day for a week. When she was spayed that was easy...but now? Watch the video and see....

The upshot was: the cat won, Arabic lost, and wasn't that a bad idea!!

In the next lesson the teacher very kindly went through the letters, their sounds and most of their physical structure. Arabic letters have different shapes depending on whether they are written alone, at the beginning of a word, in the middle of a word or at the end of a word - the explanation took about 30 minutes.  Then we tried to keep up.  Oh ye Gods and little fishes!!!! He went so fast that I wasn't actually able to focus on a word before he had finished with it.  We all tried to slow him down, but to no avail.  I walked out in a fury about half an hour before the end of class.  It's the first time I have ever walked out of a class as a student, but it was that, or throw things.  Anyway, driving along on Monday, listening to myself saying "If only I had another week," it dawned on me.  The teacher had said we had three weeks to do it in!  Hooray!!  All we have to do now is practise..............

Emma (the slightly dotty Englishwoman that every class must have) and Sabrina (American/Spanish and a convert to Islam) keep telling us that we have learnt more than we realise.  I know we've learned alot.  Just not enough.  We're not going back to the Polyglot for more, we'll find somewhere closer to home to avoid the two hours of travel time.  Preferably a course that is purely conversational.  We do have all the building blocks, I just need to get over the terror of taking that first plunge into the deep end.