Tuesday, September 7, 2010

An IU student goes to Oman - Part I

My name is Greg Auclair and I am a NELC graduate student who has spent the past three months in Oman. I came to Oman for a study abroad program through the Sultan Qaboos Cultural Center and right now I am staying on an additional month before I begin research and language study in Syria. There is a lot to say about Oman, a lot more than can be covered in a few blog posts, but I hope that writing will at least offer some perspective on what life here is like and what it’s like to be a student abroad. Oman is a blank page for most people and this is a big problem. Before I came here, I knew little, but Oman has a rich history and its influence extends well outside its borders.

I spent two months in a small town called Nizwa, in the country’s interior region and for the last month I have been in Muscat, which is the country’s capital and biggest city. In Muscat I have been teaching English and working on a volunteer project with a local organization, Nissa Sidab. I will talk about Nizwa and Muscat in greater depth in later posts, but for the time being I’d like to address life in Oman in general.

First of all, I would like to say that living in Oman has been a wonderful experience. The friendly and trustful nature of the people here is amazing. People who were complete strangers have invited me into their homes to sit and have coffee. One example that sticks out in particular was when a taxi driver stopped and bought me and my tired-looking friends tea and juice mid-route.

Oman has a kind of harsh natural beauty which takes some getting used to. Mountain ranges can be found in the north and south, while the middle of the country is largely flat desert. Most of the country is dry, with the exception of the mountain range around Salalah, which receives considerable moisture in the summer due to the khareef.
Oman is a geologist’s paradise. Different layers,
representing millions of years of deposition,
erosion and compression are clearly visible.

Lush pockets of green contrast starkly with the desert landscape.
Almost every village has an adjacent date plantation.
Irrigation is provided by a system of canals known as ‘aflages’ in local parlance.
Fog in the hills of Salalah.
The khareef, similar to the monsoon season,
reaches a small portion of Oman for three months
out of the year. The weather in Salalah during
this season is unusually cool for Oman.

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