Thursday, 31 July 2008

Luxury, petty frustrations, and long drive.

What a strange week. After not getting Renaissance day off work – a national celebration only given to government workers, how does that work, J got given Thursday afternoon off and we went and stayed at the Chedi hotel here in Muscat. Even with it's summer discounted rate it was a luxurious and expensive treat. We got there at midday for the best check in I've ever had. We sat in the beautiful lobby, no standing by the desk, waiters brought us fresh orange juice, the forms etc to where we were sitting, and then we had a mini tour of the hotel on route to our room, which was beautiful! We spent most of the afternoon lounging by the adult only Infiniti pool, although we did take a dip n sea after a short walk along the beach. Dinner was taken in the main dining room with a very smooth red wine, but not so gentle bill, then we took a stroll through the gardens, which are filled with water features, discreet lighting, and surprising courtyards. The next day was equally relaxing with the addition of a Balinese massage before lunch, and check out. The whole thing was a lovely treat!

Petty frustrations came whilst I was working for the week in Nizwa. As usual, I was there with Shell graduates on their introduction to exploration & production course. I train on the first module, which is all about working together, and got so frustrated with two of the girls who did not want to join in anything, stating it is "culturally inappropriate". Our course director, Hannat, along with others, has carefully devised the course so everyone can do everything, and it is such a shame these girls didn't take the opportunities offered them. Ice skating was quoted as being dangerous, an outdoor activity too likely someone would touch them accidentally (10000/1 against) etc. What will they do when they have to work in a mixed environment? Refuse?

The other frustrating thing was receiving an email whilst in Nizwa, with news about my potential flat purchase and realising the Italian bureaucracy is so slow. Also, that despite making requests for things to be done, I am so dependent on others doing what they say they will, when they haven't it has delayed everything. (I'm still waiting for a form to be posted, despite asking for it at the beginning of July) Oh well. I guess I find it so frustrating having flights booked to go over and I may not be able to enter the flat, or start doing anything on it.

However, the highlight of the week, and thing that left me feeling at peace, although tired, was a beautiful drive over the Hajar Mountains. J joined me at the Nizwa Hotel on Tuesday in time to see the raft race, which signified the end of activity day and almost the end of our module. So, yesterday morning, instead of taking the normal drive back to Muscat along the highway, we drove to Wadi Tanuf and off-road up the mountainside on a graded track. After a short while, we joined a stretch of tarmac road, and that led us to the viewpoint (see pic.). Shortly after we were heading downhill on a steep graded track, full of hairpins Yeeha! It was from the viewpoint onwards that the drive was amazing as we passed through, & by, gorges, wadis (valley beds), and small villages. I was very disappointed when we finally reached the end of Wadi Bani Awf and the road to Nakhal that the drive was over, but also pleased and happy we had done it. We got back to Muscat an hour or so later tired but definitely happy, and just in time to see Dark Knight, the new Batman movie.

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Future home

I've just been looking through some blogs and found this link to The Independent and this article on Calabria - my future home, and where J & I'll be end of August for the local festa in Scalea. I love this quote:

"Calabria, with its 600 miles of Mediterranean coastline and a hilly, lush interior, still has a profound respect for a slower way of doing things. In its small, often tumble-down towns and villages, the four-hour lunch break is rigorously enforced. The hours between 12.30pm and 4.30pm are strictly reserved for sitting down for a glass of peppery wine and a plate of Calabria's hearty "national dish", pasta alla Norma – aubergines in tomato sauce with grated boiled egg, basil and ricotta cheese."

Sounds just perfect to me!

Sunday, 13 July 2008

Sailing, snorkling & Pimms

Last Friday, friends & I went sailing on the yacht Jinan Al Bahr, which sails out of Muscat. We left the marina at 1pm and sailed an hour down the coast to Bandar Al Khran. On weighing anchor, we donned snorkels & fins and went across the bay to the nearby rocks and cave. Poor Valia was scared when she saw a snake skimming across the water and rapidly headed back to the yacht. John & I investigated around the cave and rocks seeing many different varieties of fish, although the water was a bit murky. (Like the sky, which is still full of dust, despite the weather report saying it is cloud).

When we got out it was "Pimms o'clock" so we shared out the thermos of Pimms and tucked into our picnic lunch - no cucumber sandwiches, but we did have some strawberries. Continuing with this difficult afternoon, lunch was followed by lounging and chatting. Later it was time for another swim, although for me this was more of a bob as I was using a noodle to float in the sea whilst chatting to other passengers.

On the yacht were members of the Intercon band and the Hyatt band, and they all seemed a nice crowd so we plan to go and see them play this Wednesday. We returned to the marina about 6pm so exhausted by the days activities that we had to have a restorative drink in the bar before we left. It's a hard life here!

Monday, 7 July 2008

Bed called at 2nd rain delay

Last night was frustrating as the only channel broadcasting the Wimbledon men's final was Dubai Sport whose commentary is in Arabic. That was not too bad when the volume was loud enough to hear line calls etc. but very frustrating when the 1st rain delay came in the 3rd set... The covers went on and I had know idea if it was a shower or possibly a longer delay as I couldn't understand what they were saying. As they repeated the previous day's womens final, I switched to BBC news to try to get info. I then spent the next hour flicking back and forth to try and catch the restart, which I did. I was on the edge of the seat throughout the end of the 3rd set and all of the 4th. As a Rafa fan, I thought it was all over when he lost the opportunity to win the championship and the 4th set went to Federer. Still on the edge of my seat for the beginning of the 5th, although the eyelids were dropping due to the time difference, I was beginning to think Federer would win and... it rained again! It was now after 11pm here in Muscat, having got up at 6am and not knowing how long this delay would be, I followed the call of the bed and missed the end of the match. This morning, at a too early 5.40am, I switched on BBC news to get the result. YEAH! Rafa won! The report makes the last set sound amazing, as the score probably shows... I can't watch it as the clips on BBC Sport online are blocked - joys of living in a dictatorship (although very benign one) I guess. Shall have to try YouTube or somewhere else now I guess.

Sunday, 6 July 2008

Want my autograph?

Due to some publicity by my company, I'm in the paper again... both in the article and that's me stood on the left. That makes the tally to date: The Week - 1 letter printed & 2 photos; arabic press - 2 photos; & H! - 1 photo with article (this one). I guess you've either got it, or you haven't :) Sx