Monday, January 20, 2014

The Value of Planning

Anyone who has lived in Salalah long enough knows that people here don't plan. In fact, they actively avoid planning. When they are forced into planning something, they take great measures to screw up the plans at the last minute. I'll never understand why. Maybe you can help me.

The reason this has come up today (and every other day in my life here in Dhofar) is because I was sitting with a colleague of mine who wanted to take annual leave. Why? Well, his sister is getting married and she mentioned that she wanted to go to Dubai to buy fake designer products and to spend her dowry in style. All fine till now right? Until he told me they intended to go 'tomorrow'. Naturally, being the obsessive compulsive person that I am, I immediately asked the usual "Did you book tickets? Hotel?". 

The answer was a blank 'no'.

But Amer, you said you're going tomorrow. Do you have any idea how many people are going to Dubai for the school holildays? Yes, he said.

So why didn't you book  tickets and plan in advance?

Well, we still hadn't decided, he said.


Ok, I'll see if I can go by a travel agent.


Nah, I don't like to take the shortcut. I'd rather waste my time at a travel agent.

A few hours pass.

Amer shows up at my office again. Ok, we have tickets he says.

What about your hotel I ask frantically.

Oh, we'll get something when we land at the airport. There are hotel offices there.

Me: AMER, no one does that anymore. It's high season. You have to book in advance.

Yes I know, he says. I'm sure when we get there, there won't be any reasonably priced hotels left. We might have to spend a lot of money just to find a room in Dubai.

By then, my fingers are already on the keyboard and logging into

Amer, look! There's nothing in Dubai under 60 OMR a night. NOTHING. But here, there's a small hotel in Ajman about 13 km away and it's a good price. Do you want me to book it for you?

Nah, he says. We'll get something at the airport.

I tell him that this non-planning mentality of Dhofaris just won't work anymore. You'll just waste time and effort and money. What's so difficult about booking in advance?

He says "Well I dunno, it's just how we Dhofaris are".

And off he goes with his tickets.

Later on I find out that they landed in Dubai at 7 pm and ended up in a lineup of people all needing accommodation. By 10 pm they had found a room in Sharjah. He sent me a long message complaining about the lineups and the chaos and the lack of hotels...... as ... if .... we ... hadn't....had....that ....conversation .... the .... day ..... before.

I tried not to pull my hair out in frustration. I shouldn't get frustrated. It's their lives.

Among my theories to explain this ridiculous phenomenon is that they refuse to plan anything in advance because:

1) They might jinx themselves and get cursed by the evil eye

2) They enjoy not planning because then tons of problems arise due to lack of planning and they get to be manly heroes by making a lot of noise in an attempt to solve the crisis. It makes them feel good. Gives them something to do.

3) They just don't value planning and don't see the benefits of planning ahead of time.

This goes for all planning crises in Salalah. Another example is weddings. A girl at college will go weeping to her teachers that she can't take a final exam because it's on her wedding day. The men in her family come and make a fuss at the college to 'rescue' her in her distress. But no one asks the obvious question: why the HECK did you plan your wedding in the middle of final exams?

I could give tons of examples. Tons.

It drives me crazy.

I'm typing this from the business class lounge at Salalah Airport. No, I'm not off to Dubai to rescue Amer. An older gentlemen (obviously a businessman) who was sitting on the other side of the lounge came up to me and pointed to a tiny walled-in corner of the room and said "That's for ladies". I look up from the laptop and smile "Yes?". He said "that room there is for ladies". I said "I know, can I help you with anything?". So he shuffles off back to his corner and huffs and puffs. If I were in a different mood, I'd probably give him a dose of feminism and ask him exactly what's bothering him about my presence in the main area of the lounge. Then I'd tell him he offended me and that I think men should be walled in instead.

Oh well, maybe another lifetime. 


Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Bits and Pieces

Brace yourselves for one of my random posts that cover bits and pieces from absolutely everything and anything Dhofar. To give you an idea of the scenario, yours truly is in a bright pink thobe budhail hibernating in her room over a mug of Salalah Chai and country music (don't judge). I've just finished drafting my 2014 resolutions, one of them being to blog more often. You must understand that I really love blogging. I've just been so bloody busy that I've had to put some things aside until I finish a couple of large projects. Anyway, 2014 will bring more posts. You may now roll your eyes.

So, in Salalah....

1) My last two posts were about the security threats in the Dhofar region,particularly concerning possible attempts by A Qaeda to cross the border from Yemen. The UK and US embassies both warned their citizens to steer clear of Dhofar. The warnings seem to be over, although to the best of my knowledge there may have been a mini-threat alert yesterday evening (hint: Port). 

2) There has been an exaggerated burst of nationalism these past few weeks after Oman bluntly refused to join any future Gulf Union. Read this article for more details on the Iran-ties that have come up again and again in any conversation concerning Oman's stance. 

3) Dhofar Club (primarily a soccer club) has set up dozens of clothes donation boxes around Salalah. Needles to say, it's the first 'organized' clothes donation initiative in Dhofar since ...well .... never. I've donated a lot and so have my friends. As far as I know, a lot of it is going to Syria. They're having a rough winter and the refugees need all the help they can get. The one I've used is on 18th of November Street, the main street in Saada right at the corner from Trygve Harris' frankincense ice cream heaven. 

4) The  weather these days is awesome.

5) I've witnessed two forced marriages over the past two months. More on that later. I'm fuming.

6) If you've emailed me over the past four weeks, I apologize for not getting back to you. I haven't been able to keep up with emails. I WILL answer.

7) I'm not a Facebook person. I'll try to re-activate my page, but can't make any promises. There's only so much social media I can handle. Don't even say the word Twitter to me, or I might internet-troll you.

8) Speaking of trolls, you guys need to get a life (those of you whose lives are so boring you waste your time sending horrible messages to others using multiple accounts. Seriously, get a life)

9) Remember our mini Arab Spring in Oman? And the one in Dhofar that ended rather harshly on May 12th, 2011? Remember this photo of the protest square? Well. they're currently in the middle of digging up the WHOLE FRIGGIN SQUARE to build a POLICE STATION. You heard me right. A police station.

10) Hasik-Shuwaymia road (east of Salalah) is finally open. We can finally drive up the coast easily. Bring on the day-trips! (ignore the photoshopped picture)

11) As of January 1st, Omanis can travel to the UK without a visa. Oh yes. OH YES! 

12) I found this hilarious definition of Salalah in Urban Dictionary. We heard our animals, they said!

13) Someone at work keeps on using my coffee press and carefully hidden Sumatra coffee. I'm going to find the sucker and I'm going to kill him.

14) Patchi is finally open at Salalah Gardens Mall. 

15) Khumba (3D Animation movie - still on at City Cinema Salalah) was awesome. Everyone in the audience were adults by the way. Don't be shy. 

16) Finally, you do realize we have a public holiday next week for the birth of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)? Probably Monday or Tuesday, but most likely Tuesday. Hooray!

The End