Tell us about your life abroad. Where’s home? Where and how long have you lived abroad?
“Maria”: I’ve been living abroad for 15 years now. Home? I’m originally from Venezuela but home? I don’t know. I lost a lot of my cultural identity. I lived in the US for ten years and returned to Venezuela but couldn’t fit in. My friends back home have the same life- just living in their comfort zone and never experiencing different cultures, so it’s tough. I spent a year in Venezuela trying to get out and have been in Oman for five years. I’m 200% Venezuelan but I’m barely American by citizenship, so I’ve become so international to my own detriment.
Stephanie: Well, I’m originally from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I started living abroad in 2005. I taught in Chiang Mai, Thailand at a K-12 school. Then I went to Daegu and Seoul, South Korea and Istanbul, Turkey. Now, I’m here in Oman.
How did you end up in Oman? Did you choose Oman or did Oman choose you?
Deniece: I came just for work, really. It was time to leave Egypt and people told me Oman was a nice country with nice people and that it was very “low on the radar”.
Anya: In undergrad, I took Arabic as a foreign language, and it was one of the most difficult courses I had ever taken. In the back of my mind, I knew I would be in Arabia. Being here has given me a deeper respect for Islam and the beauty of its practice. I’ve lived in East Africa, West Africa, South Africa, and Asia and hadn’t done the Middle East yet. Oman was not my first choice, Dubai was but I came because I knew someone here.
“Maria”: I had no idea where Oman was. I had to look on a map. I wanted Dubai but ended up in Oman. I thought I would just stay two years for the experience but I fell in love with the students- they’re so pure and humble. I fell in love with the Sultan and his country. He’s the only leader of a country that I admire.
Stephanie: I guess for me, it’s a little too tame- too quiet for me. There are some really pretty parts like Jabal al-Akhdar, the beaches, the corniche- it’s a pretty country and the people are really kind. I also love my students. They’ve been really sweet. Some of them are extremely eager to learn and show you their work and what they know.
Deniece: What I like most is the people and their hospitable nature. The authenticity of their spirituality is more prominent here. I would definitely say the students too. My current students are the best I’ve ever had. What I like least would have to be…not enough culture for my taste. I need more things to do, more places to go, more things to see- more cultural avenues.
Anya: I love the nature, the eco-tourism- it’s aesthetically beautiful. I have a profound appreciation for Omani people. They’re extremely congenial- very nice, extremely pleasant, and will exchange pleasantries with you. What I love least? Omani men. I don’t want to generalize all Omani men but outside of Muscat (the capital city of Oman), at least! The beeping, the staring, and looking at you with a discriminating eye. Wearing the abaya (black, traditional gown) lessens it but I still have cars honking and slowing down. I don’t get this in Muscat.
“Maria”: What I love least is that everything you do is associated to your employer. Something happened to me at 8pm one evening and by 7:30 the next morning, my students were asking me about it and I don’t like that. What I love most are the people in general. They have a closeness with God. We do too but they live it and take it seriously.
Ilwad: What I like most? The people- the way they practice their religion and how they welcomed me. I was frightened by the mountains at first because where I come from is completely flat. Yeah, the people may stare but I know their hearts are pure and they would never harm me. Here, I can sleep at night and I know I’m safe. As a young female, safety is very, very, very important to me.