Three Things Thursday; Food in Oman

I’ve landed in a totally new destination which has confounded all my expectations in wonderful ways. As always, my best settling-in technique is to dive in mouth-first, so this month here are three more…

Dried food

Dried dates, dried bread, dried fish, dried milk balls, dry black lemon powder

…unusual nutritional items.

Amazing Iranian restaurant

Amazing Iranian restaurant

One thing I’m really enjoying about living in Muscat is what a multicultural city it is. This has its perks and downfalls, but compared to the places I’ve lived in the last five years, there’s greater level of diversity, and this is most easily appreciable in the food on offer. The slowly returning Omani diaspora from Baluchistan and Zanzibar bring fusion Arabian / South Asian and Arabian / African dishes. There’s also a wealth of Iranian food from our neighbours across the Strait of Hormuz, famous for their sweets. My nearest cheap meal out is an eye-popping Iranian restaurant which I mistook for a light fittings shop at first glance. And I’m in my personal food heaven as the huge Indian expat community dominates food outlets and supermarket options.
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How to move to a new country #2: hit the ground running

New culture, new horizons

New culture, new horizons The Grand Mosque, Muscat

The month since the last, ‘How to…’ has been spent merrily travelling around Vietnam whilst waiting on all the official paperwork for the move to Oman, a totally new part of the world for me.

As I described in last month’s, “Before the leap,” post, it was possible to get preparations for the move underway well in advance. However, a number of others things could only begin once I arrived. Those are the meat of this post.
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How to move to a new country #1: before the leap

On the brink of another international move, I sat down to think about all the things I do to settle in to a new job, in a new city, in a new country.

This will be the third move in just over five years, not including briefer sojourns such as short contracts and a recent study break in Thailand. The basics – packing up the house, planning the move etc. – are common to any moving experience. The removals might be handled by international shipping rather than Uncle John, and if you’re moving pets internationally there’s a whole raft of paperwork, depending on where you’re going, but it’s manageable and your new job will probably have a lot of experience supporting people through the practicalities.

This is the extra stuff for when you really are boldly exploring a strange new land and have no previous point of reference on What To Expect. What are the dos and don’ts in your new home-to-be? What’s the local language? How will you find like-minded people? How do the buses work?

You will notice as this post progresses that a lot of what I do post-interview but pre-actual-moving involves the Internet as the key line of information from the greatest number and variety of sources. Nothing in this post is revolutionary; everything is common sense, but here’s my one-stop guide to how I go about answering those questions.

Kimchi jiggae at the Hanok HouseNew sights, new friends, new food, new culture

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It’s Life, Jim, but not as we know it

Recent conversations:

Me (M): “Ummm, there’s this job going in Burma that looks quite interesting. Lots of training, and it’s in that bizarre new city that they’ve built as the capital but no one lives there yet. Whaddya reckon?”

Wonderboy (W): “Hmm, could be good. Let’s keep an eye on it. What about this university job in Ho Chi Minh City? We liked Vietnam when we visited. All that fresh fruit and veg.”

M: Yeah, that’s definitely one to keep in mind. There’s a half decent job going in Hanoi, too.

W: I don’t think we’d like the weather in Hanoi.

M: There’s a brilliant job going in Cali, starts January. It’s perfect for us and I’ve always wanted to go back to Colombia!

W: No, even with the Delta, it’ll be a bit too soon to go back to South America. Let’s keep looking in Asia.

M: Yes, and I can keep my fingers crossed for the Pyongyang job to come up again.

W: You and Pyongyang. I just don’t get it.

M: Anyway, let’s see what’s going…

M&W: … after the Delta!

Yes. These are extracts from what constitute real conversations in my household. Five years after I jetted out from Heathrow to Mexico with a vague intention of travelling, doing a bit of light teaching here and there if I wanted to stay somewhere a while, and doing my best to make it twelve good months out of the country in the wake of the election that got my job abolished, teaching has become my career and travelling is the name of the game.

September 25th has rolled around again and prompted me to take stock this time not only of the past year, but of the five years since I left home and set my sails for the horizon. More

Oh, the places we’ll go.

Or, adventures in expatting (verb, intransitive – the habit of living in countries that aren’t one’s own).

Booyah, Shakespeare, I just invented a word, too.

Or so I thought. This is a verb that has been hovering on the edge of my consciousness for a while, but it wasn’t until I idly looked it up to discover a raft of references in the Urban Dictionary that I realised why I feel part of neither one world or another. Even the wryly humorous term expatbagger (see note) seems to me to refer to someone who moved to one different country and then returned to their home country, rather than someone who left their original country, has travelled around and lived in a couple of others, and just hasn’t gone back home yet. In my current place of residence there are a high number of transient, short-term contractors passing through in a similar manner to me, but this is an exception. In previous places I’ve found myself part of a community who have moved in and stayed long-term. So what should I call myself that would fit the bill? More

An anniversary

Three months! Darnit, mi gente, I really let the ball drop, roll under the cheap seats, sneak off out of the ballpark and head post-haste for the getaway vehicle. Well, it’s certainly time to get these nimble blogging fingers limbered up again. And I plan to start with a reflection.

September 25th marks the day each year where I reflect on my life since I took redundancy and headed for the exit. The first year it fell just after I cancelled my return flight and made a go of life abroad, longer term. Things were still very uncertain. I was living in a guesthouse in a small, Peruvian jungle city eating lentils and boiled eggs, both of which I boiled in a cheap electric kettle. Yes. In the kettle. In the tiny bathroom. Hell, those were the days.

By the end of my second full year away from home, life was somewhat more stable and involved things like frying pans and salad bowls again, generally used in a kitchen. This, while less pioneering, was probably a much healthier sign for both my digestion and my prosperity in general. I had managed to squeeze in a visit home to take the edge off the homesickness any traveller feels after the novelty and regular emails and dispatches to and from home start to dwindle. I caught England in the midst of a glorious English summer: the 2012 Olympics, an epic thunderstorm, walks through the Essex wheatfields and strawberry-picking all reminding me why it takes a journey to realise a home. More

Three new things…

…I visited this week in Seoul.

One of the mythical haetae

One of the mythical haetae

Thing 1 – The British Embassy. It’s always useful to know where your embassy is when you settle in to a new country. The last place I lived, it was flashily located at the top of the tallest, flashiest building of the flashiest part of the flashiest neighbourhood. Pretty flashy.

Here it is down a nondescript alleyway behind a nondescript (but highly secure-looking) gate, in a squat, nondescript building. However, it is still in the flashiest part of town, and directly next door to a palace. More

Brave New World

Despite the ominous title, this is far from a dystopian vision of the future. Rather it is a summary of all the many changes that life in a totally new country can bring, with the various obvious and more oblique revelations it entails.

I’ve mentioned before that it has been a long time since I’ve been totally linguistically isolated from the society around me. I’d guess this is a situation a lot of people may be familiar with from holidays in parts of the world where learning, “Hello” and “thank you” in order to show willing during a couple of weeks’ sojourn in foreign climes will see you through. More

More language and thought

Thirty years false prophets and guides. Here fifteen years useless.

[Unintelligible gobbledygook] I don’t want be a dick.

Do you think I’m a mess?

These gems, as close to verbatim as I can recall, were among the helpful things that helped to procure us a lovely apartment in a funky-looking university area of Seoul. More

The Undiscovered Country

It is a time of change and confusions, and so I chose a title to indicate both. The first confusion lies in the providence of the quote, which I’m sure some of you will have mistakenly identified as Shakespeare, W. from his work Hamlet. However, I am in fact quoting Roddenberry, G. and his creation Star Trek. The second confusion is that I am not, in fact, about to discuss either the post-life human condition commonly known as death, or a country that hasn’t been discovered, but South Korea. The third confusion, for those of you so presumptuous to have thought ahead, is the expected continuation of the metaphor… “from whose bourn no traveller returns….” No one can speak for certain of the future, and at this point there are still big question marks over whether I’ll make it to Korea or not, but if I do, I have every intention of returning in a very much alive condition.

There, I’m glad we got all that settled. More

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