Russian Community in Oman

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“You can take the idiot out of the village but you can’t take the village out of the idiot” or as this saying applies to me currently “You can take me out of PR but you can’t take PR out of me”.

I’ve been on maternity leave for about 10 days now and that was plenty of time for me to get myself involved in a massive project – an e-newsletter for the Russian Community in Oman. There are over 200 Russian and Russian speaking people here in Oman and yet there isn’t a single blog, Facebook page or website that successfully unites all these people and allows them to communicate with each other. Sure, a lot of them know each other already but plenty of new people arrive all the time!

Also I saw a demand in forming a communication path that would allow these people to ask questions, advertise businesses, publish vacancies, look for baby sitters, exchange books and DVDs- in their own language! In other countries, this initiative is typically carried out by the embassy, most even go as far as to host a “club” or hold meetings to encourage communications between the community members. Unfortunately the Russian Embassy in Oman has not taken on any similar challenges yet (at least not without strong encouragement of volunteers) but maybe such projects will encourage them in the future.

The e-newsletter is of a very basic Word format at the moment and it gets sent out to a database of the Russian Community which I have independently put together overtime. Once a week the 3-4 page document containing the latest news relevant to the community gets sent to those on the database. I am hoping the number of contacts I have will grow overtime especially now that people have begun to email me asking to be added to the list of receivers.

Generally the feedback I have received has been very positive, a lot of people are saying its a very good idea and are inspiring me to continue with it. In time I am hoping I will not be the only one involved in this, I encourage active participation not just in the form of submitting advertisements and news but in writing articles or organizing events that the whole community can participate in.

If you wish to receive this newsletter (in Russian!) please email ruscomoman@gmail.com and I will gladly add you to the address book, likewise if you are selling/advertising/looking for a job/have a vacancy/require a translator/selling your car, please also e-mail me and I will add your news to the newsletter!

Wish me luck!

My cupcake

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No, that isn’t a silly pet name I have for my husband. It’s an actual place. A new, unspoiled and undiscovered place located in Qurum. As the name might suggest- it’s a place of cupcakes.

One particularly hectic evening Is This Serious and I decided to meet for coffee (ahem, I mean herbal tea…) and she suggested a cupcake place she has recently been to. Although sceptical, there was no way I was going to resist a mouthful of chocolate goodness over a heartfelt conversation.

I was about to call her and tell that I got lost when I spotted her car parked next to a very ordinary looking cafe located in a half empty “future” shopping mall. Hmm. Then I spotted the baby onesie hanging on the cafe’s door with a little cupcake illustrated at the front. Awww. Walking in I realized the entire inventory of the store is built upon life block of cupcake origins, the few shelves present there were  under “everything cupcake” from lip balms to cups with illustrations.

It’s a very girly place. My Cupcake is certainly not the venue for a job interview or romantic rendezvous, it’s the kind of place you would want to take your BFF to if her cat got run over by a car or if your mom’s favourite perfume scent got discontinued by the producer. Ok, perhaps celebrations would also be appropriate and oh yes! play dates! The cafe has the cutest set of pink kiddie tables and chairs. Tea party venue. Bring your favourite bear.

Oh and the actual cupcakes? Not bad at all! I was immensely hungry so I had the Snickers cake but Is This Serious snacked on a Velvet Cupcake and that was delicious too! I took a few snaps but they do not do the place any justice so be sure to go and check it out yourselves. It’s located right in front of Qurum Park in the new mall that they are working on now! (Al Qurum Gardens Centre)

“Elka” or New Year for the little ones

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In Russia New Year’s celebrations are huge. So huge that people receive an official week or even longer- as paid leave. The entire country goes into a carnival -like celebration starting from the 27th December and slowly recovers later. There are home cooked meals, fireworks, natural pine tress, happy children and Santa or as Russians call him  “Ded Moroz” (literally translated this means Grandpa Frost”). New Year for Russians is now what Christmas has become for the rest of the world (in the light commercial, over-indulgence sense of the festivity). ]

It would be a major understatement to say that New Year’s is celebrated in Oman “lightly”. The children especially miss out on hanging up paper snowflakes, dressing up, joining celebrations and meeting Ded Moroz. Over the last few years the Russian community in Muscat has taken to organizing a special celebration for the children, a kind of show, where all the characters Russian kids know and love come to live in a magical performance. This is organized entirely on volunteer basis, there aren’t even sponsors or professional actors. The last 5 or so shows were the brain child of my mother, she put time and efforts into getting little kids and their parents involved in this festival of fun. Costumes are put together from scratch, the plays are “googled” and edited, lines are learned and the performance comes together on the grounds of the Russian Consulate of Oman just a week before New Years. I’ve attended the last two shows (and participated) and the number of people who how up every year is truly staggering. The children sit patiently, mouths open wide in awe as Santa emerges followed loyally by his army of fictional characters. Usually the kiddies get to perform, sign a song or recipe a poem and in exchange they receive a present from Santa. It’s always so much fun.

It’s happening again this year! If you are Russian or Russian speaking you are welcome to pass by the Russian Embassy (located near The Hyatt) this Friday, 23rd December at 11am sharp. If you have kids who wish to see the performance please bring a present with you to put into Santa’s “bag of gifts” and label the present with the child’s name. There is absolutely no entrance fee or age restrictions!

Here are some photos from last year’s show! (Guess where I am?)

Maternity Leave

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With just a few weeks away from my due date I am finally going on maternity leave as of Christmas. Although I do still have some time and could theoretically work for a little while longer it as just proved too darn exhausting. Thinking the last 35 weeks over, I would say I had a generally easy pregnancy and I am in really good physical shape…I could easily go on working for another 2-3 weeks if it wasn’t for the simple fact that my ribs hurt. Yes ribs. ” What do ribs have to do with babies or going to work” you are probably wondering. Well, they have absolutely everything to do with not allowing you to be comfortable in a simple position like sitting on an office chair or the sofa. Because there is a little foot in your rib. It makes me feel as though this baby has bones of steel. The ribs on the right side of my body feel like they are on FIRE. The only way I can tolerate it is if I am standing up or lying down, basically anything that keeps my back straight.

So maternity leave. Here I come. As per the Omani Labour Law, women are entitled to 50 days pre and post maternity leave on full salary. That is incredibly little in comparison to other countries (up to 14 months in Germany, 16 weeks in France, 18 weeks in Russia, 22 weeks in Italy) but beggars can’t be chooser now can they? Combined with other pending leaves I have pending in total I am eligible to be away for about three months.

When I think it over in my head the first though that occurs is “Wow, three months! What am I going to do with all that time???” and then…I remember that every single moment of my day will be entirely wrapped around this bundle of joy that is about to arrive. I doubt I will be bored.

Also because life has the tendency to work out all by itself  these days, I was given a fantastic opportunity to come back to work part-time after I have the baby. Just 4 hours a day. You see, I work in the hospitality industry which sometimes calls for 10-14 hour working days, elaborate stress and continuous dedication. I am utterly immersed in this job and would be heart-broken if I had to leave the industry or even the position. I just found what I love to do. (The husband?…No he is not a big fan of my job)

When the offer to move departments and consequently move to a 4 hour working day came in, I accepted it immediately. I never wanted to be a stay at home mom, I believe it would be better for my child if I was a well-rounded person in all aspects and if I had a life outside of changing diapers and wiping spit-up the whole day. (An opinion my husband also feels strongly about). So come March back to work I will be, into a brand new department with new challenges and responsibilities.

Up till then I will have to grow accustomed to my most challenging and exciting job yet…beeing a mommy.

Dolphin Tale!

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Finally a movie for the whole family!

This afternoon I took my 8 year old brother to Shatti Cinema to watch Dolphin Tale. “Oh, great- one and half hours of my life that I will never get back”, I though. It also turned out to be 3D. Oh, Joy! Having sat through Cars 3 (?) earlier this year I could tell how enjoyable this experience would be for me.

 

Imagine my surprise when it turned out to be an enjoyable family film that was both simple and very educational. For once there weren’t trucks being blown up or a gang of kids having a burping contest. It was genuine. The storyline revolved around Winter, a dolphin which was rescued by an 11 year old boy and cared for at a local Marine Clinic. Because the dolphin was badly injured when it washed ashore it’s tail had to be amputated and a team of doctors needed to find a long term solution that would ensure a long, healthy life for Winter. Sawyer,the kid who rescued her dedicated all his time to helping Winter and got the entire community involved in the process. Both children and adults with disabilities were drawn to this creature which against all odds swam, played and jumped through hoops despite it’s close call with death.

I know that my brother learned a few important lessons out of that movie, for starters he stopped gasping “That man doesn’t have a leg” half way through the movie and saw that even children can be in wheel chairs or without a limb. He asked me a lot of questions on the way back home, like how the dolphin could survive if it didn’t have a tail or how come a girl had a plastic leg instead of her real one.

First time in a long time I felt like a movie actually made an impact and bestowed some wisdom into his tiny mind. I would greatly recomend this movie if you have a family movie night coming up or if you just want to teach your child to undrestand and accept dissabilities better. Great film!

Road rage & the stupids

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Much has been said about driving in Oman already. Everyone who has spent at least 20 minutes on the roads here will know that it’s a constant battle of good against evil. It is downright dangerous. People drive like maniacs. Especially taxi drivers. There doesn’t seem to be a single reason for this obscene driving except that the roads are too darn smooth and no natural “barriers” exist to slow down the drivers apart from…light posts, pedestrians or other cars.

So me and mom are driving back from a friend’s house late last night when we encounter a very unpleasant umm “situation”. Mom is turning left, indicator on and the whole deal- out of the corner of my eye I see a car that is doing 100km/h in our direction and warn mom to take care because he is “flying” towards us. Mom obviously doesn’t see him because there are trucks and cars blocking her vision and she either doesn’t hear me or completely underestimated how quickly he was “flying”. She takes her turn and we hear mind-numbing screeching of brakes behind us as I yell at her to hit the gas pedal to get out of his way faster.

Now obviously someone is wrong here. He was speeding and mom didn’t see him so they can both be held equally responsible. However, the accident was avoided but what happened next was utterly obscene. The driver kept on gesturing for mom to pull over and once she did he started calling the police.  I stayed in the car at first but then once he claimed to have “a 9 months pregnant wife in the car who was about to give birth because the road situation scared her so much” I had to get out of the car and demonstrate that…”ya..ok she isn’t the only freaked out pregnant lady there”. Imagine the man’s surprise? He was still on his phone trying to reach…I assume the police? however no one was answering. I told him he can’t call the police if there was no accident they would just not show up! My mom said sorry like a million time and explained that she just didn’t see him because of the parked cars but he didn’t care. Since no police had showed up 10 minutes later and he was still on the phone…(with no one), we decided to leave. Mom said she is going to go and apologize to his “9 months-about-to-go-into-labour-wife” and imagine the shock she got when she discovered that not only did the lady say “oh-no-problem”…but SHE WASN’T EVEN PREGNANT!

Seriously. The man was going to call the police because he was cut off by another car and lied about his wife (?) going into labour. Ah, so maybe the next time a car breaks too suddenly in front of you or maybe  A BIRD FLIES PAST YOUR WINDSHIELD go ahead and call The Royal Oman Police- they would be thrilled to hear your little story over a cup of (decaf for this guy!) coffee.

Sheesh.

Thumbs up for Sultan Center (and other stuff)

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Yes. I am still here. You aren’t getting rid of me that easily.

I am just working. A lot. Buzzing around running errands. Housewifing. Working. Did I mention I’ve been working a lot? Perhaps the only pregnant thing I’ve been doing recently is the yoga. Oh I am enjoying pregnancy yoga so much. It’s the one and half hours a week when I don’t have to answer emails, think about work, responding to my madly beeping BlackBerry, huff and puff in the kitchen…I don’t have to do anything except breath-stretch-and-focus-on-the-baby.

I would absolutely recommend it. The only issue I have with yoga is that every Sunday evening I am reminded that yet another week flew by (whooooosh). Sunday after Sunday. I am subconsciously reminding myself to keep calm every time yet another Sunday approaches. I have a little under three months left and at the rate that time is currently going…I am not even going to notice them zoom past me.

The experts call the second trimester “The Honeymoon”  stage of pregnancy. At this stage expecting mothers don’t exactly have many complaints (hopefully!). I am feeling well enough to get through 9 hours of work and come home full of energy to carry on with the dinner, the tidying up or to even go out! I haven’t exactly become any slower at work either. I seriously though by the 6th month I would not be bothered to drive, to meet people, to run around like a headless chicken, to constantly deal with DRAMA…but I am finding rather bearable. So far so good. I’ve decided to stay at work for as long as I physically can and when the giant stomach or the lack of energy becomes too much of a burden I will go on maternity leave. I fundamentally plan to return to work a few months after the baby is born. I realize this isn’t the right choice for every woman and it depends on so many personal factors and trust me, I have considered them all and made the decision to go back to work shortly after we have the baby. I have a lot of hands on board…my family is here…my mother in law will visit us for a few months to help with the baby. So it isn’t exactly like I will be relying on a questionable babysitter to raise my child- we just have a very big family and loads of people are willing to help.

Talking about help. I wanted to share a very pleasant experience with you. (See, I can do more than rant!). This morning whilst buying a few groceries (ahem…a few dozen bags of groceries) in Sultan Center, I encountered perhaps the best service I have ever experienced. Yes. It was 100% down to the fact that I was pregnant and grocery shopping alone. I got out of lines…the staff went out of their way to accommodate me, they even brought me a trolley! As I was heading out of the store to my car one of the staff took the trolley from me, drove it to my car, unloaded my bags into my car and pushed the trolley away. (Yes, I did give him 200bz for his efforts).

It may have been sheer pity…but I will take pity over “standing-in-long-supermarket-lines” anyday! 🙂

Pregnancy Yoga

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Yesterday I attended my first ever (pregnancy) yoga class. Closing in on my 6th month now I was getting quite achy and restless (see the house moving post) and felt that I needed to vent and channel my energy into something positive like my health. I came to know about this yoga class at the Hayati Spa because my little brother attends their Karate Classes and I happened to pick up a schedule of classes sometime back. Also a reader suggested I try it out and highly recommended the teacher- Karen.

I could not join them sooner because Pregnancy Yoga classes start at 6pm and that is exactly when I finish work, but miraculously since the 1st of October our working hours have  decreased and I am now as free as a bird by 5:30pm! I was seriously excited about this class because deep inside I am an untamed hippy-yoga/saving the planet/Greenpeace and all. Plus, some exercise definitely can’t hurt!

The Hayati Salon is a very nice place, well-lit, cozy and professional. Our pregnancy yoga class has about 8 women in it all between 24 weeks and 34 weeks pregnant. I was quite unprepared for how aware of my pregnancy I became during the class. With Karen constantly reminding us to “focus on the baby” or “direct your breathing at the baby”, I was suddenly completely consumed with the thought of THE BABY. Normally, because my days are so hectic and I have absolutely no time to think about it I only get to focus on THE BABY between 8pm and 10pm. It turns out that being surrounded by bulging bellies really puts things into perspective.

I would highly recommend this class to everyone who is expecting and don’t worry if you have never done yoga before- it isn’t critical. The most important lesson for me that evening was remembering to breath- deep long breaths and exhaling. The poses you will get into are by no means difficult- generally it is just a lot of stretching and balancing. I felt a lot better after, since I spend about 8 hours of my working day behind the computer- my back exhibited gratitude by cracking in 4 different places! Oh and being pregnant makes it very hard to balance on my leg- the stomach keeps tipping you over.

Here is their schedule and contacts if you feel like giving it a try(click to enlarge):

Seriously Gross…

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I have been so restless.

I’ve been wanting to move furniture around, change the curtains in every room and repaint the walls. This just might be the “nesting” stage of pregnancy women refer to when trying to mask how-anxious-they-are-about-the-baby. I think that extra special dose of hype women feel in the last few months of pregnancy is largely attributed to nerves. Buying a new lamp or hanging up new paintings is my way of saying “I might have no control over how the delivery will go and I definetly have no idea what do to once the baby arrives…but damn it, at least I definitely know this brown lamp will match our beige sofa”. Do you get the drift? It’s a way to exercise some control over an otherwise completely helpless situation.

But it’s probably not as bad as I make it sound.

We have however been checking out apartments whilst trying to find “something bigger”, “something cheaper” or even “groundfloor-would-be-nice”. So yesterday I finally got hold of a realtor who promised to show me an apartment on our street. We secured a 7:30pm appointment and when he still hasn’t shown up by 8:15 I could literally hear the echo of the vein pulsating on Alex’s forehead. He has very little patience for slackers. After Mohammed got sick of the missed calls I left on his mobile he finally called back to apologize for being late. Some 50 minutes later we were finally escorted to a building which was just across the street from us (“Moving would be easy- I thought).

What seemed like a rather average looking apartment building turned out to house perhaps the dirtiest apartment I have ever seen in my life. To be fair Mohammed did warn us that the tenants have moved out just a day before. I now know where they filmed Joe’s Apartment- a seriously grotesque movie that I accidentally watched as a child. If you have not come across this masterpiece, here is a quick recap it’s about a guy (Joe!) who moves to New York and discovers that he must share his run-down apartment with a couple thousand singing, dancing cockroaches.

“What is that smell” were the first words my husband uttered when he stepped in.Not only were the walls smeared, scratched and generally lacking a cover of paint but all sorts of crap was scattered around the floor. It seemed as though the last tenants prefered to throw their garbage right out the window-or so indicated their “back yard”. Then I saw him. Lurking on the kitchen counter…was perhaps the biggest cockroach I have encountered in my entire life. For comparison? Think of a matchbox or a KinderSurprise egg. His whiskers were as long as my cat’s. Seeing my terror Mohammed mumbled something about “bring in pest control if we require it” to which I silently added “animal rescue and the ghost busters as well“.

So dear ex-tenants of Cockroach-ville. You should be ashamed of yourselves. Living in a cockroach invested house- unless the cockroaches were holding you hostage – seriously no excuse for that. It’s discusting and unsanitary. And whilst personal hygiene is totally subjective- there are certain codes set by the society in which we live in and you Mr.CockroachFarmOwner are no freaking exception.

Needless to say we returned home seconds later and I literally hugged the hospital-clean walls, the shiny kitchen counters and promised my apartment that I will never ever ever ever leave it.

Baby shower, shower.

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I am very fond of the idea of having a baby shower. What could be better than to gather with your closest friends and enjoy an afternoon spend together indulging in appetizers, chit-chat and unwrapping gifts!
I would also much rather prefer to catch up with everyone before the baby is born instead of having dozens of people visit me at the hospital literally hours after I give birth- with all due respect, that’s exhausting.
My Cynthia is currently in charge of coordination all the baby shower arrangements which is still a long two months away (but it’s never too early to plan, right?).  So this weekend we ventured into Mothercare hoping to get some information on their registration process. I was counting on a procedure that went something along the lines of: a give them a list of everything I need from the store and they share it with whoever shops for my baby shower. Pretty straight forward, right?
The tragedy conversation went something like this:
Me: Umm, excuse me.
(Both employees behind the counter continue pricing/unwrapping/picking their nose).
Me: Excuse me, hello?
(Employees turn around with totally blank expressions on their faces).
Cynthia: Do you do registrations for baby showers?
(Blank expressions continue…)
Cynthia: Baby showers? You know, like we want to hold a baby shower and we can register gifts so that the guests can chose from a list of items and bring them to the party?
(Here employees’ eyes widen but nevertheless the blank expressions prevail).
UselessEmployee1: We have this. (Hands us a Feedback and Comments Form)
Me: No, no. Well you know, for a baby shower, I can chose some items and people can give them to me during the baby shower.
(A light bulb appears above the head of one of the employees)
UselessEmployee1: Aaaa… (scratches head)
(Exchanges confused glances with UselessEmployee2)
UselessEmployee2: Baby Shower? Shower? Ohh shower? Ok!!!
(Both employees attempt to lead us to the shampoo/sponge/cotton balls/bath lotion section).
Me and Cynthia: Nooooooooo!
Cynthia: Not this shower, a BABY SHOWER!
Me: Cynthia stop saying shower! That’s what’s confusing them!
Cynthia: IS THERE A MANAGER WE CAN TALK TO?
Bow. Applause. Encore! Encore!

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