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):

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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!

I am 170 years old

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This could turn out to be a raving/raging post (yet again) about hospitals in Oman but because I currently lack the energy to be angry…I shall refrain from typing in CAPS and cursing after every second word.
A disclaimer: a first-time expectant mother will worry about every little thing that doesn’t “feel right”. She does not necessarily need to be in agonizing pain or in a life threatening situation to be rushed to the hospital. Sometimes a light fever and consecutive dizzy spells are all that’s needed to seek medical attention.
So there I am (at work-that’s where) on Wednesday morning when all of a sudden I begin to feel a little feverish and simply “off”.  I also had a few other symptoms that should solemnly remain between me and doctor so that half the world is not grossed out.  After fighting the sinking feeling that maybe this isn’t simple fatigue I caved and called a fellow doctor- who in turn told me to go to the nearest clinic and get checked out “just to be on the safe side”.
I seriously told my superior I will be back in an hour because I am going for a quick check up. (I should have said Inshallah at this point.) Alex picked me up and we went to the nearest clinic as suggested, the closest one being Al Raffah where I am currently registered. On my way there I kept on calling the operator to make sure there is a gyno there I could see. No one picked up. I called about 8 different times. Yes I had the right number- they just didn’t pick up!
As we stormed the lobby of Al Raffah hospital we soon came to learn that there was no gyno on call and my doctor would not be available until 6pm. Because…you know…doctors work in shifts.  Apparently it is perfectly acceptable not to have a doctor there for 6 hours at a time!!! They only had a GP- which would have helped if I had a bruise or maybe a sore throat…
Suppressing our anger we drove to the closest hospital from Al Raffah- Muscat Private Hospital. Again, I called them on the way there the operator picked up (Hooray??!!) but the line quickly died when she was transferring me to the “correct” department. Ugh.
I quickly felt like I was having the most surreal déjà vu of my life when we learned that they too did not have a gyno on call because “the entire department was attending a lecture and will only be back in a couple of hours”.  Now, please note that both of the above hospitals have DELIVERY WARDS and possibly women going into labor that very instant- but who gives a monkey’s I guess?
I began to feel quite anxious as by that point in time all sorts of nasty scenarios regarding the baby’s health ran through my mind. We did the only thing we could think of. We drove to Sultan Qaboos University Hospital.  FIY (if you aren’t local) that hospital is 45 minutes away. Make that 1h and 25 minutes when you are driving there at 2:30pm just as about everybody in Muscat is leaving work and heading home.
Keeping a long story short- we finally found ourselves registering at the Accidents and we Emergencies department of SQUH and they quickly send me to get my blood pressure and temp measured (both were high!). The nurse (an attentive young man) was however very reassuring and told me that he marked my file as urgent so that the Emergency department makes me their priority. An hour and a half later we are still sitting there. Alex is dying for some water. I keep pacing the waiting area (which is divided into male and female sections). I “borrowed” the chair the security guard was using, by the door, and sat on it with Alex standing responsibly by my side. We seriously watched dozens of people come in and leave, leave and come in again…and we were still waiting. They reassured me that this was unusual and the emergency gyno department was having a rather hard day with 3 women coming in with bleedings and what-nots. Now, had I been in any serious pain or god-forbid bleeding, I am fairly certain they would have seen me sooner.  About two hours into our waiting game we began to notice amusing details about the waiting room such as the “Welcome to the Accidents and Emergencies Department” poster- which Alex found hilarious and also the fact that my in-patient bracelet said that I am 170 years old. I thought about telling the doctor that my emergency is “old age” when she asks me what I am in there for.
But other than that when we were finally admitted the doctor was lovely, the nurses were lovely and their approach was absolutely relaxing. Although they did kick daddy out at some point as he was being overly anxious. They did a quick check up, a whole bunch of tests and a quick ultrasound to check the baby’s heartbeat and movements. Everything turned out to be ok at the end.
As we were leaving I received my registration card, neatly typed up to include my admission number, name and get this….”English People” in the nationality field. I laughed at this thinking that now I have a valid document to present to the British Embassy once I apply for my UK passport (because my hospital registration card says I am British- that’s why!). It wasn’t until we paid and received a receipt addressed to an Olga Mubarak (P.S that isn’t my actual last name) that I realized perhaps my dream of obtaining a UK passport might have to be abandoned due to my newly-acquired-obviously-Arab last name.
A little bit of humor can get you a long way.

A stroke of genius!

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I’ve had a lot of time to think about how I want the first artwork of the USF store to look like. It was going to be sassy but modest, chique but also relevant and above all…it was going to stand out. Given the opportunity, I expected to have at least a week to plan it out and collaborate with an experienced designer. Instead I faced a deadline of about 24 hours, a complete lack of ideas and extreme pressure.
I love it when magazines feature “behind the scenes” shots. On one side of the page you see Eva Longoria in glamorous high heels and a breathtaking gown, with her hair tossed just-right and a glimmer in her eyes. On the other side of the page the trendy editor would let you sneak a peek into the making of the photo shoot with racks of messy clothes, dozens of busy-bees huffing and puffing over Eva’s hair and make-up and the stressed-out photographer who has already gone red in the face.
When I realized I needed to put together a photo shoot for the store in about 3 hours time I of course called my best friend to the rescue and yet again she saved my ass. Throughout the day I tossed around some ideas with Is This Serious, Yuliya and mom and we decided to recreate an image I found online earlier that day. It was simple, straight to the point and allowed the imagination to run wild. So, after a hard day at work I dragged by pregnant-self to the store and picked out a few outfits for Cynthia to wear during the shoot. Oh and the shoes. And the bags.
You see…I didn’t want a page that simply featured a bag and matching shoes. We have enough of these. But I also didn’t have the time and resources to create an image that would fully convey the uniqueness and the style of the store. I wanted it to portray sexiness without seeming vulgar. Most importantly I wanted the image to be focused on the stylish items sold at the store.
Two hours of trying on clothes, finding the correct shoe sizes, crawling on the floor trying-to-get-the-angle-right and two cans of Redbull later- we were stunned by the results. I shot over 100 pictures. They all turned out exactly how I wanted them. Not bad for a rookie huh?
I will let you judge:
We have received a lot of supportive comments and very positive feedback from friends and families regarding the final product. Personally, I am very happy with how it turned out, given the circumstances.
I will now begin working on a Facebook page for the store where I hope to feature more images from the photoshoot to help spread the word!
During Ramadan the shop is open from 10am to 1pm and then again from 7pm to 11pm! Happy Shopping!

Ladies, new store in town!!!

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So Eid is coming up which means this is the perfect opportunity to add a few new items for your ever expanding wardrobe!
And now I have just the place…
The USF store is now OPEN!
Looking for a fancy evening bag? Comfy shoes for the office? A summer dress or maybe a classy party piece? Look no further…
The store is located in Zakher Mall (home to Pan Furniture, Omantel, Body Shop) in Al Khuwair. Venture up to the second floor and the USF store will be just on your right. Opening times are from 10am to 1pm and then from 4pm to 8pm everyday! There is a lovely lady managing the store who will be more than happy to show you around and help you find just what you are looking for! The clothes/bags/shoes were all handpicked in Italy by my mom and I have personally been wearing one of the wedges from the shop for over 2 months now and they are super comfy!
Here are a few shots of what the store has to offer(excuse the quality, I was just very eager to get these to you as soooooon as possible!):

More images to come soon, meanwhile please visit the store as I am certain you will find something you will fall in love with!

Ramadan and me.

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Last year I posted a modest explanation of how life changes around here in the holy month of Ramadan, please read it here. I thought it would be a good idea to shine some light on the traditional and cultural aspect of this month- especially for those reading this back home! This year is an altogether different story because I am pregnant, hormonal and hungry all the freaking time. So my routine has not really been effected by the fact that Muscat has succumbed to the sleepy, slow, quite days of fasting.
Luckily no one in my office fasts (well except one guy who is on his annual leave now) so I have not locked up my snack drawer that is filled with Oreos, almonds, waffles and crackers. I munch away the entire day. We haven’t even moved the water cooler from the room because my Omani colleague said it does not phase him- even when he is fasting. So, we took his word for it.
I am however cautious not to eat or drink anything whilst I am outside (which actually isn’t that often these days). This has proven to be difficult because my pregnant brain is always exploding with one stupid idea or the other, such as “Why don’t you eat a tomatoe while driving from home to work?”.
And as far as silly situations go, my oven ran out of gas while baking a few pizzas at home and had to resort to asking one of my neighbors if I could perhaps use his oven to finish dinner? Now if this happened in the afternoon I don’t think my fasting/Egyptian neighbor would appreciate the smell of two gigantic pizzas bubbling away in his oven…and it would also be virtually impossible to get the gas service to deliver during the day in Ramadan.
Just this Friday me and Is This Serious were getting some much needed shopping therapy in City Center Seeb when we realized that we are frightfully thirsty. I also needed sugar. A chocolate of some kind. We ranted a little in one of the stores and an expat woman overheard us and offered her sympathy.  Except we couldn’t eat it anywhere! As a last resort we bought the goods and headed….to the bathroom. I sat on one of the sinks devouring my Bounty and gulping down my Ice Tea. Seriously, it was sad. I felt a little sorry for my pregnant self. That should teach me stay home till 6pm from now on!
On a more pleasant note I was thrilled to find out that Oman Dive Center still serves beverages and food (not sure about alcohol!?). Alex decided to try out diving this weekend and I was a little worried about him getting a heat stroke or collapsing from dehydration- you know, because there is no food anywhere!!!! It turned out to be fine.
Oh and after we were done with the shopping I sat in my car and ate a freshly baked baguette with some cheese…luckily no one was around. Either way that sandwich was absolutely worth going to jail for.

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