It's not fair -- or true -- to say that they area in which they have us living isn't the 'real' Oman. It's as much a part of Oman as any other place in the country; it just happens to be the part that most closely resembles Cincinnati, were Cincinnati to be populated solely with Tagalog, Urdu, and Hindi speakers. I've been trying to use Arabic in my day-to-day interactions regardless, but I wonder if it isn't slightly insulting to the non-Omani workers here. For sure it's confusing for those I encounter; usually I have to go through two or three Arabic phrases before they finally say, still in English, mouths slack with indulgent skepticism, "Oh, are you studying Arabic?" How cute of me. I miss going to مطعم الأسرة in Amman and having the men in the little paper caps and blue jackets mutter barely intelligible Arabic responses to my food orders that I always took to mean, "Oh, you again with your بندورة and your كبدة دجاج..."
I drove two hours yesterday to visit an eid market in the town of Nizwa. I told my classmates, who were going on a hike to a wadi, that I wanted to see the goat auction, but truthfully I just wanted to get out of Ohio. The region was, in ancient times, a renowned producer of copper, and you can see it in the crumbling sides of the mountains, which are streaked with dirty penny-like browns and greens. Coming over a crest to a wadi, I had to focus on the curve ahead of me to keep from driving off the mountain and straight into the expanse of date palms, it was so arresting a view.
The market goats were tempting, but in the end I settled on purchasing a single pomegranate to justify the trip. After trading Arabic eid greetings back and forth, the vendor (an Omani) asked, with sudden excitement if I was a Muslim. "Uh, no," I explained shortly, then felt the need to apologize for my obvious religious shortcoming when my response left him clearly crestfallen. "Oh, that's just the world," he said, brushing off my apology. I suppose Ohio had come to him.