Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Can I Get A Ride

I like to think of myself as a task oriented person. I enjoy crossing tasks off a list as I complete them. So, on this day, one of the tasks I had listed was taking the car to the mechanic. I wanted to do this fairly early in the day before the garage closed for its afternoon break (Think of it as a siesta).

The mechanic/garage where I take my car is never dull, there is always something going on and business is good. It is actually the best garage that I have ever taken my car. The work is good and done in an efficient manner. The manager is an extremely honest and upfront man who on different occasions has told me, "Mr. Ryan, I will try to fix your car so that it does not cost too much. When was the last time you heard that from a mechanic." It didn't take too long to work on my car, so I stayed at the shop reading and writing in my journal. The car was finished and as I was leaving the garage, there was a truck blocking my way to the front gate and there was no one in the truck. I am accustomed to double parking in this part of the world; don't like it, but what is one to do? As I was waiting for the truck to be moved, I saw an Omani gentleman to my left dressed in the customary dishdash (flowing robe, that is very comfortable) and kummah (kind of like a hat) with a beard halfway down his dishdash. He had a huge smile on his face and as he made his way toward me, he walked with a limp. He introduced himself and said his name was Khalid. He then asked me my name and where I was from. I replied and when I said from the U.S. he answered, "Really? I thought you were from Tanzania or Zanzibar." Quite a few Omanis are originally from Tanzanian or Zanzibar  and since many people think I look Omani, they then think I am either from Tanzania or Zanzibar. He then asked me where in Muscat I lived and it turned out that Khalid and I both lived in the same neighborhood. He then hit me up for a ride home and I said, "Sure, but this truck is in my way." Khalid quickly got in the truck of the anonymous owner that was impeding our progress, started it up, moved it out of the way, hopped in my car, looked at me, gave a hearty laugh and said, "Yala (which means go) and we were off.

As we were driving home, Khalid began asking me a bunch of questions: Where in the U.S. are you from? Where do I work? What kind of work do I do? When I shared with him what I do for a living he seemed puzzled by my answer and his next question was, "Then why are you driving a Kia? Usually people who work at international schools drive better/fancier cars, like SUV's." I laughed! I'm not accustom to the words educator and fancy car in the same sentence. I smiled and said, "My wife has the nicer car/truck (which she does). I think it is better for my wife and children to have the bigger, safer car; the Kia is fine with me. I have always driven smaller cars." Khalid laughed and said, "Same with me. My wife and kids always have the nicer things." Khalid has 4 children ages 9 to 4 months.

As we were at a stoplight en route to our hood, Khalid looked at me and asked, "So, are you a Muslim or a Christian?" This question took me back two years ago when my family and I first moved to Oman. I was at shwarma stand in my neighborhood and after being asked where I was from by the proprietor, he then asked me, "Was I either a Christian or a Muslim?" I answered, "Christian," he then gave me a big smile and proclaimed, "Christian, Muslim, it makes no difference, all are welcome here. Welcome to Oman." He then shook my hand. I thought that was a nice gesture and I haven't forgotten it. So, back at the stoplight with Khalid. I looked him straight in the eye and said, "I'm a Christian." Khalid was thoughtful and quiet for a moment, he then said, "Would you like to come to my house for Omani coffee?" I was thinking of saying, "No." because I don't like coffee and I had a bunch of things to still get done, but then I thought about it and said to myself, "Hey, this is why you are overseas, to take part in experiences such as this." So I said, "Sure."

So, we entered our neighborhood and Khalid directed me to an apartment building. Khalid and his family reside in a building behind some shops. I go by this particular row of shops everyday and never knew that there were apartments behind it. We pulled up to the shops and walked around to the back. Khalid and his family lived on the third floor and before we entered his place, he asked me to wait outside. I'm sure Khalid was telling his family that he had a visitor and wanted to give them a heads up. I entered Khalid's apartment and he directed me to the family room where two of his children (two boys) were playing. As I entered the family room, the boys smiled and looked at me curiously. I greeted them in Arabic and introduced myself. Then the three of us chatted until Khalid returned with a steaming pot of Omani coffee and dates. Coffee and dates, I'm not a fan of either, but I was going to partake of what my host provided. The coffee was bitter and the dates were actually not bad, very sweet. As we ate dates and drank coffee, Khalid provided me with a history of the neighborhood and how the apartment building in which he and his family reside has been in his family for years. I enjoyed the history of the neighborhood. Then, before we knew it, 30 minutes had elapsed. The call to pray took place and emanated through Khalid's family room since he lives next door to a mosque. From out of the window in the family room, I could see men making their way to the mosque for their afternoon prayers. Khalid said he needed to go, so that he could attend afternoon prayers. We said good-bye to one another and we went our separate ways.

I enjoyed meeting Khalid and his family and I was glad that I accepted his invitation for coffee and dates.  After I left Khalid's home; I resumed completing the tasks on my list and I was able to accomplish everything that I had set out to do.


No comments: