When reading Theroux, I would often wonder how he could just happen to run into all these crazy people as he travels all over the various continents. Well, now I realize that it’s really just a matter of putting yourself out there, and the stories just write themselves.
I was with a couple other SIT students in Qurm, near the InterCon hotel on Wednesday. We were waiting for the Omani Heritage Gallery to open up in order to buy gifts for back home. We decided to have lunch at a restaurant nearby, so we just sat down at a restaurant, and let our conversations wonder, as they usually do, to rather academic topics. As we were discussing problems in Yemen, the guy next to us chimed in, with an incredibly thick British accent, about Yemen’s problem with qat, the mild stimulative leaf they all chew over there. We quickly fell into a conversation with him, asking him why he was here in Muscat. Turns out, he was the former goal keeping coach for the Omani national football (yes that means soccer) team, making him quite the (foot)baller. He was also responsible for bringing Ali al-Habsi, Oman’s biggest football star, to play in the UK Premier League. He had actually just got off the phone with him when we sat down. It was very interesting to hear his opinions on how the Arab and Middle Eastern culture affects football development in the region. Having been in the region for over twelve years, he definitely knew his stuff. What he said actually corresponded quite well to what we have been learning, but it was interesting to hear it from a sports perspective. Having played in the Premier League himself for a number of years, he had also down quite well for himself, and was now investing in property in Dubai and Muscat, as well as doing TV play-by-play. It was also great to try and decipher the Brit slang, much of it not particularly printable.
Then there is the matter of the Omani cowboy. On Thursday, I went over to the house of the grandmother of my homestay family. While there, I met (yet another) cousin of the family. His name is Hafad, and he studied in America for a bit. But, while in America, he lived with a Mexican family in Texas, spending time on a ranch in Montana, before moving to New York. So, his English accent can be best described as Texan, with a bit of a Latino affect, with bits of the Bronx popping up. I can only imagine the thought of a Middle Eastern guy living with a Mexican family in Texas. I certainly never imagined I’d be driving through Qurm listening to Keith Urban and Faith Hill. Rap I could imagine, and to certain degree, understand. However, it definitely blew my mind to be listening to Frank Sinatra while passing mosques. Either way, Hafad is definitely a great guy to hang out with. We both had some pretty good laughs about the superficial way in which many Omani youth have adapted African-American rap culture. It was great to hear him talk about how they listened to the music, and adopted the styles of dress, but were completely out of touch with what it meant, and what was actually popular. As if to underscore the point, a couple of thugged-out Omani kids drove past in a car that looked like it came out of an episode of Pimp My Ride gone wrong, while listening to Sisco’s Thong Song. We both burst out laughing; draw an angry glance from the wannabe gangsters.