A Travellerspoint blog

Parliament

overcast 23 °C

My five minute walk from the hotel to the Yemen Language Center includes passing by the street where the Yemeni Parliament is located. The last few days, the parliament has been in session, and oh has that been interesting. Every member of parliament comes in from their respective villages to attend sessions of parliament, and they bring their personal armed escorts with them. That means that the area around our school is suddenly filled with a lot of random guys carrying enough AK'47´s to outfit a small army. This includes the heavy machine gun I saw mounted on the back of a pick up truck, Somali technical style. Of course, this makes the area around our school probably the safest place in Sanaa since nobody would be stupid enough to start anything with that much heavy duty weaponry around, and it´s mostly for show. If any fighting started, I´d be pretty amazed if one out four guns actually worked. The other amusing part was that I saw really nice cars for the first time in this country. I had to do a double take as I was walking through a very poor neighborhood on the way to the hotel, and a Mercedes Kompressor drives by. I personally didn´t think there was enough wealth in this entire country for one person to amass enough to pay for and ship a Mercedes here. But, it was amusing in that this whole situation seemed to be the perfect caricature of Yemen, oddly dressed tribesmen armed to the teeth with Kalashnikov´s chewing qat and laying on the horn as the attempt to fit two cars through a lane only designed for one. It definitely made my week.

Posted by mc327503 02:46 Archived in Yemen Arab Republic Comments (0)

On the ground again

sunny 25 °C

Well, Yemen sure isn't Oman. I've been in country for three days now, and it's definitely taking a little bit to get over the shock of coming from a country like Oman, and winding up here in Yemen. The flight over was decent, although we got stuck on the tarmac in DC for two hours with a mechanical problem. On the DC to Frankfurt leg, I was sitting next to an Army captain on his way to Afghanistan, and we compared notes on where we were heading. When an Army captain who has done two tours in Iraq and is heading to a third in Afghanistan tells you to watch out in Yemen, it makes you sit up and take notice. Of course, now that I'm on the ground here in Sana'a, all the hype and worry about Yemen seems really overwrought. We are living at a hotel about a five minute walk from the school. We've been walking all over the neighborhood, and yesterday we went to the Old City for the first time. Throughout all of this, we have yet to have a problem with anyone. But, walking around Sana'a, the differences between here and Muscat are pretty striking. It reminds me more of my time in China then my time in Oman. Yemen is definitely pretty poor. After being in Oman, it seems very odd to see idle people just sitting around on the street, using what little money they have on qat. Also, after the cleanliness, and well-designed city planning of Muscat, which Omanis take a justifiable pride in, Sana'a seems downright anarchic. There are no decent maps of the city, aside from a small one in my Lonely Planet book, and the streets shoot off in every direction, and they often aren't labeled. Consequently, Sana'a is much more disorienting. I had a handle on Muscat within the first four days of being there, due to its easy layout and being able to sit down with a map and memorize all the landmarks. Here in Sana'a, I'm still just trying to get a hold on the area around my neighborhood. As to the local culture and people, that is all pretty much falling into what I expected. While it is a bit surprising to see the level of poverty, that has more to do with the time I spent in Oman rather than any expectation of anything different. Many of the stereotypes of the country that I had read about certainly seem true enough. There are plenty of heavily armed guards running around the city. Our hotel is near the parliament, so we see a lot of AK-47's. And of course, the qat is ever-present. Qat is a plant grown heavily in Yemen, and chemically it is two parts amphetamine and one part narcotic. Chewing qat is a national addicition, and they estimate that up to 30% of the Yemeni GDP revolves around it. Of course, it is wrecking the traditional agriculture base, since it takes up a lot of water and depletes the nutrients in the soil in a country that already has very poor soil and is almost running out of water. Anyways, I'm off to my first day of classes, I'll have more thoughts of Yemen soon.

Posted by mc327503 21:08 Archived in Yemen Arab Republic Comments (1)

Stateside

I realize there has been a really huge gap between posts, so this post is going to serve as the tie between Oman and Yemen. Yes, I will in fact be going to Yemen. I leave June 17th, exactly one month after having returned from Oman. There are going to be 28 people, myself included, on the trip, from universities all over the US, so it should be pretty interesting to meet everyone. Since this blog is supposed to be about my trips overseas, I won't post a lot of stuff about being back in America. My month is going to be pretty busy trying to catch up on stuff from Oman and get ready to go to Yemen. Oh yeah, and I have to graduate from OU at some point. I must say that it's good to be back. After spending a lot of time thinking about what it would be like to be back after my time in Oman, I really haven't felt a lot of reverse culture shock. The weirdest thing to me since returning is the green-ness of all the trees. I left Ohio in January, with all the trees barren, then spent four months looking at dirt, so to suddenly come back to a place where everything is green has been a little bit weird. But other than that, I feel like I've slipped right back into Americana, quite gladly at that. So, know I'm just spending the rest of my time resting up for another big adventure, and eating as much bacon, cheese, pizza, and hamburgers as possible.

Posted by mc327503 09:24 Archived in USA Comments (0)

When it rains, it pours

41 °C

Don't know if that metaphor is particularly applicable over here, but whatev. I've been a bit bombarded with stuff lately, so I'm trying to catch up on the entries. I've got a lot of stuff this week. I'm interviewing a couple CEO's and government types for my research, so it's hard-core prep time, so that I don't look like an idiot when I talk with them. I'm going to the embassy to follow up on a bunch of stuff pretty soon also. In addition to that, I've got all the paperwork for the summer CAORC programs. I have to fill out all the paperwork that accepted people have to fill out, so that if an opening comes up, I'll be ready to go. Of course, trying to figure out how to get a medical check up before May 10th could be a bit interesting. In addition, there's the long term process of getting a real job and generally contributing to society, and preparing for grad school. So, all in all, it's a busy time.

Posted by mc327503 05:56 Archived in Oman Comments (0)

The home stretch...

sunny 41 °C

It's hard to imagine that I only have 18 more days left in Oman. As we are finishing up over here, everyone in the group has been looking back. Our days in Mutrah seem like a year and a totally different country ago. We're wrapping up our research, and have a number of final activities planned. It has been a little odd to ponder everything that has gone on over here, espcially since it coincides with the end of my undergraduate career, which prompts quite a bit of soul-searching in of itself. Everyone in the world is consistently changing as life experiences shape their outlook on life. This seems to be one of those rare moments when a person is cogniscent of the changes in world-view that are going on in their life. I'm sure that I've changed to some degree, if only in my outlook on this part of the world. For so long, the places of my trip were just names on a map. Now, I've got pictures, words, ideas, and memories associated with Muscat, Doha, Dubai, Sohar, Sur, Salalah, Abu Dhabi, and all the rest.
For example, I don't think I'll ever see Muscat on a map and not think of my homestay family from here on out. From the beginning, they've done everything in their power to make me feel comfortable. Zainab, my homestay mother, a single working mom, graciously let me into her home, despite a host of cultural attitudes and antipathies. Tuti, the oldest homestay sister, has always been there to help out, and give me advice on navigating life in Muscat. She's only been home on the weekends, because of school and other issues, but I've always been glad to talk with her, and I hope she gets her chance to study in the US. Abdullah, the 16 year old brother, has been my closest friend in Muscat. I wouldn't have seen nearly as much of the city, nor accomplished nearly as much work, without his advice on where to go to work, and gladly bringing me along to all the places he normally goes. The same goes for Sa'id, my 12 year old brother. He's also been there to help me get around and his explanations on life in Muscat have always been hilarious. As to Fadya, my 8 year old sister, she was one of the best parts of my homestay. She reminds me so much of Lindy and Carly that I've called her by the wrong times more than a couple of times. I'm incredibly glad that they've let me into their life, and they've already told me numeous times, that if I ever get a chance to work in Muscat in the future, I'll already have a family to lean on. So, while I certainly miss everyone back home, it's still going to be a bit bittersweet on May 16th. I won't just be leaving my homestay, but also the other 12 SIT kids that I've been practically living with also. We've traveled, shared uncomfortable hotel rooms, gotten into and out of all sorts of interesting situations, and generally lived life to the fullest over here. This is the sort of stuff that makes all the work getting here, the distances from home, and all the innumerable hassles since then, that makes it all worth it. Anyways, I've put off doing my ISP with this post for long enough, back to the grind.

Posted by mc327503 05:34 Archived in Oman Comments (0)

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