When in Rome I thought. Or Oman....Or India...or Pakistan...or...Sri Lanka...or...Iran...
I've had several moments like this over the past few weeks. Moments when my nose expected the tangy lemon and thyme of Za'atar, a common spice in the Middle East, and smelled, instead, Curry, Masala and Ginger. Times when we ate Chapati instead of Flatbread and passed by grocery store isles stacked temporarily with decorations for Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights. When the local English radio station made the drive to work seem like a jaunt through the commonwealth instead of a dash along freeways cut into Arabian dunes. We went out to dinner with some friends the other night and among the four couples, five nationalities were represented.
I did not expect to find such a diversity of people and cultures here in Oman. Perhaps I should have anticipated it considering Oman's 30-40% expat population, but anyway it's been a delightful surprise. Indians, Philippinos, Pakistanis, Americans, Kiwis, Iranians, Turks, Malaysians, Thai, Australians, South Africans, Arabs from the Gulf and beyond, Sri Lankans, Bangladeshis - they are all here eating their traditional foods and reconstructing their local culture.
Lately I have been finding it difficult to get a hold of what this place IS. What it sounds like or looks like or feels like. Of course the response to that is - it is what it is, duh - but it's sometimes hard for my librarian brain to resist the urge to catalog, to put things in boxes that make knowing easier. But that's what I love about new places - it shakes up my catalog and makes me figure out new labels or toss them out entirely. It reminds me that people, places and cultures can't be put in boxes - they are too complex and multifaceted to be penned in by my limited perspective. Even though accessibility and consumption and are my constant professional pursuit; they are horrible ways to greet the world and its people.
The other day I caught a whiff of curry and inhaled deeply with a smile instead of making a puzzled face. I've eaten Panipuri and learned to say Thank You in Hindi and Bangla but that doesn't quite seem like enough. I guess we've got quite a bit more time to dig in.
*And didn't buy a THING I'll have you know