1.25.2015

Wadis, Wadis, Everywhere

Wadi Shab

Swimming is mentioned specifically in the collected teachings, deeds and sayings of the Prophet Muhammad. Along with archery, walking, and horseracing the Hadith instructs Muslims to teach their children to swim. This Sunna is often discussed in the context of taking care of the body, of exercise.    

My first imaginings of the Middle East were of vast deserts in every direction. While this is, in part, true, I didn’t take into account the incredible coastlines along the Atlantic, Indian Ocean, Mediterranean, Arabian Gulf and the Red Sea. People in the Arab world have as much a history on the sea as they do in the deserts.  

A little wadi art
Something else absent from my fantasy geography were the hundreds of Wadis. Wadis -  sometimes dry trails at the base of valleys but oftentimes deep pools and rivers bisected by torrents of clean water running from high soft rock plateaus into larger bodies of water. Wadis throughout the Levant empty into the Dead Sea and many closer to the coast find their way to the Ocean.

After hiking and swimming through several wadis over the past 18 months I understand a little better the holy directive to walk, to swim. Oman’s landscape is a product of some of the most intense geological activity to be found on the earth. Plates have been bumping and subducting and pushing up ocean floor for hundreds of thousands of years. One of the results is a series of mountains and plateaus that taper, eventually, into the Indian Ocean on the East coast of Oman. Over time water and debris have carved out pools and paths through the mountains that many hike up into on hot weekends.  

Our favorite Wadi to date is Wadi Shab which ends with a tiny keyhole swim into a cave bearing a secret waterfall. I’ve linked to someone else’s youtube video of the swim since I haven’t quite trusted myself to swim a giant Canon into the cave. The other pictures I’ve snapped along the way and at other wadis in the area. 

There are myriad wadis in Oman left to explore…and it looks like we just might get a little more time to explore than we’d planned!

....I know, the teasing.  It’s rude, isn’t it? But after our initially sad-making experience with bidding I wanted to keep some great news to myself for a while. ...and also make sure it’s real!   
Entrance of Wadi where rocks and debris are deposited before water runs into the ocean
On the left you'll see the falaj system funneling water to crops along the wadi
This is not photoshopped people - it is that green/blue and that clear
Little Snake Canyon has drops and waterfalls a plenty
Entrance to another wadi "Little Snake Canyon"

1.02.2015

Ridiculous Problems

I’ve just exited the freeway and pulled up behind a miles long row of yellow sewage trucks.  I’m stuck in an industrial zone full of foreign worker trailers and, it bears mentioning again, trucks full of human waste.  Tears are welling up and a few escape as I wait to turn around and get back to the freeway.  I’m late for work after missing the correct exit TWICE.      

“That’s it!” I say out loud in my car.  “This ends today. I have to get it together!”

We’ve spent the last few months bidding for our next job and I’ve been sucked into an alternate universe where I only think about bidding, fuss about where we are going to live, research countries that will let us take the dog, worry about our timetable, check my phone for messages from Max to see if there’s news, make plans for all possible options, change and abandon plans as jobs drop off the list.  You know, turn into a crazy person.       

Bidding is the “process” by which you acquire your next assignment.  You tell jobs you are interested in that you’d like to go there, your references vouch for you, and if they like you back  - voila, onward assignment.  I thought it sounded kind of fun at first, to consider all the possibilities and imagine us in different cities eating different kinds of food  - but that was na├»ve.  It is pretty much a months long trip to the dentist.  Many of Max’s colleagues were offered assignments in November while we’ve been blowing about in the wind like an empty shopping bag for weeks.  The unpredictability of the process and the constant dashing of hopes really wears on you.   It feels like your whole life is on hold.       

The last few weeks, even though I knew I was being melodramatic and ungrateful, I couldn’t shake the afternoon blues.   Or, as my misadventure on the way to work proved, the morning fogs.  I’d get worked up about not getting particular jobs we wanted and then feel twice as bad when I realized how privileged my “problems” were.  I have food, shelter, family, books and regardless of the outcome of this bidding season I will still have those things in some form.

The turning point of this process was a good cry in my car after meeting world famous photographer Steve McCurry.  Steve McCurry is most well known for his photograph “Afghan Girl” featured on a 1985 cover of National Geographic.  His photographs of India, Southeast and Central Asia were incredible and as I looked at them I felt my heart swelling for an adventure out in the great world. It looked like we were headed back to Washington and while a lovely place to live, it wasn’t quite what we had in mind.  I felt all of my imagined adventures slipping away and at the same time felt so embarrassed at how spoiled I had become.  I trucked my patent leather heels to my car for a good cry and after about 20 minutes I had another one of those “get it together” epiphanies.   

You want adventures, Brooke? You mean, like sitting in your car at this historic port in Muscat, Oman in a fascinating Shiite enclave ? You mean like not knowing where you’ll end up in six months, how you’ll plan to start your family around such uncertainty, and whether or not your beloved dog can come? What could be more adventurous than that? 


It’s not for certain yet, but we are getting a better idea of where we’ll end up.  I’ve come ‘round the bend and I’m actually super duper excited about our most promising option.  We won’t know for a few more days, but here’s to a new year of hope and recognizing adventure when it smacks you in the face.