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Thursday, August 30, 2007

Updates

The next to last day of August 2007, time flies when we're so busy. In a few days I will be a year older! What more can one ask for but good health, a happy home and a loving family. This week we received a date card for my cousin's wedding in California, USA for January, a box of chocolates from a friend in Switzerland(thanks heaps) and a postcard from new friends who were on holiday in Moscow. It was so nice to get personal things in the mail for once. A refreshing break to the usual statements and other impersonal documents. I love sending people postcards from where-ever we go because I loved receiving them when I was growing up. So I was happy to get that one from Moscow. I think it's my first from Russia. Maybe soon I'll head that way to look at the Kremlin myself as featured on the photo!
I met two Egyptian brothers years ago in Samoa and we sent each other postcards every now and then. For me Egypt was so far removed from Samoa that it was exciting to receive a picture of the pyramids and the temples every now and then. It really made me dream of the day I'd finally go there. As it turned out last year hubby and I visited Egypt and stayed with my postcard buddy for a few days. I love how worlds apart some of us share some things in common, our love for experiencing new places and the commitment in helping others to do so!

Last week-end I heard some unfortunate news from home. My sister's office building burnt down. My sister is a journalist and at the moment they're determining whether the fire was caused by an electrical fault or by an arsonist. It is really sad to think that someone would do such a thing to the press in Samoa! But we never know. I believe in karma so whoever did that, will have their fair share of hot situations soon enough.

The South Pacific Games is all the rage at the moment in Samoa. It will continue till the first week of September. So far Samoa have the second most gold medals with New Caledonia at the top with the most medals overall. I hope the Samoans keep up the good work and win some more medals. So far they are doing a good job in hosting the games which is great for tourism, in showing that Samoa can manage a big number of visitors all in their stride.

Lately in Muscat the rental prices have sky rocketed. Obviously there is a high demand for rental properties and the property owners are answering with an increase in rent. Unfortunately there doesn't seem to be an apparent law governing rental prices so there are some places that have increased their prices at more than 30%! But there is nothing that we can do but watch, wait and grimace when that dreaded notice with the rent increase arrives in the mailbox!

Ramadan starts in about two weeks. The month of fasting and prayer for the local Muslims. The weather has improved now and the days are nice though the sun is still fierce and scorging on some days.

I've started at the gym again and feel good about it. Hubby is very supportive and encouraging as he's been back at it for over a month now. Let's hope I keep at it for the next week at least!

Sunday, August 26, 2007

End of Summer School and Exploring

Summer School ended last Wednesday. In my last class I found the students had brought a stereo with full on speakers to class and set it up at the back of the classroom. So after a quick lesson we had a party. Again end of term party is eating sweets and junk food and this time the boys turned on their music and danced to the latest hits. It was hilarious. They were enjoying themselves so much it was fun to watch. The girls of course did not get up except for one really daring one that got up and did a funny dance move that sent everyone in hysterics.
One boy brought his guitar so at one point they turned off the music and let the guitarist show his talent. So I asked the students for someone to sing to accompany the music. And they all said they couldn't sing. So I said to the guitarist to sing himself. He was a bit shy so his friend covered his face with a book and then he started singing. And boy did I make a mistake. Unlike his natural talent with the instrument his vocals were way off-key. The others suppressed their laughter while I tried to keep a straight face and enjoy the music. What was good was the kid was really enjoying himself and didn't care whether we liked it or not which I thought was good. He sang some local numbers which all the students liked.
So back to the music and students from other classes were trying to crash our party of whom I nicely turned away. So high on sugar I gave them their certificates and everyone went home on a high!

Hubby's sister Cesc visited us last Wednesday for the week-end. So on Thursday we drove out to a place called The Chains where we drove up a wadi(river bed) and parked the car at the mouth of the wadi before trekking up it to find beautiful cool waterholes for swimming. It's called The Chains by some explorers because someone put in chains on a rock face to enable people to climb up to the pools further up. It wasn't an easy climb though it was only about 5 metres but the steps were far apart and the rock face was hot so it wasn't pleasant. Eventually we all made it up and enjoyed swimming in the first pool though the actual attraction was further up but we didn't have a rope to . So we enjoyed the clear pool we found and then climbed back down. We went back to where we were parked under a tree, where hubby sparked up the barbie for some lunch. We enjoyed the afternoon lounging around under the tree until about 5pm we headed back to Muscat. The Chains is about two hours drive North of Muscat. I'd love to go back there but we need to take a rope next time and with more people.
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The next day hubby had to go to work so Lize, Cesc and I drove out to the yacht club and bluffed our way inside and found ourself an umbrella and enjoyed the beach for the rest of the afternoon. There was a breeze all day it was lovely and the water was cool..actually a bit cold for us locals who are now acclimatised to the hot summer! The days are less hot now thank goodness and can't wait for it to just be nice and warm and not HOT. Yesterday, Cesc and I went to a local spa for a massage. It was so relaxing and the masseuse was so good. I literally felt the knots being massaged away.
The result was I came home planned a lesson and fell asleep afterwards. I woke up and was almost late to my class. Next time I shouldn't do a massage to close to class time hahaha.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Photos from the weekend


The beautiful Al Waha Hotel at Barr Al Jissah.

Posing on our balcony after checking in before going for a swim.

After the day out, a bit sunburnt and tired. A taste of home, picked up a hibiscus in the garden to complement my island beach wear!

Friday, August 17, 2007

Whisked away...

The week-end began with dinner at Lize's. We had sweet and sour chicken which was delicious. We met Lize's friend whom she's staying with; a lovely lady from South Africa as well working here as an English teacher. The lady had a lovely face that's very youthful. It struck me that she spoke beautifully; eloquent and precise. What a good model for the English language, I thought!
We went to bed early and then Thursday morning we rose early and started for Barr Al Jissah or Shangri La, a resort consisting of three hotels which is about a thirty minute drive from Muscat. It is set on a beautiful cove with a stretch of beach and surrounded by the signature brown rugged hills of Oman. Hubby decided I needed a break of scenery from Muscat and from work so I was whisked away to Barr Al Jissah to relax and rejuvenate my senses!!! We checked in around ten and I headed straight for the pool while hubby headed for the gym. I slapped on as much sun screen armed with my book and water and went to look for a chair under a palm tree away from the sun! It was a beautiful day. It was warm but there was a nice breeze so it felt less hot than normal. I headed for the lazy river that a friend recommended. You sit on a tube and the man-made river pushes you along the river and back to where you started. A beautiful and relaxing activity and the river runs through the hotel gardens and under small walkway-bridges and a restaurant. I thought it was such a brilliant idea! After one round of that I decided to take a dip in the sea. The water was cool it was very refreshing.
Hubby emerged from the gym so we rented a kayak and went kayaking out in the ocean. Fun and spectacular view of the hotels with the hills in the background. It wasn't long before hubby turned the relaxing kayak run into a bootcamp like left-right-left stroke activity, that I eventually resigned into lying down and enjoying the ride rather than arguing over why our paddling was not synchronised...:) Talk about training for the olympics. It's hilarious when hubby turns a relaxing activity into a serious must-be-done-right sport, didn't help he just came from the gym...choo hooo. Fell on deaf ears with me so he enjoyed power paddling the kayak while I stayed out of the way and relaxed on the kayak which was my idea of fun lol Halfway through I jumped off and swam after(more like being pulled by) the kayak to enjoy the cool water. So spectacular I wonder why we don't swim in the ocean often here!?!
Went back to the pool and enjoyed a water football game with other hotel guests. It was lots of fun with some adults being a tad too serious and not letting their kids touch the ball!!!
An hour of that back to the lazy river.... by three o'clock I felt my brain was fried so we retired to the room where I had a nap. Went to dinner at the Samba restaurant. The buffet was wonderful. I had all the oysters and mussels I could eat and then roast beef which was succulent with a baked potato. Dinner was really nice. We proceeded to the piano bar which was a beautiful lounge with a pianist playing some soft numbers. lovely atmosphere. We went to the Long Bar to have a look and decided to call it a night. Went to bed sunburnt, tired and blissfully satisfied. It was a great day indeed and the bed was also so comfortable I just didn't want to leave the bed this morning. Had breakfast which was also quite an affair. I was too sunburnt to even look out the window. It was warmer today so stayed indoors and read before we headed back home. Overall it was a great get-away in Oman itself and highly recommend the place to others. The service was excellent as well. All in all we had a wonderful time and definitely feel refreshed minus the itch of the sunburn hahaha!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Rugby World Cup Build up

Here's a great article about one of Samoa's great rugby players written by a well-known commentator which I thought was excellent and captures the essence of what makes a Samoan star player. One who plays from the heart for the love he has for his country. Our players do not get paid big bucks like players of other teams because our country just doesn't have the money. So when players can get lucrative deals from other teams, most choose to play for the small island that gives them more than any country with millions can't. The pride of being a representative of a tight-knit community or the extended family that is Samoa.

Aug 15, 2007
By Keith Quinn

Every day is countdown now for those of us packing up and heading off to the sixth Rugby World Cup in France.

As someone who has been fortunate enough to have attended all five previous Cup tournaments I am often asked about highlights of matches I have seen and rugby personalities I have enjoyed watching.

Being a Kiwi I could go on about John Kirwan, Michael Jones, or Fitzy, Foxy and Jonah. They were all great All Blacks in their time. In the proper sense of the word those men each had moments at the World Cup when Kiwi hearts were pumping with joyous pride. But if you were to ask me my all-time favourite Rugby World Cup player from any country my answer might surprise you. I would plump for Manu Samoa's Brian Lima.

Let tvnz.co.nz know who is your favourite World Cup player of all time by using the message board below.

For the reasons why, let me take you back to a 1991 game on a murky afternoon in Cardiff, Wales. On that day the mighty home team, with all of their illustrious histoy, were setting out confidently on their march towards a possible victory in the Cup competition on their home turf. They were a confident nation. For them, their first match was to be against the unknown team of rugby's new kids on the block, the formality then called Western Samoa.

On the morning of the game it was obvious there was an education taking place for the Welsh people. A number of that day's papers published little world maps with arrows drawn across to the tiny group of islands nestled in the Pacific. There was scant knowledge of just where the Samoan islands were let alone any kind of rugby talent hidden in that place. Samoa was just that afternoon's cannon fodder for the Welsh heroes to devour.

Within the ranks of the visitors was a shy (and probably wide-eyed even possibly frightened) kid called Brian Lima. He was 19 years of age, just out of St Joseph's College in Apia. The journey from his tiny home village to the bustle of faraway Wales was his first time away from the familiar comforts of sun and warmth. Imagine the dissimilarity between the two places for the young lad.

Yet Lima that day played in front of 72,000 with a high-aggression, tough-tackling intensity that he became part of one of rugby's greatest ever upset results. 'Manu Samoa' (The Samoan Warriors) won by 16-13.

Afterwards at least one could say Welsh humour did shine through. "We lost to Western Samoa," a clever quip began, "imagine what might have happened if we'd played all of Samoa! A Cardiff newspaper banner the next day shouted 'Rock bottom!'

Back home in Apia, the capital city, the Samoan population boggled for the first time at the wonder of live TV. A national network had not yet arrived in the tiny country. Instead seven giant screens were erected in Apia Park the main rugby ground and the game was beamed in via satellite in the middle of the night. Young and old huddled under blankets and saw TV for the first time.

Their tackling of the Samoans was so fierce two of the local stars hobbled off the field, never to play tests again and as the home captain Ieuan Evans admitted this year, 'we were simply not ready for the kind of aggression Samoa hit us with.'

My job that day was as sideline commentator. Standing so close to the action the sound of the Samoan tackles came to my ears like the impact of a wet tea-towel smacking against the side on a telephone post. Young Lima, along with the 'Samoan' Frank Bunce, who would later become an All Black, and the three loose forwards, Shem Tatupu, Pat Lam and Sila Vaifale, also were leaders in the mayhem. For me though, my eyes were drawn repeatedly to Lima, especially as the match programmes told us that this unknown was the youngest player of any team from any country at the tournament.

In the dressing room afterwards I saw singing, smiling, hugging, dancing and rugby joy such as I have never witnessed before. For TV I interviewed everyone I possibly could but to eke a word from young Lima was nigh on impossible. I gave up on him. English was clearly not a language he was most comfortable with.

But in the years since Brian's grasp of English has improved to be a reflection of his worldly travelling experiences. Since 1991 he has played in every Rugby World Cup fixture that Manu Samoa has ever been in, 18 games out of 18. Now in 2007, as a 35-year old the old master is heading into his fifth World Cup finals in France. By doing so he is breaking new world ground. Up to 15 others from other countries will have notched up appearing in four finals tournaments, but only Lima has been in a full 17 year spread of World Cup play with all five Cup final series. To me, he is setting a record unlikely in these times of shorter-term careers to ever be broken.

This year as you watch the World Cup matches unfold, keep an eye on Lima. You will note that his challenges are just as aggressive, just as fearsome as they have always been. They are not lessened by the passage of time. In the recent Pacific Cup test matches there was no let up in his crunch. In France he will live up to the descriptions various writers have come to dub him with. Lima is either, 'The Rib Rattler,' 'The Bone-Cruncher,' 'The Hitman' or the favourite, 'The Chiropractor' (as his tackles apparently can affect the nervous system)

Such nick-names reflect the media's outright admiration for the highest standard of aggressive play that Lima has always inflicted on all opponents. Not only as a tackler either, Lima was originally a speedy and elusive winger, though in recent times he has inched closer into the midfield. So that his teams can maximise his attacking defensive work. Just ask the Springbok Derek Hougaard in 2003 when Lima hit him with a 'kitchen sink' tackle in the Samoa v South Africa World Cup game in Melbourne. The crowd gasped that night, many thinking the unfortunate young Springbok might never get up. The All Blacks Jonah Lomu, Christian Cullen and the Fijian Norman Ligairi are several other high-profile players who have winced and gasped and a visit to a chiropractor seemed inevitable after meeting Lima head-on on the rugby field. In 2005 in the Southern Hemisphere v Northern Hemisphere game at Twickenham he was in vintage tough-tackling form.

In his long career Brian Lima has travelled the world as a rugby nomad and has played professionally for only the best club teams; Stade Fran├žais, Munster, The Auckland Blues, The Highlanders, Bristol and Secom (in Japan). The decision-makers from those clubs all have wanted Lima for a time. Possibly they have used the adage that 'it's better to have him on our team rather than in the opposition.'

Brian is a quiet, humble man who has always found himself pulled back to his homeland. Last time I spoke to him (it was at a World sevens event - where by the way - he has also played in every World Cup finals from the mini-version of the game too) he told me he was going into business at home (rental cars was mentioned then as a preferred option). Such an act is typical of this great Samoan. At his recent final 'home' test match in Apia v Tonga the crowds sang lustily for him and then cheered his every play to the echo. He gave a devastating display, back in his familiar place on the wing. Samoa won for him by 50-3.

Afterwards Brian faced the cameras, the media and fans. The previously reserved boy of 1991 is now a man of full eloquence. He said simply, "I want to thank the Head of State, who is the President of the Samoa Rugby Union, the Prime Minister, who is the Chairman of the Samoa Rugby Union, and the Samoa Rugby Union. And to all our people I add that without all your prayers, I'm certain I wouldn't be where I'm sitting today." In typical fashion Lima also thanked his family for their prayers gtoo, especially his wife Sina and their three boys, Brian Telefoni, Maliko Ma'afala and Manu.

Here's hoping this man who has given everything in every game he has played for nigh on 20 years - and not for one of the world's top teams either - can leave the scene at the upcoming World Cup with his reputation enhanced. He deserves that. Brian Lima has my respect. I never saw any rugby player give so much, so often for so long.
source: http://tvnz.co.nz/view/page/411749/1301613

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Sign my Guestbook

Pictures from around Muscat

The museum in Mutrah

Beautiful sunset over Muscat.

Breathetaking

Entrance to the Muttrah souk in Ruwi. Beautiful place where you can buy silver, beads, cushion covers antiques, all kinds of old artefacts. It really gives you a feel of Arabia when you stroll through the souk.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Long week-end

So once again we have another holiday. So I get a three day week-end which is nice. Just finished my morning classes and what a head-ache. All the kids were in holiday mode I felt like drop kicking a teenager out a window.. choo hoooo. Frustrating. I caught some of them took a test from my desk. To punish them I gave them a test twice as long and will subtract some marks from their papers. What a headache on the last day of the week. And I wasn't the only one, my other colleagues had similar experiences today! So I gave a lot of writing exercises today to shut them up!
I'm working on my Mom's itinerary for her trip up and it is proving to be a a bit of a headache due to changes and unforseen Samoan circumstances. My aunty was supposed to come as well but now she's cancelled!
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Hubby's folks are looking at coming up in October so we have visitors to look forward to soon. It would be good for me cos I haven't been out of Muscat much so this'll be my chance to do it. Moreover a nice break for them from the cold of New Zealand. Alex's sister will be visiting soon as well. Nice.
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At the moment summer is dragging and the boredom is starting to eat at my brain. It's up to me to do things but don't seem to do much. My thing to do and get it over with this summer is to get my diving certificate! So help me God get this over and done with. Amen. In the meantime I'm heading off to meet a mate for coffee! Life and coffees heh heh

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Life as I know it

I have nothing to blog about but I just feel like writing. So I'm just going to talk about everything and nothing...simply because I can.
Oh actually my evening classes finished this week. I asked the students if they wanted to have a party after the test. Party meaning everyone bringing food and fizzy drinks to consume and just mingle in the classroom after the final test. One of my classes brought so much food and they presented me with a local perfume which the presenter announced was from Saudi. The bottle it came in is really beautiful. I opened the present in the class and took a whiff of the stuff and almost fainted. Hahaha! Their kind of perfume is very different from what I'm used to! So I've put it on display in the house because the packaging is just exquisite!
In the other class the only lady in it had bought a new car the day before and to celebrate she offered to bring the food for the "party" to which all the boys eagerly nodded in agreement...! It was cute but the lady insisted. That party consisted of cookies and chocolates and lots of fizzy drinks too. It was nice though.
Anyway I'm teaching teenagers in the mornings five days a week and its ok. One of them leave me exhausted but generally they're ok. Yesterday I forgot to set the darn alarm and I slept in. Luckily my taxi I ordered was still waiting 20 minutes later by the time I was ready! Not good. Weird how you dream about it happening and then it actually happens hahaha!
Today after class I went to the mall nearby just to look around. It was one of those days where you try things on and they just don't look right! Sometimes I look at the stuff I take into the changing room and wince that I actually took them off the rack! hahaha! The dilemmas of a woman.
We then had lunch at hamburger nation with two of my colleagues. It was nice. Came home with a burger for Alex as the kitchen was closed for the day heh heh. We just came from a movie called "Harsh times" with Christian Bale. A good movie. He's a good actor no doubt but the concept is scary and real. It's based on one man's life after the warzone. As hubby said how can they assimilate back into society after witnessing what they do and gone through such experiences. It's disturbing stuff but I wonder if there is enough support psychologically and emotionally for those poor souls. I think anyone who experiences the realities of war must have their hard times afterwards. The mind is a mysterious thing.
Anyway better go to bed or I'll be exhausted tomorrow and it's the week-end. Adios.