Monday, May 30, 2005
Saturday, May 28, 2005
This is not a new issue I'm discussing, but, it was something that came up in a phonecall I had with a very good friend of mine from Dubai. She was telling me about a young Indian lady who works in the salon she has been frequenting for years. This lady recently had a miscarriage (her third), and when she went to see the doctor, she was told she had virus in her blood and that she needed to go on some sort of medication. Because she couldn't go to a government hospital, she was forced to visit a private clinic. To see the doctor and get a consultation, she had to pay DH300. As for the medication, each pill bottle costs DH350 and is for a one month dosage only.
This woman works in a salon, making about DH1000-1050 per month exclusive of tips. Her husband is a construction worker in Dubai making slightly more than his wife. How could they be expected to pay fees like these for treatment?
Its not fair.
European or Lebanese Expats in Dubai make so much more money, to them DH350 is pocket change. How can lower class workers be expected to pay the same? Shoulnd't there be some sort of law that makes you pay for healthcare according to your income? Because that would make sense. If there is one that I haven't heard of, then I appologize for making assumptions.
What do our fellow bloggers think of this issue?
1. Been thinking of getting an Apple Mac. I love the iMac G5 but because of my current living situation I can't get a desktop computer since I don't have desk to put it on. I'm a bit hesitant about the Apple laptops because they run on the older G4 processors. I wouldn't want to plunk down a big chunk of change for a laptop and then a few months later Apple announces that they finally figured out how to put a G5 in a laptop. Another thing, I played around with a friend's PowerBook and I didn't like the feel of the touchpad- especially that it's not clickable. I thought maybe I should start at entry level and go for an 12" iBook. I dunno, is that a good choice. What would I be sacrificing and how's the quality on these iBook's anyhow?
Saw an ad in the classifieds from someone selling a 17" PowerBook. I spoke to him. He claims it's hardly used 1.5 Ghz G4 with 512MB RAM, 80GB HD and a superdrive. He wants to sell for 800 rials and is willing to negotiate. I gotta admit I was extremely tempted. But what stopped me is that the new PowerBooks are 1.67 ghz and have a scrolling touchpad. Also a new one would come with Tiger. For this one I'll have to add it on top of the price. Plus, 17" is way too big for a laptop that would be used almost exclusively on my lap. But if anyone if you here in Oman is looking for one, check out this week's TheWeek classified section.
Anyhow any advice from Mac-heads will be extremely appreciated.
2. Anyone out there using an RSS reader/aggregator. I think it might be time for me to finally get one. The number of blogs which I follow has become too big to manage the old fashioned way.
3. My internet connection has been acting up all weekend. Some sites load fine and others just won't. I can receive email but I can't send (neither my webmail accounts or my Omantel POP account). Can't upload pics to flickr either, nor can I upload posts to my blog, but I can comment on blogs just fine. I tried using OD's laptop and all internet sites work fine, but the email problem's still there. (I'm posting this from a training center where I'm supposedly being trained on how to be more efficient by using the full functions of MS Office).
6. According to this blog's stats, an incredible 91% of you are still using Internet Explorer! Please do yourself a favor and switch to Firefox. Trust me, you'll be thankful for it. You'll never want to use that horrible IE again.
5. OD got me a 1GB iPod Shuffle :)
Wednesday, May 25, 2005
If you live in Madinat Qaboos (MQ) you probably know the small grocery shop in the Oman Oil station next to the British Council. I've been a frequent customer at this shop ever since we moved into the area in 1989. Long ago when the station was still a BP and long before BP begat the BP Express shop, for most people "going to the BP" meant buying from this shop. It is a tiny grocery shop run by Indian brothers which is packed to the ceiling with items. The guys are good, their prices are lower than any other supermarket in town and the service is amazing. Ask for anything which isn't in stock and they'll get it for you. They are open by 6 or 7am and stay open till past midnight.
Last Friday I went in at lunch time to buy a newspaper like I do every week and noticed the entire newspaper and magazine rack was empty. I looked around and some of the shelves were half empty too. What's up? "Didn't you know, we're closing," the eldest brother told me. What? Why? Turns up their landlord has raised the rent by 100 rials. But that's not the real reason. They told me that by October neighborhood grocery stores in Muscat will have to be "Omanized" and they see no reason why they should pay higher rent when they'll have to close down by October.
Yesterday over lunch my mom told me she passed by the shop and they were closing down. The Omani sponsor had come to help them out empty the shelves. She said the man was furious and told her these guys used to give him 500 rials a month for his sponsorship. He was blaming the government for his loss of income.
I feel sad that these guys are leaving after so long in Oman. But then again I guess Omanization cannot be avoided and these guys must have made a good living and have enough set aside back home. I'm embarrassed to say that I don't know their names even though I always stop for a few minutes' chat whenever I'm in the shop. These people have known me since I was 16. I've practically known them half my life.
Come October or November when we finally get a new grocery shop in the neighborhood, will the Omani owned and operated shop be open by 7am? Will we still have a cheap option for late night emergency groceries? Will the new guy be open on Fridays? Will he be cheaper than even the hypermarkets like these guys were? Or will I be here lamenting how things were better when the government didn't force expats out of business..
And an even bigger issue: Why do our ministries have their signs only in Arabic? What are we trying to prove with this policy, learn to read Arabic or get lost?
Sunday, May 22, 2005
The Yacoubian Building by Alaa Al Aswany is apparently the best-selling Arabic novel of the past 3 years. I honestly hadn't heard of it until a few months ago when I heard it was being made into the most expensive Egyptian movie ever. (Believe it or not, the budget of $3 million is double the previous record holder). The movie is being billed as the Egyptian Ocean's Eleven because the cast includes Adel Imam, Noor Al Sharif, Yusra, Nabila Obaid, Laila Elwi, Hind Sabri, Ahmed Rateb, Ahmed Bidair and Farouq Al Fishawi (who will narate but not appear).
The novel has been translated into English and is available from Amazon.com (link above) of which you can read an excerpt from the first chapter. It must have been 15 years since I last read an Arabic novel so instead of just ordering the English translation I chose to read it in the original language. Last week my brother in law was going to Egypt so I asked him to get it for me.
Turned out it was a slim novel of about 350 small pages which I read in just a couple of days. It was a very enjoyable read. Based on my limited knowledge of Arabic modern literature, this is quite a daring novel. For one thing, one of the main characters is gay. The author quite vividly summarized his point of view of 50 years of Egyptian history in one building. He spends the first third of the book just introducing the characters. Each character gets an extensive introduction with background history. He doesn't build the characters, instead he presents them to you fully formed with a synopsis of who they are and how they got to be how they are. The main characters are an old playboy who blames all Egypt's ills on Abdul Nasir, a gay newspaper editor who lives a highly successful life in the day and turns victim to his desires at night, the son of the building's doorman who dreams of becomign a policeman and when denied his dreams turns to fundemantalism and terrorism, his girlfriend who's father has passed away and is now forced to work in clothing stores and accept the owners' sexual harrassment.. Events quickly unfold and all of a sudden it's over with some of the threads left hanging.
It's a bit frustrating in the end. The characters are stereotypes and the author fits them into what he believes are absolutes. You wish the author would have taken the long way around and given you one of those massive novels that you could sink your teeth into and got totally immersed in. I guess the novel wouldn't have been as successful since it wouldn't have been as accessible for the average joe who isn't an avid reader but is willing to read a slim book if all his friends say it's worth his time.
Despite my frustrations with the book, I can totally see where all the hype came from and I do recommend it. However now that I've read it I can't see how any of the actors cast in the movie fit with the the characters. I have little hope it's going to be a good movie.
The Arabic version can be bought online from Adab Wa Fan (note: site does not appear to be fully Firefox compatible).
Not sure if the force was equally strong here in Oman. People aren't into sci-fi here. But they sure were out in force for the first show midnight May 19th. Shatti Plaza was sold out. It was great seeing the movie in a theatre full of fans. I'm gonna write about it (one day, I guess). I enjoyed the movie but for some reason I don't feel like writing about just yet. Gonna see it again for sure though.
Saturday, May 21, 2005
Muscati and Wife
-- Site Summary ---
Total ........................ 3,296
Average per Day ................ 114
Average Visit Length .......... 3:06
This Week ...................... 800
Total ........................ 7,168
Average per Day ................ 243
Average per Visit .............. 2.1
This Week .................... 1,698
Wednesday, May 18, 2005
Anees Sultan has a good article in this week's TheWeek about maternity leave. He touches upon a extremely controversial issue using a real life example from his workplace, but he stays away from the contentious issue of private vs public sector maternity leave.According to the Omani labor law, in the private sector women are given two options for maternity leave:
- 42 day unpaid leave
- Or she can consider he maternity leave to be sick leave of up to 70 days with proportional salary as follows: 14 days with full pay, next 14 days at 75% pay, 14 days 50% pay and finally 28 days at 25% pay.
Most private companies give their female employees an extra option which is 39 days off with full pay. This no different than option 2 above since the woman still has to sacrifice all her sick days. The total pay in the 70 day option is equivalent of 38.5 days. In other words go give birth and come back in 39 days and you will be paid in full for the whole period, or go away for 70 days but you will only be paid for 39 days which will be spread out over the whole leave.
The catch: by taking all that sick leave the woman would have no more sick days available for the rest of the year and if she ever gets sick she'll have to have it deducted from her pay. Worse, to get these 70 or 39 days off to give birth, she needs to have not taken any sick days before the delivery. In other words she has to work until the day she gives birth! If she wants any more time with her baby beyond that she better have her annual leave days saved up. However, another catch: most companies don't let you carry leave days forward from one year to the next. So you better prepare your pregnancies or else you can find yourself pregnant with no days off available. Imagine that, give birth and come back in 39 days and if your baby ever gets sick and you need to skip work to look after him it gets docked from your pay.
Meanwhile, women who work in the public sector get 50 days of fully paid maternity leave plus whatever sick leave their doctor is willing to give them plus their accumulated annual leave (and they get more leave days than the private sector as it is).
Anees ends his article with:Maybe it should be mothers, or leading women in our society who should be raising this issue. For example, why didn't a woman write this article?
Last week someone told me about a Spanish woman here in Muscat who was stopped by the police because she had a sticker with a picture of a donkey on her car. The woman (her name is Elisenda Vidal) wrote to TheWeek telling the same story and they published it in full in this week's issue.
The woman was stopped by a policeman at 8am telling her the sticker was offensive. In her own words:
He asked me if I knew what it meant. I said that it was a catalan national symbol. he said, "No, it means that whoever comes from the left of my car is a donkey".
This is the donkey in her sticker:
He then made her drive to the next roundabout for another policeman who inspected the sticker and agreed with the first guy. They made her wait for a third policeman who turned out to be a senior dude whose English was much more fluent. This guy said that the problem wasn't the donkey, but the sticker itself. He said it was not allowed to have stickers on cars here. And then proceeded to give her a 35 rial fine!
I'd love to say this is the most outrageous thing I've ever heard.. but then again I remember this is the same organization that almost arrested me because I criticized a concert and which blamed me for a hit and run accident because they weren't able to locate the guy who crashed into my car because they didn't have an address in their records.
Monday, May 16, 2005
So why aren't they buying? Currently at the present low price the number of shares on offer is very low. My estimate is that there must be around 4 or 5 million shares out there in the hands of Average Joe investors who bought them with the hope of selling at around 2. They might be willing to sell at 1.8 or 1.9, but not at 1.7. The pension funds are trying to keep the share low until these average joes give up and put their shares on offer at lower prices. That's when the funds will pounce and buy all what's on offer in one fell swoop.
Good for the pension funds, since they get to keep their buying cost low. I totally understand a fund manager's efforts to buy at the lowest price possible. But let's remember that these are government pension funds, not commercial investment funds. Don't they have any social responsibility? Is it ok for a government entity to be screwing the market this way?
The whole country is holding its breath for the Omantel IPO which is coming next month. People are selling assets and taking loans to free up cash for that IPO. The government is selling off 30% of Omantel's shares, of which the vast majority (21%) will be sold to Omani individuals. The conventional wisdom was that you buy the shares in the IPO at 1.3 each and then as soon as it's listed pension funds will buy them from you for more than 2 rials. And then 3 months later when foreigners are allowed to buy the share will go up even higher.
But if the pension funds play this dirty game again, then don't expect the share's price to go up by much until October or November. According to a broker: "don't expect the funds to allow the price to go to 2. They want it below that." If you're borrowing money to buy in the Omantel IPO, don't expect to sell quickly unless you have lowered your expectations. If not, prapare to pay interest or lock your funds for at least 4 months (the one month IPO subscription period + 2 to 3 weeks allocation and listing period + 3 months Omani only trading period).
If this is true, liquidity is going to be very tight in Oman this summer as 300 million rials will be locked-in with this IPO until the share price reaches a reasonable profit threshold.
Sunday, May 15, 2005
The topic: Imposing a carseat law for babies in Oman.
The first time I discussed this was with a girlfriend. Although we both think that all children belong in car seats, and that parents who don't keep their children strapped to car seats should be fined, *N* could see why something like this could be difficult for Omani families to implement.
First of all, car seats take up so much space. The maximum you could fit in your back seat is two. Seconly, most Omani families aren't comprised of just 2 kids. And quite often, the age difference between them is very small, so they are all young and all need to be in car seats. What will they do then? Buy a bigger car? Maybe they can't afford to. Take only two kids out a time? Nopes, not practical. LEave the kids at home always? Thats a tad cruel.
Ok, I know there are many reasons and excuses that parents can give, but come on, there must be a solution which doesn't involve one of the kids being on mommy's lap in the front seat. Just thinking of the amount of things wrong with that picture gives me a headache.
Did you guys know that in some states in the US, a mother who delivers is not be allowed to leave the hospital until one of the staff makes sure there is a car seat in her or her partner's car?
Its a really huge issue, one that should be given more thought to. There has to be a law. If things remain the way they are, many lives are put in danger.
PS: Add this to the list of topics I'll be bringing up if I ever join Majlis Al Dawla
The Environment Society of Oman invites you to an illustrated lecture by Hanne and Jens Eriksen, titled “A Birdwatching Tour of Oman”. Hanne and Jens are well known throughout the middle-east for their inspiring photography and in depth knowledge about birds in the region. Their annual wall calendar showcases some of their best work, and their published books include “A Birdwatching Guide to Oman”, and “Birdlife in Oman”.
You can learn more about their work on their website: http://www.birdsoman.com But looking at the website won’t be as exciting as attending the lecture!!
Date and time: Saturday, the 21st of May.
Doors open at 6:30pm Lecture begins at 7:30pm.
Location: at Majan College in Darsait (please email: firstname.lastname@example.org for a map/directions)
Take note!! Those of you who have been keen to become more involved in the ESO will have an opportunity to do so by arriving at 6:30 on the 21st. The heads of various committees will be there to talk about how you can get involved, and to listen to your ideas about what the ESO could be doing. Committees include:
PR and merchandising
Education and public awareness
Marine (including whale and dolphin research)
Wednesday, May 11, 2005
Today I want to talk about names. The countdown to the birth of our baby begins in just over a month. The expected due date is end of June but the doctor said we should be ready by mid June. God willing, all will go well. We have short-listed names that we both like. We've more or less agreed on a girl's name but we still can't decide on a boy's name just yet. We do know the sex of the baby, but doctors have been wrong before.
OD wants me to make a final decision on the name. She's fine with whatever I choose. She loves to plan everything in advance and wants to order the giveaways and gifts to give to visitors from now. I don't disagree with her forward planning, I just don't want to lock-in the name from now just so that we can have cards and gifts ordered. My experience, just from observing friends and family has been that people do tend to change their mind at the last minute when it comes to naming their kids. Throughout the pregnancy they're agreed on a name, and then two days after the birth all of a sudden they have a new favorite name. Maybe I'll be like that too. Who knows?But at the very least, I know the names I have chosen are all nice sensible names. There's a trend these days. Everyone wants ultra unique names for their kids. That's ok. I want unique names for my kids too. But for God's sake, why give your kids names that they'll hate you for?
Al Shabiba has been running a contest for the best looking kid in Oman. Thousands of parents have sent in passport pictures of their kids hoping to win the title of best looking child in the country and the cool RO. 5000 that goes with it. I went through the supplement that has the pictures many times, not to see which one's the best looking kid but to read their names. The good news is old fashioned heavy Omani names like Khalfan aren't popular anymore.
I haven't found a single good new name which I hadn't thought of before, but I did find lots and lots of weird names. And when it comes to these weird names, for some reason people keep the worst names for their girls. Of course there were some boys with weird names like Dulaif, Al-Nawras, Nuhair, Shubail, Asba6 and Al-Yase3 but they were few and not very common. But I was surprised not only by some of the girls' names but also by how they kept repeating. I'm talking about girls named Salsabeel, Ababeeha, Iqtibas, Ishtiyaq, Al-Yamamah, Sulafah, Orchid, Ma'wiyah, and Al-Yaqeen (very popular this last one).I predict that 20 years from now the government will have to simplify the procedures for name changes because they won't be able to deal with the pressure of all these kids coming of age and filing to change their names.
Nabhan scanned it and posted it on his blog. Click here to read it..
Monday, May 09, 2005
No, I need!!!
I can't have :(
Not allowed... Cause I'm pregnant and I have to watch my blood glucose levels, which I never imagined I'd have a problem with! But, unfortunately I do.
Damn glucose levels! I have a chocolate craving!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I hope this baby knows how much I love him/her or else I'd be cheating 24/7!
My kid sister had gestational diabetes when she was pregnant with her first baby, and she never followed any strict diet. Never watched her sugar intake. The only thing she did was stop eating all junk a couple of days before any of her prenatal appointments so that her doctor doesn't find any traces of sugar in her blood/urine! Alhamdullillah baby came out fine and sister was fine as well.
Problem is, I can't do that. I worry too much and I'd never take that kind of risk. And even if I wanted to, I'm married to a man who freaks out more than I do and won't allow me to cheat.
My cousin, who is about 24 called me yesterday told me that she went to the doctor because of her re-occuring headaches and found out she has high blood pressure! Poor baby! She freaked out! She is like, I thought I had atleast 30 years before I have to worry about that kind of stuff.
Not to mention poor Mux who also has blood pressure issues. And M-Pac!!
Have you guys noticed this too? Is our generation more susceptable to these "old age" diseases? Is it us? Our lifestyle? Our food? Or is it just hereditary?
Personally I blame all my glucose problems on the fact that I'm half Egyptian.
I think 99.999% of that country is probably diabetic!!
Sunday, May 08, 2005
The guy today who broke the glass on the fire alarm in our house thinking it's a doorbell. "Sorry," he said "I am think it is bell." Sadly my hindi is not that fluent to tell him "do you think we put a fresh piece of glass in this red box every day for our guests?"
Actually, there are two idiots in this story. One's today's guy. The first was the guy who designed the fire alarm close to 20 years ago who decided to put an alarm right next to the doorbell outside the house. Amazing that it took 16 years till the right idiot came along, eh?
Saturday, May 07, 2005
Know what kind of movie you're going into and you might like it. If you're looking for fun, this isn't it.
Thursday, May 05, 2005
If you call that pulsing organ in your chest a heart then go see Hotel Rwanda. Prepare yourself for a heart-wrenching experience. And I really do mean a real emotional whalloping. Do yourself a favor, please. I know a lot of people who think that it's too heavy a subject for a movie and would rather only go see light entertainment and comedies. Forget the generally accepted bullshit that movies are just entertainment. They're not called movies just because the picture moves. They're called movies because they have the power to set your emotions and move you as well. This is a movie about our collective shame. How we, ie the world, let humanity down; and how we as humans can so easily turn into monsters, In 1994 a million innocents were slaughtered in Rwanda in a period of just 100 days. That's like 10,000 a day. They were not killed by foreign enemies. They were killed by their own countrymen. Their neighbors and colleagues. And while they killed and killed, the rest of the world squabled over definitions like "what is genocide?"
In 1994, I was in college in California. At the time I was full-on news junky. My tv was semi-permanently tuned to CNN. In 1994, while Hollywood was busy beatifying Steven Spielberg for Schindler's List a million regular people like you and me picked up machettes and slaughtered their neighbors. They went on a rampage of ethnic cleansing and no one cared. The Hutus of Rwanda called the Tutsis cockroaches and insects. They didn't realize that as far as the rest of the non-African world, the whole of Africa didn't matter.
In 1996, still a news junky, I saw Operations Grapes of Wrath and the slaughter of Qana on tv. I stopped watching the news all together after that.
Yesterday, in a semi-empty cinema hall watching Hotel Rwanda I couldn't stop tears from welling up in my eyes. I stopped myself from crying but my body refused. Instead of tears I began to tremble uncontrollably.Too many questions: why didn't the UN do anything to stop the genocide in Rwanda till a million souls were gone? Is it just because they were black? Didn't they matter? If Bosnia wasn't in Europe's own backyard, would their situation have been the same? What kind of forces turn a nation into killing machines? How come we never learn from our lessons? Germany, Cambodia, East Timor, Bosnia. Rwanda. How come
Paul Rusesabagina, a Hutu, saved the lives of more than 1200 Tutsis. That's more than the 1100 jews that Schindler saved in Germany 50 years before. This is the story of how he did it. Go see Hotel Rwanada.
This world of bloggers is such a SMALL world.
Our friend doens't live here anymore, so we have been out of touch since, ummm, since her wedding in December 2003!
So here is a huge big fat hello to Nomadica!!
Ok now that I'm done squeeling... Did I tell you guys we went to this shop to order those cute teddybear borders for the baby's room? Well, we could have fixed the borders in the room ourselves, but decided to ask the shop to send someone instead so it could be done professionaly. Professional my ****!! Its been one week and already the borders have bubbles underneath and are coming out in some places :(
How could they do this to our baby's room! I called them and told them they better send someone to fix it. They said they would send someone immediately and I was so proud of myself thinking I scared them.. Well, obviously my threats haven't worked cause its been 4 days and they still haven't sent anyone. I'm going to take my hubby and make a personal visit today!
Oh and did I tell you about the baby's crib? The person who put it together did it all wrong and one side is upside down!! How could anyone make that mistake?? There should be two buttons on the top that you press to bring the side of the bed down when you wanna pick up the baby. He put the button part on the bottom.. I almost cried when I came home and saw it... Called those people as well and they also promised to send someone immediately. Liars :( I'm hoping Mux would pick up a screw driver and fix it himslef but it hasn't happened yet *hint hint*
On a brighter note, our future baby is going to be the funkiest, coolest, cutest, most adorably dressed baby in town. Yeps. We bought the little munchkin the coolest things! I wish they made the stuff in bigger sizes so I could buy some for myself, hehe.
If you are wondering why I haven't been posting (please say you have been wondering), its cause I'm asleep 70% of the time. I have no energy! All I wanna do is sleep! I was so energetic during the second trimester, but been feeling so lethargic since the 7th month. The heat isn't helping much either. Almost all my friends have delivered, so I'm feeling restless.. But, inshallah khair. I'm supposed to deliver next month. I wanna keep the baby inside for as long as possible :) This girl I know delivered 4 days past her due date and her baby is so cute and chubby and stuff. Well baked!!
And my final thought for this post is: I hope I have a fat baby.
Tuesday, May 03, 2005
Had a really great time in Dubai last weekend. Great shopping but for the first time ever a new experience: 99% of it was for the baby, not for us.If there's one thing I have to say about the trip it's: there's no experience in the world as satisfying as shopping for your baby. Trust me, unless you have kids and been through it, there's absolutely no way to describe it. Imagine how you feel when you're out shopping for stuff you like, whether it's handbags for you ladies or gadgets and gizmos for the guys, but multiply that by the nth power. When you're shopping for your baby you want to get everything you see. You don't care how much it costs or if you've already bought 5 others like it. You see something you like, you just gotta have it.
Been going through a bit of a blah phase these past two day since we got back. I'm not feeling down or anything, I'm just not up for anything at all except vegging out and watching movies. I'm finally getting to clearing up the huge backlog of DVDs that I haven't watched. The backlog's gotten so bad I've had to move the unwatched movies to a new shelf of their own.
I started a second flickr account. This one will be just pics which I take for the blog, mostly camphone pics. The url is: www.flickr.com/photos/muscatiblog