The last few days in Oman were a whirlwind of activities; from final tests & presentations to shopping for gifts & airports. I still have a hard time believing the adventure is actually over. In order to finish up classes we had finals week jam-packed with presentations & exams. For me, it could have easily been comparable to one of my hardest finals weeks at Drake (if not harder). It included a chapter & final comprehensive exam in MSA, a presentation with my interest groups (who’s topic was religion), a presentation/skit for OCA (Omani Arabic), a research presentation for MSA, & the OPI (an oral proficiency exam that is the only score the government will actually see & use to gage our progress & the success of the program – it’s kind of a big deal).
Capping off the two weeks of final exams was a lovely banquet at the Golden Tulip Hotel in Muscat. After one of the best meals we received all summer, it was time to get our certificates saying we officially completed CLS (yay!) & say final goodbyes to a few professors & PFs. At this point it still hadn’t hit me that I would be going home soon & I may never see some of these wonderful people again. A sad thought I was inadvertently avoiding.
Even though the last few days were spent without classes, they still ended up being as busy as ever. One of the days we were sent on a scavenger hunt within Muscat where my group ended up a beautiful Islamic college. Other days were spent shopping for any last gifts, packing, getting henna, & saying goodbye to a few more Omani friends. In addition, we given 3 options of places to visit without worrying about transportation on Sunday, or last full day in Muscat. I choose to join 2 other students, Zan & Nick, on a return trip to Wasi Shaab in Tiwi, Oman, near the larger town of Sur. The wadi had been our last stop on the jumbo trip & was just as amazing the second time as the first.
A part of this can possibly be accredited to the fact that I was wearing tennis shoes this time (not sandals alhumdallah) or that we weren’t in a time crunch, but all-around I am incredibly glad I chose to spend my last day in such a beautiful place with such great company. After hiking the hour into the wadi & having a picnic of Indian food (I think it was Indian – we were kind of guessing) & Pringles, we made our way back into the cave again. There we spent the majority of our afternoon climbing, swimming, & cliff jumping. This place has truly won a special place in my heart. It is a wonder of nature & one of my favorite places in all of Oman.
That night we had our final dinner as a large group at the hotel. Some students were leaving early the next morning for Egypt, others had already left for places like Iraq & Morocco, & tomorrow evening at 11:45pm we would all be taking off to our respective corners of the US & the world. That journey alone was quite the adventure. I was scheduled to have 33 hours of travel until I arrived in Minneapolis at 11:55pm on Tuesday. I was to fly from Muscat to Abu Dhabi for a stopover to Frankfurt, Germany to Washington, DC to Charlotte, North Carolina, to Minnesota. The first flight from Muscat to Frankfurt went quite well. I watched Water for Elephants & slept a majority of the way. We were to have a 6 hour layover in Frankfurt so a few of us decided to wander the airport in search of bacon; a commodity not even close to being available a few hours earlier. I must say it was quite delicious.
We then learn that our flight to DC is delayed by 3 hours (we ended up leaving not 3, but 4 hours after we were scheduled to) causing major issues for a majority of our domestic flights. As a result, our international flight was touching down in DC as my flight to Charlotte was supposed to be leaving. Fortunately someone was able to get an e-mail out to a CLS coordinator before we left Frankfurt & with help from a fellow students iPad (alhumdallah – ‘thank God’) I found out I was rescheduled for another flight that was to leave in a little less than 2 hours for Charlotte in order to make my connecting flight to the Twin Cities. Others weren’t as lucky & had to spend the night in DC. Due to the time crunch, myself & a few other students had to literally run through the Dulles airport & not say our goodbyes to fellow students. Running though customs, baggage claim, customs, luggage check-in, & to the gate was quite the workout after being on a plane for 9 hours. And, of course, I inevitably got stopped in customs & security. I am not sure why the food I was carrying seemed so much more suspicious than everyone else’s, but I guess the henna all over my hands, the fact that I was coming from the Middle East, & sprinting through the airport didn’t help. Making our flight by about 20 minutes, I didn’t even have time to comprehend that I was finally back in America. In Charlotte, my flight was also delayed, but this time only an hour. Therefore, even with all the hassle & confusion, I arrived home only an hour after I was originally scheduled to. After 34 hours I was exhausted & nearly cried upon landing. It was great to be back.
Being home for a week, life has yet to slow down & I don’t think it will for quite some time. I spent the weekend in Des Moines visiting friends before they go off on their own adventures abroad & now need to start focusing on packing for school as I move in this Sunday (a mere 3 days). I do wish I had just one more week to spend with the family before leaving again, but that’s not really an option right now. This summer has been quite the experience & I know I am still digesting everything. Certain things are making being back odd; particularly wearing shorts & a t-shirt outside, being able to make physical contact with a male without feeling guilty (hugging Nate after getting off the plane was weird!), or not having people understand me when I throw out random Arabic words without thinking about it. Right now I have concluded that what I will, & already do, miss the most about CLS & Oman will be the people I met & had the pleasure of spending my summer with. The other students, my professors, & all the friends I made will be greatly missed. They have all taught me so much about life & myself. I am forever grateful to have had the privileged to meet them. I hope that someday everyone is able to experience something like this; where you have to work ridiculously hard to get where you are going, but the journey & the destination are equally as great.
Much love Oman.