I was home for fewer than five days, trundling back to Dulles on Friday, May 29 and back onto BA’s massive A380 to Heathrow, then on to Muscat, Oman, for a short consulting assignment. Because I didn’t get to see any of what many describe as a fascinating country, I compensated with some great T-t-S moments. On the transatlantic flight, I had a good chat with seatmate Martin (we again were favored with the exit row and tons of legroom). He grew up in a small town in the Highlands of Scotland, joined the army at age 15, and ended up in the United Kingdom Special Forces, an elite unit on the cutting edge of national defense. He now works for an information-security firm and lives in Hertfordshire, in the west of England. Enroute to the Gulf I sat with an American of Pakistani origin; he grew up in suburban Philadelphia and has worked in health care, now at the Cleveland Clinic’s new facility in Abu Dhabi (where the plane stopped briefly).
We arrived Muscat at 9:30 on Saturday night. Hopped in a taxi a short distance to a nice Holiday Inn. My client arrived a couple of hours later. We spent the next two days in meetings, and I had zero chance for exploration, save for a walk around a long block at sundown on Sunday night, when it was still about 105°. Lots of folks staring, me smiling and waving. You can’t learn much about a place when you’re stuck in a hotel and nearby office for two days, but Oman did seem to be comfortable in its own skin, to use a human analogy.
I was warm when I returned after 20 minutes. “Cool off in the pool,” I thought, and I donned my swimsuit. The water was tepid, but still felt good, and I had a couple more chats with strangers. Bernard was a young Aussie of Hong Kong Chinese ancestry, also in Oman to consult, and Mr. Rahman was a delightful fellow from Lahore, Pakistan, an accountant and businessman. High point of that chat was sorting out the entire set of problems in the Middle East in about 20 minutes: we agreed it just wasn’t that hard!
In addition to these chats, I also had a couple of nice yaks with servers in the hotel dining room, with Fadi from Syria, smiling despite troubles back home (he was happy I was eating Arabic food from the breakfast buffet, and so was I). We read about the manifold woes in Syria, and then, suddenly, we are face to face with a person whose family is living with all that. We also got to know a bit about Soriya, new to Oman from Delhi. Labor migration looks different when she is standing right next to you. She said she was adjusting, but we’re sure it was still hard to leave home and family in search of work.
Less than 50 hours after arriving, I flew home. It would be good to spend more time there.