New York is still abusive; it’s probably one of the main reasons it’s so hard to leave. Salalah is abusive too, though, in a subtler way. It rips you apart from the inside, whereas New York crushes you like a bug. These are not meant to be complaints, just facts. It’s a normal reckoning. There is also no higher place to soar than New York, and if there is, I don’t care about it. That’s a New Yorker talking.
There’s a few things I miss about New York, and here I am, ready to enjoy them:
The first one is green vegetables. The first thing I did when I arrived? Went to the market and bought kale. It was in the pot before I had my shoes off. And endive (it’s white, not green, I know, but I ate two heads like ice cream cones, plain, with nothing on them, just leaning over the sink, all the way down to their delicious bitter hearts.)
I miss vegetables like crazy; cucumbers, carrots, and capsicums just aren’t enough. So I’ve got several sages planted too, and plenty of other herbs. Meanwhile, I am enjoying yams, kabocha squash, dandelion greens, more kale, some kale, and even more kale and spinach. And we are having our Enfleurage holiday dinner at our favorite Korean vegan temple restaurant.....with todok fritters and the like. Yeah baby!
The second thing I miss is exercise. Now, I know technically it’s possible to exercise in Salalah. But it’s something you have to make time for and make it a point to do. There is almost none of it in your day to day life.
California is kind of like that too, with everyone driving everywhere, but exercise is normal and encouraged. In Salalah not only do you have to make time for it, but you also have to consider your environment. Who else is there? Their gender? Etc. And yes it does matter. If you think it doesn’t then you are male. Most “women only” times in health clubs are in the morning, during the few hours where everything else is open, so scratch that. The women's health clubs are absurdly expensive as far as I know, and even though I never minded a gym full of men in Greenwich Village, I’m not doing it in Salalah.
Now then, I haul around my stills and am active, it’s active for Salalah. I’ve made an effort to cut my computer time way back. Computers will kill you, all that sitting, and squinting and typing and staring at a blinking cursor. It’s shocking some people do it for fun. I don’t get it. But cutting down computer time is only part of it. Here in New York my first few days here are usually physically taxing--you’ve gotta walk! In shoes! And haul your crap. I’m at that market buying kale and milk and olive oil--my purchases go in my backpack; I’ll carry the lighter ones, and I’m walking it home.
New Yorkers pride themselves on their endurance and capacity for walking great distances, in all weathers, in great noise and chaos, and still retain their mental faculties, sense of humor, and sharp perception. In Salalah we pour ourselves into our cars, pull up and honk at the sandwich place, and park as close as possible when we have to actually get out and walk somewhere. It’s not so different to many car oriented places in the US, I suppose. But I’m not from that culture; I’m from New York.
The utter laziness we find in Salalah is unfortunate. Because many of us probably aren’t actually lazy at all. But circumstances work their way into your life. We get used to things. And for women there is a whole extra heap of social crap on top: shame at being seen, worry about the tribe (same thing), princess syndrome, intimidation from the large group of males sitting around outside the restaurant/coffee shop/commercial market, the expectation and assumptions that women will not stoop so low as to get out of the car and actually go in, etc. Whatever. I doubt very much that most people of any gender would prefer the world where they just sit on their ever expanding asses and get served.
But that’s the way it is, at least for now.
Also, I can’t help but enjoy the plethora of exercise choices here in New York--martial arts, pilates, yoga, gyrotonic, boxing, there’s a ton of choices and it’s perfectly acceptable for anyone to try anything.
These two things, the diet and exercise, are pretty important to me. I think the food in general in Salalah is good though, as long as you stick with local production, limited though it is. The fish is fresh, and the subcontinental population ensures vegetables, even if they are limited and not the ones I’m craving. We need a cheese maker, though. And a decent baker. Please don’t write and tell me we have baked goods because we don’t. One day this will come. I rarely think about it when I’m in Salalah, but how about these words: Rye. Sourdough. Pumpernickel.
I thought so.
Exercise is a bigger problem because there are a lot of attitudes to change. And you can’t throw some seeds in the ground and fix it. We’ve got a lot of obesity, and sedentary-related disease, and it’s not going to improve until there is a big change in how people perceive exercise as opposed to “proper conduct for women” and men learn that women don’t actually enjoy being pestered, that we don’t consider it a compliment, and we laugh and deal with it because there is no alternative. In reality, women lose respect for men when they hoot, yell, honk, whistle, proposition, or come on like the cool guys they think they are, particularly when they act like 20-something gangster rappers from Brooklyn. Guys, your moms are prejudiced in your favor. It doesn’t reflect reality. You look ridiculous. So please just try to get over yourselves, and leave women in peace to get what exercise they can, even if they are walking the airport road in an abaya. I mean, Jeez.
The other thing I love when I get to New York is the customer service and efficiency--please don't laugh. Last night we got a pizza--called it in, went down to pick it up at Two Boots--there’s three guys working and not one of them was on their cell phone, or standing around staring, or slacking off in any way. One was at the register, taking orders, getting drinks, answering the phone, giving people their slices....he was working. Another was baking pies, heating slices, boxing, slicing, etc. Also working. The third guy was actually making pizzas, which means constant activity at a busy New York pizza joint. All three were working. Love it.
Go in the coffee shop--unlike in much of the rest of the world, be it California or Oman, where you find one listless counter person taking orders, shuffling off to make the coffee, lackadaisically taking payment, all the while sneaking looks at Whatsapp or Facebook, you’ve got action, and plenty of customers, and constant activity: everyone does everything. Next!!
Since I own a store, I get annoyed with poor customer service very quickly, which means I’m annoyed a lot! And New York has plenty of crap service--some of the worst in the world in fact. (I don’t have to say thank you-it already says that on your receipt.) But the competition means that unless you have a virtual monopoly like Duane Reade, you’ve gotta run to do everything better than the other guy. That ultra competitiveness was one reason I left New York, because I had had enough, but when you have none at all, you have a disaster.