We just got wifi set up in the apartment last night, so I’m a few days behind. I guess I’ll start with the first day.
The guy who picked us up at the airport, Mr. Sunil, was from Kerala and spoke Hindi, so he and KC chatted easily the whole way. I knew there would be a ton of South Asians in Muscat, but it hadn’t occurred to me that Hindi would be the lingua franca among them, especially because I’d heard they were mostly Keralites, who speak Malayalam. Anyway, KC’s Hindi fluency will probably be handy.
Mr. Sunil told us that the supplies provided at our temporary accommodations would be meager, and he swung us by the hypermarket—a grocery store with household goods and electronics and such—before dropping us off. In the interest of keeping it real, I’ll admit to an embarrassing produce kerfuffle wherein I didn’t realize that I had to weigh and tag all my stuff. The poor bagger had to run it all back to the produce department and do it for me as the checkout line grew behind us. This system is not unheard-of in the States (particularly for bulk pantry stuff, but my favorite grocery store in the world—Central Market in Houston—requires it for produce too), which only added to my shame feelings. Anyway, at some point I saw the bagger guy raising my kiwis to ask the cashier something about them and I told him to never mind, I didn’t need them. By the time I saw that he also had the garlic in his hand, essential for the dishes I had planned, it was too late.
On the way home I was unreasonably sad about this, unable to think of a single dinner recipe that doesn’t require garlic.
We arrived at our temporary accommodations in the early afternoon, having slept only an hour or two here and there since the previous morning. The apartment is more than adequate, but it has a lot of fluorescent lights and ugly furniture. After a much-needed nap I decided it was sort of charming.
Making dinner seemed like the best way to keep busy for a few hours until it was a reasonable time to go back to bed. Also, I figured it was wise to get acquainted with the kitchen before hunger hit, as I had no idea when that would happen. The stove is electric, which in the past I always hated, but I’m finding it pretty easy—instinctive, even—to set aside whatever petty preferences may or may not suit this part of the world. I have no idea whether most ranges here are gas or electric, but this is my stove for the time being so I got friendly with it.
I couldn’t find a cutting board but the counters are granite, so I just went ahead with that, though the blade against the polished rock was sort of nails-on-chalkboard until I got used to it. I set about making a stir-fry with some apprehension because not only was I lacking garlic, I also didn’t have any soy sauce or nut oil or even salt or pepper. Is it possible to cook without salt? I figured I could try to compensate with fresh herbs and such (I had been in a one-track fresh-produce frame of mind, apparently).
So it was onion, ginger, carrots, and green beans tossed with rice noodles—I could only find super-thin ones—and a sauce made from canned hummus (for the tahini/salt flavors) thinned with lime juice. I garnished with a whole lot of chopped cilantro, mint, and pistachios. It turned out like a bizzare-o pad thai with a vaguely Middle Eastern twist.
It wasn’t very good but I enjoyed it anyway, especially because I was pleasantly surprised to find the weather on the balcony (I love balconies!) totally bearable.
Anyway, the process of cooking was incredibly soothing, and the lack of equipment and missing ingredients only added to my amusement. We blew a fuse twice, so I also learned that we can’t run the stove, television, and iron all the same time. Good to know!
After supper I insisted we take a walk outside to help our bodies understand that it was, in fact, nighttime and not the middle of the day. There’s a little public beach about 0.65 km (practicing my conversions) up the road, so we went there and put our feet in the sea. I’ve never lived so close to the water, but KC has. He said he hadn’t realized how much he’d missed it.
They say alcohol and caffeine make jet lag worse but to that I say, bollocks. After the judicious application of a couple whiskey-sodas, we retired around 10pm and slept more or less straight through until 5:30am. Perfect.
P.S. Having acquired some further supplies, I stir-fried those leftovers with a little frizzled minced garlic and topped it off with more hummus/lime sauce and a bit of salt. It was much, much, much better.