The day before I left Oman – two days ago now – my family rounded up a bunch of fellow expats for a day of boating. Excitement was all around: the dogs were excited to see their life jackets emerge from the closet, my mum was excited to have the lunch catered by her dear friend who channels Ottolenghi, dad was excited because he’d be able to drink Pimms all day long – my parents restrict alcohol consumption to the weekends, so Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays are always a happy time for them – and I was excited because I’d be able to lay like a lizard in the sun while simultaneously eating Rosemary’s treats like a feasting Roman.
Breakfast was mum’s unbeatable homemade banana-walnut bread eaten on the patio:
We keep our boat in the marina directly below our house, so loading and unloading are easy peasy, and, what’s more, the marina comes with awesome boat boys who prepare the boat for our arrival, further reducing the stress of herding guests comfortably on board in the hot and sticky climate.
Immediately after pulling out of the marina, we passed through this “tunnel” to land ourselves en route to a little cove some ten minutes away where the snorkeling and beach-going are heavenly.
After taking a quick dip – quick because I’m usually in-n-out for fear of colliding with a sting ray or jelly fish – going for a short hike in my bikini and water shoes, and helping the dogs dig holes on the beach, we tucked into Rosemary’s picnic, some dishes of which I regret failing to photograph; the men attacked most of them like starved savages within the blink of an eye.
Desert was a delight since we usually take some version of a cookie that won’t melt. But, the most special part of this desert was the secret ingredient that we only learned of post-consumption: avocado. Admittedly, I have always been dubious about the new craze of using substitute ingredients, like applesauce in place of sugar, but this is most definitely no longer the case. However, one problem with telling my tubby dad that the cake was fairly healthful because it was made with avocado instead of butter is that he thought he could therefore eat double.
After resting, eating, resting, more eating, more resting, and even more eating, we took off in hunt for a quiet bay fit for water skiing and wakeboarding.
Since I have only ever wakeboarded in Lake Tahoe, I was nervous to do it in the Gulf of Oman, not only because salt water bothers my eyes, but, and most importantly, because of all the ooglie booglies like box jellyfish and sea snakes that linger beneath the surface. And although it was kind of everyone to express how impressed they were that I got up on the first go and didn’t fall over, the truth is that I was driven by fear; there was no way that I was going to be in that deep water for any longer than absolutely necessary because thoughts of being bitten on the bum by a shark while floating there with my feet strapped into the bindings of the wakeboard were racing through my panic-stricken mind. What an experience it was though.
The great day was brought to an end with a not so great occurrence back in the marina: our guest, who is a surgeon, bent over while moving bags from the boat onto the dock, forgetting that his glasses were resting on the top of his hat, and they fell into the water, sinking more than fifteen feet into thick sand. Not only was it dark, but none of us could free-dive that deep without flippers, so we spent nearly an hour devising a way to get that $300 worth of merchandise back. One of the boat boys hurried over with a tank, but unfortunately we didn’t have a diving vest handy. Dilemma. In the end, we called it a night, and my dad and I guaranteed we’d give it another go in the morning. All was made well again when we happened upon a Sri Lankan fisherman the next day who, within 60 seconds, jumped into the water, clothes on and everything, vanished into the depths of the marina, and popped back up shortly after with the glasses in his hand. He made our day, and we made his by rewarding him with a hefty tip.
The combination of many of my favorite things – beaches, boats, sun, food, family and friends – made for a great ending to my Spring break in the Middle East. As for now, I’m mourning the loss of long, paid-for vacations; with graduation just around the corner, I have come to the realization that months of annual holidaying will be replaced with a pitiful few weeks, and “free” airfares (“free” because they’re paid for by my generous father) are history.
The last picnic in Oman also marked my last vacation as a student. And both, my friends, are sweet and sour.