The world is full of luminous beings.
The plane touches down in Oman while my daydreams about the day ahead remain in the clouds. My thoughts are suddenly grounded in the reality of the 15 hours ahead of me: I’m alone in the Middle East for the first time and have no idea what to do or how to do it.
In typical post-redeye fashion, I’m bumbling around the Muscat Airport like a lost little zombie baby, when an employee stops and asks me where I’m trying to go. I inquire about the Omani public transportation system and he looks at me like the crazy person I am. As we’re laughing at my naiveté, he flags down a buddy of his and briefly speaks to him in Arabic. A minute later he introduces us while telling me “he’ll take you in to town.”
His friend is an airport manager who’s shift is ending in an hour. The perfect amount of time for me to find a coffee shop, loop my backpack straps around my legs in a makeshift lock, and faceplant on the table. When he wakes me up an hour later he sits down, hands me a coffee and we start chatting. He shows me a picture of his 3-year-old niece. “Her name is Nada,” he says. “It doesn’t translate to English well.. but in Arabic,” he gestures with his hands like he’s skimming the dew off the top of grass, “it means the beginning of rain.”
He heaves my backpack in to the trunk of his car as I plop in the passenger seat. When he asks exactly where I want to go I’m forced to confess that I have no idea. “Like downtown?” I attempt. No dice.
“Just drop me off anywhere and I can walk around. I’ll figure it out, no big deal. Thank you so, so much, Seriously, its totally fine. Thank you,” I respond in all my American glory. He just laughs at me.
“Do you like hookah?” he asks.
We pull up to an outdoor cafe by the beach where 10 Omani men are smoking from pipes and drinking fresh squeezed juice at individual tables. I sit down and stare at the grass and trees that seem out of place directly beside the sand and sea.
Being out of place can be unexpectedly beautiful.
The bill comes after hours of sitting, smoking, sipping, and smiling our way through conversations. He grabs his wallet as I begin loudly objecting until he tells me so definitively, “It’s the Omani way,” that it leaves no room for further protest.
Then he asks, “Do you like jet skiing?”
He points out the different mosques and embassies scattered amongst his favorite coffee shops as we drive down the coast. Eventually, he pulls over and flags down a woman under a tent on the beach, telling her we want to rent some jet skis for an hour. I genuinely thought “Do you like jet skiing?” was his attempt at making friendly conversation.
The next hour of my life is spent cruising in a salty, surreal state of bliss on the Sea of Oman.
I can’t stop thanking him and demanding he ditch me anytime he likes. But apparently he hears me say ‘Take me out to dinner so I can eat the freshest fish and the most delectable spread of Middle Eastern food imaginable’.
We finish the evening shooting pool and drinking beer until I have to head back to the airport to catch my next flight. Shockingly, he insists on driving me. This kid hasn’t done so much as answer his phone since he’s been with me. When it rings for the millionth time I practically throw it at his ear. “It seems like someone really needs to talk to you.”
“No, no it’s fine,” he tells me as he sets his phone back down. “It’s just my family calling to wish me a happy birthday.”
I had the most spectacular day in this most foreign place thanks to the beauty of human beings and the perfectness of the world.
It’s moments like these that make us so happily human 🙂
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right!? the world is so beautiful