So I’m skipping ahead to talk about a show we did yesterday for the local Omanis. We had about a week to prepare and I volunteered to sing and cook. There were some people doing presentation on topics like Islam in America and American Sports, but I had to do a radio broadcast the next day so didn’t feel like doing another presentation in Arabic the day before. The Omanis did a sword dance and brought Omani food and all in all I think there were about 200 of them in attendance.
One of my fellow students was doing graduate work in ethnomusicography and had lived in Jordan with the Peace Corps for three years, so she took charge of the music front and set up choral arrangements of “Fog el-Nakhel” and “Tala Min Beit Abuha.” It worked out well considering several of us had no choral experience and she did a good job of smoothing everything out and explaining where we needed to improve. She also added insight and context to the songs that we might otherwise not have had. I’m pretty sure that without her the music part of the show wouldn’t have happened or would have been completely terrible.
Some students had also decided to do hamburgers as a stereotypically American dish so I decided to work with them on that. Getting the materials together was interesting. The patties were made out of mince, which is close enough to ground beef, garlic, salt, pepper. We decided to do sliders to keep costs down, so we used sliced baguettes as buns. We failed utterly to find American cheese product, so we went with cheddar instead. And lastly we set up a condiment and toppings tray with ketchup, mustard, mayo, lettuce, and tomato.
The burgers turned out alright, but very few Omanis actually tried them. I’ve noticed that sometimes Arabs seem reticent to try other cuisines. I’m not sure if its for cultural reasons or possibly has something to do with Halal, or even if this is true in most areas of the Middle East. But I have noticed that trying to convince Yemeni friends to eat certain kinds of foods can be a trial and Omanis seemed similarly disinterested in burgers. Maybe I’m just misinterpreting the entire situation and our burgers just looked awful, I’m not sure. The people who did try them seemed pretty enthusiastic, so there’s that.
The other part about making the burgers that was a bit disappointing was just trying to get access to a kitchen. We talked to a few different people at the school and they all seemed receptive and said that we could use the kitchens, but apparently none of them let the kitchen staff know that. So we’d talk to the kitchen staff and they’d try to block us at every turn. We had to talk to the administrative staff and the kitchen staff several times and basically only got access to the kitchen at the last minute. After we finished with the kitchen, I went through and broke everything down, cleaned everything and put it up, and sharpened the knives we used, and the kitchen staff seemed less skeptical after that. It was just an all around frustrating experience.
Other than the food and songs, some other students did presentations and recited a poem. There was a calligraphy competition and some crafts booths set up. Everything turned out well, and where it didn’t, it was at least interesting I guess.