Not that I wasn’t fond of Oman when my family and I enjoyed the awesome experience of living there for a year, but now, looking back through photos, some of the more mundane or even unpleasant aspects seem better. Take our present experience of New Jersey traffic for instance. The rudeness of drivers here almost makes me wish for the super-sonic speeds and random construction zone lane-changing of Oman, always accompanied by smiles and good manners. Or the heat. Miserable to live through an Omani summer, but O, the winter — 80F with balmy sunshine every day!
Even this photo, seeming rather barren, rather boring, inspires a moment of NQR reflection and remembrance. It was at the base of these steps, along a stretch of Muscat beach sometimes left dry by the tide, sometimes washed over knee-deep by blessedly cool water, that my wife and I and a goodly number of our friends and acquaintances — mostly expats, though my buddy Aflah became a regular attendee — tortured ourselves every morning by attending a bootcamp physical training session led by two crazy South African gentlemen.
Ahh, I look at the steps and wish I could return to those mornings: waking up with a light mist of sandstorm or mosquito-fogging (an expelled concoction part deisel, part napalm) floating in the air, temperatures hovering around 90, 95F at 5am, picking our way down these very steps, sometimes awash with kelp and little crablike critters, slipping, tiptoeing to keep our shoes dry, waving the beam of a flashlight in front of us to avoid stepping on anything truly unpleasant. Then gathering in the dark with the other masochistic morning bootcampers, a quick jog down beach, a stretch, and a return to the real heart and misery of the morning. Usually it went something like this: 1 minute of a randomly chosen but inevitably brutal exercise, the easy ones being push-ups, sit-ups, jumping jacks, the tough ones impossible combinations of twisting, pushing, prying, jumping and generally getting wet sand into every crevice of the body; then a quick shuttle-run sprint down to a line drawn in the sand; another minute of a different but equally painful exercise; a second sprint to a farther line in the sand; a third exercise; a third and final sprint to the farthest of the lines. Rest. Repeat. Sweat. Repeat. Charge into the water (maybe bringing gallon jugs to fill and then lift in a final burst of calesthetics or isotonics). Return home dripping, sandy, but well-worn and well-woken for the day’s chores and pleasures.
Thinking back on it now, such mornings seem almost perfect, although a little bird in the back of my head still chirps a reminder about bleary-eyed cursing that occurred during, and especially en route to, such bootcamp fondnesses.