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I teach in Oman

  I remember hearing a lot of stories about Arabs when I was a child. In my imagination, all Arabs are descendants of nomads, bearded, riding tall Arabian horses, fierce and belligerent. However, it wasn’t until I came to Oman’s national university, Sultan Qaboos University, as a professor, that I began to gain a little real understanding of Arabs and their culture. It turns out that he is really ignorant of Arab countries and Muslim culture. The openness of Oman, the stability of the society and the friendliness of the Omanis all left an unforgettable impression on me. Of course, there are a lot of things that I still don’t understand.
  A week before leaving for Oman, I’ve been trying to find some information on university education in Oman. However, no matter what approach I take, the result is the same, and I get very little. The only thing I know is that this is a Muslim country. In my imagination, a Muslim country like Oman may not even have a decent high-end hotel. Isn’t that saying that Muslims don’t drink and have no entertainment? To work in a country like this, God knows what life will be like, and as a professor, to face a group of students and colleagues that I have never met.
  I took off from Guangzhou Baiyun Airport by plane, passed through Hong Kong and Bangkok, and arrived at Shipu International Airport in Mascot, the capital of Oman, about seven and a half hours later, at about 23:00 local time. When I arrived in Oman, it was winter here, and the weather was pleasant, with the outside temperature between 25-28 degrees Celsius. After leaving the airport, Mr. Rabbi, the representative of the university’s public relations department, was already waiting for me outside the door. He took me into a four-wheel-drive jeep parked aside, didn’t say anything to me, and we were on the highway in no time. About half an hour later the car stopped in front of a building. This is the dormitory rented by the university for teachers to live in the center of the city. Mr. Rabbi handed me the keys to the room, said “I’ll pick you up from school tomorrow morning at eight o’clock,” and drove home.
  Before I came, the school had prepared my house. The house provided to me by the university for free is located on the fourth floor, with an area of ​​about 120 square meters, including two bedrooms, two toilets, a kitchen and a living room. All rooms are very large, with carpets, sofas, refrigerators, air conditioners, gas, and water heaters. This is my home in Oman. I want to work and live here, to experience the people and things here.
  
  Mr. Nasha from the University’s Public Relations Department
  
  Mr. Rabbi came to pick me up on time at eight o’clock in the morning the next day. On the way he told me that the school was 40 kilometers away from where I lived. Because the dormitory in the school is too tight, I can only be arranged to live in the city. He can arrange a car to pick me up to and from get off work, but after a week, I’ll have to figure out the transportation myself. How to solve it, he did not say. The car was running at 120 kilometers per hour on the highway, and about 20 minutes later we arrived at the university’s public relations department. It turns out that the rules here are different from those in Chinese universities. New teachers report to the public relations department first, and then go to the personnel office and security office.
  As soon as I arrived at the public relations department, an enthusiastic Omani came over, shook hands with me, and said in Chinese, “Hello.” Before I could ask him anything, he said to me in not very good English, “I just came back from China. Great, China is great.” In fact, those great things he said were only trivial in my opinion. For example, when he was in Beijing, the hotel waiter didn’t want his tip and so on. But his enthusiasm did make me feel that China and the Chinese left a great and deep impression on him. It turned out that he led the Oman football team to the Universiade held in China two weeks ago.
  Although I wanted to finish the check-in procedure immediately, then go home and pack up and get ready for class. But he didn’t even give me a chance to speak. I was moved by him. While listening to him tell his story about China, I thought to myself, are all Omanis like him? In the end he told me, “If you need my help with anything, please call me, even if it’s midnight. It doesn’t matter. Next time you go back to Beijing, let me know and I’ll go with you.” , he left me his home phone number and cell phone number. I said, “Okay. I’ll invite you to eat Peking duck.” He said, “I’m at work right now. If you keep saying this, I want to go with you this afternoon.” But how does he know that I’m not at all? Pekingese. The last time I went to Beijing was ten years ago. After talking to him, it only took me a few minutes to complete the relevant formalities. During the procedure, Mr. Nassar’s colleagues took turns holding my passport to look left and right. It turned out that I was the only Chinese professor in this university. They have not seen the passport of the People’s Republic of China since the university was founded.
  
  Teachers from all over the world
  
  Oman is a relatively small country in the Gulf region, with a population of just over 2.3 million, but there are more than 500,000 foreigners working in Oman. Sultan Qaboos University is the only national university in Oman, but this university has science, engineering, agriculture, medicine, and liberal arts. Because Oman has not been established for a long time, it cannot provide enough qualified university teachers. Therefore, except for the administrative staff, nearly 80% of the teachers are all foreigners. Teachers come from the US, UK, India, Pakistan, Egypt, Bangladesh, Hungary, the former Soviet Union, China, and more. There are two types of teachers here. The first category is for teachers with a Ph.D., and the second category is for teachers without a Ph.D. Teachers with doctorate degrees basically teach degree courses in various departments, while teachers without doctorate degrees can only teach English in language centers or teach non-degree courses. Teachers from all over the world who come to work in Oman have their own proud stories. Most of them have experience working in multiple countries.
  The housing conditions provided by the school to teachers are very good. Teachers usually have three choices: one is to live in the free teacher’s dormitory in the school, the other is to find a house outside, and the school will subsidize it, and the third is to live in the school’s dormitory in the city. According to the different titles, teachers’ housing ranges from four bedrooms and one living room to two bedrooms and one living room. Areas vary from 120 square meters to 150 square meters. The rooms are all equipped with sofas, carpets, water heaters, refrigerators, etc. If you are willing to find housing off-campus yourself, you can usually live in a villa in the suburbs. The indoor area of ​​villas here is generally more than 200 square meters, and there are front and rear gardens. For teachers with assistant professor qualifications or above, if they have children and their spouses accompanying them to Oman, the school also provides tuition subsidies for their children to study in Oman. The subsidy is up to $5,000 per year. In addition, teachers can enjoy 60 days of paid vacation each year. If teachers don’t take vacations, they can sell vacations to schools.
  
  University students in
  
  Oman Although Oman is relatively poor among the six Gulf countries (in fact, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait are really rich in the entire Gulf region), university education is free. Sultan Qaboos University currently accepts only national students. For high school students to enter this university, the average score of each subject in the middle school graduation examination must be above 90 points. To get into medical school, the average score must be above 95. There are about 20,000 high school students who take the senior high school graduation examination every year, and only more than 2,000 students are lucky enough to enter this university in the end; that is to say, only 10% of high school graduates can enter this national university. University study.
  After students enroll, there is no need to pay tuition fees, and books are also free. At the beginning of the semester, students receive textbooks for each subject that will be used in the semester from the library. After the semester is over, return the book to the library for the next class of students to use. If there is damage, compensation will be required. Except for the Arabic Department, the textbooks used in all subjects are the latest English textbooks used by British and American universities, and the language of teaching and the language of students’ assignments are also English.
  In addition, the school provides free meals to students. When it’s time to eat, the students just go to the student cafeteria to eat, one does not need to buy a meal ticket, and the other is unlimited. Oman also provides free medical care to citizens across the country. Of course, students do not need to spend money on medical treatment. In addition, the school also provides free dormitory to foreign students. If students come from areas 320 kilometers away, the university will give each student a housing allowance of about $123 per month, and students can rent an apartment off-campus by themselves.
  Since Oman is an oil exporter, gasoline prices here are about the same as mineral water, and cars are also very cheap. A brand-new Regal car is only more than 300,000 yuan in RMB, and the bank also provides car loans. Many of the students have cars. One of the classes I taught had a total of 25 students, and almost everyone had a car, and they were all very good cars. Some classmates drive the latest style of the rich, and some drive the latest style of Mercedes-Benz to school. There are also students from the countryside who do not have cars. These students live in rented houses off-campus, and when they go to school, two or three people take a taxi to the school together. Students usually come to school in white Muslim robes (this is the national costume of Oman), but when they drive their cars on the highway, they listen to the most popular rock music in Europe and America.
  The students usually wear uniform white robes in class. At first, I couldn’t tell who was who, and everyone’s names were similar. Many students are named either Mohammed or Abdullah. Once, the student union organized a weekend outing and invited me to participate. When I got to the meeting point, I was amazed that the students, both male and female, had changed. The girls changed into all kinds of fashions, and the boys had everything. Most of the fashions worn by the students are Chinese products. A male student was running around wearing a black hollow crocheted short vest, but how did he know that in China it was the dress worn by the ladies of the nightclub. There is also a male student who is the most memorable to me. This guy dressed himself up as a cowboy from an American Western movie, wearing a cowhide jacket like the hero of the movie “Texas Rangers”. This group of young people, sitting in the rented bus, sang and danced, it was very lively. However, male students and female students have to take different buses, which is the rule of the game in Muslim culture. We spent a day at the beach, singing, dancing, swimming, and having a picnic. On this day, I completely forgot that I was with a group of Muslim students.
  In the school, the boundaries between male and female classmates are very clearly separated. For example, during class, male and female students have to enter the classroom through different doors, and then boys sit on one side and girls sit on the other side. Usually male and female classmates rarely speak. This is very similar to the boundaries between boys and girls when we were in elementary school many years ago. In Oman, though, that’s only superficial. Through my observation and my classmates who are close to me, I have been told that most of the students have boyfriends or girlfriends, but everyone is tacit in public.
  College students in Oman do not study as hard as Chinese students. It is said that the main reason is that there is no tuition fee for going to university, and it is not difficult for Omanis to find a job. It is very common for students to be late for class. As a professor, there is nothing I can do. At first, I asked the students to sign by themselves, but their Arabic names were written in English, which I had difficulty reading, let alone remembering. And they all seem to look the same, I can’t figure out who came and who didn’t. Asking them to sign is just to scare them. Later, the students discovered my weakness, and the students who didn’t come, invited the students who came to sign. I was so excited, I found a good student, and I asked him what the Koran said about lying. He told me that those who panic are going to hell. Next time, in class, I say to the students, “I know, someone signed on behalf of a classmate who was absent. These people have two choices: go to hell or fail.” Signature again. Although students do not study hard, they care too much about their grades. Students often come to me and say, “Professor, why did you give me 92 instead of 95.” It’s like talking to you about business. Of course, I would indulge them in this way.
  There are also a small number of students who work very hard. Some of these students have studied in local American schools since childhood, are open-minded and speak authentic American English. They are not satisfied with just finding an ordinary job after graduating from college. Many of them hope to go to the United States or Europe to continue their studies after graduation. There are also students from poor families who know that only by reading good books can they get ahead. Although I am not satisfied with their learning attitude, I still appreciate their friendly attitude towards people.
  
  Friendly Omanis and a stable society
  
  Omanis are very friendly. They are gentle and polite. Many of them can speak very fluent English, and there is basically no discrimination against foreigners. Oman is a very quiet and safe country in the Gulf region. After the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in the United States, many Arabs living in the United States were discriminated against, but in Oman, and even the entire Gulf region, foreigners, especially Americans, were not threatened. Violent criminal cases such as squatting or killing people are rare in Oman. Home burglaries do happen, but they are far less frequent than in China and other Asian countries.
  Omanis have very limited understanding of China. First of all, there are not many Chinese here. Officials from the Chinese embassy told me that there are only about 100 Chinese permanent residents in Oman. Second, Oman does not have much direct trade with China. Although cheap daily necessities from China are everywhere on the market, many of these products are imported from the neighboring United Arab Emirates rather than directly from China.
  The last thing I want to tell the reader is that although the outdoor temperature in Oman can reach up to 50 degrees Celsius in summer, the indoor and outdoor temperature here in winter is only 24 to 29 degrees, and Masquerade is a very clean and air pollution-free city. It is said to be second only to Singapore in terms of cleanliness. Please remember that if you want to travel here, October to March is the best season. Now, the Masquette International Airport offers the convenience of short-term tourist visas on arrival to the Chinese. You are welcome to visit Sultan Qaboos University.

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