2003 started when we had just returned from a tour through Jebel Akhdar, the Wahiba Sands and back to Muscat along the coast from Sur (see Tour Oman). Fitting perhaps we will end it with another tour, but this time to Salalah, in the south of Oman, by car (some 2500 km in total). Again this will be with Jan’s elder brother, Christ and his wife Ria, bit now also with our nephew from De Rijp: Bart. Travelling and exploring Oman remains clearly our top priority and the ‘cold’ season from October to March has seen many excursions and trips, despite troubles in Iraq. The most important of those you can read-up on our website, hidden under ‘Oman travel stories’. Since October we have two 4WD’s to go ‘off the road’, when we fulfilled Jan’s boy’s dream and bought a new Landrover Defender. Even for the dealer here in Oman a bit of preparation as they had not imported such a car for a number of years. It appears that more luxurious off-road cars such as the Discoveries are more popular, which is clearly a sign of times in an Oman that has developed very fast from only a few kilometres of tarmac in the last 20 years. Our Defender is a bit more robust for the bad roads, with nothing that can get loose, and with quite a bit more space (9 seater). The first test on the steep roads across the Eastern Hajars was quite easy, and the only problems were with driver Jan who stopped at places to make photographs where you really should not stop….. A tour of Masirah Island in November was another highlight. For once we were not the only Defender on the road as Masirah turned-out to be the El Dorado for vintage Landrover enthusiasts. With a British RAF base on the island since the 1930’s there must have been a steady inflow of these cars that made their way to the local fisherman and most are still driving.
Jenny was lucky in January when she was front row at the Ronan Keating Concert and could even get behind the stage. Jenny and Mark have continued their guitar lessons and are now a duo that plays well together. Mark became a co-founder of the MRM band and performs regularly at school events. The highlight here was the UNICEF charity evening the children of his class organised completely on their own, raising some 2400 Euro. The MRM band of course featured strongly. Mark got his little dream in August when he bought an electrical guitar from his savings (with a little bit of sponsoring from our side). Jenny is spending most of her spare time with her friends, sometimes to desperation of her parents with so many things clogging-up the weekends at the last moment. Hanging-out in Oman is not different from Europe.... No fixed relation yet, but she has plenty of interest from the boys…. She is doing well at school, finishing her IB (International Bacheloriat) at the ABA. Quite a bit of time also going into the IA-programme, where she gathers ‘community points’ by supporting all kinds of activities and planning for the final big ‘gold’ award test. Jan is at the British school, doing OK, but up to now more or less freewheeling, not interested in ladies yet (like his father) and trying to cope with a dark voice and a rather long body. Mark is completing his last primary year and will probably join Jan at the British School next year because of the Dutch Curriculum. He has been working very hard as has learnt how to plan things. Lilian has been very busy at school, continuing as remedial teacher, but now also as relief teacher and therefore regretting her Kindergarten activities. She is most days at school, and was one of the main drivers of the big Sinterklaas activities of the Dutch Society. It takes a bit more family planning to keepev erything ticking. Work at PDO has seen a bit of change for Jan when he moved from Geological Services to exploration new opportunities, a bit closer to the ‘coal front’ and quite a bit more geology and less paperwork. Slowly he is hacking away on his other quest: to get the geology of Oman on paper and as an active member of the Geological Society.
As in all other years we have spent the summer in Herkenbosch, this year a very warm one (for Dutch standards certainly), travelling also to the WWII beaches at Arromanches in France. The bullet key-hanger that Jan jr bought got Jan-Sr a couple of months later in trouble at the airport as it turned out that jr had put the broken key-hanger in sr’s wallet. With all security checks you can imagine the explanations sr had to do to explain this bullet. Herkenbosch is quality time with the family, also buying lots of stuff and enjoying each evening a stroll through the green forests that we miss in desert Oman.
We have now closed-off most balconies of our house in Oman, creating a bit more space. Not that the house is small, but our family continuously seems to need more space and when we have visitors things were getting tight. The garden is greener than ever and with the moderate temperatures that we currently enjoy it is lovely sitting there. Karel, an almost white wild tommy-cat, has slowly ventured closer to the family and when he is tired returning after spells of wild nights he enjoys lying at your feet or on the cars, waiting until one of us gets into the garden.
Of course we all had our spells of flues and other nasties flown in from abroad. Things got a bit tighter during the Iraq war, but we were probably safer here compared to some European towns. Most Omani’s did not support Saddam, but did not like the American approach either and appeared to have strong torn feelings about what was going on, much like what we saw in the UN. We were advised to stay at home and we had one bomb alert at the ABA. Everything resulted in tighter security measures at the schools, but now by the end of the year we see a lot of that relaxed. Let’s hope we won’t see more of this on the world scene in 2004 and let’s hope that the differences this has created between Western and Islamic worlds will gradually disappear. Living more or less between these worlds we know how similar our bottom-line values really are and that this world can happily home all if a few extremes at both sides would be less violent in their opinions. This seems the right way to end this letter, adding of course our fondest season’s greetings and wishing you all well for 2004.
The Schreurs family,
Lilian, Jan, Jenny, Jan jr and Mark