Every morning at 5:45 I awake to get ready for my school bus. By the time I am up, the construction workers nearby have already hoisted themselves to the top of the neighboring mosque to begin another full day of construction. Hanging in the sky as faint outlines like marionettes, I can hear their more verbose power drill match the morning lull with full ferocity.
Around 6:30 without fail arrives the most ungodly sound of the old Nissan sports van idling outside my front door. Yes my fiends this could not be anything other than my Omani school bus. In fact, do not let its meager diminutive size fool you, as I have learned the hard way this is one of the most sturdy and tenacious vehicles I have had the pleasure to ride and one of the most aggressive engines for that matter as well.
Sometimes if I wake up early enough, I might have the time for some khubz (bread) with shay and beithe (tea and milk). But on most days, if I hit the snooze button too many times or sleep through my alarm, my primary concern is just beating it for the bus.
I enter the vehicle; there is a cover of silence that envelops the entire bus. A bunch of six year olds have begun their daily grind, in quiet discourse in the back, debating the most interesting classroom blunders of the previous day, entirely in Arabic. The tired stenchy unkempt American makes her way inside. The morning beast has awoken. She trips on the second step only to fall in to a nice window seat right across from the door. Her mouth drops open and head falls back onto the edge of the seat till the eyes fall into a gentle squint. Is she fully conscious? Probably not think the small Omani school children, though they wonder. Perhaps she should get more sleep.
With that, the dishdasha clad bus driver slams the pedal and begins the route to school, a more daring adventure for sure than any school bus I have been on. We travel across some unpaved roads. If we are lucky, we might even see a donkey or two meandering amongst the town houses and villas. In some ways it seems like the usual bus trip. Modern spacious windows tinted with the newest shade of green to purple line the houses we pass; yet as the bus suddenly starts its off-road ascent over a nearby gravel pit which we traverse up and down like a roller coaster, I am reminded I am not in the US.
Yes, this off-roading for busses is a completely normal phenomenon. It certainly adds a bit of suspense to the daily school ride. Back up the hill the bus wobbles a little bit to the left just finding its balance as it reaches the top. We arrive at the next student’s home. Of course who needs to follow the actual driveway when you can just drive in through the back yard. Finally after the bus is fully loaded and we have been driving for more than an hour, we arrive at school.
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