Happy New Year; May it be a good one!

By Ray Petersen — There is lots to reflect on from 2016, and even more to look forward to in 2017. First, it’s a tradition for me to have a festive ‘pop’ at my good friend and doctor, Vishal Srivastava. He is a very good person, with a heart of gold, and is very good at his job too. He’s the guy who bought himself a Porsche, and his beloved, a Yaris, LOL. I was always thinking that Vishal was too good of a person to be alone, and too the great pleasure of Lena and myself, he met and married Yesha during the year. Now Yesha is expecting their first child, and I can’t wait to see him, just a little bit shackled.
You see, Vishal is the guy who determines, often, what I am allowed to eat and drink, whether I must exercise morning and night, and so on.
Even when my cholesterol and uric acid readings are below the benchmarks, he still exhorts me to eat and drink responsibly. “Vishal, I don’t want to. I want to eat lots of poached eggs for breakfast, big fat cheesy pizzas, tomato sandwiches, and drink lots of soda water and Pepsi. I actually like it when the bubbles go up my nose!”
He’s a proper old contradiction too, as, maybe I’ll eat vegetarian when we dine at his place, and I do like Indian food and paratha in particular, but he chomps down everything, and doesn’t get any bigger. Grrrrrrrrrrrr! Me, I only have to look at the ‘good stuff’ and I put on the pounds! Anyway, it will be karma of some sort when the new baby arrives, and I’m sure to put my, enhanced, weight behind any suggestion that sees Vishal do night duty, while Mrs Vishal gets some much needed kip. Heh, heh, heh!
Oman, in general, has had a tough old year in a number of respects, though after a long absence from public life, it’s been great to see His Majesty Sultan Qaboos on the front pages, more often, recently.
He’s not just the leader of the country, but its heart, and even for us expats, it’s wonderful to see him out and about.
There does appear to be, too, a genuine realisation that making the Omanisation concept inflexible, and offering too easy a path to the various management levels, has come home to roost, and employers will be permitted to place increased emphasis on skills, knowledge and ability, rather than having to choose the best of an ordinary lot for a vacant position.
Speaking of money, I’ve been closely associated with an organisation suffering financially, due to the current financial situation. The greatest issue has not been the lack of salaries, although that is uncomfortable and concerning, but the absence of communication and consultation and inclusion.
Wherever there are financial challenges anywhere, there is no resolution in prevarication, no support in exclusion, but in honesty, there is ‘honey!’ I have said it before, any employees will stand by their employers in times of difficulty, as long as they are included in the process.
I have seen some wonderful expat influences surface during the year, and I was immensely privileged to meet and interview Dr Francois Lacor-Gayet, a paediatric heart surgeon currently working in Muscat at the Royal Hospital.
HE Roland Dubertrand was an impressive interview subject, and another was the principal of the Arabesque International Group, Ahmed Abou-Zahra, who only wants to bring culture to the region. His wife, Nora, and two daughters, Amira and Miriam, make up a ridiculously talented family. I can’t even play the spoons!
The Dutch Men’s and women’s Road Cycling teams made a huge impression on me with their pragmatism, Lisa Morgan with her passion for her art, singing, and Rawiya Al Musallami for her French language scholarship, impressed.
A number of falaj related items took Lena and I on some amazing trips, while closer to home Professor Ratib al Saud, from Jordan, made a huge impression on me.
Franz and Andrea are our Sifah based support crew, and thoroughly likeable, like Geoff and Nicola, Dave and Rana in Muscat they have assisted us in so many ways in 2016. Willem has proven to be a good family friend, Djamila has been an effective link with the Muscat community, and in Dakhilyah, Vishal and Yesha are great, while Sczepan and Gosia are a wonderful couple, and now have Hana, Eva’s little sister.
The Observer editorial team of Abdullah Al Shueili, Rajesh, Joseph, Yeru, Anuroop and their teams may not always see eye-to-eye with me, but have faithfully presented my column, articles, and Lena’s photographs in a very good light. Too many people have been good to us, again in 2016, so thanks, so much.
The last word goes to two of my 2016 students, Raya Saif al Busaidi, and Fatma Ali al Abdali, who sent me a message, making me feel that, no matter how challenging some days may be, I am in the right job, in the right country. Shukran Jazeelan:
“Your thinking has really opened up our minds, with wisdom, style and grace.
You made us see that what we’d chosen to seek, we would surely find.
You shook us out of our complacency, and we thank you now for everything you’ve done.
We’ll remember you our whole lives through, wishing all our teachers, were just like you.”

— petersen_ray@hotmail.com