I’m sat planning out a training session on situated learning when I come across a piece of work by Damarin (1993;29). It sort of fits into what is going on at the moment:
“A traveller and a tourist can visit the same city, but experience it very differently. A tourist’s goals are typically to see all the sights, learn their names, make and collect stunning pictures, eat the foods, and observe the rituals of the city. A traveller, on the other hand, seeks to understand the city, to know and live briefly among the people, to understand the languages, both verbal and non-verbal, and to participate in the rituals of the city. At the end of equally long visits, the tourist is likely to have seen more monuments, but the traveller is more likely to know how to use the public transportation.”
I’ve been out in Muscat for the last week providing updating training for the Ambulance Service instructors. As always it’s premium work, I’m chauffeured everywhere by a Police Staff Sergeant (Ali) and in the evening I’m taken on tours of the sites, and the good restaurants. I see the world through an Omani’s eyes and the rituals and transactions are explained.
But something is missing. That’s me roaming around and following my nose. The hotel laid on transport last week to the local mall. Well that was truly grim. I can go to Salford Keys or Cheshire Oaks any time, and I walk into the mall here, and oh look! There’s a Marks and Sparks. It was all there; Carrefour, Boots, M&S, Early Learning Centre … It took me ten minutes to get out and then I realised we were three blocks from the airport rather than in downtown Muscat.
Somehow the planned guided tour didn’t happen today and I went and got a taxi off the roadside, and for about £1 UKP I got to the Grand Mosque which is truly awesome, but arrived just in time for closing. Never mind, the view was pretty good and I got loads of photos. I managed to get over the six lane, and then worked my way through the streets heading for the ocean. A boy born by the sea can always find the sea. And after half an hour there I was. The Arabian Sea, next stop Iran. Save me an awful lot of Visas and Carnets if I get the ferry over (3 hours) rather than trying to get the moto through next year.
It was the most deserted sea front I’ve ever seen. There was a fast food shop in which I had dinner and a coffee, and then on the way out I spotted the fish restaurant. That would have been the prize as the beach still had a fishing fleet. Guys were fixing nets, repairing boats. In the middle of the rich and modern was some traditional. Birds were fishing in the water and then I spotted a curlew-like bird running off with something in his (or her) long beak. And that was a very long beak. Not that I’m beakist. One of the beach crabs was about to be food to go. The carapace came off, the innerds were swallowed, and the rest was jetsam. Such is life in the foodchain. The rest of the victim’s friends and family were somewhat disturbed by the murder and were twitchy to say the least. It took a while before they emerged from their burrows long enough for me to get a snap.
Time to go and I worked my way back to the highway, being stopped once by a very kind man who asked if I needed any help. That’s how they are out here. A Sal’aam, a smile, a handshake and a discussion. It’s so much easier than just ignoring someone because they are ‘not from round here’.
We talked about this during the training, and of Muscat as a historical trading port. Formerly Muscat and Zanzibar, the country is historically a multicultural society where different cultures and traditions mingle. One of my students has family from five nationalities and speaks all of the languages. It shows in the tolerance and acceptance of other people and different ways. The balance of things are right; it feels good here.
Damarin, S. K. "School and Situated Knowledge: Travel or Tourism?" EDUCATIONAL TECHNOLOGY 33, no. 3 (March 1993): 27-32. (EJ 461 594)