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At the house where I’m staying in Oman, we’re folding cranes. Well, technically speaking, my friends and their kids are folding paper cranes; my own brain is not wired for arts and crafts and technical origami directions. If I try to fold a crane, it will turn into a paper airplane, so I admire their work from afar and play with the dogs instead. I'm as sure about my inability to fold cranes as I am about my inability to interpret charts and graphs, and to always do the right thing. I'll never be a Somali pirate, but I’ll never teach kindergarten either, and I don't recommend standing next to me if you're about to have a medical emergency.
These cranes that I’m not making will join many more from the local American International School where my friends teach: the students will make a thousand cranes as a gift for the Japanese because in that culture, a thousand cranes can make a wish come true. I heard at the school assembly this week that the Japanese people need as much moral support as we can give them, and I have no doubt that this school and other area schools will have enough cranes folded in just a few days so that the Japanese can dream again soon. I regret that my hands are not nimble enough anymore to easily turn a piece of paper into a crane even if I could follow the directions. I wish that the Japanese needed paper snowflakes. I can make a million of those.
So, serious international matters are being addressed here in Muscat, Oman—but there are no widespread government protests or violent political demands as you might think from watching Western news. Oman is not Libya, just like Arizona is not Mexico and the Republican party is not just Rush Limbaugh (thank the good Lord). If you happen to be at the mall here shopping at Hallmark or relaxing at an outdoor sushi restaurant, you might hear the Muslim call to prayer sound out through the city—and you might see people respond to that call, or not, just like some Lutherans go to church on Sunday, and others stay home to eat lutefisk.
Everyday life rolls on here at my friends’ house: paper cranes on the kitchen table, chicken on the grill, Alf reruns on the TV. Names will be withheld to protect the innocent, but somebody under the age of twelve in this house got his first retainer yesterday, and somebody else made a very creative pan of brownie-muffin-cake-surprise that promptly disappeared. Two of the girls here got henna tattoos at school yesterday, so we are both fresh gypsies, and since Thursday is the weekend in Oman, it’s time for a break from homework and grading and fast dinners that move quickly into reading and bedtime. If there was ever a family who worked in the thick of education all week, every week, it’s this one. Look for them taking a Jeep ride to the beach with a picnic lunch tomorrow, with a henna-covered, crane-challenged American fan along for the ride.