Another look at Muscat when I have nothing to do.
MUSCAT, Oman- I’m now back in Muscat. I got what I was after out in Duqm and now I can put together a nice little story about the place.
I’m now just sitting at a beach cafe — a pavilion, really, which is the perfect kind of beach cafe — just drining a mango juice, watching the waves come in, and taking notes about everything that happened over the past week in Duqm.
When out collecting content, every day is a full on torrent of informational in-take. You’re meeting people, asking questions, making friends, evaluating risk vs. reward — reward always wins — and doing whatever you can to obtain a rough picture of what is going on in a certain place in the world at a certain time. In this setting it is sometimes difficult to break character and cross over into the content processing phase — where you synthesize said newly acquired experience and knowledge into deliverable packages: articles, blog posts, documentary shorts, etc.
I took massive amounts of notes, pictures, and videos when out in Duqm, and I have a weeks worth of work to do processing, editing, transcribing it all — creating a foundation from which I can extract the essential elements and assemble my final products.
But now I’m just sitting back in my chair on the beach in Muscat, daydreaming and outlining what I’m actually going to do with this project.
I imaging I will pump out at least two articles, a doc short, a vlog, an array of blog posts, and maybe even a mini book about the visit.
I’ve decided to forego long narrative, highly researched blog posts because they take too long to process and ultimately screw up the linear nature of the project — blogs need to go in order, and in-depth posts clog up the works. There are also some things that I can’t openly publish online. But producing a detailed, day-to-day narrative of what I observe, learn, and experience is both important for me personally as well as for anyone who may be interested in the topics that I cover.
You see, when doing a big book project — such as the one that I’m struggling to complete on the New Silk Road — massive amounts of otherwise interesting or important details don’t make it into the final product. The thing would be too long and gangly otherwise. Intermittently, I have been publishing these types of stories on this blog in pretty raw formats, and, rather peculiarly, they are often the stories that generate the most attention from people who are researching the topics that I cover. There is a reason for this:
Personal narratives about global movements or “news” are simply not published very often. Journalists and videographers go all over the world documenting some of the biggest upheavals going on but we rarely hear the whole story. What we get instead is very finely edited, overtly vanilla, dummied down, heavily augmented, “lowest common denominator” versions of the story.
While I don’t claim to offer the “whole story” — I don’t have time for that — I do provide a stream of information that is at least a little different. As my friend Moni pointed out:
“Everybody is drawing from the same information. We all read the same reports and the same websites. You, on the other hand, bring something new to the discussion because you actually go to all these places.”
The idea is that I can do these high-res narratives and let other researchers who sit back in office headquarters piece it together and fuse it with their own work in their own way.
But I’m becoming aware that I need another outlet for the high-res narratives. Perhaps short books of around fifty or sixty pages each? They would read like blog narratives but include the formal interviews that I do along with outside data and supplementary research.
I’m writing this on the beach in Muscat. This is a city that crawls down a coastline and then turns inland and shoots down through a valley. I don’t believe this place is more than a few blocks wide at any point. It’s a long, skinny, serpentine city — Muscat doesn’t sprawl, it slithers.
Muscat is a relaxing place. The traffic density is low, the streets are wide, the tarmac is as smooth as a race track. The city’s sheer length and lack of an adequate public transportation system keeps it segmented in neighborhood sized parcels, which gives it a pleasing sense of diversity. You can go from one part of Muscat to another and it feels like you’re in a different place. The downside is that you’re going to drop ten to thirty bucks on the taxi to get there…
I decided to stop typing and just look out at the sea.
I want a drink.
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