Editors Note: This is part of an occasional series about East Texans who work out of the country. If you know someone from the area that you think should be featured, contact cmurphy@ tylerpaper.com.
After living in Oman for three years, Austin and Elizabeth Wright miss their family in East Texas the most.
Other things they can’t get in the Middle Eastern country include a local church, although there is a Christian church in Oman, it’s not home; their favorite restaurants — Chick-fil-A, El Charro and El Lugar; bass fishing and duck hunting, cool weather and greenery.
But Oman is a beautiful country with both mountain and ocean views, Wright said.
Wright, 29, who grew up in Tyler, and his 28-year-old wife from Alba, moved to Oman so Wright could move up the ranks in an oil and gas company. But he has since started his own company overseas while his wife teaches at an American school there.
“In large multinational companies, a willingness to relocate is often essential for job progression,” Wright said via email. “My wife and I had moved several times in the U.S., and then we were approached about the job in Oman. After working for Halliburton for 18 months, I saw the need for more competition in the market and decided to start a local business.”
In January 2013, he started the business that designs and develops custom downhole tools to drill oil and gas wells. Wright started with three employees, two Americans and one Omani, and now has 12. Johnny Johnson, an Oklahoma native, is his American business partner and other personnel are Omani and Egyptian. He plans to grow his employees to 16 by the end of 2014 and expects to have more than 20 by the end of 2015. He also is focusing on developing operations in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and United Arab Emirates.
After studying at The University of Texas at Tyler, Wright began working for Baker Hughes in Palestine, Texas. He was working for Halliburton for three years as an account manager, business development manager, and most recently as country manager of the Drill Bits and Coring Division in Oman, before starting his own company. He resided in Oklahoma before moving to Oman.
Mrs. Wright, who studied at UT Austin, taught kindergarten through second grade students in the United States and in Oman, teaches 4 and 5 year olds at an American school. She said most of the children’s parents work for oil and gas operators or service companies. The curriculum is the same as it is in the U.S. but there is much more diversity, with students representing more than 30 nationalities, she said.
“Oman is a great place to live and work,” Mrs. Wright said. “The expat community is fantastic, and we’ve made many lifelong friends. Most people you meet are also thousands of miles away from their native country, so your friends abroad become your family.”
SEEING THE UNEXPECTED
Leaving friends and family and missing time with them in their native East Texas is the most difficult part about living abroad, Wright said.
“We are both fortunate to have fantastic families back home, and we miss them every day,” he said. “While we have been able to attend a few major events such as the birth of my brother’s first son and my wife’s sister’s wedding, it’s the small things we miss most — babysitting our niece and nephews, going to the movies with friends, and Sunday lunch with the family.”
The Wrights try to visit here twice a year.
“Luckily, we have been fortunate enough to have some family and friends visit Oman to share our experiences abroad with them.”
For work, Wright spends a lot of time in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Unites Arab Emirates and Bahrain.
“An advantage to Oman is that we are close to Dubai, Abu Dhabi and even a short flight from Europe,” Mrs. Wright said. “Austin and I have been able to travel and visit places we never expected to see.”
Between the two of them, they have traveled to England, Germany, France, Austria, Sweden, Denmark, Greece, Kazakhstan, Thailand, Sri Lanka and Uganda. They also regularly go to Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
The Wrights also have done mission work. After their friends, Michelle and Julia Hoffman, who lived in Oman, were killed two years ago by a drunk driver in Minnesota, an orphanage called “The Hoffman House” was started in Uganda, Africa. The Wrights visited together, and Mrs. Wright plans to spend a lot of her spare time there this year.
LOVE FOR OMAN
Wright said there always is hesitation when moving to another country, but they had close friends who lived in Oman who told them how much they loved it. They also had a chance to visit the country before making their final decision.
“It’s always scary moving to a place with no friends or family, but we quickly made great friends and fell in love with the country and its people. … Omanis are some of the nicest people in the world. They are very welcoming and are proud to have Americans living in their country.”
He said there are very few safety concerns in Oman.
“Crime is almost non-existent. It’s safe to live anywhere, walk anywhere and even go to the mountains and camp anywhere,” he said.
Women are free to wear what they choose, but out of respect for the culture it’s best to wear clothes that cover your knees and shoulders, Mrs. Wright said.
Although they can’t get some of their favorite foods from restaurants in East Texas, Wright said they often dine at a local Mexican food restaurant called Pavo Real’s to get a taste of home. He said they can find just about anything they want, from Arabic and Indian food to some American chains, such as Chili’s and TGI Friday’s.
Wright misses the cooler weather. In Oman, it is 110 degrees to 125 degrees with humidity about seven months out of the year, with sunny temperatures of 75 degrees to 85 degrees the remaining five months.
The Wrights, who recently celebrated their fifth anniversary, said they don’t know how long they will live in Oman but have no reservations about having children there.
“It’s a great place to raise children, and the American school is outstanding,” he said.