Monday, April 26, 2010

Should I Stay or Should I Go Now

As I mentioned in my last post, I am still happy here in Jordan. I have my routine, my friends, my life here. I have my favorite cafes, and we are always discovering new places to go.

That being said, I am getting a little tired of Amman. I'm tired of the shebab (guys) hanging out all over the streets at all hours of the day, making it impossible for me to be completely comfortable walking around even my own neighborhood. I'm tired of them saying "Oh my god" or asking me where I'm from or welcoming me lecherously to Jordan every time I walk by. I'm tired of not being able to go out to a club for a reasonable sum of money, and I'm tired of not having any parks or green grass to sit on.

I am NOT, however, getting tired of Jordan. Every time I leave the city, I see more and more things I haven't seen yet. With my mom, I saw Petra and Wadi Rum, two magnificent places of which I don't think I could ever get tired. We are going to Aqaba this weekend, for two days of sun, snorkeling and refusing to think about work or obligations. We still have so much to see in Jordan alone, including the desert castles, Wadi Mujib, some towns up north, the Ma'an Hot Springs, Faynan and others. No, Jordan. I am definitely not tired of you.

Nor am I tired of the region. There's still so much for me to explore here in the Middle East. I haven't made it to Syria or Lebanon, Israel and Palestine or Oman, all places on my must-go-before-I-leave list. Possibly an end-trip to Greece and Turkey wouldn't go amiss either.

But Amman is losing some of its appeal for me, and I think that loss coincides with the departure of so many of my close friends.

Last fall, I started out with nothing and built up an amazing friend base that made Amman the amazing place that it was. As more and more of them leave to resume their lives in their home countries, they leave spaces in my life that I have not yet begun to replace. And the more end-of-the-year schoolwork overwhelms me, the less energy I have for going out and meeting new people to fill the void. It's a problem.

I also think I'm starting to feel how far away my family is and how much I'm missing by not being able to jet home for the weekend. In the next year, I have one family member and two friends getting married, a family reunion and my brother's graduation from the Air Force Academy, all things I really don't want to miss.

So what to do? Do I go back to the states (well, to be honest I'll most likely follow Jimmy to Canada), lose my routine and healthy life here but gain back the convenience of my family and friends? Or do I stay and spend one more year being annoyed with Amman but still getting to experience the wonder and fascination of the Middle East?

Time to go flip a coin I guess.

Through her Eyes

After living in Jordan for almost nine months, so much of what I found fascinating or different about this country has become everyday, commonplace sights and activities.

But at the beginning of this month, I had the extreme pleasure of hosting my mom here in Jordan. And seeing my new world through her eyes was one of the best things I've done for myself in a while. It gave me a fresh start to being in Jordan and reminded me why I love this place so much. On the flip side, it also made me recognize just how annoying some things here can be...

As I drove to the airport in my barely moving rental car, I examined the scenery surrounding me. My mom was lucky to come to Jordan in the spring; flowers are blooming (unfortunately for my allergies) and even here in the desert we have beautiful greenery and vegetation. I, however, showed up in Jordan in August, a much less scenic and much drier time of year. The dust-colored August sky was not quite as pretty as the baby blue we've got going on now.

My mother hadn't been off the plane for more than three hours before we got stuck in our first sheep crossing. Over the four-lane highway of course. Go, sheep, go.

And of course she got to experience the joy that is driving around in Jordan by shutting her eyes and praying every time I got within ten feet of a Jordanian driver. What she still fails to realize is that if you wait patiently for traffic to ease up or for other drivers to let you in, you don't move. Obviously her Oh-God-I'm-going-to-die reflex has not been as severely numbed as mine has over the last few months. If I'm in a taxi and I think I'm going to die, that guy is SERIOUSLY scary.

But she did brave my driving long enough for us to journey pretty much all over Jordan. We saw Madaba, the Dead Sea, Petra, Wadi Rum and, of course, the fabulous tourist sites in Amman... all two of them.

She was fascinated by the call to prayer and was even woken up by it once or twice, something that hasn't happened to me in about eight months. She thought all of the Jordanian architecture, with all the beige house replicas all over the hills of Amman, was just as interesting as I did when I first got here. She got horribly lost while we were driving around within the city (which I still do, unfortunately) and thought schwarma and falafel were exotic, novelty foods. Haha. How quaint!

And if she thought those were exotic, she was blown away by the rest of the cuisine. We ate. And ate. And then ate some more. Well, she had to try everything, right? So we had the basics, like hummus, baba ghannush, muttabul and labneh. We also had maglubeh and a mansaf night. And then on her last night here we took her to a fancy Arabic dinner, which consists of about a million small appetizers called mezze, grilled meats called mashawi, and fruit for dessert. And just because we weren't stuffed enough, we had cake for our second dessert.

One thing my mother did have trouble with was the engaging-strange-people-in-conversation faux pas we all make our first couple days here. You would have thought she was in Texas the way she smiled at people on the street and wished them good day. Weirded me out to no end. And she said she would never get used to having to bargain for everything you buy because you know they are giving you the "tourist price." Those silly Jordanians. They mistakenly think I have money.

But the best part about having my mom here was that I got to show her all of those little, insignificant things that make up my life here. She got to walk down Rainbow Street with me. She got to worry about running out of water halfway through the week just like I do. She even got to come to school with me, meet my girls and find out how annoying + cute they can really be.

And somehow that made all the little things here that much more meaningful.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

This day in history

Today, April 17, 2010 marks the day when Gretchen, Lena and Heather finally received their residency cards. Yes, that's right. After eight months of working, they are finally legal to work in Jordan, just in time to finish the year. There was much rejoicing in the teacher's room.

Even better, they spelled my name correctly on the card.