I. the glories of everyday pleasures / things taken for granted by americans (cantabrigians) that i reveled in upon arriving:
- ham and pork products
- good red wine
- amazing (but very self-consciously so) cocktails (cynar? fernet? mezcal! etc.)
- well-maintained sidewalks
- biking, and bikers
- public trash receptacles. lawns and fields and spaces not covered in trash.
- real (& easy) recycling
- public transportation that runs, is clean-ish, has signs, etc.
- I CAN READ THE SIGNS
- i can eavesdrop on people!
- being able to have a pleasant easy interaction with the person who serves me food or is in a store. i couldn’t really do this in Jordan, not speaking much Arabic. huge difference in daily interactions.
- along the same lines, being in the know– announcements made in English; newspaper headlines i can read
- I AM NOT A STRANGER. people do not look at me as if i am alien. my dress is normal dress; my haircut not strange (instead, i often get compliments). i can be ignored as just another person. no staring!
- returning to friends; people who’ve known me for years, and being invited to stay in their houses- wonderful. hard to express the gratitude.
part ii: what i’ll miss about Jordan and living in the middle east.
i will miss wadi rum (you knew that was coming). i’ll miss the incredibly vast, spectacular landscapes, sculpted rock in shades of red and orange and brown, windswept craggy outcrops, oceans of sand, steadfast pale green desert plants, and amazing skies. i’ll miss easy access to ancient ruins that make you question your understanding of history. i’ll miss the endless layers of stories of the land and its peoples – names from the Bible, the Koran, the Torah being casually mentioned in geographical context. i’ll miss the sense of awe that so many of our society’s oldest stories come from that region of the world. i’ll miss the daily interactions with strangers- everything is fascinating! – curiosity about clothing, hairstyle, makeup, body language, relationships, meaning of facial expressions. activities, beliefs. the constant wonder. i’ll miss being asked to question my most basic beliefs- about education, about history, about religion, about science, about faith. i’ll miss trying to explain American actions, policies, realities, beliefs, and my own, and better understanding them in the process.
part iii: where is home?
friends and colleagues have said, “Welcome home!” only to hesitate and curiously ask, “Is this home for you now, or not?” Of course it is- here is where my friends are, and where I feel comfortable walking down the street. I know the unwritten rules of society; I navigate easily, even unconsciously; I connect easily to fellow Americans. but i’m also willing to have home be a context-dependent concept for me. when i was in Jordan, i called it ‘home’, but leaving to come to the US for Christmas, i called it ‘home’, too. i was leaving home to go home. even though it’s logically frustrating, i think i’ll continue this practice. it doesn’t make sense for me to believe i’m spending 9 months of the year NOT in my ‘home’. i will make wherever i live be that. and here will always be home too.
part iv: where next?
Argentina! why? because the adventure is not over. i’ve now taught at one international school for two years, but was often unhappy with the lifestyle it entailed. now i will be teaching at another international school for (at least) two years, in a spectacular South American city, where my lifestyle needs will easily be met and probably overwhelmingly so. there will be live music, copious new tastes, public art, even dancing in the streets. street culture, historic buildings, subway and train and bus. gorgeous new landscapes, complex history, a language so much easier to learn. progressive ideas and traditionalism in conflict (just like Jordan!). literary and artistic vibrance. a new school to learn from, learn with and leave an impact in. friends to make.
the learning continues.