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An Unambivalent Leave-taking

August 6, 2012

In front of the Dome of the Rock, in Jerusalem.

This is least ambivalent I have ever been to leave a foreign country I lived in.  I am ready to leave Jordan tout suite, yalla bye. My customary lack of ambivalence is sad, in a way. After a few months of living in a place, I usually can see myself staying there longer, living, loving, working, being.  Cape Town and London both impressed me as cities in which I could be happy, not for my entire life, but for a couple of years, sure.  I don’t feel the same way about Jordan.  I wanted to.  I loved this country through my research with its academic uniqueness as the confluence point of Western and Arab forces, and I think I would have gladly married King Hussein for his charisma, despite the 70 year age difference.  I wanted to love Jordan in its actuality: I expected to, really.  But I didn’t.

Maybe it is the gender issue.  Maybe, if I were a man, living here would be the right balance between thrillingly different and safe, but as a woman, it’s been hard.  Women aren’t just allowed to live in peace here, do their own thing.

This mosaic is of Putin and Medvedev, commissioned by the Russian Embassy in Amman. Stranger than a velvet Elvis, saah?

Maybe it is the language barrier.  In Cape Town and London, English is predominantly spoken.  Here, the educated folks know English, but choose, understandably, to communicate still in Arabic, with English words thrown in when appropriate; words like “public relations” and “email.”  I have spent many nights with my roommates in the back courtyard, sitting in a circle with their friends, trying to pick out individual words here and there.  I would see the others suddenly guffaw in amusement, and I would smile thinly, always left out of the joke.

Maybe it’s the whole Jewish thing.  Knowing that if I was truly honest about who I am and one of my secret selves, that I’d be running a real risk.  How can you trust someone fully when you are afraid they might turn on you?  And without trusting others, what’s the point of friendship?  Connection is superficial at best.

So, that’s what it comes down to then, ultimately.  A lack of trust.  The reason that I am glad to leave Amman stems from the fact that it is hard for me to trust people here, whether it be men on street, people speaking a language I do not know around me, or their ability to handle my religious background.  I cannot fully assimilate here, just live, if I cannot have a baseline level of trust of those in the society around me.

This shirt amuses me.

I am glad I came to Jordan, don’t get me wrong.  I have learned a lot, both subtle lessons and overt, about Arab and Muslim cultures, touristic visits to natural wonders and more cosmopolitan journeys to local shisha cafes.  I have done some good work for a worthy NGO, improving their PR systems, and conducting research on water use in agriculture in Jordan.  I have improved my Arabic from a basic grip of FusHa to something I can use in everyday life, get around with.  I have met some people that I hope will become lifelong friends.  And I have continued to grow into the person I ultimately wish to become, learning, as I always do when plucked out of my little DC bubble, what is truly is me, vs. a byproduct of the environment I am in.  It’s an important distinction to make.

Living in Amman did not defeat me.  I am still going to London in the fall to study International Relations, with a focus on the Middle East. to figure out where the heck I actually stand on a one state or two state solution.  I still intend to come back to this region, and work towards creating an atmosphere conducive to fomenting Arab-Israeli peace, as ridiculously difficult as that path may be.  I still want to work towards becoming fluent in Arabic, so I can be an American Jewish woman, who is pro-Palestinian and speaks Arabic, which I believe is a strong combination from which to begin this sort of bi-partisan work.   Living here has shown me, however, that I don’t yet have all the tools I need to thrive.  At 23 years of age, I am still on the wrong side of 25 for engaging in the Middle East with competence and class.  But as forward as it may sound, I have complete confidence that I will get there.

See you Stateside,

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Laura permalink
    July 16, 2014 6:38 PM

    Hello, I’m really glad I found your blog. Such insightful and well-thought posts. I’m a young Finnish woman thinking about moving to Amman for work so that’s how I found you when I was doing research on how Westerners – specially women- find living in Amman and Jordan in general. Best of luck in all your endeavors !

  2. March 15, 2017 11:30 AM

    Hi Luca,
    I’m a recent Umich grad (I saw you have lived in Ann Arbor) waiting to hear back about a Fulbright for Jordan, so I found your blog very helpful. My Fulbright research proposal is focused on water policy and I plan to work with an Amman-based NGO that you may have encountered during your time there. I realize these posts are from a few years ago, but I was wondering if you’d be willing to speak with me a little more about your experience?

    • March 19, 2017 1:11 PM

      Of course! I’d be happy to chat. How would this work best for you? Skype or email?

      • April 27, 2017 9:20 AM

        Hi Luca,
        Sorry for the delay in getting back to you — I wasn’t notified of your message and have been irregularly checking my wordpress. Anyways, my Fulbright didn’t end up working out, but thank you anyways for your willingness to chat 🙂
        All the best,

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