me in the ME

the semester of fun, sun, and Arabic

HA, plans.

At the end of orientation back in mid-February, the administration had us each write down a goal for our semester. Since we only have a month left in the program, today we got back what we had written. The thinking was that if we hadn’t already achieved our goal, then we could focus the rest of our time on trying to before we left. To be honest, I’m always really bad at thinking of anything to write down, and even worse at remembering what I actually wrote. The second part isn’t so bad though since you’re not supposed to consciously think of what you wrote. But for once, I had something that I did want to say and definitely achieve.

I wrote: اريد ان اتكلم مع اسرتي اكثر وخاصة بالعامية.

Direct translation- I want to talk with my (Jordanian) family more, especially in dialect.

This is more than a little funny for several reasons.

The first is that this was written in such an incredibly fushaa way. It’s the first real, concrete testament I’ve seen of how much my Arabic has changed. Just reading this to myself made me giggle a little. No matter how much I’ve resisted it, aamiya has snuck into my life and I’ve begun to accept some of it.

The second, more serious reason is that I’m no longer with my Jordanian host family. So that will definitely not be something I work on in these last few weeks.

Our discussion did make me think though about the plans I had for the semester. That may have been the only thing I wrote, but I did have expectations. I thought I would learn a lot, become a real part of a Jordanian family, be bathed in sunshine the entire time… But reality has been much different. My original plans and expectations were not met. But something I read today here really struck a chord with me:

As conversation flowed that night, from health care to having children, Rose, the fifty-something Briton became more and more insistent about something. The tiny, former ballerina who has stared down cancer and won and raised three children in two foreign countries, kept thrusting her wine glass in the air and saying, ‘girls! Do not plan. Nothing ever goes to plan.’

If you know me, you know that I LOVE plans. I become especially fanatical about planning trips, researching every tiny detail and freaking out that I may have missed something. I love knowing what I’m going to do, when I’m going to do it, and how things are going to go down. When Nick and I went to Prague this past summer, I was on the computer for hours, hunting down the best deals, the best trips, any and every way that we could maximize our time there. I do not go on vacations to relax. I go to explore, to learn, to see new things. More “normal” vacation plans of laying on a beach for days actually stress me out more than running around a foreign city, cramming as many monuments, castles, ruins, and museums in as possible.

I didn’t make that many plans for Jordan though. I had some expectations, for sure. But I wanted to let things happen organically. My expectations were a form of plans though, and when my expectations weren’t lived up to it was a shock and a big wake-up call. These last few weeks will be very different, though not because I’ve rededicated myself to my semester goal.

I’ve got some great new professors. Today, in my MSA class we went off on a long tangent and discussed education and societal expectations among other things that affect our everyday lives but that we’ve never gotten to frankly talk about with someone before. It was enlightening, it was in Arabic, and it wasn’t wasting our time. We have all of these questions now that we’ve been here for several months and it is so refreshing that we have a professor who wants to talk with us, and doesn’t mask the ugly bits. If we just talked every day about these sort of big topics, I’d be ecstatic. But his teaching style is so great, that I’m encouraged to do my homework again. Because I want to learn and I know that in his class, I will.

My new roommate and apartment are a million times more awesome to where I was before. She’s from Syria, lives in Saudi Arabia (where she went to an Italian school- like American schools abroad except Italian), and studies biomedical engineering at the German Jordanian University down the street. So I get so many more facets of wider life in the Middle East just by living with her. I feel like I’ve learned more in the week that I’ve been living in the dorm and with my new classes than I did the first two months of the semester.

It makes me angry, since I see how different my semester could have been and how much more could have been accomplished. But that’s the thing with plans- they change because life happens. This past weekend I went to an info meeting about the Peace Corps and got to speak with a bunch of people with Peace Corps Jordan (two of whom were Jumbos whoo!). I went in thinking I didn’t really want to join the Peace Corps; I came out thinking that if I could, it would be one of the most amazing things.

So that’s life. What am I going to do the next few years of my life? I don’t know, honestly. Please, I really beg you, stop asking me. Right now though, I’m not betting on plans.


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