This post has been accumulating in bits and pieces on my computer for the past few days.
Traveling is something that gets easier the more you do it. Although I still have a healthy fear of the things that could go disastrously wrong, it’s not a paralyzing fear anymore, and I can deal with it–in fact, I enjoy the feeling of leaning into discomfort.
That said, there is one thing that has never gotten easy for me: saying goodbye. No matter how far or how long I’m going far, I can never stop myself from crying when I say goodbye to my dad. It was all I could do to keep myself from bawling as I was going through security. But this time, I didn’t let myself feel bad about it. I didn’t feel like I was just being a baby. I know that I can live independently, and I do. But there’s no shame in loving someone and being loved so much in return that you are sad to take leave of them.
Developing a false sense of security while traveling is way too easy. I was all smug and secure after I got through security because I had it all together and got through the line much faster than the silly people surrounding me. After that, I realized that I was missing all of my toiletries and chargers, and started literally running around JFK for two hours searching for it (half cursing to myself, half sobbing because WHY GOD WHY DID THIS HAVE TO HAPPEN TO ME), until I realized that I had left them in my dad’s car. Then another half hour running around trying to buy a new Mac charger (those things are SO EXPENSIVE) before boarding.
[I think at least half of the reason I found this so upsetting is because being able to keep track of things is equated with responsible adulthood in my mind, and… yeah. I don’t like not feeling like a responsible adult when I’m about to embark on a two-month journey in the Middle East.]
Paris. I had a 9.5-hour layover there, and had decided in advance that that wasn’t really enough time to go explore the city (because after the lost toiletries fiasco, I didn’t want to put myself in a position where even more things could go wrong). But then when I landed, I said to myself, what the hell. So, I took the train into town. OMG Paris is beautiful. I went to Notre Dame and walked around the the Seine/St-Michel for a while before getting totally lost in the subway system and ending up in Montmarte trying desperately to find the Eiffel Tower before I had to go. Seriously, I had to look for it. It was the biggest man-made structure in the world when they built it! I didn’t think I would have such a hard time! But don’t believe the movies, people: you cannot see the Eiffel Tower from anywhere in Paris. Sometimes you can’t even see it when you’re actually quite close to it. (Which was a relief.) Ended the excursion with a chocolate crepe viewing the Tower from across the Seine, and started to feel like a responsible adult again. Then I went back to the station.
Being in Paris reminded me how essential language-learning is. I didn’t know any French, at all. (The tiny tiny bits I did knew were basically lost to me because, as far as I was concerned, it was 4AM, even though the clocks said it was 10AM.) And I felt like a horrific touristy American oaf. I had done no prep for Paris at all. I had no French phrases except for “bonjour monsieur” and “merci,” and I could barely remember to use them. I had no idea what was culturally appropriate for me to say, how to ask for directions, how to interact with people on the subway. This completely reaffirmed my conviction that studying culture is not wishy-washy bullshit. Culture is REAL, and it’s IMPORTANT. And next time I go to France (in sha’allah), I will be better prepared.
[It was kind of exciting that I could eavesdrop on the Arabic speakers and have a general idea of what they were talking about, though. Yay.]
Arriving in Amman. Sat next to a guy who’s also studying Arabic on the flight over, fell asleep in the middle of my conversation with him because I was so exhausted from schlepping across Paris. Watched a depressing movie about Lebanon. Arrived at 10:30PM and was able to stay awake long enough to shower before collapsing.
Orientation: The orientation session was actually very helpful. I was surprised. They actually gave targeted suggestions for what to do and not do with host families, which was wonderful. The hotel we were staying at was very nice, too. At 5 our host families came to pick us up. I’m living with my friend Christina in an apartment near the 8th circle. Our host family is absolutely wonderful. Seriously. The father taught us to play cards and in sha’ Allah the mother said she will teach us how to cook (she is AMAZING). The apartment is huge–two stories and a balcony. Christina and I have a room to ourselves and basically our own bathroom. Also, they have wireless. Hurrah.
They also have a maid, which I thought I would be more uncomfortable with, but they do treat her with respect and she’s been absolutely wonderful to us–explaining the sorts of things that other students have done wrong that make the family angry/unhappy/weirded out. More on class consciousness in Jordan later.
Tomorrow we have class, following a brief tour of the U of J campus. (We’re having class in the same building I was in last year. Crazy.) Unfortunately, we have Aziz for 3 hours tomorrow because there was a problem with our other teacher’s visa. In sha’ Allah everything will be fixed soon.
PS: Class was awful. I was barely awake and I learned absolutely nothing. Still an overall good day, though–big lunch at the university, and I acquired toiletries! Tomorrow, in sha’ allah, I take the bus to school. It will be an adventure.