Hitting a Wall

There’s been a lot of newsworthy things to comment on from the Middle East lately.

  • President Obama’s visit to Saudi Arabia and Egypt, including a historic speech in Cairo that was met with mixed reviews. (But better received in this part of the world than most speeches by US presidents of late.)  In it he called for Palestinians to pursue non-violent means of change.  A call that might otherwise ring hollow from a sitting US president, but from an African-American the weight, significance, and fruit of the US civil-rights era might speak in fresh ways to the international community.
  • The elections in Iran and the subsequent non-violent protests of the results; demonstrating that people on the other side of the world have a will to change that is not dependent upon American guns and money.  Newsreporting 2.0 took over as citizens on the ground posted photos and videos online – the only source of info on these winds of change.
  • Jimmy Carter’s visit to Gaza.  Traveling “unofficially” he met face-to-face with Hamas leaders to outline the Wests conditions for working with them.  Some might view this as futile, but in this part of the world a personal visit from a white-haired political leader with deep religious convictions speaks volumes more than an official memorandum from 1600 Pennsylvania ave or the threat of force.  Carter has long swum upstream among evangelicals in the States as he unequivocally speaks out against the injustices Israel has committed against their Palestinian neighbors.  At the same time he denounces Palestinian violence.  Carter’s legacy will outlive him.  He has taken the hard and often circuitous route towards making peace.  In his sunset years when most are worried about their medicare benefits, their shuffleboard rankings, or what flavor jello-mold is for lunch Carter is walking where most fear to tread in hopes of making a better place for all of us.

So there’s, been a lot to blog about – but, honestly I have hit a bit of a wall.  Not with blogging; just with life here.  It’s been 9.5 months since we arrived in Amman last year. In some ways I can’t believe how fast it has all flashed by, but on the other hand it seems forever ago that we left from JFK (and even longer from Chicago). It seems we have hit that stage of cross-cultural living that plague many at the 7-12 month stage.

It’s not that life here is particularly hard for us (although we miss many of the conveniences that we once took for granted at home),  but the daily grind of operating in another culture has caught up with us.  Outside of our home (and our circle of ex-pat friends) every interaction and task requires processing and interpreting not only another language but entirely different cultural values as well.  In the few short months we’ve been here I would like to think that we’ve made some pretty big strides towards understanding both language and culture.  However, at the end of the day it is still an intensive and draining process.

On top of it all we just smply miss home – family, friends, familiar sights, sounds and tastes.  Visiting Grandmas and Grandpas, Aunts, Uncles and cousins, trips to the zoo, backyard barbecues, lazy days at the lake, fishing off the dock, garage saleing, walks in Lilacia park, Chicago Style hotdogs and New York style pizza, driving through the Adirondacks, playing with friends at the arboretum, fnding the best deal of the season at Kohl’s, waiting in line for Blizzards at Dairy Queen, bumping into friends at Jewel, summer evening thunderstorms, hanging out at Lunar,  Cruise Nights, getting wet at the splash pad, taking the train into Chicago, visiting friends in Rah-cha-cha, bagels from Einstein’s, hearing the crack of a bat at a ballgame,  ahhh . . . the list goes on and on.

In the end most of it is pretty trivial stuff, the food, places,  and fun are all temporary.  But relationships are enduring and its the people we miss most.  Oh, everyone is an e-mail, FB wall post, or Skype call away but it’s really not the same.

“Everybody” says this is the hardest time in cross-cultural transition and we will push through and come out ok on the other side.  I’m sure that’s true, but in the meantime we seem to be in a bit of a holding pattern as we mentally, emotionally, and physically continue to adjust to our new home.

I’m not sure I have much capacty for thinking/writing about the weightier issues of life here in the Middle East right now, I’m thinking about some lighter summer fare as we push through this cross-cultural wall.  Actually, despite the fact that I seem to be missing so many of the creature comforts of home (can anyone say slow-cooked pork ribs?) I’m planning to do a summer blog-series on street food here in Amman.  As they say to people here when eating, “saHtayn!”  (double health!)

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4 Responses

  1. This is why you can’t totally retire Pilgrim without a Shrine…We enjoy reading about the Middle East and Jordan, but what you share has so much more weight when it is told in the context of your life and journey. Thank you for reminding us of the process of your journey.

  2. When you return, I assure you that I will be happy to buy you a drink (or a couple) at Lunar. I had no idea you were a fan! I live only a couple blocks away!!!

    And should you choose to stay there for many years, I will figure out a way to bring some of Lunar to you! Somehow… 🙂

  3. I think “slow-cooked pork ribs” is a phrase better left unsaid in a Muslim country.

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