We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
— T.S. Elliot
I found this quote in a packet my study abroad office gave me before leaving for Jordan, and now I can speak from experience when I say it’s true. I’m noticing things about home that were just normal before. It’s so green and quiet in Blacksburg, and it feels like the exact opposite of Amman where it’s yellow and you can always hear life going on outside. I miss those sounds: the call to prayer five times a day, Arab music, the rhythmic honking of a wedding procession through the streets. The smells of home-cooked meals and cigarette smoke and the bakery. The food, like Turkish coffee, the tea, hummus, falafel sandwiches, kanafa. And of course, all the people I met there, especially those in my program who I lived with, had classes with, and did just about everything with. They were my family, or my “tribe” as we liked to say. By the time I left Jordan I felt like I had actually lived there rather than just visited there. Somewhere along the way we started to call our apartment “home.”
I miss being able to speak Arabic — well, trying to speak Arabic, anyway. At first I kept trying to speak Arabic even after leaving Jordan. In the Paris airport especially, I would start to say something like “shukran” (thank you) and then I would stumble over my words because I couldn’t remember what to say in English! Thankfully almost everyone there could understand my strange Arabic-English mix, because I know maybe two words in French. I still try to say words in Arabic like “mumkin” (maybe/it’s possible) and yalla (let’s go), but then I realize no one here knows what I’m saying which is frustrating — I mean why isn’t everyone learning Arabic? It’s not that hard. (Okay, it’s pretty hard.)
While it’s good to be home, I wouldn’t trade my semester in Jordan for anything. I learned so much about things I didn’t even know I should be learning about. About current events and international conflicts and how other people in the world see these issues. It was especially interesting to learn how people in Jordan viewed Americans, and it was strange to suddenly be the odd one out. I now understand why groups of international students at UMW always stick together because that’s exactly what my group did. I learned about how to live abroad and how to travel. I didn’t do so without mistakes, of course. For example, I now know that it’s generally a good thing to claim your luggage for customs in the first airport you fly into when you arrive in the U.S., rather than expecting to see it at baggage claim when you arrive at your home airport. Oops.
My favorite part of my trip was definitely camping in the desert in Wadi Rum, and Petra was pretty stunning as well. My favorite class was Arabic, mostly because my professor was absolutely amazing and patient, and some of my favorite times in Jordan were wandering around the city of Salt with her. It was also nice having only four people in my class. My least favorite part of Jordan was probably not being able to walk around the city without hearing catcalls and whistling and endless “welcome to Jordan”s. Over all I think my time in Jordan impacted me most by giving me the opportunity to learn Arabic, and it inspired me to continue learning the language. The experience of living in another culture is something I’ve always wanted to do and I think it will influence how I view the world for the rest of my life. It has encouraged me to travel more and that is something I hope to do in a future career. And now I can really understand the quote “travel is the the only thing you buy that makes you richer.”
Thank you to everyone who read this blog and kept up with my adventures, I hope you enjoyed it! Let me know if you ever have questions about my trip because I would be glad to answer them. And lastly, here are some more photos I never got the chance to post!
Ma’ al salaamah!