Thursday, August 23, 2012

Departures Lounge

It seems so strange that this day has finally come. Since I arrived in Jordan 6 weeks ago people have constantly asked me, “Until when are you in Jordan?” and I don't even have to think anymore before automatically answering “August 23rd.” But it hardly seems real that 6 weeks has already passed (I feel like I just got here), and at the same time, Amman seems so comfortable and familiar and it's hard to believe that I have another life in Abu Dhabi.

I'm sitting here in the departures lounge surrounded by adorable children, trying my best not to cry in front of the other passengers. The tears are not so much because I'm sad to be leaving, but more because of how grateful and full my heart is to have had this experience. I have connected with countless wonderful people who have inspired me to be more generous, more resilient, and more determined to never give up, no matter how insurmountable the challenges may seem. Really, truly my life has been so blessed! I'm also so thankful for the internet and facebook which makes it so much easier to maintain the connections with friends and which makes saying goodbye a little more bearable.

A few minutes ago in the bathroom in the airport I had an interesting conversation with a young girl (probably 9 or 10 years old) who was returning with her family to Dubai from Jordan. I didn't expect her to speak to me (a strange woman) at all, let alone in perfect English. She said, “How did you like Jordan?” I told her that I had really had a wonderful time during my stay here. She said, “Yes, I really wish that we could stay in my country, but we have to go back to UAE now.” It was like she could see the same difference in authenticity between life in Dubai and life in Jordan. I thought about the other kids that I had met in the camps and what they would give to trade lives with her and escape their current situation and go to Dubai, yet she understood that there are benefits to life in Jordan that you can't find among the shallow glitz and glamour of the UAE. I discovered the same this summer.

This summer has been an interesting experience of starts and stops. It seems that when it rained, it poured with volunteering opportunities (some days I was literally running between one side of town to the other). Other days were very lonely and quiet (a good chance for reflection I suppose, although I must admit that I wasted a lot of time laying in my flat listening to BBC radio reports of the situation next door in Syria). There were days of too much socializing and other days without enough. After about 4 weeks here, I realized that this summer is the first time I have stayed in one place for an entire summer in about 7 years. I wondered if I could handle the feelings of restlessness. But things picked up again and being engaged in good projects with great people made the restlessness and loneliness disappear. I feel disappointed that my Arabic is definitely not where it should be (learning languages is the bane of my just does not come naturally or logically to me). Nevertheless, I understand much more now, and listening feels familiar and comfortable and I hope to continue to build on my vocabulary with my students and friends in the UAE.

The work in Kadar's group will continue without me, and I will try to stay involved in worthwhile humanitarian projects  around me in Abu Dhabi.  I guess the overall lesson I've learned is that life is a work in progress. As much as I love closure and finishing up a task or project, that's not the way life goes usually. Unfinished goals turn into good new goals. I already have my “To-Do Abu Dhabi” list ready, including finishing up this blog! :) Thank goodness for a couple weeks before school starts to readjust to life in the gulf and reflect on the meaningful things I've learned and experienced this summer.

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