It’s January 5th, my official COS date; the day I was scheduled to leave Jordan and the Peace Corps. Thanks to the kindness of in-country staff we were given the option of leaving earlier in order to be home for the holidays, and I was among the first wave of J-15’s (my volunteer group) to depart, emotionally torn and thrown back into a transitional period of life.
So here I sit, writing from among your midst. In the two weeks that I’ve been home I’ve seen many familiar faces and received an abundance of warm hugs, all of which keep this period of homecoming full and joyous.
But there is the underlying sense of closing and loss and goodbye that lingers in this moment, keeping all of the happy emotions in balance. Packing up my house in Jordan and slowly descending upon a final day of departure was taxing emotionally, mentally, and physically. There was, to begin with, an entire home of THINGS to be dealt with: carpets and curtains, pillows and mattresses, piles of clothes, a refrigerator, gas cans, assorted cheesy jewelry and worn out shoes… all needing new homes and loving owners. I was to come home with only my two big bags and a carry-on, and right up to the day of my departure I found myself shedding odds and ends to get those zippers closed.
The challenge to emptying out my living space was in my rarely be home with time to do it. There were many goodbyes to said, lunches to be eaten, cups of coffee and glasses of tea to be shared one last time. I used my newly learned phrases to express gratitude and a desire to stay in touch, and a wish that anything offensive I’d ever done was to be forgiven or “covered over” (a traditional way of saying farewell in Arab cultures). I was surprised at how much I just wanted to be WITH people. To be near them, to laugh with them, to cherish those moments of close proximity and warmth despite all of the frustrations or moments of baffled disbelief in the two years prior.
I will miss Jordan. It had become my home and now it is behind me. The not-so-new questions of “What will I do?” are no longer distant but present and demanding answers. I was blessed to be in a place that kept me present and focused on my immediate surroundings, a lifestyle that I hope to cherish and allow to persist as best I can. It is time, however, to forward-think a bit, and therefore I will begin sending out applications to graduate schools around the country with the intention of studying Social Work and continuing in a similar vein to the work that I was doing in Jordan, opening up doors to opportunities in other parts of the world as well, inshallah (“God willing”).
Being home is comfortable. Everything is bigger than I remembered. Cleaner, greener, and more peaceful. The food is exceptional. I can drink tap water. My clothes can be washed and dried in one day with minimal effort. I have a bed. Everything that’s complicated claims to be easy, and money, as always, can get you anything. Yet, something within me cringes when I let the water run in the shower to warm it up and there is no bucket to catch all that is being wasted. I appreciate the dishwasher, but it’s hard to break the habit of washing things by hand. I miss the challenge and rewards of speaking Arabic. The silence of small-town streets and still houses is almost spooky… like a community of individuals living in isolation from one another.
This is the beauty of learning a culture through immersion and time however. I learn not only one culture, but two. I have new lenses and perspectives from which to view my own culture and see those things that I never saw before. Challenging and hard and beautiful.
Well, it is time for me to say goodbye now. In Arabic we say “Maa Salaama”, meaning “with peace”. I have loved and been loved through this blog, and taken great delight in sharing the moments that have meant a great deal to me over these two years. Of course feel free to e-mail or call or touch base with me if you are ever curious or have questions about Jordan. Ahlan w Sahlan, you are most welcome. Thank you for journeying with me. May God cover over anything offensive or hurtful I have said in these writings, and may we go each in our own way in peace, with the hope of crossing paths soon.