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mood swings

November 29, 2010

Shebab Comment of the Day: “Jet Li!” (While I was waiting for an uncomfortably long time for a taxi tonight.)

Realization of the Day: Even though it’s impossible to tell a white serveece [shared cab with a set route and fare] from a regular yellow taxi in the dark, the regular taxis have yellow lights on top, not white. Could’ve saved myself a lot of awkward false alarm cab-hailing attempts if I’d figured that out before. Also, it seems to be a rule of life around here that whenever you don’t want a taxi and are just minding your own business, walking down the street, dozens will come honking at you and make a general nuisance of themselves. But when you do want one, you’ll be left standing in the street for ages. Awkward.

I’ve had an insanely busy few days. I’m not sure why–it almost feels like my life is suddenly clicking into place here, and the free spaces in my schedule are filling up with lots of quality time with quality people, which is great but still leaves me exhausted (and often confused) by the end. From helping neighborhood kids with their English homework to saying goodbye to a friend who has left for new adventures, to meeting up with some teenagers at the local Syrian Orthodox church’s Christmas bazaar, to sitting on a friend’s bed drinking tea and rehashing some current difficult situations, to a much-needed hangout break in West Amman, it’s been an interesting few days.

At this point I’m just so thankful for the people here with whom I can talk freely, knowing I’ll get sound feedback/advice/encouragement in response. I’m definitely a talk-it-out kind of person, as some of you probably know well. And ever since I stepped foot in this country, it’s felt like there’s just been so much to talk out, sometimes to the point where I feel like I’ll burst if I can’t find someone to process with me out loud. So there’s another thing to add to the ashkur’allah list.

Finally, an observation: the culture here is one of great, passionate, impulsive moods, right? So there’s not a lot of middle ground or taking a moment to step back and think–just drama, all the time. Americans are fairly expressive people overall, but I still feel like I get told I’m either loved or resented way more often here than at home. On the one hand, it’s a great feeling when my student writes “I ā¤ Stephny” on the board while I’m not looking, or when a girl I barely know calls me her best friend in Jordan, and her grandmother tells me I should just sleep at their house instead of going back home [even though they’re basically my neighbors]. On the other hand, it can feel deeply unsettling when someone tells me they’re mad at me and I’m not sure how to take it. It’s a bit of an emotional roller coaster. (Definitely something that gets talked-out from time to time.)

In the past few days, I’ve been told twice that someone was angry with me without my exactly knowing if they were joking or not. The first time was when I begged off a little early from a visit because I had to get home to run some errands before another engagement. My hostess objected, I insisted, and then she finally stomped off to her room to “get dressed” so she could walk me down the street towards my house (there’s actually a pretty clear distinction between house clothes and street clothes here, which I fully approve…pajamas in the afternoon? Yes, please!). When she came out, she looked me right in the eye and said, “I’m mad at you. Really, I am. This isn’t right. You didn’t even wait for me to bring out the coffee.” Oh my goodness, my heart dropped for a moment, and I wondered if I’d made a HUGE faux pas. I know you’re supposed to wait for the coffee as a signal that it’s time to go, but…surely that’s a flexible rule? I fluttered around with my apologies, insisting that I DID have something important to do and wasn’t just making it up, promising that I’d return many times in the future to give us plenty of opportunities to do it right, and kissing her on the cheek. “Insha’allah,” she finally relented with a begrudging smile. And by the time we headed out the door, we were back to normal chatting, and it was like I’d never done anything wrong. So then I couldn’t figure out if I HAD done anything wrong, or if it had all been just a big show. They are pretty elaborate about hospitality here…

Anyway, the other incident happened when a couple teenage girls I know wanted my phone number, and I accidentally told them the wrong area code…so when one of them test-called me so I could have her number, she ended up talking to some random man. I thought it was hilarious, but the girl was not quite as amused, so I tried not to laugh. I don’t know if it was because she had to do the whole wrong-number thing, or because she thought maybe I told her the wrong number on purpose, or…who knows? What with the language AND culture barriers, sometimes everything gets very confusing. I apologized, but she just huffed, “I’m mad at you,” and wandered a few yards away while I sorted out the wrong number issue with the other girls. She did come wandering back after a few minutes of glaring at me from afar, and things were good again. But honestly. I think it will take me some time to get used to these crazy mood swings around here. On the other hand, it does instill in me a great sense of sympathy for my parents, who had to deal with pretty much the same thing 24/7 when I was a teenager…

So, pretty much, even though I’m feeling much more adjusted and settled into life/community here than two months ago, I still walk around all the time feeling vaguely bewildered/overwhelmed/confused/off-balance. And it’s not so bad, really. I kinda like it.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. jkim6 permalink
    November 30, 2010 3:54 am

    aaaaaah!
    the complexities of simple life and culture!
    it sounds perplexing and intriguing at the same time.
    i don’t know if i would have the patience to deal with situations like them,
    but i am sure i would like the slow pace. i missed you during Thanksgiving.

  2. Dad permalink
    December 4, 2010 1:01 am

    i don’t know why jkim was logged into my computer, but anyway, that was my reply. i went to Seattle this week to speak at the World Vision headquarter. i talked about you and what you’re doing there, and also it was world aid/HIV awareness week so they had a special service. why am i all of a sudden talking about these random stuff, you might ask? because these are the things you care about. i really miss you, sweetheart. have a wonderful time! i’m praying for you.

  3. Dad permalink
    December 4, 2010 1:03 am

    correction! AIDS/HIV

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