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learning and growing (+ pictures)

December 15, 2010

This must have been Saturday night. Yes, while many of you at home endured a snowstorm, I took refuge in my room from a sandstorm that turned the skies beige.

(The graphic from my weather widget is pretty accurate, right?!)

Suddenly–and I do mean suddenly–the weather has changed. A week or two ago, I was sweating in short-sleeves. Sunday, I wore a coat/hat/scarf/gloves and still felt frozen to the bone (I think mostly the wind was a problem). Shivering cold, howling winds that wake me up at night, kids shouting in the street because school was canceled due to snow on the other side of the city, a steady drizzle of rain on this side here that turned the residual sand from the weekend into orange mud. I think it’s safe to say that Amman and I are entering a new phase in our relationship. If we survive winter, I’ll know we’re set for life.

Moving on, other (semi-)recent events in pictures, with whatever camera I happened to have on hand (which means some of these were taken with my old-school cell phone):

-A power outage a few weeks ago led me to my neighbor’s house, where we sat around with a few candles and hot tea until the electricity returned:-There was a Christmas bazaar at the Syriac Orthodox Church up the road, and I went two nights in a row, dragged along by two different people. The highlight was when these two “Papa Noels” came out and started dancing to hip-hop Arabic “Feliz Navidad.” A lot of the kids joined in:-My students learned how to ask “whose dress/hat/head is this?” by creating little people and then–to their dismay and my macabre enjoyment–cutting them up:-The sunsets around here never fail to take my breath away:-I went exploring in Jerash with some wonderful friends. Roman ruins galore. Amazing:
-The third of my Christmas bazaars (the second was at the Armenian club, not pictured). This was a swanky deal, an “international bazaar” held at a fancy pants shopping center. Tons of tables, manned by embassy employees and expat ladies’ groups. Proceeds went to charity. I went with an older Italian lady who’s in my Arabic class and invited me along because she had baked some cakes for it. I had Malaysian food for lunch, browsed secondhand books at the American embassy’s table (but there wasn’t really anything good left by then), listened to a high school jazz band, and inhaled the scent of rich, yummy baked goods from about a billion different cultures. Fun times:-My old roommate J has a friend visiting her from New Zealand, so I accompanied them on their downtown tour, which included actually going inside the Roman amphitheater (as opposed to just walking past):-Unfortunately, the weather was insane on Sunday, and this was the least windblown I looked all day (I may look moderately happy, but in fact I’m dying inside):-I have started spending time with an amazing group of young ladies through a local Iraqi church, including these girls:

Side note: There are times when I honestly feel a bit useless here, and I really do wonder what I’m doing. Evaluating things in the past week or so because I’m just about hitting my three-month mark since arrival, I started feeling a little disappointed in myself for various reasons. I think it was just like I hit a little wall, and I started doubting both my purpose and my effectiveness here. It doesn’t help that I am constantly fighting the comparison game (and I know this isn’t just my weakness, after a relieving talk I shared last month with a friend who voiced similar feelings). Remember when I first got here, and I was all, “My journey is my own, it will not look like anybody else’s, and that’s all right”? It turns out I’m still learning this. Meeting so many cool people who are carving out all kinds of cool paths for themselves, it’s hard not to wonder sometimes if I’m doing it all wrong. And to furthermore think, “Well at this point they were doing this, so why am I still doing that?” Silly me. Compare-and-contrast is a dangerous game to play.

So anyway, you can imagine what a balm to my soul it was when, in the middle of this confused wallowing, someone looked me in the eye yesterday and said, “I really think you are an answer to my prayers.” Never mind that I kinda disagreed with her on the basis of her claim. That from the outset it seems quite obvious that I’m far too handicapped in the most obvious ways (language being one of them) to possibly be what she’s looking for. Because her words were in fact an answer to MY prayer. The one that goes, “Dear God. What am I doing here.”

Furthermore, I’m just starting to realize something. I keep thinking I’m here to DO stuff, because that’s what I’m used to: doing. It’s how I know my life has value, how I occupy my days, how I measure my accomplishments. But it turns out this doesn’t work out so neatly  over here, both culturally and personally. And yes, there are a lot of people here “doing” quite a lot, and quite successfully. But I don’t think I’m meant to be one of them. At least, not in my usual way of thinking about “doing.” What’s been impressed upon me these days is the importance of the less tangible/less measurable in my work here: loving, and relationship-building, and all of the other stuff that is scarier than flat-out achieving an objective goal. Truly, it’s scary. Talk about comfort zones.

Tangential example (and this has come up recently in conversation, so it’s on my mind): you know what’s hard? Being loving when I’m walking around on the street sometimes. It’s fine when it means running into a woman I know, or encountering the mad rush of friendly schoolgirls just when their classes have gotten out. It’s a lot less fine when it means going tense inside because I happen to see a cluster of shebab, or trying to ignore when a man says something inappropriate as I pass by, or pretending like I don’t hear the less-awesome kids who cluster around me and shout fake-Asian-language into my ear and then laugh, muttering rudely beneath their breath. How do I love them? But one friend challenged me (and herself) tonight about it, and she was right. The easy way out is to feel defensive and resentful as soon as I step foot into the street. The harder thing to do? Seeing each person on the street as an individual. A child and beloved creation of God, not a member of some sinister bloc of conspirators-to-make-the-street-miserable.

Hmm. That was probably the longest side-note and tangential example in the history of either. Let’s summarize. 1.) It’s cold. 2.) I’ve been fairly busy. 3.) I’m growing. 4.) Sometimes I wish I could be Alex Mack so I could just sloop around everywhere unnoticed, but I’m learning to be loving instead.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Brian permalink
    December 16, 2010 2:59 am

    I’m disappointed there aren’t more awesome pictures of the sandstorm!

    • December 19, 2010 3:57 pm

      sorry brian 😦 it didn’t even occur to me. next time one comes round, i’ll definitely brave it with my camera…

  2. Dad permalink
    December 18, 2010 2:43 am

    i can’t believe that you would actually compare yourself with others and feel inferior.
    how is that possible? you’re the best, sweetheart. at any rate, you have to remind yourself that you’re not there to do, but you’re there to be. “being” is far more important than “doing.” doing will flow out of being. the land of Jordan is blessed because a beautiful person, namely Stephanie, is there.

    i want to beat up the guys that are cruel to you. ^^ how dare they do that to my daughter! right? however, i can’t help but think how pleased God has be when you walk by those strangers that treat you with contempt, because you represent everything that’s good and holy. He has a big smile on you!

  3. josie, sadie, finley's mom permalink
    December 19, 2010 3:33 pm

    we miss you stephanie emo! (your dad is very cute – wait, am i allowed to say that? 🙂 he’s technically my boss :p his comment is so sweet!). can you e-mail me your address?

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