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June 24, 2011

I know I’ve been talking about leaving forever, but I can’t help it–once the end’s in sight, it’s kind of hard not to think about. And it doesn’t help that everyone else keeps reminding me all the time too. Threatening to steal my passport. Asking whether I really have to leave. Bursting into random tears over it (that was a girl whom I thought I’d unintentionally offended, but it turned out she was just sad I was leaving…which challenged me a lot because I’d tended towards impatience/annoyance with her for most of the time that I knew her). Etc.

But oooh, they know how to make me feel loved, don’t they?

Pretty much all I’m doing at this stage is eating lots of apricots, running small errands, and making visits. Sitting with dear friends and families and enjoying their presence. I can’t complain–it’s a great way to live. Last Saturday, I stopped by for a visit with some of my students (whose mother is a good friend of mine), and their family dragged me off on a spontaneous excursion to the Dead Sea for the evening.

I went into the water wearing capri-length pants and a tank top over a one-piece swimsuit, and I still managed to be one of the most immodestly dressed people there. At least it was evening, so the public beach wasn’t as crowded…but at the same time, I was self-conscious enough to stay floating deep out in the water when I accidentally splashed my eye rather than swim in to shore so I could rinse at the freshwater pipe…despite the excruciating pain.

Blink a few times and then open your eye. It’ll hurt, but it’ll become normal soon,” my friend advised. She and I were the only ones who ventured that far out. You can’t really drown in the Dead Sea, but people seemed pretty skittish anyway. I tried to follow her advice, but as soon as I blinked my eye open, I felt the burn and snapped it shut again. She laughed at me. “Come on! Don’t be a baby.” She often thinks I’m being a baby, probably because I am, compared to her: she got married at eighteen to a stranger, popped three kids out, and became the no-nonsense woman she is today. Whereas I…I can barely tough out a little pain long enough to let my tears wash away the demon salt from my eye.

On Sunday I took a four-hour bus ride with another family to Aqaba, where they stay off and on during summers. They were going for the week and invited me to join them for as long as I could (which turned out to be only a day and a half, to their utter disapproval). I walked around town and chatted with the mother during the day and girl-talked with her teenage daughter at night after we’d turned the lights off in our room. Woke up to her two-year-old son jumping on me in the morning. It was freakishly hot and eerily quiet/orderly compared to Amman.

(I walked past but did not spend time on the beach…)

Thursday I visited an Egyptian friend of mine, a single lady who loves to joke around and always raises her hand for a high-five when she makes herself laugh. We sat in her spacious salon with plum juice running down our hands and talked about various cultural differences, and then she said to me, “You know, even though I know you’re a foreigner, you’re not like other foreigners. And sometimes when we talk I think to myself, of course she was born in the Arab world, or maybe she lived here when she was young. I know it’s not true, but I feel this.”

Later that day I found myself sitting on the floor of an Iraqi friend’s house, failing at origami with her son and repeating the words “water,” “better,” and “letter” for her and her husband, who find the American pronunciation of these words just bewildering. [It’s the alveolar flap in the middle that gets them, if you’re wondering. Aren’t you glad I took linguistics freshman year of college?] Then she showed me how she figured out how to use their bootleg copy of Photoshop despite not understanding any of the English commands, just by constant trial and error. Uh, could she be more awesome? I love visiting with her at home because while she’s always stunning, there’s something especially radiant about her when she’s in a t-shirt, makeup-free and with her unveiled hair in a loose, sweaty ponytail.

There’s more, of course. These are just snapshots. More memories for myself than anyone else. I always get like this towards the end of something…trying to cram as many experiences into words as possible before I forget them all.

I talked to my mom on the phone today. She asked me what the hardest part of saying goodbye was. I told her it was not knowing when or if I would see these people again. Because it’s probably never, she said. I got annoyed. Why does she always have to think like that? Why can’t she for once assume that I will have a chance to see them again? Because people always think that, and it’s almost never true, she pointed out matter-of-factly.

It’s hard to explain in words why this distresses me. How the people I write to you about here have burrowed their way into my heart, and my little once-in-a-while anecdotes can’t ever give the full picture of how, or why. Maybe it’s because the very act of relationship-building is so different here, so it feels like both the stakes and the rewards are altered.

Anyway. There’s an Arabic saying that goes, bukra fil mishmish. It literally means something like tomorrow there will be apricots/tomorrow when the apricots come. The figurative meaning is more like in your dreams. It express hopelessness. Well some of my friends and I were joking today that since we’re smack-dab in the middle of apricot season, we should take advantage of this brief season of hope. Anything that would normally be answered with “in your dreams,” we can answer by saying “today there are apricots!”

So guess what? Today there are apricots. Maybe I won’t see any of these people ever again. But maybe I will. Maybe.

One Comment leave one →
  1. June 26, 2011 4:35 pm

    Dear you, I just remembered this one time in class (no idea which professor, or even whether it was Williams or London) when the teacher told us about something happening tomorrow, and someone said, “What about a cow?” Anyway, you are gorgeous. ❤

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