My last full day in Jordan, I woke up at dawn to be driven back to my house from where I’d slept over to spend my last hours with this family. I’ve seen plenty of dusks here, but never any dawns, and I drank in how the rising sun turned the pale buildings all rosy and glowy.
I packed for a few hours, then went to church and listened to people–old and young, close to my heart and mere acquaintances–go around and say absolutely lovely things about me as a farewell present. Two of my students who don’t regularly attend my church came to the service just to say goodbye to me.
I spent the rest of the day hiking up and down my little mountain to see everyone else I’d promised to see. (It’s funny…I thought I spent all week doing this, but every time I left a place the person would say, “But you’re not leaving till Monday! You can come over for a few minutes on Sunday, right??”) I cuddled with babies, wrestled with children, reminisced with friends, and tried not to cry when they cried.
In a weirdly fitting ending to the day, two of my dearest friends here (also two of the first people I met) helped me clean out my apartment and slept over at my place so they could accompany me to the airport in the morning. The further we drove along Airport Road, the more knotted up my insides got. When we finally hauled my bags out of the trunk and stood in the departure hall saying our goodbyes, I joked that it felt like I was about to have a heart attack, what with the butterflies and the racing heart. And then my totally non-crying friend burst into tears and our driver came in to say he was going to get a ticket if they didn’t leave now, so we hugged and parted ways.
We had talked on the way over about reverse culture shock, and things that would probably jar me about being back in the States. But the truth is, I’m a fairly adaptable person and don’t expect to be too distressed by the orderly traffic and well-stocked grocery stores and being ignored by strangers and how people walk around half-naked everywhere (I believe we call those pieces of non-clothing shorts and tank tops in America?). I know it will weird me out, but it won’t send me into spasms of anxiety. The different cultural cues, how my gestures and language will need to readjust, and even the more emotional stuff–how it feels to come home changed and find home is left unchanged, how to cope when your heart is full of stories but most people aren’t actually interested in hearing anything more than “it was fun”–that stuff I think I can take in stride.
That’s not what’s going to kill me about coming home. It’s leaving my people here. Because I am experiencing that enviable, heart-shredding blessing that I can only be thankful for in the end: I’m leaving love to come home to love.
And now I’m sitting at a Starbucks in the airport, already feeling like I’m half a world away and thinking about how each person I left behind shaped me, left a mark on me, changed me. And how impossible it is, really, to explain or describe that. And how isolating that feels. But also how eager I am to dull that sensation in the presence of my people at home. And trying desperately not to lose it here, surrounded by children chugging frappucinos and tourists scrolling through their iPhones…harder than you think.
Home soon, insha’allah…
بشوفك بعدين، يا الاردن…راح اشتاقلك كتيررر
Well, I wrote this all about 22 hours ago, and am just hitting “publish” as I lie on my bed in my absurdly clean American room after a long day of traveling. I was greeted by my parents and grandparents at the airport, and by my brother and friends at home. I am terribly happy. And I am terribly sad.
And this is where (this leg of) the journey ends for now, I think. “Yalla bye” is how we often signed off or parted ways in Jordan, and I loved the Arabish nature of the phrase. And also the sentiment: “Let’s go, bye!” Another step forward. And so on. Off we go.