"Goodbye for Now" by Samantha Manno
Right now, I'm sitting in a little cafe in Budapest, waiting for my friend. I left Jordan about three days ago, and won't arrive in Cleveland until May 20th. At this point, it seems almost too early to reflect. Amman is so fresh in my mind that it feels like I'm on vacation and I'll be returning again to the country where I have spent the last four months of my life. It feels unreal that I'm not going back. That instead, I'm traveling to Cleveland where my mom, boyfriend, and dog will be waiting for me at the airport. I almost can't contain my excitement to see them. I picture the moment of us reuniting again and again, but there is something else gnawing in my mind. I miss Jordan, and I want to go back. It's a weird pull between two places, a tension that I've never experienced before. But instead of pressuring myself to reflect and draw big conclusions about my time abroad, what I want to do in the space of this last blog post is talk about some of the experiences I was unable to include in my other posts, as well as discuss what I will miss the most about Jordan.
Looking back, four months is a weird time to spend abroad. It is right towards the end when it starts to feel like home. In the beginning, I just went through the motions. I wasn’t thinking much about how I was feeling, it was more about getting from day to day. Things were new and exciting, but I was also scared and homesick, so the first few months really felt like an adjustment period. However, after spring break, things began to feel… well… more “normal,” and more like home. I became more comfortable speaking Arabic, and I began to build stronger connections with people both in my program and outside of it. As time progressed, I came to find that getting to know people who are a part of Jordanian society was the most fulfilling aspect of my time abroad.
I had the honor and incredible opportunity to volunteer at Jesuit Refugee Services (JRS) through my Community-Based Learning class (CBL). I shadowed two teachers and helped teach two classes. I was nervous at first. I didn’t know how people would react to some random American girl with virtually no teaching experience, let alone life experience, joining the class. However, they were the kindest, warmest, most welcoming, and most incredible people I have ever had the pleasure to know. I am unable to find words to express my gratitude for my time with this organization and all the people who were a part of it. I’ve learned much about refugees’ situations and experience living Amman, as well as the process of resettling and hope for the future. I’ve also learned a lot about myself as a white English-speaking American and how my identity shapes my own perceptions and how people perceive me. I better understand the privilege that is granted me simply because I am an American. I see how open the world is to me, and how many opportunities I am granted simply on that basis...
While I spent the vast majority of my time in Amman, AMIDEAST also took us on excursions. My favorite trip by far was to Wadi Rum, the desert area in the south of the country. It was insanely gorgeous. Red rock formations line the horizon and the ground consists of soft sweeps of sand. We first took a jeep ride through a part of the desert. We peered at rock formations and would occasionally get out of the jeeps to climb the sandy hills and hang out with good-natured camels. Once we got to the camp, we were able to ride them. It was a wonderful experience, even though my heart belongs with the donkeys in Petra. That night I ate a delicious meal — zarb — which is meat cooked underground. That night as I played cards with my friends, I felt very at peace and content. I remember thinking how much I loved Wadi Rum, and how such a place was entwined in what I realized was love for Jordan.
There are countless things that I will miss about Amman and Jordan. I will miss studying in the cafes, exploring the desert, and riding donkeys. I will miss eating kunafeh in the balad (downtown) area and practicing my Arabic with taxi drivers. But what I will miss most is the kindness of people, who welcomed me into their homes and went out of their way to help me, whether that be my host family, the community of JRS, or random people I asked for directions on the street. I will miss what truly feels like a second home. But it’s not goodbye forever.