Today marks my last full day in Amman, as well the first day of Eid al Adha, a significant four-day Muslim holiday in which families (who can afford it) slaughter a sheep to honor not only Abraham’s sacrifice, but also those who are participating in the annual Hajj, which is the pilgrimage that millions of Muslims make to Mecca in the twelfth month of each year. This morning at sunrise there was a marathon muezzin call to kick off the holiday (it lasted for two hours).
Since it is both my last day in Jordan and a holiday, I have the time and leisure to reflect upon the last 25 days and everything I’ve seen and experienced. One of the thoughts that has floated around in my mind throughout this trip is one of the ironies of travel; that is, the irony of how, as a foreigner, you can feel cut off from humanity even while you are completely surrounded by it. You become acutely aware of what separates you from the locals and sensitive to the fact that many people want something from you. This is one of the many reasons why I enjoy volunteering when I’m abroad—it’s an opportunity to be more than an “outsider,” but a part of the community. It is a way to feel more involved with humanity.
But on this trip, I haven’t had the benefit of being part of the communities that I’ve visited. It is because I felt cut off from the people that I found myself searching for connection in other ways. For me, stolen moments such as a wave from a child, interaction with the elderly, or hesitant smiles from the local women helped to break down the false barriers that separate us and remind me of what makes us the same. These are the moments that I cherished.
Thankfully, there were many such moments to help balance out the harsher realities of these cultures, as well as the things that made me feel so foreign. Yes, we endured being hassled by street touts, ogled by men, and targeted by every taxi driver or panhandler that came our way; but we also elicited many genuine ‘welcomes’ by those who wanted nothing more than to welcome us to their country. A more extreme example of this happened to us in Egypt. While we were dining in a restaurant, we ‘oooohed’ and ‘aaaahed’ over a neighboring table’s dessert order. When it came time to order our own desserts, we were surprised to discover that the Egyptian man at that table ordered us the same desserts with his compliments. After we bestowed upon him many thanks, he explained that he just wanted to welcome us to his country. It was a beautiful and generous example of how welcoming the people can be. These unexpected moments of connection are what I live for when I am a visitor in another country.
So, despite the fact that I am eager to return home to my clean city, my comfy bed, good coffee, and the delicious luxury of a routine, I am sorry to end this adventure. I am also saddened to say goodbye to my friends Krystal and Brendan as we return to our respective homes on opposite sides of the world. However, as is usual at this point of all of my travels, I just feel incredibly grateful to have had the opportunity to experience the richness and beauty (as well as the sad realities) of other cultures, to have enjoyed the experience with dear friends, to have made new friends along the way, and to have a home to return to.
As always, thanks for sharing in the adventure. Until next time…asalaamu aleikum.