There are so many stories I want to tell from this weekend. So I’ll start with this one.
I met a girl from Amman. She’s an exchange student in Kenai. Her older sister goes to school at Al Ahliyyah, the university I went to in Amman.
She left after dinner, but before that she stopped. ”I just have to ask,” she said. ”Do you miss mansaf?”
I remember that phase. The I’ve-been-in-it-for-long-enough-to-know-what-I’m-doing-but-there-are-things-that-I-miss-so-much phase. It was this moment where we were intersecting and I knew and I knew that I couldn’t do anything because everyone lives through their travels in the same way at different rates.
“I’m just homesick for the food,” she said. Which I got, because halal pepperoni pizza is not pizza.
It was exactly a year ago that I moved to Jordan. I’m keeping track of my days and reliving the corresponding events. This is the day we moved in. This is the day pigeons landed on our head. This is the day we went to the citadel and ate at Reem Al-Bawadi. This is the day school started and Jaime and I perilously navigated the bus home. This is the day after that where nothing noteworthy happened which was noteworthy in and of itself because I foolishly felt that I would figure it out so quickly.
This weekend, I went to the Alaska version of the Northwest Returnee Conference. It was a bunch of former exchange students telling pretentious travel stories and it was wonderful. Before the sessions started, we were asked to write a piece of advice on a notecard for the exchange students that would be returning home at the end of the semester.
I wrote, “You’re going to be sad and it’s going to be ok.”
I was sad. I still am sad. I miss it. I miss my friends, I miss the cat that hung out near our apartment, I miss mansaf, I miss speaking Arabic. But it’s ok. I’m finally getting to a point where I’m understanding how Amman impacted me and I’m ok.
NWRC was one of those seemingly unimportant things that ended up making me think a lot. I’m really glad I decided to take (half of) the weekend off from work and attend the conference. I’m glad I got to talk about all these things that I haven’t spent much time thinking about between school and work and people who aren’t interested.
It’s just that there aren’t that many Arabs, no Arab food and no place to practice Arabic in Alaska. How was I supposed to ease my way in? The 4 Arab exchange students from Egypt, Lebanon and Jordan I met in Juneau agree with me.