This New Year’s Eve was spent almost exactly the same as the previous year: me and Layth on the couch, under blankets, watching movies until we dozed off. Since he’s recovering from a cold, that means he was snoring by 8 pm.
But this time last year we were bracing ourselves for him moving to Saudi Arabia for work, which meant I’d be more or less on my own in Jordan. We dated long distance for a long time, but after a year or so when we hadn’t spent more than a few days apart, the distance was daunting. But we both knew it was the best thing to do. At first, I cried a lot and kept making coffee for two people in the morning instead of one, and cried over the wasted coffee.
But family invited me for lunches and sent me home with tupperwares of leftovers to make sure I wouldn’t starve, I still had my job and friends, and in mid-January, I brought a pet rabbit home to keep me company. Said rabbit is now best friends with my mother in law’s cat, and they hang out on the regular.
2017 took me to Jordan, Turkey (twice), the United States, Malaysia, the Netherlands, and Germany.
My close friends have heard me talking about grad school for the last 2 or 3 years – and today I found out that I was accepted at University of Münster’s Visual Anthropology, Media and Documentary Practices MA program. I got the email while sitting outside at a cafe waiting for a friend, and while I sat there I just kept thinking “I want to remember how perfect my life is right now.” The program, for me, is the best of both worlds, combining #filmmaking with a solid social science background. I do 90% of the coursework online, which means my research and film projects can be done in #Jordan, and twice a year I travel to Germany for seminars. Last year I was accepted to a MA program and my potential adviser told me I had one of the strongest applications, yet I still would’ve come out with at least $60,000 more in student debt – and would’ve had to move back to the US. The fact that I can study this field I love without uprooting my life and career in #Amman (and sabotaging my marriage) and without taking on more debt feels too good to be true. I can’t wait to meet my cohort this fall, but right now I just feel incredibly #thankful for everything that brought me here, especially for Layth and his unending love and support. Now to pay tuition! #gradschool #whowantstoteachmegerman (at Amman, Jordan)
I head back to Jordan on Tuesday after a pretty amazing three weeks in the US. Coming back to America less than two weeks after the election, I really didn’t know what climate we’d be walking into – in New York, in the south, and places in between. It was eye-opening for both of us, and Layth is much better at having civilized, reasonable political discussions with people who he disagrees with than I am. But more on that later.
We finally made it official by having a wedding party in Louisiana, and I was overwhelmed with how generous and welcoming my family was toward both of us. Continue Reading
I never used Uber when I was living in Washington DC. Between the metro, buses, and a zipcar account, Uber and taxis were something I used maybe twice in three years.
But in Jordan, I depend on Uber to get around. Usually I’ll try to flag a regular taxi before calling Uber, but there are times I’ve waited 40 minutes to find an empty taxi. And then if you do manage to find an empty taxi, the driver doesn’t want to go where you need to go, or wants to charge you 5-10x the normal price because of “traffic.” There is always traffic in Amman. Always.
And if you do get a taxi, the driver almost always treats you to an onslaught of extremely personal questions. I think every woman I know here has been sexually harassed or assaulted by taxi drivers. One Jordanian girl friend told me about how she was once in a taxi that got stuck in traffic next to a sidewalk cafe where people were smoking argileh. The driver launched into a diatribe about seeing women smoking in public, blaming my friend for getting him stuck in traffic at such an offensive place. Recently, after news broke that a Jordanian writer had been assassinated in front of a court, a taxi driver praised the killer’s actions to my colleague who was in the car. Continue Reading
We’ve been on an epic Eid al-Adha staycation for about the last nine days, and it has been so perfect. At first, part of me couldn’t help but think of all the places we could have run away to in Asia for nine days, but ticket prices put me off traveling anywhere (the equivalent of trying to travel the day before Thanksgiving in the US). Plus I hadn’t had a day off in about two months, so staying in was just what I needed. Layth and I marathon watched Narcos and munched on sweet potato fries and sambousak. I actually cleaned our house. And I am very nearly done with redecorating the upstairs flat, after reupholstering a couch and two armchairs, plus many trips to Ikea and many hours cleaning, carrying out old furniture, and hemming curtains. Continue Reading
Ever since I started planning in earnest for our stateside reception, I’ve been trying to think of little gifts/thank yous to leave at each seat, and also to think of ways to bring both of our cultures into this. The restaurant serves hummus, baba ganoush, and tabbouleh, so we’ll be having that alongside crawfish etouffee and muffuletta orzo. And I’ve been picking out a few favorite Arabic songs to play.
Sharing because 1) I want to persuade more friends to come visit me, 2) my mom arrives on Sunday and I’m a little excited to play hostess/tour guide in Jordan, and 3) I’ve never had a house that looks even remotely put-together, so this still freaks me out a little.
Since last time, we got a new balcony table (seen in the first picture through the window, although it’s covered with a table cloth), hung a whole lot of pictures, painted some walls, added some shelves/storage, rearranged some things (especially the office – rotated the desk, moved the chair and ditched the old cabinets), replaced our shower heads (the guest bath just didn’t have one), and got the guest bathroom ready to use – shower curtain, rugs, storage, all that.
We’ve been hard at work redecorating the new house and the kitchen is starting to look quite nice, if I do say so myself. As I’ve mentioned before, this is probably the second-biggest kitchen I’ve ever seen (the biggest is downstairs in Layth’s grandpa’s apartment). We’re lucky to have a home we can grow into together, and we’re lucky it already had a lot of furnishings and accessories that we didn’t have to go out and buy. But it also had some pretty interesting curtain choices (I think chosen by Layth’s grandmother, Allah yer7amha), and the chairs in the top picture remind me of a Tim Burton animated movie for some reason. A new dining table set, new curtains, and moving the refrigerator went a long way (it’s now closer to the stove at the other end, which makes more sense for cooking, and having the table next to the window makes it nice to look outside).
The rest of the kitchen doesn’t look that much different, with the addition of some new potholders and my orange tea kettle. Adding a little Bonsai tree, a little lamp in the corner (Ikea, confiscated from another room), and a couple carpets (from Egypt and Ikea) just makes it a little more homey. I’m hoping to find another large carpet when we’re in Sri Lanka next month, too. Now to move in our fridge magnet collection…
Well, after a marathon of bureaucracy resulting in the best marriage contract-signing photo ever, we got married on February 17, 2016.
Our day started with picking up our witnesses, two of Layth’s friends, and all meeting at Sharia court in Wadi al-Seer, which is in an extremely nondescript building that I only managed to find again because I recognized a guy selling bananas one street over.
The day before, Layth’s mom went to court with all our papers and asked if we needed anything else. No we didn’t. Of course we did. Continue Reading