Sunday, July 25, 2010

At the End of the Rainbow


Acceptance of legitimacy of another reality. Satisfying personal relationships with host nationals. Language competence. Thorough understanding and enjoyment and adoption of some of its ways. Ability to cope with stress.
The insane bureaucracy. The treatment of women. The lack of consideration for others in public spaces. Sleazy teenage boys. Scheming taxi drivers. I have a ways to go before I can fully accept these as a valid reality. Maybe I never will. Coping with stress is a case-by-case situation. I handle it better now than I ever did in the U.S. I hardly drink alcohol anymore and opt for yoga as a coping mechanism instead. Monthly trips to the spa and salon alongside more care in my wardrobe have made me feel better about myself and allowed me to blend in a bit more with the Jordanian women (who never leave the house without a fully accessorized outfit, blown out hair and full make-up). I have positive relationships with my coworkers (expats and locals) and stop to say hi to people on the street. I don't know if it is linguistically possible for me to become fluent in Arabic, but my English is now seasoned with Arabic slang and conversation fillers (yalla, yani, bas, halas, habibti)

Things I enjoy and have adapted in terms of Jordanian/Palestinian culture center primarily around food (no surprise there!). I prefer labneh and falafel for breakfast, I eat my biggest meal in the afternoon, I drink tea at least three times a day (with heaps of sugar), I feel like a sinner if I don't serve tea to anyone who enters my house, and I smoke argileh like it's going out of style. The only non-food custom that I can think of is that I kiss everyone I know hello and good-bye (once on the left, two on the right).Living as an expat is total-body experience. My weight, my emotions and my mindset all fluctuate regularly as I move through these stages of culture shock in jolts and out of order. But as long as I keep sight of the bigger picture and don't get too stuck in the moment, the highs and lows seem to balance each other out. The challenges, life lessons, daily routines, simple joys and amazing relationships I have found along the way make it all worthwhile.