Saturday, June 9, 2012

3adi: things I got used to

I'm en route to America after 9+ months in the Middle East. I've heard America's a strange place. There are bare legs, big cars, and no calls to prayer to wake me up in the morning (or to chastise me for staying up way too late).

I've honestly forgotten a lot and am terrified of returning.

Here's why. If there's one thing I've learned while abroad, it's that you can get used to anything. Sure, I got used to simple things--pleasantries in Arabic, sugary tea, wearing pants in the summer--but I expected that.

A few nights ago, around 11pm, I got tired and decided to leave a coffee shop. My apartment was a 20 minute walk (or 1.20 JD cab ride) away; I opted to walk. On my way home, shabab (young men) called out to me, a guy leaned out of a car to whistle at me, and a car pulled over to my spot on the sidewalk, expecting me to get in. I was entirely unaffected, 3adi.

3adi is a convenient word fusing "typical," "ok," and "no big deal." During my first few months in Jordan, this unwanted attention would have upset me, understandably. I might have opted to take a cab home to avoid the catcalls. But after spending nearly a year out here, I don't mind. I sort of expect it, actually, and notice its absence more than its presence.

I'm afraid of returning to the States because I suspect I'll discover things, like street harassment, which had become invisible to me over time. If something as unsettling as a stranger thinking you're a prostitute can become 3adi, what awful things have I acclimated to in America?

The beauty of travel is that it allows you to evaluate your own culture through a new lens. I see this as an opportunity to carry the nice things back home, and dispose of whatever doesn't fit. I know I'll be bringing back some of the kinder elements of Jordan: the way that people value relationships, a humility about our own abilities, and an appreciation for sharing. But I have no idea what I'll find in the US.

Here's to hoping that I'll be able to cherry-pick the best of both worlds. Wish me luck!

p.s. Not quite done with this blog yet...having too much fun. Later this summer, I hope to write about:

  • Syrian refugees in Jordan,
  • my visit to Cairo, and
  • culture shock 2.0: ways that America is crazy