The Light at the End of the Tunnel

Rockin' around the Christmas tree...with Ziad

I came home today to find a proper Christmas tree set up in our living room! Okay, fine, it’s fake and I can’t exactly decorate it with my favorite 49ers ornament from home…but still. With just two weeks left now and the departures gate of Queen Alia Airport well within sight, it’s a comfort to know that I’ll soon be on a couch in Rocklin, stuffing my face with Dad’s banana nut bread and Mimi’s fudge….washing it all down with copious amounts of egg nog and drifting in and out of a jet-lagged stupor as I watch the classics like Elf and Love Actually and A Christmas Story. I cannot wait.

But enough fantasizing.

To be honest, the end of the term has come too quick. The chemistry within our small program has never felt so natural, while the early nervousness that accompanied any interaction with a Jordanian has ceded to a sense of confidence and ease. With a research paper deadline and finals drawing near, teachers have worked to accommodate our rising level of stress and frustration. At this point, some classes are merely a time for discussion and banter among the six of us.

I will be sad to see it all draw to a close, but there remains a daunting challenge between now and the 22nd: Finding a way to balance the inevitable study sessions and mounting responsibility with everything I still want to see and do here in Amman. I have yet to see the Dead Sea, while much of Amman remains unexplored, having spent the past few weekends working on research and homework instead. I’m sure my host family understands the situation, but I still feel distant from them after spending a considerable amount of time either away from home or at my desk in my room.

I’m hoping that my search for souvenirs and Christmas gifts for everyone will provide a final glimpse of the city before I leave. If you have any requests, leave me a comment or send an email and I’ll add it to the list! If not, you’ll have to be content with my opinion of what’s interesting and valuable enough to bring back.  There’s an obvious risk involved here – and no assurance you’ll love what you get – but I promise the intent will be genuine. I’m already evaluating what will be left behind to make sure I meet the airline’s size and weight constraints for luggage.

With my host mom, Salam.

As for updates in Jordan, it’s been an exhausting and rewarding few weeks as we begin to wrap it all up. I finished the first draft of my research paper over the weekend – the Public Relations Industry in the Middle East and its Potential for Growth in the Future – and will be defending my work next week in front of a panel of UJ professors. We’re currently rehearsing a play in the local dialect to perform at a dinner next week with our host families and the CIEE staff. And I’m trying to squeeze in time to work at Naseej, working on documents and publicity for a social media workshop they plan to organize this spring. Nevertheless, classes are finished (officially) in two days – and each remaining day involves a free lunch along with review sessions for finals. Score.

Outside of the world of vocab and grammar and economics and identity crises and phosphate companies, Jordan has also managed to provide some great memories with both American and Jordanian friends recently. Thanksgiving was spent at the home of a US Embassy employee – the generous aunt of one student in our program – who embraced the Jordanian tradition of far too much food and hospitality, with four turkeys and an entire table of various desserts for the guests. I can officially say I carved my first thanksgiving turkey….in Jordan. Go figure. We celebrated Josh’s 20th birthday the next night at a local bar (it is possible to find a beer in Jordan, if you know where to look). Meanwhile, in a divine act of fate, I met a Jordanian who lived in Liverpool for the past three years and attended every home game last season. We spent several nights at Sports Café and watched our Reds beat Chelsea twice at Stamford Bridge and tie table-toppers Man City at home.

In other news, I still love my Ducks – even after waking up at 3 a.m. to watch the frustrating loss to USC a few weeks ago. With Ziad obviously asleep in the same room, I did my best to silence the stream of profanity that tended to follow each disappointing play.  At the end of the day, I’m just grateful that I can come home to watch at least one Oregon game on real TV – that it happens to be the Rose Bowl is just that much better.

I am still trying to get a hold of pictures from Palestine so that I can finally post a summary on Part II of the Eid vacation. In sha’ allah, I will take care of that very soon. Chances are I will be in a fairly unpredictable state for the next 15 days as I confront the reality of finals week and try my best to cope with the reality of this experience finally winding to an end. Either way, the magnitude of it all is certain to do strange things to my mood – but hey, that’s a just natural side-effect of the inevitably warped sleep patterns, right? After all, it’s a comfort to know that all my friends at university back home are dealing with the same thing.

Best of luck to all with Dead Weeks, shopping traffic, travel arrangements and all the other not-so-glamorous parts of the holiday season! Enjoy the next few weeks and I will see you all very soon.




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3 responses to “The Light at the End of the Tunnel

  1. Tyler

    Guess you’ll just have to get me something that you think I will like…I would request a mule, but I don’t think customs will be to fond of that. So, I guess you will have to be creative.

  2. Sounds amazing! Randomly came across your blog & wanted to tell you that after reading a post, it makes me excited to see/read about what awesome things my peers are doing (across the world)! Good luck with everything & congratulations! Can’t wait to read a few more posts.

  3. Alison

    James, youre awesome! End of story. I wish i could be musical like you and write you a song put to glorious piano playing to tell you how awesome you are and welcome you back to USA. (but i cant, so just imagine it) ….also, clearly you are going to be severelyyyy jet-lagged but at some point during my winter break i would still really like to go play taboo in your play room as i shiver while eating my irish mint in the dead of winter. its just not home for the holidays without that. 🙂 haha love you and travel safe!!!!

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