Reflections on My Trip to Jordan

This is me in Jerash, a city in Jordan famous for its well-preserved Roman ruins. A shop-owner, in an attempt to get me to buy some his scarves, insisted I try this one on. It's wrapped in the traditional Bedouin style.

This is me in Jerash, a city in Jordan famous for its well-preserved Roman ruins. A shop-owner, in an attempt to get me to buy some his scarves, insisted I try this one on. It’s wrapped in the traditional Bedouin style.

Seeing Jordan wrecked me forever. I ate savory shwarma and crispy falafel and met the nicest people. My beliefs fell out from under me. Namely, the one that says travel is difficult. It’s not. Not in the twenty-first century. The biggest two things it takes is the willingness to go and, unfortunately, money. Many people say they want to travel, but they really don’t. Because there are a million things that get in the way: family, friends, jobs, grown-up things…responsibilities. I only spent two very short weeks in Jordan, but those weeks changed me forever.

As the plane touched down in Jordan, my eyes had to re-adjust to the color—brown, everywhere, to the horizon. As we drove from the airport into the city of Amman, I saw camels—two, just lazily munching the ground on the side of the road—and herds of sheep. I saw Bedouins, nomadic people who live in tents, tending their flocks. But the scene changed the closer we got to the city. There, I saw sights strangely familiar to home: McDonalds, Kentucky Fried Chicken and other fast-food restaurants. The driving I never adjusted to. Stop lights are taken as suggestions, and the roads resemble one huge river, all flowing together, sometimes cars colliding. Horns honk continuously. Men idle on the side of the road, smoking cigarettes. We almost got involved in an accident before we even left the airport parking lot. One strange sight, so foreign to me, was the armed guards carrying very large guns stationed on every street corner. Although we were assured they’re there to protect people, it still felt threatening.

One of my big concerns was how to act as a woman with men. Gender relations are so different there. I wore long-sleeved shirts and pants, to accommodate the culture. Yet I still seemed to attract unwanted attention. The customs official stamping my Passport on the way made a “kissy face” at me, while the rest of the officials laughed along with him. After visiting Roman ruins in Jerash, our tour guide’s cousin — who was tagging along, and looked about 18 — asked me what my name was and how many sheep it would take to marry me. At our English language center, where I taught a class of mostly young people, an elderly man tried to arrange my marriage, first to his own English teach and then, after I expressed disinterest, to his own son, “an engineer who has no wife.” He called me, “The beautiful one.” I feel confident that should I still be single upon turning 30, I could easily find someone willing to marry me in Jordan.

Many things surprised me in Jordan, but the biggest was the overwhelming niceness of the people. As an America, I half-expected to be hated. But I wasn’t. Although most people there do hate America, they seem to easily separate people from politics. Most people I met identified themselves as “Palestinians,” people displaced from their homeland in neighboring Israel—a country whose existence they don’t generally acknowledge. This surprised me. One time we got lost on our way to a coffee shop. An employee of another coffee shop not only told us directions but personally guided us to our destination, which was easily a mile away, across several busy thoroughfares. What makes this so surprising is that it’s not unusual at all for Jordanians. Rather, it’s typical. The concern there is always for other people, the group, above self. It’s cultural and starkly different from the self-centeredness found in America.

So many people I got to know in those two short weeks asked me these two questions: “Do you like Jordan?” and “When are you coming back?” They seemed very aware of the negative perceptions the west has toward them, particularly America, and I saw—because they would never say it—that it pains them. The people there suffer from stereotyping. Just as all Americans are not fabulously rich Hollywood movie stars who have no morals—something many people there think—the average Middle-Eastern person is not an extreme, bomb-throwing terrorist. Fear leads us to clumping people all together, but when you get to know the faces, they separate out from each other beautifully. One girl in my class aspired to law school and another to start her own business. One older man, the one who tried to set me up with his son, came to every class with a bouquet of freshly picked jasmine flowers for me. The last evening of class, graduation night, we went to the apartment of a family who invited our whole group to dinner. The food, attention and care they lavished upon us—people they hardly knew—is something I’ll never forget. The question, “When are you coming back?” haunts me still. I was asked it so many times. I gave them hope, that maybe I’d be back someday, but I couldn’t say when. I thought of so many things, my full time jobs, my student loans, my this, my that…

But one of the strange and wonderful thing about traveling is that you realize how easy it is. In our minds we build it up. Yet I saw that I really could get an a few planes, spend a few days shuttling through airports and arrive somewhere halfway across the globe. A couple thousands of dollars poorer but somewhere exotic and completely opposite from anything and anywhere I’d ever before experienced. You realize not just the possibility of it but how easy it is to get anywhere, even to Jordan, even to the Middle East.

I tasted some of the best food there: hot pita, fresh from the oven, garlicky humus, heavily seasoned chicken, shwarma freshly shaved and heaped into a wrap. I sometimes still crave it, but replications here in Buffalo don’t taste nearly the same. I saw things in Jordan that went straight from my eyes into my heart. Like Petra. It’s like seeing another world, like slipping back into the past and getting to meander through it. I bobbed in the Dead Sea, feeling the salt prickle my skin while gazing across the water to Israel. I saw things that disturbed me, too, like all the young boys—7, 8, 9-years-old—working from morning to night in the hot, unrelenting sun, selling water bottles, gum and candy to tourists. In Jerash, one boy wandered around all day, trailing after tourists. He looked like a ghost, with crusted-over eyes, protruding bones and dirty rags for clothing.

One dominating feature there is the moon. One night, I slipped outside our apartment, feeling the cold, smooth tile beneath my feet and just looked straight up at it, hanging suspending in the sky. It cast a glow upon the whole city, including me. I felt mesmerized by its size and by the illusion of its closeness, as if I could just reach up and feel its surface. At home the moon is much smaller, the people familiar and food not half so good. Sometimes Jordan feels like something I dreamed. At the grocery store now, I look at the wall of newspapers, many with photographs showing strife in the Middle East. I used to feel fear looking at the weapons, or seeing the blood. But now all I see are the faces.

I feel like I have this little inner twinge now anytime anyone says the word “travel.” I sort of sit up straighter and get this funny achy feeling like I’m missing out, like a little kid standing in the doorway saying, “Take me too, take me!” I get wrapped up now in the possibilities. I can get on a plane — and go, anywhere. Although seeing such different sights in some ways disturbed me, it left me feeling shaken up inside in a good way. Maybe what’s so addictive about travel is that it causes the traveler to think differently about nearly everything: culture, assumptions, ourselves. Suddenly we’re positioned in a new way in the world, and so we see the same things we’ve always seen in a fresh way, sometimes a better way, many times a healthier and truer way. Oftentimes it carves compassion into us, simply because we feel better connected to our common humanity, to each other, to the world.

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The great, wide world

This past summer I spent two weeks teaching English in Jordan. I thought, when I’d returned home, I’d write about the experience—a lot. But it’s December now and I still haven’t. I wrote a few little pieces here and there but not much. I realize now that I’ve been afraid to, afraid to spill out into words how much the trip rattled me, shaking out the dust of my assumptions and beliefs. I haven’t wanted to face this for some time: my newness and what it might mean for my future.

Adjusting back into my current job, as the editor of a weekly community newspaper, was exceptionally difficult. I’d say it took a couple of months. For a long time I just could not focus. I’d come into work, sit my body down into the chair in front of the computer screen, but I still felt thousands of miles away. Where was my mind? I wanted, in a strange way, to be back in the Middle East. But was that really what I wanted? Or was what I craved the newness, the sharp break in my schedule? I was drunk silly on the differentness of it all, lost and disoriented in it and maybe just a little bit in love. In a way it felt like a dream, too. In two short weeks I was plucked from my life and plunged into something drastically different, and, upon my return, it felt somewhat like maybe I had dreamed it all.

Going to Jordan made me realize in a skin on skin kind of way how big the world is. I’d known it looking at a map, but I’d never felt it. You feel the world’s bigness in a classroom filled with Arabic-speaking men who, for the life of them, cannot pronounce “P” or “V,” and you realize that these sounds never penetrated their language; you realize that the way you speak is not the way millions of other people in the world speak. You feel the bigness of the world when you see the rocks of Petra rising sculpted in the desert air and realize that not too long ago people made their homes in the carved-out crevices.

Not long after I returned, the world’s bigness weighed on me. I thought of my two weeks in Jordan, and how much I’d seen of the world—how I’d felt like I my eyes feasted everywhere I went on newness—and realized, sadly, how little I’d really seen. How much more was out there, everywhere. If only I could get to it. I settled back into my life reporting on town budgets and new school policies and the village’s installation of new fire hydrants, and felt through to my bones and blood, in a very deep way, that I was missing the great, wide world. I had tasted life beyond the cubicle and beyond the government board meeting and, like an animal tasting blood for the first time, I wanted it more than ever. The ache has dulled in the past few months as I try to forget the wonderfulness, lest I miss it. But, if I am perfectly honest with myself, I do miss it. Sometimes terribly. Maybe not Jordan in particular, but the thrill at plunging into something wholly unknown, serving in it and, in the process, letting it fill you back up.

Taxi Ride

We jumped into the taxi, sliding across the cracked plastic seating to fit all three of us into the backseat, before anyone else could. It smells, as most taxis here do, of smoke and stale sweat. The driver looks back at us mildly curious, noticing we’re westerners, by not just our clothing but also our mannerisms, bold and overt to them but normal for us. I’d love to know what he’s thinking in those few seconds that “Americans” registers into his brain, the associations that flow out of that. My heart sinks as I realize they’re most likely all negative. He asks us where we’re going, and we explain, or at least try to. Between his broken English and our childlike Arabic, he figures it out. Amman blows past us, blurring into faces and buildings and cars and the occasional herd of sheep one’s apt to see in this city more than 5,000 miles away from my own. The air-conditioner cuts heat from the mid-day sun. The driver, who looks as if he once was handsome, has deep lines in his face, lines I imagine were put there from trying to scrape together an existence for his family from the meager earnings made driving people places. The radio plays, and he hums along to it, an upbeat song heavy with drums as most here are. It ends, and he mumbles something in Arabic before taking his eyes off the road to change the station. The car swerves to the right, and we all in the backseat suck in our breath and silently pray we will exit the taxi not in a crumpled mass but alive. Cars come at us from all directions. No one here uses turn signals, creating chaos on the roads, but people here like to call it “a more fluid way of driving.” I just call it crazy. Our driver straightens out the car a second later, just as a new pop song emits from the speakers behind our heads. He puffs on a stub of a cigarette—as nearly all Jordanian men do — and glances back at us in the rearview mirror, seeing three well-dressed, frightened foreigners.  I learn after awhile to adjust to the heightened adrenaline accompanying any ride in a taxi, and I learn also that while death may seem imminent on these roads, it is not likely. So my stomach settles itself if only by sheer will, and instead of imagining how my obituary might read, I instead imagine how I might recreate this city someday in words.

Dinner with an old friend

We sat down together on the outside deck, shady from the big trees, and prayed. My friend’s husband of just a few months asked God to bless the food and bless us, too. Then we ate. My friend-since-preschool scooped me a hot pepper stuffed with cheese, and later we had the grilled steak and asparagus. She cooked, and he grilled. We talked, laughed and enjoyed our food together outside in the summer air. When we finished we took everything inside, and my friend brewed us a fresh pot of coffee. She poured it into two beautiful little mugs—one of which she gave me earlier for my birthday present— and served it with cream and sugar. Over coffee we talked, smiling and laughing and savoring the sweet drink. We dipped blueberry scones in it. That tasted divine. How odd it was to see my friend bustling around her kitchen with her new husband. How strange that just yesterday it seems we were bustling between our eighth grade classes and shooting rubber bands at boys. How strange that in some time and space that defies labels we somehow both grew up, she becoming a hair stylist and I a writer. Will time, I wondered, continue on like this—strange as can be and leaving me in its wake, watching….wondering what happened? Writing is very nearly the closest we’ll ever come to stopping it. With words, we freeze time—make it stretch out long and lithe like taffy to our heart’s wishes. But even in the strangeness of seeing my childhood friend as a grown woman in her grown-up house, I felt also incredibly happy for her because I’d rarely seen her so happy.  I felt that deep down stomach joy that bubbles all the way up and through to the tips of your fingers. She was being loved here in this place by this caring, good man, being romanced every day by someone who pledged himself to her forever and ever, who said, “I do.” I left that night feeling life much more fully than when I had walked in, heavy from a long day’s worth of work. Friendship is one of those indescribable things—moments perhaps when two people agree completely on things, a coming together—that makes life feel not so lonely and cold but rather full and warm and wonderful.

Thoughts on fall, and other things

I felt fall this morning before I even got out of bed.  It was that feeling when the air is just that smallest bit colder that it makes you want to stay snug under your covers for just five minutes longer. I returned from the Adirondacks a couple of days ago. There autumn already kissed the tops of the trees in red colors that fade downward into summer green. The ground there, bedded with pine needles, feels soft beneath your feet, and in the early morning — when mist still hovers over the lake — I can hear loons calling to one another. Before anyone else wakes, I look out from the log lean-to and admire the view from our island: a silent lake framed by trees. For a moment I wonder why anyone lives apart from a place like this. I get the feeling that such a view may one day no longer exist. Pavement compares poorly with this cathedral.

The days in the Adirondacks are long and warm, the afternoons filled with swimming off the soft, sandy beach, and the evenings, filled with nothing-talk and firelight, turn chill. The fire burns brighter then, it seems, and warmer. Yesterday, while back in the city, I stepped on a crunchy leaf, and then another, and another. A whole pathway of them, all crunchy. Is it the draught, I wonder? Or fall’s early arrival? Both perhaps?

I enjoy fall more than any other season. To me fall means beginnings, because for most of my life, up until just recently, it signaled the start of something new. September’s synonymous with something that’s momentous in the life of every child—school’s beginning—and it’s burned into my brain. So even still, at 25-years-old, when the leaves begin changing and the air turns crisp and my breath I can see in the early morning, I feel a sense of new beginnings, of starting over. I get this urge to buy fresh new notebooks filled with perfect white paper, pens filled full with ink and packs of pencils with erasers still unused. I feel like I should buy a few new items of clothing and that I should get organized. How strange it is then when I find that September comes and nothing in my life changes but the weather, turning colder, wetter and stormier until finally snow flies. The leaves turn crackly and the air cold, but every day I go to the office and sit in my chair without even a window to look outside and watch my favorite season. How strange that September comes and yet school doesn’t. And never will again. Everything changes, and I watch, wondering if I ever will too.

Petra, continued….

From a distance, he appears as a white dot. As we climb closer, he gets bigger, and the white dot turns into the outline of a man perched on a ledge. His feet dangle off it, and he wears a white robe with a white and red tasseled turban of sorts wrapped around his head. He’s got what looks like slippers on his feet. As we climb the final few steps, we see his brown skin and the lines through it. His eyes crinkle at their edges as he smiles our way. He makes his living off people like us, tourists who come from across the globe to see the ancient city cut into the rocks. Petra. But before tourists ever came with their dollars, Bedouin filled Petra. They lived off the land and from their animal herds. Today, the Bedouin still live in Petra, in far fewer numbers, but most do not inhabit the caves as they once did. They sleep in modern tents, the kind American campers use, or housing the Jordanian government built for them. They make their living from the industry Petra generates not by doing anything but simply by being the historic, remarkable place that it is. People need to lead the horses on which tourists’ ride, to give them tours, to lead them on camels so that they can take pictures that they will go home and show friends, to sell them souvenirs. The Bedouin are happy to oblige. Not only do they make their money from this, money they use to feed their families, but they enjoy it, too. They believe that blessings follow guests, and to turn someone away is unthinkable — not an option. Guests are from God. The old ways for them are fading, though. Few sleep as all Bedouin once did on summer nights: under the stars, stretched out on a bedroll placed on a rock somewhere.

“Welcome!” the man says to us. He’s short, thin and dark as all the people here seem to be in this ancient city where the ghosts of something great, the Nabataeans, roam in their old capital city. But he has a swagger, too. He’s proud to show us this place, the monastery. He’s the only one here. At his urging, we move toward the tables. On them, spread out across multiple tables, are the goods he tries to sell us — Petra souvenirs and stuffed camels and plastic bracelets and necklaces. A generator keeps the small refrigerator filled with cans of pop and water cold. Those too are for sale, along with a small rack chips and popcorn are clipped to. Down below tables fill parts of Petra where the natives sell their goods all day. From a nice-looking Bedouin who knew little English but said it so enthusiastically (and wrongly) that I found it sweet I bought a small turtle with brilliant swirls of color through it. The man told me proudly that it’s made from the rocks there, “all natural.” I picked it up, examined it and knew I had to have it. It wasn’t tacky, like some of the other things. It was cool—really cool—because it was in a way like holding a little piece of Petra itself. So I paid my 10 dinars for the rock, giving my money to the now even happier man with the dark and beautiful eyes and tucked it into my bag. My dad was just as happy receiving it as I was discovering it.

But up by the monastery, it’s just this one man, who looks almost old but moves quickly, and his tables. It seems strange that here, a place that’s even remote by Petra standards, a place you have to hike to, is a business man. It looks incongruent. From this vantage point, Petra is spread out in a sweeping view, something you can take in as a panorama. And it’s incredible. The golden brown desert under the almost-setting sun, the smattering of ink-black holes in the rock ledges where the caves were cut for tombs and later used as homes. I sadly thought, as I always think in moments such as this, that I’d probably never be back, that my brain and heart better wrap themselves around this moment, absorb it the best they can and remember it always. A cool evening breeze blows past us all up here, a welcome relief from the hot sun we felt at midday. The sky’s taking on a different color now as the sun begins to set, and the sound ebbs from Petra as the tourists ebb away, too. The hoof beats on the packed ground from the horses pulling carts filled with tourists sound more distant and infrequent. The stillness feels palpable now, as if these great rocks breathe a sigh of relief once everyone’s gone home for the day. Petra, I realize, is returning to the place it once was for hundreds of years. And because we’re laggers, and got a late start to our day, we get to see it change. A blessing I never could have foreseen.

Climbing the Mountain in Petra

Image

We almost don’t go. The sun’s about to slip down for the evening, and our feet ache. Tourists walk back now, not further into Petra. We feel fatigued from the intense midday sun and all the walking, but we go anyways. One decides to go — we’ll never be here again, right? — and then another followed by another until we’re all walking together to the monastery that’s 20 minutes up the mountain. The two guys in our group zoom ahead of us. We see them five minutes later. They appear as two dots in the distance, waving from the rock’s ledge. They holler down for us to take pictures as they strike ridiculous poses. At that moment, we ourselves are getting our picture taken by a group we meet from Barcelona, Spain. “Gracias,” I say as they hand the camera back.

This one word amidst all this Arabic makes them extraordinarily happy, and a smile spreads across their tan faces. It’s just one word, but it’s the sound for them of home. Here in Jordan, we say “shukran” — which means thank you in Arabic— all day long to nearly everyone we meet. It slips off my tongue now, and I say it to the taxi cab drivers, restaurant waiter and young man who surprised me by wiping down my shopping cart before I use it at the grocery store. In a service-oriented place like Jordan, it’s a word visitors should keep readily available.

Before this end-of-day hike up the mountain and before we had our tour, we rode horses into Petra. Their coats were dusty, and they appeared tired and too thin. They’d been carrying tourists all day. As I swung my leg over its side and situated in the saddle, what I really wanted the horse to do was rest and drink water, but we were off. As we swayed on the horses’ backs under the sun, we took our first look at these other-worldly rocks people travel across the globe to see.

A skinny Bedouin man with a baseball cap, wrinkled button-down shirt and baggy pants leads my horse. The people here look different here than in Amman. Their skin is darker, hair jet black and they appear thinner and shorter, too.  He asks after a couple of minutes where I’m from, as he probably asks everyone he leads every half-hour, and I tell him, “New York.” Those two words sound surreal here, as if the place not quite exists really except in books, newspapers and on television. Even to me it sounds strange. In Petra there is just Petra, or so it feels, and there is nothing at all but the rocks, as if they create another world all their own. He nods in a way that means he’s heard of it before, knows what it is, and probably pictures New York City all ablaze with lights and people and exploding with cars, but it’s no use to say “Western New York,” for he wouldn’t know it anyway. I picture the City of Buffalo but mostly its outlaying farmlands nestled in rolling hills. How different my home is from this golden desert.

He asks if I want to hold the looping leather reigns, and so I do while he trots along beside me on a low stone wall buffering a dip in the land. I worry for a moment he might fall off the wall and disappear into the sand, but he looks a part of it somehow, part of the land. All the people here in Petra have that same quality, as if they are an extension of the dust and rocks and sun, their skin growing even more brown from soaking under it for hundreds of years. They are in no more danger dangling from even the highest ledge than a champion surfer would be riding the waves. This is their home, and these crushing rocks they grew up climbing.

(More to come, later.)

“En-Shallah”

The real stories from real life have been lacking these past few months, and for that, I feel sheepish. I feel like one among the hoards of eager people who start Blogs super enthused, only to quit them soon after after that enthusasm fizzles. Well, the enthusiasm is still present, just dormant. I hope to get back into a regular Blogging ryhthm soon. Why? Because this Blog is for me as much as it is for anyone who happens to read it. Here I can be me, in my voice, writing whatever it is that I want to write. There’s not just freedom in that but also joy. I returned not long ago (last month) from the Middle East, Jordan in particular. I could use a lot of abstract words to describe the experience like “wonderful, fantastic, incredible and amazing,” but I won’t. Because I don’t like those words. I cannot see them. Most readers have just this one command: “Make me see.” So, in the next few posts I write, I intend to write things readers can see. Or at least I’ll try to; as Middle-Easterners would say, “En-Shallah,” which means God-willing.

Giving up my sacred Sunday newspaper time

I hold Alana on my lap, and she cuddles into me, dressed in her Sunday finest: a plaid ruffled dress, thick stockings, a big, clip-on bow in her hair and shiny black shoes. I try to put her down, but she reaches back for me, so I scoop her in my arms once again. And I hold her.

We sit together in a rocking chair, and we go back and forth, back and forth. She is warm, happy and looking all over the room. I imagine if I were her age — 14 months — I would have done the same in a strange room, wanted to stay safe in someone’s arms and let my eyes do the exploring my feet weren’t yet ready to do. I like how solid she feels in my arms, a weight I well remember from toting my two little brothers around when they were young. (Now one’s in the Army and the other, the Air Force.)

I scan the room and take inventory of all the nursery babies toddling around while their parents sit in church. Some keel over, off balance, and bump their heads. Some discover toys in the bin and, as they do, fall into it. Some don’t stop crying. For all these minor catastrophes someone close by serves as the rescuer, the scooper-upper, the kisser for the babies with booboos. Or, for little Alana, I serve simply as the holder. None realize that this is my precious, sacred, most treasured time of the week: My Sunday morning, house-is-silent reading the newspaper time.

Sunday morning before church I spread the big, thick paper on the kitchen table. I get my cup of coffee, and I take my time. Page by page. Because this is the only morning I may linger. All others are for rushing: Rushing to work, to warm up the car, to get my lunch ready, to pack my purse, to find that one shoe always conspicuously missing. But that time before church, those few sacred hours were for lingering slow and lovely through the pages of the Sunday paper. I dawdled through it, stopping where I fancied, getting my fill of local and international news, with a smattering of book reviews and columns thrown in, too. All while sipping coffee that gets frequent refills.

Alana makes a noise and points to her twin sister across the room, also being rocked. She, unlike Alana, is fussy and has wet eyes from tears that only stopped a few minutes ago. Church is almost over. It’s my third week volunteering in the nursery. I haven’t yet gone a week without thinking about the sacrifice, even if no one else knows or cares. Sometimes the babies scream and won’t stop or poop in their pants, and when they do, I ache for that silent kitchen and my formerly inky fingertips, because I deserve it, don’t I? I work hard all week long, and that’s my time. For just me. But, you see, that’s where I was wrong.

My time is not my own. It is God’s, to do with it what He wants. Being a part of the church means more than showing up Sunday morning. It means rubbing shoulders with other people through serving with them. I realized after a quick assessment of my always-full work week that Sunday morning was the only time I could conceivably volunteer at the church in some type of ministry. Then, sitting in the pew one week, I saw in the bulletin that the 10 a.m. service needed nursery volunteers. My mind shot directly to my newspaper time: Could I give that up? I wrestled with it for too long. I realized that if I didn’t, I was putting myself, my own wants and desires, before obedience.

Alana’s parents appear in the doorway, and she lets out a squeal. I tote her over, and she reaches both arms out for her father, who has eyes only for his little daughter. Nursery work isn’t glamorous. It involves tears and poopy diapers and lost little shoes and lots of snotty noses. No one knows that I traded in my newspaper time. But it’s not about people knowing anyway. I know who I’m doing it for, and he knows too.

And I hope it makes Him smile.

Excuses, excuses…

I’d like to say I had a really good reason for not posting anymore, but I don’t. The book reading screeched suddenly to a halt. Part of the reason is that I began taking an Arabic language class Friday night, and I joined a Bible study Thursday night and began volunteering in the nursery at church Sunday morning and generally seem to have gotten a whole lot busier the past few weeks. Which isn’t to say I miss my weekly book reading and post. I do, very much so. I just haven’t quite figured out yet how to squeeze it into these other things that I think are important, too. I plan to post more about the Arabic class soon and also why I’m taking it. That’s a story in itself. Once I do get back into a regular reading rhythm, I expect the books I choose mostly to be about the Middle East.

Here’s a quote I like. I don’t have a reason to include it here other than I stumbled across it and though I’d share: “People are often unreasonable and self-centered.  Forgive them anyway. If you are kind, people may accuse you of ulterior motives.  Be kind anyway. If you are honest, people may cheat you.  Be honest anyway. If you find happiness, people may be jealous.  Be happy anyway. The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow.  Do good anyway. Give the world the best you have and it may never be enough.  Give your best anyway.  For you see, in the end, it is between you and God.  It was never between you and them anyway.”    ―      Mother Teresa.