One of the things I tend to forget when I’ve been away from the region for a while is how mixed it is. Today I walked over cracked pavestones on a street too narrow and filled with parked cars to allow our bus to pick us up without completely blocking traffic. There were few if any street lights, and the graffiti was plentiful, if oddly sweet.
A few hours earlier, I was listening to pitches from companies being incubated at Oasis500, a Jordanian tech start-up incubator. I heard women present about their stock photo repositories, their children’s book innovations, their cooking videos which allow women to earn money from their homes.
Before that, I watched as students presented research they’d done in high school–research very similar to the kind my classmates conducted in my technical high school. I saw the exact same kind of anxiety and panic in those students as I remember infusing the lives of many of my peers in high school, as well as the affection for scholarly discovery.
Even earlier before that, I had the privilege of hearing about professional development program which increased the numbers of graduates able to find jobs. Some of the problems I saw in Jordan are exactly the same as those at home; some were unique to the region; some were unique to the people trying to fix them.
When I am away too long, I fall into the habit of remembering the Middle East as one-dimensional. I talk just about politics, rather than the complex layering of politics and culture and technology and economics and gender and class and ethnicity and religion that make this place so enthralling.
I forget how real it is here.
River Jordan is chilly and cold, Hallelujah,
Chills the body, but not the soul, Hallelujah.