Between Iraq and a Hard Place

After spending hours finishing my Arabic homework (a combination of a long assignment and three distracting Turkish soap operas in a row), I’m about to crash into my bed and get some rest before my 8am class starts tomorrow. But since I hate to leave everyone in the dark about what I’ve been up to (hey Mom!), I’ll fill you all in.

One thing I’ve heard a few times since arriving in Jordan is that this country is “Between Iraq and a hard place.” Care to take a guess as to which hard place they’re referring to? The following two articles should answer your question. You don’t have to read every word if you’re in a hurry; the first couple paragraphs of each should be enough.

This a link to the Jordan Times, a popular English language news source in the Kingdom:

Next, take a look at a very different version of the same conflict in the (obviously Israeli) magazine, Israel Today:

Notice a bit of a difference? So did I.

As I’ve explained, I’m not here to speculate about which side is “right” and which side is “wrong” when it comes to Israeli-Palestinian or, far more accurately, Arab-Israeli issues. The conflict is far too complex for such a basic ruling anyway. (I just did a quick Google search and found 50 million hits for “Israeli-Palestinian conflict” and only 24 million hits for “Arab-Israeli conflict.” Anyone else find that interesting? Just me? Ok.) While I avoid taking sides, I will say that searching for reliable news is a tricky business anywhere. As you can see, the Middle East is no exception.

I will also say that it has been refreshing to hear so many different perspectives when it comes to the Arab-Israeli conflict. It’s not very often that you hear the Palestinian perspective in the United States. But in Jordan, where about half the population– not exaggerating here– is made up of Palestinian families who had to cross the Jordan River and find a new home, it’s just about all you get.

My classes are not as one-sided. Besides Modern Standard and colloquial Arabic classes (a total of 12 hours of class per week! Exhausting, once you factor in all the homework), I’m taking two history classes. One of them covers the modern history of Jordan and the Middle East. The other is called “Seminar on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.” Both of my professors are extremely well qualified and have studied at prestigious universities in Jordan, Europe, and the United States. My Israel-Palestinian conflict professor studied for two years in Israel just to learn Hebrew. I find his commitment to truly understand both sides of the conflict really inspiring.

I could go on and on about my experience tip-toeing around this issue. I’m sure you’ll see a great deal of just as non-committal coverage in future posts. I was hoping to include more details about my host family and our party last weekend, but I’ve been busy with other things.

In fact, I have a confession to make: I’ve been blogging for someone else. It’s true. This is not the only blog I’ve been keeping. It’s just so hard being so far away from you all, I have to share my experience with everyone I possibly can. But don’t worry. I think you’ll like Reach the World a lot.

Reach the World (RTW) is a non-profit organization that “cultivates relationships between young students and volunteer world travelers through an innovative program of online journalism and face-to-face interactions.” (Watch their short video here.) The deal is, if I write tons and tons of details about my travels each week, then RTW will pair me up with a classroom in one of New York City’s most under-served public schools. Most of the students are in elementary school. By following my journey, they get to learn a lot about world geography, learn to read and write in a fun and interactive way, and get comfortable with technology that many of them wouldn’t have access to otherwise.

My favorite part of RTW is that it inspires kids to achieve great things. All the students blogging for RTW are Gilman Scholars. The Gilman Scholarship Program is a scholarship granted by the US Department of State for low-income college students seeking to study abroad (hint hint– any young people out there thinking about studying abroad in the future should consider applying!). Back in elementary school, many Gilman Scholars would never have imagined they would be able to travel the world. But now, thanks to inspiring individuals and generous programs like Gilman, we are! Besides teaching kids about world geography, we are motivating them to think ahead and work hard to achieve their goals of going to college and traveling the world themselves. I’ve been blogging for the last couple of weeks (though my content isn’t live yet) and will be paired with a classroom soon. I can’t wait to meet the students via Skype and answer all their questions!

So, sorry I didn’t get to blog more this week. But I’m not really that sorry.

Before I turn in, here is a hodge-podge of photos from the last couple of weeks. I hope you enjoy them! And Happy President’s Day!

PS: Did you know it snowed in Amman the last couple of days? It didn’t stick long because it rained pretty soon after. The weather has been absolutely miserable the last couple of days. But tomorrow it supposed to be sunny and a little warmer. Here’s hoping!

A picture of the dance floor at the mass birthday at my host family's place last week. Lots of American students were there, and this particular shot seemed to catch everyone of them!

My host brother Waseem poses with ALL SEVEN CAKES and other party goodies before the company arrives

My host mother, Muna, looks on as my American host brother, Joey, cuts (one of) his birthday cakes

Waseem prepares me a bowl of fuul (mashed fava beans with olive oil, a zippy sauce with a slight minty flavor, and lots of yummy fresh vegetables)

Out with spoons. In with warm pita bread. My host dad, Fayez, spent a whole meal a couple of weeks ago coaching me on the most effective scooping methods.

Joey settling down for a typical and delicious meal of rice, vegetable/beef stew, chopped veggies, and bread. This was before we lived in a post-spoon world.

Homesickness is no match for a breakfast of peanut butter and banana

Jackie (Fight On SC Linguistics wooo!) and I discover the wonder of a cup of warm corn on a rainy day.

In what I'm now realizing is my only non-food related image, my crazy/brilliant professor gets creative with my name in Arabic during calligraphy club.


2 responses to “Between Iraq and a Hard Place”

  1. Elena says :

    All that food looks so amazing. I want seven birthday cakes for my birthday!!

  2. Edward Malick says :


    You never cease to surprise me! Do you have any other speeds than fast forward and REALLY fast forward?

    Love your blog /Ed.

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