Oh I Get By With a Little Help From My Friends

Mansaf as served in an Jordanian household.
Mansaf as served in an Jordanian household. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Beatles Classic. Although I love the Jim Sturgess Across the Universe cover.

Another day and now Im in Jordan. Ill be here for a while, so it feels different my trip to Turkey. Especially cause my best friend is here. He loves this country. Today wasnt the first time I got to see it, but it was the first time that I got to see how that love changes him. My best friend, lets go with BF as a nickname, is a complicated guy masquerading as a simple person. He has this overlay of farting, eating and sleeping, but underneath that theres a lot of conflicting desires, identities and person working themselves out. Im not the first person to be his friend, and I doubt Im the last one to be this close to him – hes one of those people who polarizes people, you either love him and put up with the bullshit or you know right off the bat it wont work out for you. The nice thing about him is that he doesnt particularly care which side of the line you fall on, as long as it minimally affects his life. The one thing I am is the exception to the rule. I am definitely affecting his life.

Im the reason he decided to come out to the Middle East the first time, and since then (its his 4th or 5th trip out here) his involvement has ballooned and the positive impacts have been exponential. Now it is moving the lives of people on both continents in ways neither of us could have predicted 4 years ago, when it was just a last ditch effort to help him get into graduate school after a somewhat disastrous undergrad. I wonder what it feels like to travel 8000 miles and find your people and home. Because thats what he has here. I watched him today argue with a Jordanian about the political options of the country and the tribes that empower it, and saw a comfort and relaxation I dont see when hes hunched over work in his room in Utah. He always projects confidence, but this time it doesnt just sit on the surface, it becomes who he is. Its more than skin deep.

This is my crackpot hypothesis, but I think the reason this place works so well for him is how literal he is. In Jordan, things are right on the surface, if you learn what to look for. Obviously there is the religion – you hear and see the minarets and calls to prayer, as well as the women wearing hijab or niqab. There are ceremonies for greeting people, hospitality rituals that must be done, and time that must be spent in particular ways in order to get by here. And if you can learn them, then you can fit in. Even to me, Jordan doesnt feel like a foreign place, although the voice/feeling inside me is off its axis so I know that I am out of wack and have to get readjusted. Im driving BF a bit crazy, because he cannot understand why Im having this reaction.

There’s something about his reaction that is even more alientating than being in this country far from home. I would describe myself as a slow-to-warm up person. I feel crazy inside until I understand the rules and nuances of how a place works, and then I usually end up excelling within it. I had the same reaction when I started my various programs, but because I spend the time up front to understand the dynamics, I can do things that other people cant. Case in point – leaving early to go abroad. 🙂 Until then, things feel scary, Im highly sensitive to other people’s emotions and nonverbals, because Im trying to soak it all in, so I can learn the rules that are important and those that can be observed and then broken. That is how I think Ive managed to deal in a world where I cant find a easy social place to belong.

Maybe I should chose my best friends better. BF is not about drama, emotions or deep explanations. Thats probably the one thing he doesnt have in common with Jordanians, who seem to constantly be yelling, laughing and being highly expressive. Although, considering ALL of the dramatics he lets into his life, lets say that description may be a bit suspect. Myself included. Anyway, another part of traveling 101. People man, people. They are the reason I leave home and reason I ache to stay inside far away where its safe from all their shenanigans. But we will make it work, as we always do, because I love him and he loves me and family makes it through regardless. Plus who else is going to put up with us?

Otherwise, Ive found an apartment in the city, have a bathroom to scrub (somewhat scarring) and just dropped off my laundry for the first time. Life building begins anew. Oh and if it was unclear – I loved Turkey, in case that did not come across. It was just exactly what I described – new and things Im still struggling with – the constant staring. One of BF’s friends has already told him that he doesnt have to be scared walking around with me, cause everyone will be scared of me. Its not my favorite thing ever to be told, but I suppose its better than being a victim. So I will continue to try to find a way to see myself in this kaleidoscope of reflections.

Ive posted relevant articles – so you can understand a bit better why Jordan. Its this interesting country in the middle of all this crazy political upheaval. President Obama will actually be here tomorrow after his trip to Israel. Also there was a recent article posted in the Atlantic of an interview with King Abdullah II, that is having impact all over the place. Ill talk more about all of that in another post, but a small sampling below.

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