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Day One: “Appropriately Anxious” in Madaba and Amman

Our day together began in a literal and figurative haze, with morning call to prayer and a cloudy church-filled skyline welcoming the groggy lot of us. We gathered for a breakfast of olives, falafel, and hummus on the rooftop of the Moab Land hotel, where most of us had stayed the prior evening. My colleague Chuck and I soon met our remarkable cohort of educators from across the US — Gracie, Grace, Eric, John, Jen, Lucia (with Sandra and a Sarah soon to follow), and our fearless leaders Paul and a Elley, who had made sure all was welcoming and miraculously coherent for our group of discombobulated new arrivals.

We spent the morning setting up the proverbial Dragons container, getting to know each other and sharing our goals, personal and professional, and our “appropriate anxiety” (citation: Jen!) in anticipation of the journey. We learned about the miracles of butt spray, which ones of us were exotic dancers, which ones had unbeknownst-to-us cats, and laughed heartily together — a promising beginning. Culmination was some Oscar-worthy sketches of what NOT to do when in Jordan.

Lunch was at a local Madaba restaurant I neglected to write down (my bad!), where the grilled chicken I ate was spectacular, and Lucia plotted to smuggle the lemon mint drink concoction out (YUM). Afterwards, Chuck, Lucia, and I found ourselves wandering the windy streets past corn stands, electronics and dress shops, in desperate search of coffee. We found a lovely little cafe with a giganto Jordanian flag backdrop, a wall of dry fountain and rocks, and a kind Madaba style barista. I am struck again and again by the kindness, curiosity, and welcoming of the Jordanians I have met. We sat and drank our Turkish coffees (Chuck liked it so much, he drank the grounds!) and were all suitably buzzed for the ride to Amman (during which our jet lag triumphed and we all kinked out). Before the ride, I had a chance for a check in with Elley, who had sage advice to offer on the delicate balance of performing femaleness in Jordan, while still finding ways to be present and unafraid. Deeply grateful for all of the context Elley and Paul have provided, and the ways in which they have eased us into this new culture with humor and grace.

After settling into our hotel, we walked to dinner at Hashem’s, an absurdly delicious old school Amman standard and hole in the wall where I was introduced to stuffed falafel (I will never be the same), and had the fortune to sit with Amany, our Arabic teacher and local insider. She not only made me laugh hysterically, but explained to me some of the ways that women practice Islam in the home, and how the Koran text is notated for those making the call to prayer so they might recite with ancient rhythms and an improvised non-melody melody. I was struck by how similar it is to Hebrew notations for reciting the Torah, and once again was reminded that this is my sister culture, that our seemingly eternal “ethnic”/religiously based battles are constructed, a sibling rivalry that has devastated generations unnecessarily.

We returned to the hotel, had an Arabic lesson with Amany, where the most important phrase I learned is that my buddy Chuck is one washah bint.

My conversations throughout the day with my new colleagues were incredibly inspiring. I am over the moon to be inspired by this brilliant collection of like minded educators. Getting fired up with my roommates of last night Gracie and Sarah about the state of 8 dependent schools and the need for more female leadership was WASHAH! (as are they).

So looking forward to our unfolding adventure together.