This I Believe

Jean - Houston, Texas
Entered on April 2, 2007
Age Group: 18 - 30

I believe that the surreal moments are by far the most memorable. I would like to say my memory is great and I recall the things that I should but, in reality, I typically only remember those times when I am truly in awe of my situation and surroundings. Birthday parties, good conversations and bad days come and go but out of body experiences and surreal moments are as vivid in my mind as the day they happened.

I see myself becoming more and more like my parents by the day and I have certainly become more selective with my memory. These moments that I remember so clearly are not very special in any way and rarely mark momentous times in my life. They do, however, mark times when I thought to myself “Remember this moment – there is no way you will ever experience this again.” I used to call those what-the-heck-am-I-doing-here moments but I suppose they are simply surreal.

Many of these moments occur when I am in situations, places and cultures foreign and different from my own. My fascination with other cultures goes back farther than Barbies and Barney and I have, fortunately, been given opportunities to nurture that interest through travel.

A few years ago, my family took a trip to Jordan to help out at a summer camp hours away from the nearest big city. While there, we worked with many members of the town on a daily basis and over a short span of two weeks, they became our good friends. On our last night, they threw us a party in a neighboring town. About twenty of us piled into a small dilapidated bus with golden fringe lining the ceiling and ashtrays on every row.

The bus ride home is still vivid in my mind even though it is far from profound or interesting to anyone else. I will never forget the smell of the heavy unfiltered cigarette air mixed with too many bodies in one vehicle. Nor will I forget what it sounded like to hear a bus load of Jordanian men give us a rousing rendition of jingle bells in the sticky heat of a summer night.

I looked over to my sister and hoped to see the same look of bewilderment on her face as I am sure I had on mine. We did not need to say a thing and instinctively told each other to take a mental picture of that moment. We would never experience anything like that again nor would anyone else understand why we would want to.

I suppose that desire to soak up everything around me captures the entire trip. I do not remember the names of all the people we met and the nights we spent there run together. I wanted to remember every detail of every conversation, the names of the dishes we ate and the songs we danced to but I cannot. The surreal experiences, though, stick in my mind like they happened yesterday.