People will understand that I am a person just like them; maybe not all people, but certainly some. This I believe. I’m a New Yorker born and bred as well as a college student studying Anthropology-Sociology, Hispanic Literature, and the Arabic language in California. I hope to study abroad in Amman, Jordan, in Spring 2008. The people I refer to in my opening sentence are people I haven’t met yet living in or from Jordan: people I might simply pass on the street or live, study, or work with. I don’t think people I meet in Jordan will perceive me as exactly like them, but I think they will understand I am like them in the sense that I am trying to live my life as best I can under the conditions that I have grown up in and learned from. Or at least that’s how I hope I will be perceived.
Gosh, that first paragraph sounded kind of pretentious, or maybe condescending, didn’t it? I hope not, but my goal is to get across a message; I can’t always help how it comes out, the point is that I manage express it. I just got home from this store called El Shater a couple of blocks away. I was practicing my elementary Arabic with this guy from Lebanon, and then I asked him some questions about travelling in the Middle East that I hoped he could answer, such as: Should I wear a hijab? Should I tell people I’m Jewish? He said – and I could have probably answered this myself if I’d just thought about it more – that it depends where I go, and who I meet. Some people expect you to conform to their ways and values, others don’t. And the degree can vary a lot. Sometimes you won’t be able to tell and you’ll have to take a risk.
Then the guy pointed out something I’ve been experiencing all my life, and I’m sure others in diverse areas such as New York City have, too – that he has friends who are not of his background, where issues such as religion, culture, or politics don’t matter. He just tries to respect others’ points of view while maintaining his own. If I travel to Jordan, I’m going to try to do that too. I’ll try to evaluate a situation before acting, and I’ll try to see people as ordinary while simultaneously learning about and respecting differences, however subtle or stark. And I’ll forgive myself when I make mistakes. That’s the best I can do, Insha’allah, God-willing.
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