Thursday, September 15, 2011

A Year Has Passed

A year has passed since the passing of my dear grandmother. In her absence, I have reflected on her life, my life and the many lives that she touched. Although I ache for her, I know in my heart that my tears are selfish. She was a women of such accomplishment and had advanced to the ripe age of 84. Since her children lived far from her, she waited by the phone for her children to call and send their love. She also spent her days tending her garden and rummaging through her old family pictures. Bound to her house due to internal pain and unable to travel long distances to visit her children abroad, her spirit grew restless. Although she was always on our minds, other than short visits or brief summers in Jordan, she was alone. As her health derailed into an irredeemable state last summer, it was clear that she was ready to meet her maker. Her work was complete. I am grateful that I was able to spend two summers living and learning from her. Sometimes my greed gets the best of me and I wish that we had more time and that I was able to spend more summers with her. I know that I am blessed to have had her for that time.

After she passed, I started reading the obituaries section of the newspaper. I find the obituaries quite interesting because you get to read about the lives of others and what their families' felt was most significant about the life of their loved one. Usually, the family puts the birth date, major accomplishments such as academic and professional accomplishments, marriage, children, and sometimes something brief about their death or the end of their life. The obituaries remind me how simple and close death is to each of us and how it can take us at any time without notice.
As I read each obituary, I think of my family and wonder what they would write about me if I died today. Would they be proud of me? Would they miss me? Have I accomplished anything worth recording? Obviously these are all rhetorical questions that I never answer, but I wonder. Did I live my life with meaning and purpose? If I died today would my life be complete? I guess I will just have to wait and see.

I Dream of the Day

I dream of the day in which I will be able to travel to the land of my forefathers without fear of discrimination and danger.
I dream of the day in which democracy will be led by the voice of the people instead of the greed and corruption of elites.
I dream of the day in which the burdens of the Palestinian people will be lifted.
I dream of the day in which my people will be one people and will not seek out division, but rather embrace unity.
I dream of justice.
I dream of opportunities
I dream of a new Iraq, a new Egypt, a new Tunisia, a new Libya, a new Syria, and a new America.
I hope that someday soon, I can stop dreaming and open my eyes to find my dreams a reality. For now, I will dream and let these dreams translate into the work of my life.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

My Sociological Theory Endeavors

I just started my MS in Sociology and feel very humble and unprepared. The past week has been a whirlwind of information, expectations, and lovely syllabi. I have always detested theory, but have come to the realization that sociological theorists are even more distasteful to me. To remedy my disinterest and revulsion to theory (and due to C. Wright Mill's advice), I am going to blog about the theorists that I am studying and synthesize my experiences and research along the way. For those that will be bored by this... You have been warned!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

What is assumed of a respectful expat?

Through my experiences for the past three summers in Jordan, I have had many opportunities to observe Americans from a variety of backgrounds. These interactions have revealed three types of expats that frequent Jordan: passive, passive aggressive, and actively engaged expats.

Passive expats live in a bubble. They eat American food, hang out at American hot spots with fellow Americans and Westerners, have very limited interaction with the host country's culture or people and are quite content in maintaining this status quo. (If like minded individuals lived in the US, these would be the individuals who do not read/watch the news or realize that there is a world beyond themselves.) I have found that these individuals tend to be more critical of superficial aspects of the host country in which they live because they do not understand the underlying context that informs a Jordanian lifestyle. Although it is a significant obstacle, linguistic barriers are not the largest issue that prevents interaction, but rather an overt disinterest. These expats are very confusing to me because it makes me question why they force themselves to live an isolated life away from home.

Passive aggressive expats want an abbreviated cultural experience with only the aspects that they find acceptable and appealing. These expats are moderately informed, half-heartily attempt to learn the language and attempt to understand the culture. While gaining exposure to the culture, these individuals find themselves extraordinary and superior. Yes, they suffer from ethnocentrism and believe that their limited time in their host country will rival thousands of years of cultural and societal development. They attempt and fail to understand the parameters of the game of life in their new context and adamantly fight against the rules that are less appealing.

Actively engaged expats are participants within their communities and seek out opportunities to further cultural exchange and understanding. These individuals have their fair share of faults, but the underlying difference that sets this group apart is informed humility and respect. All expats make small and large cultural faux pas, the difference is once this group identifies a misstep has been made, they are regretful and take the appropriate measures to make amends. They value the comradery that they receive from locals and care about how they are perceived in their communities. These expats seek out opportunities to integrate themselves into their communities by researching the culture of their host family, accepting it's strengths and weaknesses, and seeking to strengthen positive efforts in a culturally respectable way. It is my hope that each of us will make an extra effort to understand the cultural context of others and build upon the good that we each have to offer.