(barely) settling into a new year

January came in like a whirlwind, the crisp breeze of the new year stirring up the leaves in the trees and the ambitions in my heart, tossing me into a storm of activity.

I settled back into Amman after spending the holidays away. I started a new schedule, now that I will be working on my research instead of studying Arabic full time. During the weekdays I intern with a youth workforce agency, and I also work with the National Council for Family Affairs on various research initiatives. In between these NGO engagements, I have evening classes and a couple of tutors that I meet with to further develop my skills in formal and colloquial Arabic.

There are other things, little rituals, which mark the days for me in Amman: Catching up with my roommates after a long day. Sipping my morning cup of Nescafe at the office. Greeting the neighbors as I come and go, and sometimes sitting with them for a cup of tea. Managing to read a page or two of a novel, one day Arabic, the next day, English, as I take a taxi from one place to the next. Practicing yoga at home most days, but visiting the studio once a week for camaraderie. Sitting at the neighborhood library to review endless Arabic vocabulary. Reading the news from back at home in frustration. Reminding myself to stay focused, to resist cynicism, resist divisive political discourse, and resist oppressive policy proposals. Occasionally walking to the peak of a hill from which the view of Amman takes my breath away.

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There are other small things I am endeavoring to do this year. As per the recommendation of online yoga instructor Lesley Fightmaster, I am trying to journal often, especially taking time to reflect on gratitude. Another thing: I have always wanted to write creatively. I have been reading a lot about the creative process, most recently Elizabeth Gilbert’s book Big Magic. It has been providing me with the solace that art does not necessarily belong to artists. I needed the reminder that I, like anybody else with a creative impulse and honest intentions, am entitled to create. Even if it is not my full-time profession and even if I don’t have all the qualifications. Creating in a world that often stifles our creativity is a brave act. (Now that I am open to this message, I am seeing it everywhere: in street art, on coffee shop napkins).

This blog is part of my intention to write more expressively. But I also want to delve into some fiction writing. Even if only for an hour a week. Which is exactly what my roommate Miriam and I are doing. We had our first writing session just a few days ago. We made tea and turned on the heater in the living room and sat in the warmth and wrote. It is a new tradition that I am excited to continue.

And just as I am feeling settled back in, with busy weekdays and the restful spaces between accounted for, falling into the rhythm of the new year… I am on the move again. I sit here writing this post at Charles De Gaulle Airport in France, taking a five-hour layover on my journey to Detroit. I found a comfortable seat in the lounge and I am nurturing a hot cup of coffee. Settling in, barely.

I am going for a short trip home. The timing worked out in an unexpected way, and I am excited—grateful— to spend a wrinkle of time in this busy new year with my family.

I saw a little phrase stenciled into against a wall while walking through one of the quieter streets of Amman. “Hello Stranger.” I don’t know why, but it struck me as a nice thing that someone would take the time to etch that greeting.

It comes to mind now, here in Paris, in transit between Detroit and Amman. Between my childhood home and newly adopted (somewhat temporary) home. I am neither here nor there. A familiar stranger, just stopping by to say hello.

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[Originally published on Andrea in Amman blog, January 2017]

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