End of years make me think of new beginnings and lessons from endings as well. It makes me take status of my life and start to learn from where I went wrong and where I also went right. So to recap here is my 2013 year in review.
2013 was an interesting year…one of the most memorable to date. The beginning of 2013 found me in Qatar celebrating New Years with family members in a country I had visited 19 years prior. Qatar had certainly changed a lot in those 19 years although I only have vague recollection of my time there previously. All my cousins were grown, married, and with children of their own. Some of the cousins I had never met previously. It was a wonderful and intimidating experience. Language barriers existed in certain aspects and I didn’t know many of them to be honest. Arriving at the airport I really did not know who exactly I was looking for so when they found me it was quite the sense of relief. Even at one point one of my cousins who I had never met previously showed up at the door and introduced himself to me before taking on a visit to his family and a trip with some of his work friends. Listening to Arabic was a torrent of sounds with the occasional understood word. I wondered what I was doing here, Arabic was hard, and I wondered if I was ever going to make progress. What a strange feeling, I had to pinch myself to really believe what was occurring. The concept of doing this was years in the making but when I finally started to put thoughts into action it was amazing how quickly things snowballed into the situation I found myself. Right or wrong decisions were irrelevant as the decision was made and here I was. I was hopeful and nervous for the year ahead.
The statue below made me think a lot about my life at the moment. Trying to hold onto life and the world as it pulled away. Some things are not meant to be tamed only taken as they are.
I returned back to Jordan, now a month into my stay with no idea exactly still how much time I would remain there. The weather had changed for the worse. It was raining for days on end, quite a stark contract from the sunny warm weather of the Gulf and my week or so in Qatar. I wasn’t really prepared at all for snow, clothing wise, mentally wise, or Jordan wise…
Yes that is snow, snow in Jordan. I didn’t know that would have been the thing I would find here in Jordan before I came. Afterwards I learned that it snows once or twice or so a year… People had told me it was cold, and I laughed it off, but yup, it was cold. And I would have to say, cold in Jordan is worse than cold back home.
Everything is cold here, even indoors, as a lot of the buildings are cement and do not hold the heat in. Once you turn the heat off it turns into an ice box. Many a morning I awoke, looking at my breath from underneath my covers just dreading getting out of bed into the cold air of my apartment. I would turn on the space heater hoping to warm up the room a little bit before I got on with my day.
January also brought new students and new adventures in Jordan, visiting new places although my speed of visit started to slow down. I moved into a new apartment as well in January, out of the dorms into a place I found on my own in a new neighborhood.
The new apartment was small but nice, but not without its problems. I ended up learning to deal with housing issues in another language. Arabic now was a necessity in more cases which was both more intimidating as well as a great learning experience.
February was still cold but the weather slowly improved a bit. It wasn’t all snow and gloom in the winter here in Jordan. The winter also brought lots of rain to the area and many places were far greener than I could have imagined them to be. Umm Qais, the first of the “monthly” trips my school set up (there would be 3 in total over my stay) was amazing and also a close look across the border into Syria which was having so many issues these days. So close, yet so far away still.
Also my life in Jordan was becoming more…my life. Celebrating my birthday here was quite an affair. From showing up with a one way ticket, not knowing a single soul to knowing lots of wonderful people and making great new friends from around the world, Jordan was and will always be an amazing part of my life and my memories.
As winter moved into spring friends went and new friends came. There was a constant flux of folks moving in and out of Jordan as one of the safe places in the Middle East and a hub for activity and support to the situations in Syria and other neighboring country. As we moved from hibernation into action our travels started to pick up and we even got to see some of the wonderful sights in our home city such as the below Hejaz Railway.
Spring also saw me move to a new apartment in a new location in the city, downtown in Jabel Amman for less money, more space, and more access to things. Spring in the city was amazing particularly with things in walking distance (except for class), but now with my ability to navigate the city’s public transportation system, less things seemed a problem.
The funny thing about being in Jordan as long as I was, you got to see friends leave and return again. There is a strange draw to Jordan, it seems that often people leave and head back home only to return again soon. It was not an isolated incident as I met so many people who had returned to study, work, or just live in Jordan. Through all the mess, problems, chaos there was a welcoming feeling to being in Jordan. It pulled you in, the people, the food, and the atmosphere. You felt welcomed and you felt at home. The spring thaw also helped push us to visit more places and see more things including one of my favorite places on the trip, the Eastern Desert. Being emboldened by new friends, new language skills, and a firmer understanding of the country we set off in search of castles and stories and found both. Including the lovely photo below from Qasr Azraq.
We also discovered that spring is not necessarily good weather as the chill of the winter was not done yet with crazy weather patterns such as when we went to visit Ajloun as well.
May saw the beginning of the end, with time quickly evaporating and most of my friends already going home.
The spring had also seen my Arabic improving tremendously. I was able to hold conversations in Arabic, and deal with many every day things this way. Arabic no longer felt unattainable although I still had far to go in the language but I was making progress and understanding questions. One of my goals I had set out earlier in the year was that I’d be able to answer and respond to questions in the street and I saw myself being able to manage those quite well now. Well…depending on the topic.
However it was also a bit lonelier as classes ended in most places and people headed back home or went off to new places. All things must come to an end right? We started out the month with a lovely quick trip out to Sharm El-Sheikh for snorkeling and hiking, including hiking Mount Sinai.
The end also saw us getting out and seeing more places including spots within Amman that we missed, such as the national museum, the place I tried to visit on my first day that was closed, finally had a “soft” opening near the end of my trip. Getting the chance to see the Dead Sea scrolls.
Better late than never we ended up testing out new skills, working on new things including calligraphy which was a skill (surprisingly I studied in college (English calligraphy however). However I learned how difficult Arabic calligraphy was however!
Ending the trip however were a few highlights including a visit to Wadi Mujib one of the most interesting and wet places to visit in Jordan as June started out and my final days quickly approached.
And then it was done…I packed, bid farewell to my friends, teachers, and others. Realizing those small little places like the coffee shop I stopped at each morning for Turkish coffee, or the corner market I may never return to. It was sad of course, but as everything, things must come to an end and my time was up and my ticket was bought.
It was really strange having my ticket in hand. The date that seemed so far in the future that I could plan things month ahead of time finally come to pass. How does time move so slowly yet so quickly as well? I was however set to return back to uncertainty, job, life, etc.
Getting back was nice but awkward. In the time I was gone my brother and his wife had a daughter and my parents bought a new house and moved! I was taken home to a place I had not seen before so it was nice to see all the things that while were the same had changed too. Work had work for me but even there things were quickly closing. I was getting back to DC and trying to adjust to being back in the states as well as being back at work. There were lots of growing pains but I settled back into my life as usual, finding things strangely in the same place that I had left them when I was gone!
I decided though to explore the local area as well. Including some trips around DC and Virginia. There is so much to see in DC and having been away so much of the time even when I lived here, I felt I had a lot of living to do. That required me to go visit lots of places on my list and see lots of festivals as well.
We also got out to Shenandoah National Park which while so close always seemed yet so far away as well.
Work continued as normal, things were still not certain. I was living a semi-nomadic life as I was unsure where I would go next if/when my work started. There was potential for a new assignment (I’ll detail that in another post) which seemed to fit me perfectly but I couldn’t for the life of me know if that would be real or not and I had to plan for any contingency. It wasn’t the threat of being laid off that worried me but the uncertainty.
So I continued to make the most of my time and explore. As luck would have it a good friend of mine who was one a 2yr trip around the world found his way back home to Maryland and we got the chance to meet and explore as well. Getting the chance to see more lovely places and festivals was something I had missed in my years in DC strangely.
The winter came quickly it seemed. I don’t even recall the transition. Work was still uncertain, I felt day to day. I really didn’t know what was going to happen, and being nomadic was draining on me. Living out of a suitcase away is one thing, living out of a suitcase at home is just bizarre. All my stuff was in storage and the storage locker was done the street. But how do you make plans when you aren’t sure where you’ll be next month?
I started to make plans for India if things would occur but also for perhaps other travels soon. As luck would have it as my project was ending a new project was set to begin and it seems that I will be employed in the New Year. Beyond that….who knows? Tomorrow everything could change again! So it was a crazy year, but a year of wonderful growth and interesting experiences. But I’m currently looking forward to 2014 and to all that it has to offer.
2013 was a year of transition that I did not expect it to be. I went away and came back to the same place a very different person. Can you ever return the same? Would you even want to? I started to wonder what I would do with my new skills, and the risks to my job now seem so much more overblown then they were when I decided strangely to leave the previous November. And if things go as planned they will have been the best thing I could have done both for my personal growth as well as professional one as well.
So here is to 2013, the memories, the friends, the photographs, and the days that will never come to pass again. So this was my 2013, how was yours? Where did 2013 take you and where do you see yourself going next?
See you all in the New Year!
IamHis Brother says
Wow.. I was really captivated for a moment there. reading this introspection and recollection of your past wonderful year…. and actually relating to it, some of it.
I hope the upcoming years bring more adventure and bring you closer to what you seek,
finally : Wow again.. so much wow that I think I will stop here.
P.S : What happened to The Penguin ?
The more important question is when are you coming to visit? Where are you these days? Did you find a Comp Science job? Did you find any cheeseburgers? Inquiring minds want to know! There is/was a happy ending in the Penguin story…don’t want to ruin it for you though 🙂
Wishing you Happy New Year and let this year bring you lots of great moments and happiness!
Thank you so much. I wish you everything you can hope for this year as well
Your snowman looks like Olaf from Frozen if you haven’t seen it yet! lol It’s so cute!
I have not seen it 😉 I cannot sadly take credit for the snowman either. Someone else had built him near the door of the church.