Thursday, September 08, 2005

Away, away

Well, this is my first blog post. I apologize for the lack of artistic concern I've put into this blogsite; it's more functional. For a variety of reasons, I've chosen to go with a blog instead of the mass e-mails. For one, I think blogs are more interesting, and they just seem more literary. If given the choice b/w reading a friend's blog or their mass e-mail, I would chose a blog. Most importantly, however, the blog affords you the opportunity to read or not read what I have to say! If you are completely uninterested in my ramblings, or my life for that matter, so be it. Just don't check my blog! With a blog, I can say as much as I want about anything I want without feeling guilty that there's 100 people on the other end, rolling their eyes and hitting the delete key. I will try to make my titles reflective of the post's content, such as "Feelings of Excitement," "Ramadan in Jordan," or "Political Ramblings." That way, if you could care less about my opinion of US or Jordanian politics, don't read "Political Ramblings." However, if you do care about how I'm doing, read "Feelings of Excitement." I really have no idea how often I'll post, and I may use the blog as my diary, or I may just post out of guilt every few weeks. Initially, I will e-mail the huge list (sorry!) to tell you I posted, just so I get you checking! Anyways, so that's my blog!

Now, I am slated to arrive in Amman, Jordan on Saturday, early in the morning local time. We have a one week orientation, after which the fun (read here 'a complete lack of knowledge on my part of what will go down') begins. During that orientation, I will post at least once, just to give you all a better idea of what is going on. Although many of the big things, like where I'm living (Irbid or Amman?), where I will be studying (U of Jordan or Yarmouk?), and what exactly I will do, are still in question, let me give you a better sense of why I'm going and what I'm doing, at least generally. If you already know this, just skip it.

I'm going to Jordan on a Fulbright Grant, which is through the State Department. My commitments to the government, however, are limited to what they call micro-diplomacy; in other words, developing relationships with Jordanians and building cultural, academic, and personal bridges. The idea is that when Americans are intimately involved in Jordanian society (and vice versa, as there are Jordanian Fulbrighters in the US), working with Jordanians, volunteering, becoming friends, having important conversations, the better the larger relationship b/w the two countries becomes, even if on a small level. Understand? I am extremely passionate about this, helping to mend the relationship b/w the US and the Arab and larger Muslim world. For me, this is both personal/relational and cultural/political. In addition, I am expected to share my knowledge and experiences with my home communities. As the Jordanians open their country, culture, and lives to me, I am committed to sharing about them. This was the case when I went to Egypt, and I hope some of you have a fairly nuanced perspective on the ME because of my trip there. Hence, I will do my best to be diligent about this blog. Hopefully reading this, you will feel just a little more knowledgeable about the Middle East and Jordan! That's pretty important these days.

I guess this is a good time to interject with what I imagine being the 3 primary things I will do in Jordan. The first and most important for me personally is Arabic studies. I will take courses in Modern Standard Arabic at a local university, as well as being tutored in Jordanian Arabic at a cultural center. Probably most useful for my attempts to master Arabic will be everyday interactions with Arabs, at coffee, in a taxi, at the grocery, etc. I am so excited to use this language I've been laboring over for seemingly forever! The second aspect of my time in Jordan goes back to that micro-diplomacy. I will be highly involved in my community, volunteering, as well as living everyday life. I deeply want to be a part of Irbid (or Amman), to have a local butcher, grocer, vegetable seller, etc., people I get to know. I want to make good friends, to have people over to my flat for dinner, and to be asked to dinner. Knowing me, much of my time will be spent socialising, talking about politics, religion, and family. When I leave Jordan, I want the people where I live to have a fresh perspective on Americans, Christianity, and life, in general. I hope to gain a new perspective for myself. Finally, and this is the most up in the air, is academic research. Initially, I proposed to research the Muslim Palestinian resistance in the West Bank, especially those engaged in non-violent resistance. However, while this project I still feel is of huge importance, I might pick it up when I get a PhD! For now, the type of field research I would need to engage in is way over my head! In the mean time, I hope to write a number of articles on topics ranging from my own experiences with Jordanian Islam to the Jordanian Christian community to the non-violent resistance movement in Palestine (a more condensed version!) for a few newspapers and magazines. This is me sharing Jordan with my home communities. While this isn't my ideal in terms of writing style, again, I can't understate how passionate I am about giving people a fresh perspective on the Middle East. I will be sure to let you know when something is published.

So, that's all! On top of traveling, trying to stay in touch with people, and generally surviving in a different culture, that will be plenty! I'm going to close this up now. Thanks for reading this far; I truly appreciate it. As you hear from me in the weeks and months ahead, all I ask is that you keep an open and curious mind. I promise to do the same. I'll talk to you soon.


P.S. (or whatever the hipster/bloger way of saying that): As I reread over this, I feel like it's so formal and goal-oriented. I don't mean to be. Basically, I really like you guys, and you've been significant in my life at some point. I want you to know about my life and what's important to me. That's why I want you to read my blog, even if only once in a while!


Blogger d.m.p. said...

I'm glad your relaxing your luddism in favor of keeping a large group of us informed. You are so loved buddy boy, and you're going to be very missed.

Watch out for Long Island, especially on trains. And don't make this blog boring, like some other blogs I know.

9:44 AM

Blogger Jazzy J said...

Wow Robin. Your professionalism is giving Kath a run for her money. Hope you enjoy your posh government job. I can't believe you beat me to it! I especially look forward to your political ramblings.

9:54 AM

Blogger Nate said...


Nice blog. Don't let it become a useless, content-less showcase of pictures made using MS Paint, like some other blogs I know.

1:52 PM

Blogger d.m.p. said...

Wow, content advice from the master himself.

10:12 PM

Blogger kevin said...

hey robin,

I look forward to keeping up on what you're doing. also, i'm not sure if i e-mailed you (or other people that will be checking this) about my blog while I'm in New York City for the semester, it's called The Porcupine School of Poetry.

5:16 PM

Blogger Adam said...

Robin. I will ask God to protect you while you are in Jordan and give you wisdom. Meanwhile, this is all pretty many people from Calvin are being scattered like seeds from the Midwest across the face of the planet.

2:40 PM

Blogger katherine said...

bobo, thanks for calling the other night. it was great to hear from you, especially right then. i hope you made it to jordan safely. you better post again soon, or i'll start to worry.

9:37 AM


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