For Khalid, the beaches of Tartus are unrivaled. “The sand is white, no rocks to trip on, no urchins to sting you.” He told me this as he brushed off the pebbles that had stuck to his feet. “I don’t like it here.” Khalid, 16 years old, fled his native city of Homs just over … Continue reading The Hostess with the Mostest: Refugees and Host Communities in Jordan
So many backpacks bobbed by my building this morning. It is a sight I haven't seen since my first weeks here. Despite the noise and tremors to the North in Syria, to the West in Palestine, to the South in Egypt, for Jordan's children, school is still school. It's still drudgery. It's still that unwelcome … Continue reading Less Room in Homeroom
When I say "neighborhood," what do you think? Is it a real memory that pops into your mind? Is it a picture you've painted over the years, brushstrokes stolen from decades of primetime family shows? Who has defined it for you? When I think of neighborhood, I hear Ray Charles, soulful and sort of rusty, … Continue reading Ray Charles in Jordan
The thickening layer of brown on the horizon is a signal of summer. The unsettled dust from the endless desert east of Amman seems to float higher and higher, not content until reaching the sun itself. Today’s breezes don’t hold the same force as those of mid-May. The lungs of the atmosphere are slowly tiring, … Continue reading A Flower that Blooms by Night
“He is from Karak. Ask him about Mansaf.” “Have you had Mansaf? You know the best one is in Karak.” “Have you heard of Karak? It is like the capital of Mansaf.” Never have I been asked the same food-related question three times on a first day in any country. Since I arrived here almost … Continue reading Off with His Head!
Living on top of a hill provides a false sense of confidence. When you can see everything, it all makes sense. It seems manageable, understandable. In Amman, neighborhoods are defined by the hill on which they sit. Jabal Amman, Jabal Hussein, Jabal Weibdeh—each has its own character, its own style, its own landmarks and identity. … Continue reading Lost in the Layer Cake
I wrote the following for the Oslo Scholars Program blog, after attending the 2012 Oslo Freedom Forum in Norway. The original post can be found here. How do we measure greatness? How do we affect change, and how does change affect us? Asking these questions is not encouraged as much as it should be. As … Continue reading How We Measure Greatness
The rain was growing deafeningly loud as it pounded the water’s surface. It was like a prelude, like a crescendo intended to introduce some bigger song. I half expected the heavens to ring out with a power ballad, with some never-appropriate Celine Dion or Whitney Houston. After all, we were in the land of regurgitated … Continue reading Islands of Daisies
It is the quintessential love-hate relationship, a push-pull of epic proportions. Architects have tested their limits of innovation designing opera houses in his image, and chefs have surely convened in secret to unlock his potential. He is an icon, praised and cursed at the same time, highly valued but also reviled in public. Some call … Continue reading Long Live the King
I wondered what was in the red bucket. Was it sauce? Was it water? Was it mystery ingredient? Before I could ask, the ear of grilled corn dove straight in for a long bath in that red bucket. Last time that I ate something before asking what it was, I ended up with betel nut … Continue reading Red Bucket. Red Lantern. Red Envelope.