Fellows' Reflections: Lisa MacKenzie

After eight flights and three weeks in the States, I am back to my home in Amman. I’ve used the word “home” to describe four different places in the past month. Home is now my mother’s new apartment south of San Francisco. During the two weeks I visited, she was busy with work. I spent the days alone swimming, running, and eating absurd amounts of berries, asparagus, and Ben and Jerry’s ice cream (food items that are out of my price range in Amman). Last week, “home” was a cabin in Phippsburg, Maine with my father, step-mother, and dog. There was no running water, ticks and mosquitoes, an outhouse, and a shower bucket with water pressure worse than Amman showers. Home is also Underhill, Vermont, where I was raised. I spent less than a day passing through Underhill on this most recent trip, and I likely haven’t spent more than a week there in the past few years. Childhood friends have moved away, and we no longer own my childhood home. The fourth place I referred to as home in the past month is my shared apartment in Amman. It is surprising how attachment to place and people develops in 14 months. Even before the year as a MENAR fellow started, I did not plan on coming to Jordan and leaving exactly one year later. I am privileged and grateful to have such mobility and to consider these places home.

After my MENAR position with Bayt.com ended a few months ago, I began a summer position as a residential director to students on a U.S. State Department funded scholarship in Amman. The summer brought changes in my social life and schedule. Sometimes I woke up to run at six and sit in on student classes at nine. Other mornings I slept in to nearly noon after handling a host family or health issue late into the night. Having participated in similar State Department funded Arabic study programs as a high school and undergraduate student, it was special to continue involvement in this community. Without previous opportunities to live in Oman and Jordan on scholarships to study Arabic, I would not have applied to or received the MENAR fellowship, and I would not still be in this place I consider home.

The summer position has wrapped up, and I am entering another period of transition. While next steps are unclear, I will stay in Amman. I need a job. I will say goodbye to a close friend and two and a half roommates (one is a dog). I still need to continue paying off college loans, and despite being here for over a year, I still need to do simple things like buy a flat sheet that actually fits my bed. Amman really does feel like home, though. So much so that on this most recent to-and-from the States, I brought my comforter and pillow from my former childhood home. These items have traveled with me to and from Maine countless time, to California during my mother’s move, back to Maine and Vermont last week, and now to my bed in Amman. I’ve “nested.”

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