At 2:30am EST, after 15 months abroad and 24 hours of travel, I finally pressed the buzzer on my friend Sofie’s Brooklyn apartment. My baggage had been lost, I’d missed a flight and been transferred twice between airlines, and every form of public transit I’d taken from JFK had been delayed or broken down. I had slept no more than three hours, but somehow seeing Sofie I felt nothing but pure joy. She brought me upstairs and, more than little giddy, I exclaimed over seeing American outlets and being offered water straight from the tap. I’d eaten nothing but airplane food and a box of $7 sushi in London and was starving. “Have anything in the fridge,” offered Sofie. I opened the metal door and my jaw dropped: sliced bread! Goat cheese!
I plopped onto the sofa, carefully made up with bedding for my arrival, and sent a message to a friend in Amman; as I readied myself for sleep she was heading to work. How many times had I texted friends and family from Amman early in the morning as they sat down to dinner or brushed their teeth before bed? Now I was on the other side of the date line.
When I’d lived in Lebanon in 2017, I’d spent 11 months outside of the US, and while I had exalted over the ability to throw toilet paper directly in the toilet upon return, I hadn’t felt the shift so strongly. Maybe part of it was my lack of sleep, but this time coming home was different; I was a visitor. I had a plane ticket from JFK to Amman scheduled in three weeks when I would return to my “normal life.” I was seeing friends and family but with the knowledge that I did not live here and the next time I planned to visit was in a year. America was a vacation destination.
My MENAR fellowship had ended five days before my departure, on August 1st. I had decided to stay in Amman, at least for another year, so while I was saying goodbye to CRP and finishing my fellowship, I didn’t say goodbye to friends or the city. With the last month an absolutely whirlwind prepping everything at Hope Workshop for my departure, I hadn’t had the time or space to process what this year means to me and the fact that it has ended. Although I’d had my plane tickets booked for months, not until somewhere within my 24-hour journey did my trip to the US stopped feeling far off and abstract and the fact that I’d completed a year in Jordan begin to sink in.
Writing this, it is my first morning in Brooklyn. With my suitcase still lost somewhere in the bowels of the British Airways luggage system, I’m borrowing a sundress from Sofie—the ability to bare my shoulders and thighs a true luxury—and getting ready for a walk to Prospect Park. I have plans to go to a taco bar for happy hour and see a friend’s band playing in Queens; the amount of activity, the ease of public transit, the ability to get around walking still all feel weirdly foreign. I’m sure within a day or two I’ll be adjusted, and the traffic and cat calls of Amman will be rude awakening upon return. For the moment, however, I’m overjoyed to be enjoying a lunch with fresh corn tortillas.