Friday, June 15, 2012


You know that feeling when you first meet someone and the two of you just click? None of that awkward, proper "getting to know you" nonsense where you test the waters and ease into your friendship. I'm talking about big loud CLICK where you two just instantly get each other. That is exactly what happened the first time I met David (whom you may remember from our little conversation in this blog post). My second day of work, this short, scrawny kid just walks up to me while I'm sitting in my office, sticks out his hand, and says hello with this big grin on his face. He was the first student at the college to introduce himself to me, and we became fast friends. His English is fantastic, and he made sure to teach me some important Arabic words that my month long Jordanian crash-course had missed, like "sababah," which means "cool." We laugh and joke, and things always feel so easy with him. I immediately had someone that I could be myself around and communicate with (without having to revert to a really bizarre version of charades like I did with most other people).

The first thing that struck me about David was his kindness. It's not something I usually think about when meeting someone, but with him, I couldn't help but recognize it. Over the course of this past year, he has patiently helped me with my Arabic, always gone out of his way to introduce me to other students whom I didn't know, respectfully explained cultural difference to me, and come into my office a few times a week asking if I needed help with any of my work (that kid is now a PRO at stuffing envelopes) all with a huge smile. At first, it shocked me. Here is this stranger, this guy that I don't even know, being so very kind to me, some random new girl who is a foreigner and an outsider in his community. Honestly, the first few months I was here, I really needed that kindness. I felt so fragile, like an infant. I couldn't figure out how to travel by myself, grocery shop by myself, or even communicate with the vast majority of the population by myself. Having someone around who constantly went out of his way to make sure that I was well taken care of and adjusting to my new home made my first few months about a hundred times easier than they would have otherwise been.

My friendship with Jumana developed completely differently. We saw each other every day for five months without saying a single word to each other. The first few months that I was here, I usually waited for the students to approach me instead of approaching them because my Arabic was nowhere near good enough to hold a conversation, and I didn't want to make them self-conscious about their English skills (or lack thereof). While I definitely wouldn't use this relational strategy again, it seemed like a good idea at the time. Live and learn.

So one day, I was waiting for one of my MCC coworkers to finish up teaching an English class so that I could bum a ride to our meeting instead of taking the bus. Since it was an evening class, Jumana was sitting at the front desk of the building as the "manager," making sure that random strangers weren't coming in and out. Since we were the only two people in the entire building who weren't in the English class, I went up to her and forced her to talk with me. Her English was pretty basic (and I've found that girls are usually much more timid about speaking and possibly making a mistake than boys are) so we stuck to topics like school, work, family, and post-graduation plans. After this conversation, we started saying "hi" to each other and casually chatting during lunch.

While our friendship started out slow, we soon bonded over shoes, long hair, and the song tirashrash (do yourself a favor and check out the true cross-cultural beauty of this timeless masterpiece HERE). Turns out that this quiet, stoic girl is actually a huge goofball! I can't believe that I almost missed out on the opportunity of getting to know her, just because both of us were too uncomfortable with our language skills to make the first move.

The reason that these two are on my mind is that they both were among the students who graduated from the college today! I feel like a little momma hen whose chicks have just flown the coop. I am so incredibly proud of both of them for all of their hard work, and I am so excited to see what their futures hold! Both of them have overcome unfathomable obstacles to have made it this far, and I'm telling you people, mark my words: these kids are going places! Also, I realize that I'm only one year older than both of them (it was me walking across that stage last year!) but I still feel like a proud parent.

Jumana, William (the college's caretaker), and David
David and Jumana: two of the many reasons why Palestine has changed my life. They are both such truly, deeply good human beings that they inspire me to be better. I am so, so grateful that these two beautiful people were brought into my life this year, and I cannot imagine my time here without them.

No comments:

Post a Comment