Over the Hills and Far Away: or How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love Amman

“Why would you stay? nobody likes the Middle East, theres nothing here to like.”

-Russell Crowe’s character (paraphrased from Ridley Scott’s “Body of Lies”)

I didn’t remember that a track from Guns n Roses’ “Chinese Democracy” plays over the end credits of that movie. What a nice surprise.


In considering the possibility of staying in Amman for the summer I have reconsidered my purpose.

Studying the Middle East is cool.  The revolutions sweeping the region only increased the sense of adventure and danger that all of us students are feeling.  To stay for the summer would be a first step in a complete reinvestment of time and future professional capital in a life here.  It would be an acknowledgement that any fraction of me that is doing this for other people is gone.  In the company of peers and fellow expats, there is a mutual understanding of the true meaning of adventure.  In films the heroes never actively seek out the adverse circumstances in which they battle.  Those circumstances are thrust upon them.  The entire point of an epic quest is to return to a place of peace and serenity (i.e. avoiding danger).  Relatedly, I think this is the reason Renaissance Faires and Civil War re-enactions are so uncomfortable.If a semester abroad is an adventure when students seek out the unknown and potentially dangerous, planning out a life in a foreign country is the opposite.  It would have to be a choice based on pragmatic, realist notions alone.

All through my young life in Columbus, the only thing I wanted was to leave.  For a long time I regarded that place as a stagnant and culturally vapid cesspool full of creative ennui and frustration (This has softened only recently).  I recognize this same feeling in many local Jordanian students I have interacted with. Amman is not a desirable place to live for the people who are like me, in terms of international awareness, and were raised here.  So, is Jordan really the right city for me to live in, or is it just a case study in my ongoing studies of the Middle East.  I think it could be.  We’ll see if the Brookings Institute wants to hire me or not first.



Paul “the Bombastic”

Published in: on March 29, 2011 at 12:26 pm  Comments (1)  

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