Humdrum

‘Hope you’re having a lovely time, I know Amman has been less than ideal.’

I tire of city living. I guess having my three-day escape to Egypt pulled out from under my feet threw me off target, but I seem to have sunk back into one of those despondent ‘I could be doing something so much better with my time’ moments. Maybe if I set a few things straight, the affair might make a little more sense.

I never really wanted to go to Jordan. I didn’t have much of a say in the matter – you can blame international politics for my limited options – so I just went along with it as a necessary next step in my language degree. I had my eyes on Syria way back when I started my course, before al-Assad, the civil war and the chaos that ensued. I then turned my attentions onto Egypt, and then there was all that palava was Morsi and the army shooting people on the street. One more magical destination to be crossed off the list. I guess I fell in love with Morocco shortly after that, it being the only other feasible North African destination; doubly so after two weeks’ travelling in the kingdom over the Easter Holidays. So when I was told I had no option but to spend four months in Amman, bookending my assistantship with the British Council, it was a bit of a bombshell. In my department’s defence I didn’t put up much of a fight – what could would it have done? There’s not a lot I can do to solve the political cat-fight of the Arab world, if just so that I could spend a couple of months in a country of my choice. Whatever the weather, that’s all I have: two months apiece. So it’s not so terrible a loss.

The primary concern is the apathy that this place instils me with. Had I been able to go to Damascus, Cairo or Fes, places I’d hungered after for years, I might have been able to overcome my city angst – maybe. The trouble with Amman is that I just find myself wanting to be somewhere else all the time, and that does no wonders for my Arabic. I can’t even say it’s a general problem either, since it doesn’t seem to be affecting Andrew, Kate, Katie or Eloise in the slightest. Maybe they’re just hardier human beings than I. But I’m seriously feeling the absence of a green space. Andrew asked an hour ago whether I knew if there was anywhere outside we could go and sit to read/study in peace. The truth is, there isn’t. The cars are always blaring. Music’s always playing. People are always shouting. The peace I’m looking for is to be found far out of town, and at this time of year, that comes at the price of dry, dusty emptiness. That’s the biggest problem of all; the countryside around Amman isn’t even worth escaping to because it’s a dust bowl.

Whinge whinge whinge. Andrew’s right, I’m not exactly in the best of moods today. I want to be in Spain already, settling into my job in a location that’s not more than a stone’s throw from open country and mountains – mountains. Rivers. Life. None of this city nonsense. Town mouse, field mouse, remember? One of the main reasons I set myself to the study of languages was to challenge myself to overcome one of my greatest fears, and that’s talking to people. In retrospect, that was a very costly challenge. I could have done an all-essay subject and come off the better – perhaps. Similarly, I tried to console myself before coming out here that maybe a couple of months of city living might cure me of my disdain for that kind of environment. In truth it’s only consolidated my belief that, whatever happens to me in life, I will never be living in a place like Amman – by choice or by force. Somewhere that can sap me of even my desire to travel can be doing me no favours.

On the plus side, I’ve discovered that if I sit on the end of my bed with the window open, I can access the WiFi from the school across the road, so I won’t need to pay to go to a cafe to send emails anymore. That’s a plus.

Chin up Ben, life’s not so bad. I just find myself wishing, as ever, that for something as important as the year abroad, which is supposed to be a life-changing chance to throw yourself into the culture of a different part of the world, I’d had a hand in the throwing part, rather than being sent out here.

But there’s a silver lining to every cloud. All of this has convinced me (along with all the reading I’ve been doing of late) that I want nothing more from life than to be a writer, and I’m arming myself at long last with the reading to better my craft. Per ardua ad astra, and all that jazz. BB x

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