Thank you!

Thank you everyone for the wonderful birthday messages, by phone, e-mail, facebook, text, skype…it was so nice to get love from all the corners of the world today. All I’m missing is Twitter! (Just kidding, Twitter should die.) It’s been a hard week so this just turned everything around. I’m actually celebrating tomorrow with all my friends but today I went to my friend Tamara’s surprise birthday party (we have the same birthday) and she insisted on singing happy birthday to me and all her friends were really sweet and kind. It’s good to be 21. I’ve had a pretty incredible year so I can only hope the next year is just as good.

Like I said, it’s been a hard week but I’m finally getting somewhere in almost all my endeavors, so I’m staying upbeat. I’m really happy with my article on smoking regulations in Jordan. I did so many interviews of different kinds–ministry officials, random smokers on the street and in cafes, researchers, activists–it was just great to get to talk to all these people and sort of learn about Jordanian society indirectly. For example, did you know there is an old Arabic saying “The beauty of a man is in his cigarette”? Or that ministry officials are apt to simply lie about major statistics to a reporter’s face? Well, now you (and I) know.

And my biggest frustration over the last few weeks has been my inability to get any of my research on Iraqi refugees done. This is for my senior paper, I’m doing a sort of comparison between the refugee situations in New Haven, Amman, and Beirut. I’ve e-mailed NGOs, all the contacts I have from people back home, and I just get delayed, sent to someone else, or completely ignored. I find myself six weeks into the semester, with fellowship money to spend, and just a little worried that I won’t get anything done. But I finally, finally got in touch with someone who forwarded my e-mail to the right organization who then contacted me, and I’ll have my first interview with an NGO official next week. It’s just taught me how things work in Jordan…you need a lot of time, connections, and some luck to get anything done. The holy grail of my research would be getting an interview with an actual refugee, but, baby steps.

Some unrelated insights about body image in Jordan, via my editor at Jo. I was mentioning maybe doing an article about anorexia, and he noted that heavier women seem to still believe they’re attractive and wanted in Jordan, whereas that’s not really as true in the West, limiting the amount of eating disorders in the country. Heavier women have more self-confidence in their looks here, he was saying, probably because any woman who walks down the street in Jordan–thin, fat, old, young, single, married–gets stares, comments and just all sorts of attention, mostly mild and nothing really terrible. (Although I’m saying this as someone who looks like an Arab. Ask a blonde girl on the program what she thinks about walking alone in Amman.) So a heavy woman just thinks to herself: “Why would I want to lose weight? Men still find me attractive, I get all the attention I need.” Although, as images from Western magazines and movies are sort of imitated in Arab pop culture, there may be more and more idealization about thin bodies creeping into women’s psyches.

Anyway, just some thoughts. I’m looking into some of the Middle Eastern and more specifically Jordanian blogs, and for my next post I’ll list some of my favorites. Have a great March 18th!

–June

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