Family visits, leaves, I remain for the second half

For the last week and a half my mom and sister were here in town visiting, which was a pretty awesome time. It was cool to show someone else all the sights–Jerash, Petra, Wadi Rum, and all around Amman–although I sorta messed up and got us all food poisoned (thanks, Hashem’s!). But despite the bumps it was a pretty cool trip and their first time to an Arab country, and we ended it all with an unforgettable trip to the Dead Sea complete with a beautiful view of the sunset and a belly-dancing show. Sweeeeet.

So now I’m here, starting the second half of my summer. Things with research are picking up just as things with Jo Magazine are slowing down a bit–my editor’s been gone on vacation for a month so I have one assignment so far that is progressing very gradually if at all. But I had an amazing interview with someone at the WHO on Iraqis and mental health issues, who gave me thirteen pages of notes, three or four very promising contacts at the UNHCR and other agencies that I’ll be interviewing in the coming weeks, and access to a working group comprised of all the NGOs working on mental health services for Iraqis in Jordan–basically, the jackpot of independent research. I asked to attend their July meeting, and not only were they okay with that, but they want me to present what I’ve found so far and my research objectives. Hopefully I’ll get some feedback on my thesis (as yet completely undetermined) and methods.  I’m sure I’ll make a ton more contacts there that will lead to a couple very busy weeks in late July.

I’d really love to share all the things I’ve been finding in my research, but the information is fairly sensitive and I don’t really feel comfortable publishing it on a blog. I’ve had to promise my sources that this research will be seen by a handful of people–my advisor, a handful of people in the Middle East Studies department at Yale, and other seniors whom I’ll present my research to in the spring so it probably wouldn’t be halal to discuss things here, no matter how interesting/heartbreaking my findings have been.

I’ve been watching Al Jazeera English non-stop for the past few days, and I want to work for them so badly I can taste it. They’re so professional and one of the few television news outlets that actually does work I find interesting and in-depth. It’s such a weird feeling–I know exactly what I want to do, and I KNOW I would be good at it–but no one has any money for journalists any more. My friend at the AP said they’re not really hiring and it’s almost impossible to get into the organization these days. I’m just hoping I can parlay my Farsi and semi-Arabic skills plus years of print-journalism internships into some sort of entry-level position…I will work for nothing if it means I can work for an organization actually still doing good international journalism. The job search, which I’m officially launching in August, is going to be a hell of an experience. I’m half-considering applying for one of those high-paying State Department jobs in Afghanistan, giving my parents a couple of strokes in the process…

In non-work related stuff, I may be going to Turkey for a few days in early August before flying back home. The prospect of visiting Istanbul is just too much of a dream to think clearly about right now, and it all depends on finding a good deal and good timing, but it would be an amazing end to an amazing six months abroad.

–June

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