I have traveled outside North America twice. In 1992, while studying for the Catholic priesthood, I toured Italy with a fellow seminarian and a priest. Aside from sleeping in rectories, I had a pretty typical tourist experience: Roman ruins; countless cathedrals; an audience with the Pope; lunches of wine and bread and mineral water in piazzas; and a visit to the peaceful, medieval Assisi, home of St. Francis and still one of my favorite cities.
Six years later I was engaged (and no longer a seminarian, which I guess goes hand in hand with being engaged) and spent a few weeks in the United Kingdom with then-fiance Nicole who was in the midst of a study abroad experience in England. Nicole and I somehow did London, Stratford, Oxford, Dublin, and Edinburgh on a couple of student budgets. We made great memories.
Insha’Allah, we’ll make many more this year when the two of us make our way to Beirut, Lebanon, where we hope to spend the year meeting interesting people, learning about the Middle East, taking lots of walks along the Mediterranean, and eating delicious Lebanese food. I have always wanted to live and teach abroad and I’m thankful for this chance and lucky to have an adventurous and fun wife.
What will I do? As a Fulbright Scholar, I will be teaching, lecturing, doing research and writing, and generally becoming part of the community in Beirut. I have an affiliation with the American University of Beirut—a large college that overlooks the sea (and has a private beach!) in Hamra, a neighborhood in West Beirut. AUB serves mostly Lebanese students but also has a sizable international student population. At AUB, I’ll teach two classes: a graduate course in the teaching of writing and a first-year writing class. I’ll also study how writing conventions and “academic literacy” differ in the U.S. and Lebanon.
Why Beirut? Beirut is an ancient city in a tiny country full of ancient cities, not to mention Roman ruins and “Crusade” ruins. Muslims and Christians have lived together for centuries and Beirut is one of the most uniquely, intensely diverse places in the world. The Mediterranean climate is mild. Arabic, French, and English are ubiquitous, especially in the city. Beirut teems with history but also with cafes and clubs that stay open all night. Most areas still have very visible scars of the long and destructive Civil War, and refugee camps serve hundreds of thousands of Palestinian men, women, and children.
In the U.S., I teach at a University with many Lebanese and other Arab students and I would like to better understand the culture, language, and literacy of my UM-Dearborn students. But mostly I want to understand the world and have firsthand experiences in a place that is misunderstood and so often disparaged.
If you are reading this, I hope you’ll bookmark the page and check in periodically. Once I leave the U.S. (on September 16), I’ll post updates and pictures regularly. Please feel free to leave a comment, ask a question, and/or become a “follower” of the blog (click the “follow” icon on your right).
For now, ma’as-salam friends.