I can't attempt to sum up a year in the Middle East without slipping into some serious hyperbole. Most profound professional experience. Best year of my life. Adventure. But it's not just hyperbole. I'm so grateful for the friends that Nicole and I made; for the opportunity to witness history unfolding; for the joys of cheap buses and street food; for the chance to visit Syria, Cyprus, Turkey, the Emirates, Jordan and Egypt; for the experience of intense hospitality in south Lebanon; for my hiking group; for the new knowledge about Palestine, the lives of refugees, Arab culture, and domestic laborers; for the chance to teach the internationally inclined students of AUB; and for this past year's research and writing projects.
If you are an academic reading this, I urge you to consider doing a Fulbright. Go somewhere you've never been. Let your work transition into new projects (especially if you're recently tenured). Regardless of your profession, go see the rest of the globe. Talk to people. Walk or take the bus. Eat cheap food. Learn about places that are only abstractions to you or that are reduced to sound bites by American media and American political discourse. Go experience a place that makes at least some of your friends and family say "why there?" I'm talking about developing nations, former or current colonies, somewhere with a little edge. Go if you've always wanted to go. Go if the thought only recently crossed your mind. Go.
I started this blog while sitting in my office at the University of Michigan Dearborn, looking out my window at the greenery separating campus from the Henry Ford Estate. Deja Vu. One year ago I had just finished teaching Summer I courses, was en route to Washington DC for Fulbright Orientation, and in the middle of several books about Arab culture and the history of Lebanon. I'm in my office again, unpacking files and books, going through a year's worth of mail, and getting ready for Summer 2 courses (they begin next week!).
A few days ago, Nicole and I flew home. A one-hour flight from Beirut to Amman, Jordan, where Royal Jordanian treated us right. We had an overnight layover and the airline sent us to a hotel, gave us a great dinner and breakfast, and generally put the U.S. airlines to shame (a pretty low bar, but still...). Next day, Amman to Chicago. Thirteen hours. Vegged out with a slew of movies on the seatback tv, including the very funny "Cedar Rapids." In Chicago, passport control told us we'd need to retrieve our bags (even though they were checked through to Detroit) and take them through U.S. customs. None of our bags were on the conveyor belt. My data. Souvenirs for family. My new cookbooks. All lost. American Airlines told us we'd need to wait until our final destination to fill out the 'missing bag' forms. Forty-five minute flight from Chicago to Detroit. Sadly, we head down tot he American Airlines help counter. Sitting outside their office, all of our bags. They got to Detroit on different flights (a big TSA no-no) and never went through customs (an even bigger no-no). But we got them! And a caravan of three vehicles and eleven people met us at the doors of Detroit Metro Airport.
Blogging is so 2004, right? That's when I started blogging at bdegenaro.blogspot.com. I was teaching at Miami University, volunteering with the Kerry-Edwards campaign, and living in Hamilton, Ohio. I mostly put that blog on hiatus this past year, but even though it's 2011, the blog is back, and renamed "blogging is not dead." I won't be writing about walking to the corner to get a zaatar manoushe or visiting a refugee camp, but check it out anyway.