(I have officially reached the US. My time in Oman has come to a close, but I thought I would share this letter with you all.)
I am not much inclined to frequent correspondence or the likes of any sort of meaningful soul-searching, however with my imminent departure from Oman, I do feel a spark of introspection and sentimentality. I have been away for quite some time now, actually 298 days to be exact. I have grown some, slept some, and left the one place I had known well enough to leave, only to have heeded the simple comfort of a land far enough east to lose myself. Currents of cultural intrigue blew with the sand, abrasive enough to wake awareness in me. I have had to balance different realities at once, that of my careful methodical upbringing, the realities of globalization, and the tectonic plates of human interaction, all puling at the faults of deep prejudice and fear, the most inherent form of self-destruction we have.
I remember the feelings of inadequacy and helplessness from a slighter and more timid me 10 months prior, barely old enough to fly alone, let alone travel half way around the world. Coming from a household scarred by MEMRI videos and whispers of ongoing xenophobia, specifically a new breed anti Semitism, I had my fears and doubts. The decision to come here was just as much a private subversion as it was self-discovery, but I never spend that much time worrying about cause and effect anyways. Little did I know what a journey I was about to embark on.
With time, over the course of an entire year, I have changed. In light of my own challenges and shortcomings, I have found peace in my self and those around me. The same way we rely on external feed back for purpose and resurrection, the friendship and communication we rely on day in and day out is a matter that affects us both inwardly and has an outward effect on those with whom we share. Surely it is a communal effort to find the foreground of a universal ethics system, but in truth, our individual values are just as important. It’s not that these are unchangeable; however the integrity we live our lives by is what gives us the confidence to explore the values of others from a more flexible lens.
In many ways Oman is different than Massachusetts, sand-scapes replace maple-lined town streets, and the winter feels far balmier than the bitter scourges of cold wind against my flesh. These are my more tacit realizations. But there were others still. The first time I was told to cover my head, what I had perceived as a grievous direct assault to my identity, was no more than a form of protection, an insight from the family I grew to love. No matter how different our backgrounds, we were united by the stories we shared and daily talks after a small glass of chai karak. This is where you taught me not only how to love, but also be loved in the most unexpected of ways. Surely no family is perfect. But good healthy relationships take time to ripen and ferment to truly feel the fruits of a well-noted and complex commitment.
These realizations were more of a mid sentence epiphany. In the time it took me to realize I was surrounded by people who cared about me, I had nearly finished an entire semester. So much of the future is uncertain except for the pull that will always carry me back to these people. As we travel we leave part of ourselves behind, but in the midst of the longing and loneliness, it is what we take back that fills our life with depth and meaning. Without my friends and the awareness that even a mouthy, stubborn, brassy, Ashkenazi Jewish girl could open her heart to more than 200 Arab teenagers that I have come to love so fully, I don’t think I would have made it. The less I thought about our differences, slowly any underlying tensions and misunderstandings faded away as well. Now Stephen Hawking could tell us that nothing ever really goes away. You could say that about prejudice, and there is some truth to that. But I also believe it can be overcome.
Even with the most intimate of dialogues, there are still things I don’t understand. As a young person, I have the tendency to look at the world with a wide-eyed optimism that equates world peace with a standard attainable solution for any major world conflict. And maybe that is what’s the most frustrating of all, being able to actively discern problems, but also being unable to find any relevant solution. Even if hatred and intolerance never completely go away, we are just as much a species of innovators as ever, always striving for reinvention. Destruction and growth work in tandem after all. And with that I think I have enough peace of mind and hope to start deciding these things for myself.
I have dreams for the future, quite a few exciting prospects, and quite some time to think them through. Oman really is a fascinating and beautiful country, and I look forward to hearing and reading about its further developments. I can’t imagine where I’d be right now, with out Oman. Without all of you, I would be so lost. I may have not enjoyed every minute, but I would never trade my time in Oman for anything. I now have 50 hours left in this country, before I depart back to America. It is bittersweet to leave, and if it were up to me, I’m not so sure I would. Thank you to everyone who made this experience so incredible for me. You have taught me more about the world and this country than I could ever fit in a letter. I love you all so much, and that is why I say good-bye. (Temporary of course; knowing myself I will be back one day.)