Yesterday, on the first day of 2012, I moved out of my host family’s house and got on a bus with my giant backpack, smaller backpack, guitar, and Peace Corps issued 1 gallon teapot. It was a struggle. Turns out I’ve accumulated a lot of stuff over the past 2 months, and the whole “don’t bring more than you can carry” limit should maybe be reworded to “don’t bring more than you can carry plus the extra crap you’ll gain along the way.” Which turned out to be 15+ Peace Corps manuals, used clothing/other awesome stuff from other volunteers, books I’ve stockpiled from the Peace Corps library, and all the clothes and gifts from my host family over the past couple months. Anyway good thing my host mom is one of the sweetest people I’ve ever met and got up at 6am to help me carry all my stuff out to the bus.
We’d already done the goodbyes the night before, when all my sisters came over and made me Kipsa (my favorite- chicken, raisins, almonds)- and made sure to get my address (both Jordanian and American) and to insist that they’re all coming to Ramtha ASAP to visit. It was a really nice way to say goodbye, and I got to see everyone I’d wanted to for the last time. I’d packed everything the night before, but in the morning the bus honked outside a little early, while we were still finishing breakfast in front of the soba. I scrambled to get everything ready, and my host mom helped me grab all my stuff (really she carried most of it) and we got out the door and across the street before she said “But Maggie- I made chai!” I apologized and said all the things I had to say, that I’d miss her and that I’d see her in a couple days for swearing in, that I’d visit in a few months. But I couldn’t come back in to drink her tea. And it kills me even now to think of Om Ahmed walking back to the house alone to drink a full pot of chai by herself.
There are few people I know who’d be willing to open their homes to a stranger for 2 months, let alone someone who can barely communicate with them. My host mother and sisters are some of the kindest people I’ve ever met, and they’ve made my first 2 months in Jordan feel like home. I’m excited to swear in, to move to Ramtha, and to start work at my site. I’m going to spend two years in Ramtha and I know that will be the place that defines my service here. But I’ll never forget my first home here, or the family that was good enough to call me their daughter before I’d even learned their names.