Hooray for the Passive!

Amman, Jordan

Finally, I found a tutor who didn’t change the subject when I said I wanted to learn how to conjugate Arabic verbs in the passive voice! And he is a very good teacher, too. While I can appreciate that most of the people in the group need more work on listening and speaking in Arabic, I’ve got that down pretty good, especially compared to my reading and writing skills, and I was really hoping that this program would focus a little more on pen-and-paper skills!

After my semester in Tuebingen (Germany), for some time I said that I aspired to someday be a nerd like my friend “Molly the Rhodes Scholar,” to have her work ethic and patience for study and detail, to be writing or co-writing papers that earned me scholarships to present at conferences in exotic locales like, say, Rome. I was going to be a professor in my ivory tower with my little circle of admiring students, etc., etc.

Then I joined the Peace Corps, which, as I was saying to someone in the group yesterday, I don’t consider a “real” job because it’s so much more intense than any real job, with the long hours, the language and cultural barriers, the lack of amenities like cheddar cheese (damn the Danish media!) and tank tops (depending on where you’re posted). In the Peace Corps, despite all its frustrations and disappointments, from time to time I produced real, immediate results (and hopefully long-term ones, too) that made other people’s lives better.

When I got to grad school, academia had lost almost all its appeal to me. I didn’t want to be a nerd in my ivory tower. That’s great for the Mollys of the world, and lots of other people I know who find real satisfaction in academic pursuits. But I myself couldn’t help but feel that all I did was sit and read and write and talk, but I didn’t DO anything, and what results I had were for my own benefit. It seemed selfish. Sure, I needed those two years of grad school to be qualified for really effective work in that future “real” job, in order to make significant positive impacts on other people’s lives, but I felt trapped in that ivory tower.

Now, though, I wonder if it was the academics that frustrated me, or the departmental politics. I wonder because here in Amman, where I have no responsibilities but to go to class and sit for hours at my homework, I’ve become a virtual shut-in. It seems like all I do is study and sleep, and I’m really happy doing it!

As Dad would surely point out, it’s all relative!

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