I finally found the YouTube broadcast of the panel that Queen Noor of Jordan participated in at last year’s ServiceNation Summit.
I was sitting in my 2nd grade classroom at the Modern American School, having just sent my students off to gym class, when my phone rang. I put down the math homework I was grading, and picked up the phone, pleased by the serendipity of its timing. It wasn’t a number I recognized, but I answered anyway.
“Is this Maryah? My name is Barbara, and I’m the Chief of Staff for Queen Noor.” I was glad I was sitting down. “Her Majesty is participating in a panel in New York City next week, and someone recommended you as a Peace Corps Volunteer who loved Jordan enough to come back again. I wondered if I could get some stories from you about the importance of Peace Corps, and international service.”
Of course, there are few things I love more than talking about my travels abroad, and especially about Peace Corps. I told her many of my favorite stories, including the story of the Jebel Bani Hamida bus station, which she thought would be too controversial for her purposes. Most importantly, I talked to her about Peace Corps’ Third Goal, to bring knowledge of my host culture back to America. For the first time, I explained, I had come home from somewhere that people really cared about. Even the most unexpected people, housewives who’d never been 100 miles from home and never seemed interested in international affairs, had a thousand questions about Arabs, Muslims, Islam, women in the Middle East, public opinion of America in the Muslim world, the education system in Jordan, etc. And unlike the few questions I would get about the places I’ve lived in Europe, when it came to Jordan, people were very conscious that they really had no idea what the answers to their questions would be. People really listened to what I had to say.
Due to computer problems, I’ve not seen more than two thirds of the video myself, and I haven’t yet heard Her Majesty mention anything that might have come from me. Nevertheless, what she and others have to say about public service, international service, and its importance to international relations are worth hearing.