A Beautiful Year — عام جميل

It has been exactly one year today since I boarded a plane in Portland, OR, crying as I bid my best friend goodbye at the airport. At the time, it felt like I was leaving behind the life I had build in Oregon for the last 22 years to move to a country where I knew no one. Which, in that moment was scary and sad and strange, but also one of the best decisions I have ever made. 365 days and 14 COUNTRIES later (count ’em: Turkey, Qatar, The Bahamas, Egypt, The US of A, Ethiopia, Morocco, Tunisia, Jordan, Palestine, Israel, Italy, France, and Switzerland), I can’t imagine anywhere I’d rather be than right here, in my living room, watching the fireworks over Tahrir. It has been a crazy year of adventures, no doubt, but mostly I just feel overwhelmed with gratitude for all of the amazing humans who have opened their homes and hearts to me, and all of the beautiful places the universe has put on my horizon over the last year. In other words: if you are debating whether to leave home and jump into the abyss, do it– the world will catch you with a gigantic trampoline of humility and surprises and friendship.

And, yes, sometimes you will get horrendously sick on your birthday in rural Ethiopia, and sometimes you will get stuck at the Dalles airport indefinitely and United will loose all of your baggage, and sometimes you will have to write 100 pages of research papers in two weeks and your brain will feel like it is going to explode, and sometimes boys will incessantly harass you until you are sure that you will teeter over the edge and strangle them all, and sometimes you will be homesick and daydream about frolicking in the Oregon wilderness and coming home to a mom who thinks you are the coolest/most interesting human in the world– but even on the hardest days, there will be a moment when you realize that the universe has been on your side all along, and you will find a way to scrape yourself off the floor and bask in the adventure of it all.

One of my favorite moments this year: mamabear and me watching the sunrise over Mt. Sinai.

One of my favorite moments this year: mamabear and me watching the sunrise over Mt. Sinai.

Another favorite: post-aforementioned-birthday-sickness at the source of the Nile River in Ethiopia with my Cairo bestie.

Another favorite: post-aforementioned-birthday-sickness at the source of the Nile River in Ethiopia with Mare.

Since we last spoke, dear internet, I finished my program in Tunisia, and then flew to Morocco, where I spent an amazing week with some of the most magical and inspiring people I know. I also had the wonderful experience of getting to share Morocco with a good friend from Tunisia and an old friend from high school, both of whom had never been before. It was fun to see Morocco through fresh eyes, and re-explore some of my favorite cities in the world– Fes, Chefchaouen, Rabat, and Asilah. People were friendly; the food was delicious; and the views were beautiful.

Blue mountain town magic: Chefchaouen, Morocco.

Blue mountain town magic: Chefchaouen, Morocco.

Calligraphy in the old medina of Asilah.

Calligraphy in the old medina of Asilah.

I am safely back home in Egypt now, and (as is often the case around here) watching history be made in Tahrir and in Rabe’a and across the country. Stay tuned.

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About Jade

Jade Lansing is a graduate student in Middle East Studies at the American University in Cairo. She currently lives in Beirut, Lebanon, where she conducts research on civics education and works for the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia. Jade is a recent graduate of Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon, where she majored in International Affairs and studied Arabic at Portland State University. She has made multiple trips to North Africa—conducting research, volunteering, and studying Arabic. She is especially interested in Middle East politics, intercultural communication, civil society development, and foreign language education. Contact the author at: jade@aucegypt.edu.

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