Some thoughts on blogging on the occasion of joining Jordan Planet
(caution: long, but interesting, personal post ahead!)
I'm very excited to have been recently admitted as a new citizen to the community of Jordanian bloggers at Jordan Planet :o) After a few months of blogging and following the Arab blogosphere, I feel as though I am already part of this unique and dynamic community.
So after waiting in a long line at the Jordan Planet virtual headquarters (similar to waiting in a Jordanian government office but without the cigarette smoke), my "application" was finally accepted, mind you, without a was6a ;)
I discovered the world of Arab and Jordanian bloggers a few months ago, and decided to begin blogging again after an initially slow start (as you can see on my profile, it says I started in March 2005, but I didn't seriously begin until October 2005).
I have to admit that following these blogs has become a daily routine for me, and has had a much more profound impact on me than I could've imagined. When reading these blogs, I feel as though I am interacting with the young "Arab street" on a daily basis, hearing it from the horse's mouth, without anyone getting in between us. Do I really need to stop by Aljazeera or the BBC to read the latest about what's going on in the Middle East? Why should I read what some embedded reporter sees through his tank in Iraq when I can read about the real impact of the occupation from Iraqis living in the midst of it all? Why should I listen to the rhetoric of Abbas, Hamas, Olmert, or Condi when I can read the daily accounts of Palestinians living in Gaza and Bethlehem?
On a more personal level, however, the Jordanian blogosphere has helped me reach into this brain of mine and really take a closer look at an important part of my identity, my Jordanian identity.
As a Jordanian who did not live in Jordan more than 6 months (during 2nd grade in '91), but who vacations there frequently, I must admit that I have not been "in tune" with my Jordanian identity as I would've liked to be. Even though I speak, read, and write Arabic fluently (attending an Arab/Islamic school helps), and consider myself a practicing Muslim, "Jordan" has not really been a huge part of my life in the US except for my summers.
I grew up with Egyptians, Palestinians, Saudis, and Somalis as my best friends in the school that I attended throughout my elementary, middle, and high school period here in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. I remember when I was in 2nd grade, coming to the US from Jordan and before that living in Saudi Arabia, I was considered a "FOB". I spoke the "shami" Arabic accent but most of my friends either didn't speak much Arabic or didn't understand my dialect. So I started using the Egyptian and Saudi dialects, depending on who I spoke to. My mom wasn't too pleased with that, and kept telling me to speak with a "Jordanian" accent. Until today, my Arabic dialect is although predominantly "shami", isn't as Jordanian as my relatives in Jordan, for example (that's why I'm so amused when some Jordanian bloggers occasionally blog with a hard core Jordanian accent which I'm not used to hearing/reading except for 2 months out of the year).
Being a lonely Jordanian in a large, vibrant Arab community doesn't help either. This is a typical conversation I would have with any Arab here in the US who would meet me for the first time:
Arab person: so, where are you from?
Arab person: like, really really Jordanian or originally Palestinian?
me: really really Jordanian, as much as I would be honored to have any Palestinian roots
Arab person (not yet convinced): so where in Jordan are you from?
me: Irbid (this usually gets them b/c they think everyone is from Amman?)
Arab person: ohhh, ok. well I guess your like the 2nd Jordanian I've met in my life
me: ahla w sahla, we're not really that different :)
Some Arab Americans here find comfort in having social events with their fellow Egyptians, or Yemenis or Syrians and can easily find a bunch of families to get together with. My family, on the other hand, wasn't too keen on that mainly because not many people in our area identified themselves as Jordanian. I grew up with Libyan, Iraqi, Palestinian, Egyptian, Syrian family friends. And I loved it.
But sometimes you wonder how it would be if you had a Jordanian friend who knew what mansaf was, or might happen to know where my family lives in Irbid, or would understand if I told them that my mom is "mggab3ah ma3ha ilyoom" :)
Following the Jordanian blogosphere has given me a bird's eye view into the lives of young Jordanians like me that I had not been exposed to before. I do have some cousins in Jordan who are my age but my interaction with them in the summer visits isn't enough for me to know them as well as I feel I know some of my fellow bloggers. I also haven't been in Jordan long enough to cultivate any serious friendships which I also attribute to my inability to connect with the average non-English speaking Jordanian. The fact that my cousins speak mostly Arabic and the bloggers write in English but live somewhat similar lives is one of the reasons I'm able to relate to the bloggers more than my family members. Even though I can speak to my cousins in Arabic, I cannot relate to them on many levels because the way we were raised is different and our world views are naturally different.
Although it has been pointed out on other blogs that many of the Jordanian bloggers are not very representative of Jordanian society as many would be considered upper middle class and have lived abroad, I still think that I have a much better picture of Jordanian society than I did a few months ago. I feel like I can relate to many of their experiences and critiques of some aspects of Jordanian society, and at the same time get their perspectives on living in an Arab country. While most young people in Jordan (including cousins) aren't politically aware/engaged, I found it easy to connect with the Jordanian bloggers who exhibit a higher level of socio-political awareness and engagement, if that makes sense. As someone who graduated with a political science degree and who considers herself politically aware and active, I could not handle the fact that many young people in Jordan could careless about what was happening in the country next door to them!
So why all this analytical blabbing? Simple. I think it's really amazing how following the Arab blogosphere in general and the Jordanian blogosphere in particular for a few months has made me feel closer to my Jordanian identity than any other trip or book or family member has in the past.
I hope to continue to learn from and contribute to the dialogue generated through our blogs by adding my personal perspective as a Jordanian and an American. Maybe you'll find a way to see through my semi-confused state of identity as a Muslim-Arab-Jordanian-American female. Maybe not.
A big thank you to the individuals who put their personal time and effort into making JP one of the most active Arab blogging sites. It is indeed a great resource for us all!
Okay, if you got sick of this rambling post and decided to just scroll down to the last sentence, what I really meant to say is that I'm super excited about becoming a citizen of Jordan Planet! Yippeee :)~