Surely there's a post missing! It cannot be that January was my last post! Google, you wouldn't steal my post and give it to someone else's blog, would you?
But, if it's true that you haven't heard from me since January then I'll try to catch up--backwards--so that the latest news is posted first.
My mum's been ill and shortly before our Easter Orthodox break had been in the hospital and extended care for quite awhile. I could tell that my sisters were worried and very tired. When I offered to come home for a week they accepted gladly. The time I spent with my mum was really very good and by being there every day for 5 days I was able to see and sometimes change some things to help her. My sisters and brothers-in-law and I had several good chats and I asked them for their prayers and advice about what I should do next. When I had been back for less than a week, I really felt the need to resign my position here at Balamand. So, I have done that and have begun the process of sorting, giving, and selling the things I have collected in 9 years overseas. By Friday I will have the estimates of shipping costs from two movers at which point I'll probably get rid of a few more things!
From the time I began telling folks, a couple of weeks ago, there has been real surprise and some sense of loss, on both sides. I guess I managed to fit in pretty well after all. One of the Deans said, "You can't leave! You're practically Lebanese now!" I take that as a real compliment but I'm not sure I could ever be Lebanese. It is a difficult culture for a Westerner and even though my Arabic lessons were going well, I cannot imagine ever feeling completely at ease, like on the highways, for example.
Now that the fighting in Tripoli has increased, even more intensely than before, and we know that it is related to the quagmire that is Syria, it is a good time to leave. There is a street in Tripoli called "Syria Street" that divides Sunni and Alawite neighborhoods. From sniping to rocket-propelled grenades and bombs this week, the area is so dangerous that even the army is unsure they can establish peace there. Of course, to be fair to the army, it does not have the backing of a functioning government so if they are not really welcome and are, themselves, in danger of fracturing along sectarian lines, it is not necessarily a solution. Given the ineffectiveness of the army, Hezbollah is much more powerful and has created their own "country" within Lebanon, operating where they wish with impunity. The fact that they're supporting the Assad regime in Syria is applauded by certain parts of Lebanon and strongly criticized by others, creating more reasons for Tripoli to continue to be violent.
My work with the students in the Anti-Discrimination Group has been rewarding this term and I am truly sorry to leave them. As a young and developing group I am not sure there will be much continuity after I'm gone. Recently, they specifically said they didn't want a student president just yet. I hope I can help them see that this is what they will need for next year.
By now, I'm sure you're wondering what my own future plans will be. On June 2nd I will begin an online course in "Human Relations" through Chadron University's Certification program. This 1-credit, 4-week course is what I need to become re-certified in Nebraska for the public schools. I have heard that they're desperately in need of substitute teachers and that is what I plan to do, once I'm re-qualified. I will apply to GI Public Schools and Kearney when I get back on July 11th. There are other overseas possibilities too but nothing is certain. What seems certain now however, is that my years working overseas have almost guaranteed that I am no longer relevant in US institutions. Academia is a funny (not hilarious, but odd) kind of culture. Deviations from what is perceived to be a traditional academic trajectory are viewed as problems, as is one's age. We will see. Nevertheless, I will be happy to be back, close to my family and many friends for awhile.
I have not spent the whole year bereft of family and friends. My little sister and I met in London for my semester break where we spent several days before taking the train to Edinburgh. There we connected with a friend from our school days in Jamaica and, spending a day at St. Andrews allowed me to introduce my sister to some dear LCC friends who are working and studying there. What a great trip that was! We were only sorry that my middle sister was not with us, remembering the great time we always have when we travel together.
(I wonder why I cannot share some of my best pictures with you? I will have to use Picasa to work smoothly with this blog, I think.)
The next treat I had was that a friend from my UNL days came and gave a Writing Workshop and a couple of other talks. She was here for a week and worked hard but we went to Beirut for her last day and a half. This picture is taken in the mosque downtown where Lydia, who is a wonderful photographer, was attempting to capture the ornate ceiling and chandeliers. I don't know if she did before one of the caretakers came to tell her to get up! The minaret outside is just part of the beautiful mosque, the one all the journalists like to have as their backdrop when reporting from Beirut.
I have applied to the Global Entry System for the speed lane when re-entering the US. While filling out the forms I realized that in the past 5 years, I'd traveled to eleven countries. Then I was struck by my good fortune--to travel, to see, to learn. It is such an enriching life and one I could not have imagined. What a lucky woman I am!
Best and blessings to all of you. It won't be long now before I can see many of you in person!