So, today I’m mourning the loss of a lovely lady whom I didn’t get to know nearly well enough. She is moving with her family back to the US. Barely a few years ago, she moved here. Now she’s given up and gone back. If bringing home educated, top of their profession people is Brain Gain for Jordan… what is losing them? Brain Drain Deja Vu? This year has seen me saying goodbye to numerous friends. I know at least 5 families that gave up and went back to the US. And, nearly universally, the ones having the biggest problems living in Jordan were the Jordanians.
In couples where one is Jordanian and one American, the Jordanian is almost always more frustrated and has a more difficult time living in the reality that is Jordan. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve seen a number of Americans hate it here. But it seems like it’s even harder for the Jordanians who lived many years abroad and then returned. We’ve found that. With El 3atal, the time he spent traveling to Dubai helped keep him sane. Working in Jordan, staying in Jordan, living in Jordan seems to drive him a bit crazy.
The funny thing is that while living in Jordan can be very difficult (and certainly simple things are much more difficult) in some ways it can also be easier. It takes a while to get your footing. But, as an American, you should be able to find a group of friends with similar interests. I’ve got a couple of different support groups of lovely ladies whom I enjoy greatly. In fact, if we moved I would mourn the distance from such great friends. I can think, off the top of my head, of at least 10 ladies that I would miss on a weekly basis. El 3atal has fewer close friends. In some ways, I think it’s harder to find affinity groups when you’re “at home”. For me, I started out trying to find a way into local groups of ladies. You know, moms in the class, that kind of thing. But Jordan, much like my home state of Alabama, is a bit of a closed society. It takes alot of pushing to find an in. I’m not so much into pushing. So, I’m friendly with the Beans’ friends parents, but I haven’t pushed my way into friendship circles with them.
Instead I found, as many do, that I shared the most in common with others like me. American ladies with Jordanian husbands, Christians living in a Muslim land, people like that. I’ve found that finding other people straddling two worlds has created natural affinities. I find that there are some ladies in the group who I would be friends with in any country. It just so happens that having something in common in Jordan made it easier to find each other.
Once you’ve found friends, I also think that life gets more comfortable. That may be something that makes it harder for the Jordanians that come back. Work life is hard as much of what they’ve done abroad is discounted as not being of great value. Those who attain high-profile positions in the rest of the world suffer from the “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” syndrome. And, then socially it’s hard to find a way back in. They had friends in school, but they likely found it hard to remain close. As you move out into the world, you have a very different set of experiences than those who remain back home (wherever back home is). It doesn’t mean that one set is better, it’s just that you are exposed to different things. So, fitting back into groups of which you were once a part can be very difficult. Finding new friends can also be very challenging as you’re the one who is “home” and affinity groups are harder to find. I’m not are of any on-line groups of men who lived abroad for ten or more years and then returned. Are there such groups? How would you find them? So, it’s a slow process of finding friends one by one. And the chances of finding the ones who really would be your friends anywhere is much harder.
Bottom line, I think that making it in Jordan after life away from it is a tough proposition all around. You have become accustomed to a different work environment, a different social environment, a more independent life. Coming home can feel at once lonely and stifling. As Jordan contemplates its future, one of the issues it needs to address is finding ways to make those who live abroad and decide to return comfortable in being here. Because, the mass-exodus of people leaving Jordan (again) that I’ve seen lately is troubling. The lady leaving this week is a journalist. She’s smart, savvy, ethical, and committed. Can you imagine anyone that Jordan needs more? I can’t. I hope we’ll all find ways to make reintegration easier…