I have spent an inordinate amount of time outside my own cultural zone. Specifically, I have spent almost three years working and traveling in Muslim-majority countries. Being a staunch humanist/pluralist/insufferable optimist, I have enjoyed the opportunity these travels have afforded me to smash stereotypes of Muslims, the non-Western world, and life outside the USA in general. Going back “home” is always an occasion to share these revelations, but almost always in painfully redacted form.
By writing this blog, I intend to offer a more detailed and complete record of these experiences. I also wish to unpack and present my thoughts. Some posts will focus on the current time, but I also hope to revisit memories of past events.
Having endured several months of wheel-spinning “back home” in 2012, I rang in the new year by taking an offer to teach English in Yemen in return for a place to live, paltry pay, and free Arabic lessons. While the experience was marred by a lousy work environment and a quickly deteriorating security situation, I’m glad I went. It started me on a more productive path, which I am now continuing as a history teacher in Lebanon. I’ve progressed in my Arabic, my worldly knowledge, and my approach toward personal goals. I’m ready to take a more active, less risk-averse approach to achieving what I care about.
Currently, I want to find my voice. My “personal agenda,” promoting pluralism as a pragmatic answer to today’s special brand of fucked-up-ness, requires frank ethical discourse and the open sharing of experiences and facts. I’m tired of hedging my personal image to widen its appeal. It’s not authentic, and it sure hasn’t landed me any fabulous opportunities.
So, you’ll be reading some honesty in this blog. I am an open-minded person with a healthy respect for differences of belief and lifestyle, but I do not intend to avoid difficult subjects or negative conclusions. I love that young Omani mothers can attend college while their families help provide childcare, but I hate that most of them have been genitally mutilated in the name of “honor”. I don’t believe in covering up truth. I don’t believe that highlighting positive aspects of a society makes me an apologist, nor do I believe that pointing out negative aspects makes me its enemy.
Honesty doesn’t always feel safe or appear polite, so I wouldn’t be surprised if a person who reads this feels uncomfortable or offended at some point. That’s fine with me. Please know, however, that I am open to thoughtful, reasoned criticism or debate of whatever I share. I may choose to disagree with you, but I appreciate new information and intellectual/ethical challenges. Please engage candidly if you can maintain respect for our differences.