Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Jordan Challenge 17: Hold a Thanksgiving Dinner in Amman

Like floating in the Dead Sea, this one turned out to be no challenge at all, thanks to the concerted efforts of the Fulbright Commission staff, particularly Aya and Iman, who spent the weeks before relentlessly tracking down turkeys, missing RSVPs, and just the right combination of pot luck dishes. One of my favorite things about the Jordan Fulbright experience has been the opportunity to get to know so many of the people in our cohort.  They are quite the collection of talent and positive energy, and I always look forward to big get-togethers like this one to catch up and see how everyone is doing. In addition, since it was at the beginning of Chris's last week in the country, it was a chance to introduce him to some of my friends that he still hadn't met.

The amazing Iman -- social worker, problem solver, logistics miracle worker -- and party planner besides.  She's the best.
The Fulbright Commission has turned Thanksgiving dinner into an annual event (though we did celebrate it a day earlier than in the States), and provides the setting, three turkeys and some lovely pies.  We are responsible for the other dishes, with some guidance from Iman and Aya, who made sure we didn't wind up with ten cranberry sauces and no other side dishes. It was a great chance for people to show off their culinary skills, and once again, I was reminded that this is one pack of people who are as handy in the kitchen as they are with the Arabic alphabet. We all stuffed ourselves, then in good Jordanian fashion, had some more.
So much good food, it was ridiculous.  Not that I'm complaining...

Of course, it wouldn't be Thanksgiving without some kind of drama, but ours was not of the family version.  Rather, the students (18 student researchers and 10 English teaching assistants (ETAs) -- or everyone but Tess, Angela and me) were all in the running for a trip to Morocco.  It turns out that the Fulbright Middle East Program holds a student conference hosted in two sites -- Jordan and Morocco.  Half the students in the region go to to one conference and half to the other, so half of each of our student groups would be staying for the Amman conference and the other half would be flying across North Africa to join the Morocco conference. So, as we all sat around in food comas, Alain, the Commission Executive Director, conducted a drawing to determine who would go and who would stay.  Everyone accepted the results with remarkable grace, leaving me to conclude that all bad news should be delivered to people who have already been stuffed with turkey and Tess's pecan pie.
Our dinner table group -- Jacqui, Tess, Elizabeth, Christina and I (minus Chris, who was taking the picture). I think Tess and I are doing a remarkable job of not looking covetously at the residence cards the others are flashing -- which we are still waiting for.

Chris and I feeling happy and very, very full.

After we had all left the dinner, one of the Fulbright ETAs, Jennifer, posted a lovely list of things she had to be thankful for this Thanksgiving, ending with Senator William Fulbright, the man who convinced his fellow Senators that his new idea for a global academic exchange could truly serve American interests around the world.

This is Jennifer, who I mentioned above, together with Daniel and Hannah.
Like Jen, I'm grateful for Senator Fulbright and his vision among the many other things I had to be thankful for this Thanksgiving 2011.

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