Monday, January 02, 2006

An Update for the New Year

2006 is upon us. My life continues much as it has been. I'm still focusing on language; much of my time is spent listening to and thinking about the various radio programs that my teacher is using to teach the language. I'm still spending time volunteering with al-Hilaal al-Ahmar, and there's also time left over to see friends.

I'm writing this post mainly to respond to a question that a few friends have asked me; one I think people in general might be curious about. Here's the gist of it: "So, this blog is fine and good and all, but are you actually happy there?"

It's a good question, and my short answer is yes. There is a lot to be excited about here: I'm learning a lot and making a lot of good and true connections with people here. I can be made happy pretty easily. After a successful evening spent at my desk with my books, I usually end up just as thrilled as after a really great conversation with an old friend. When I told one of my cousins this she replied, "You Nerd!" -- she's right. (I'm also satisfied to now be able to say "old friend".)

Nevertheless, there have been plenty of times when I've been feeling lonely, bored, and aimless. Sometimes this is from frustration with myself for sitting around all day; sometimes this is from a discouraging day with the language. Other times its probably just from being away from home and on my own for the longest period so far in my life.

One thing that I think has contributed to these spells of discouragement is that my ability to hold a decent conversation in Arabic is no longer a surprise as thrilling and sustaining as it was at first. I'm still making good progress in the language, but it's less of a breakthrough moment when I can talk to people. Now my challenge is to find good things to talk about and to put my language to good use.

Thankfully, these periods of feeling down are a minority of the time. Most of the time I find my self with a lot of productive and fun things to do, and if not that, a lot of interesting things to think about. I am happy to be here in Damascus.

Let's all give our strongest prayer for peace in the coming year.