Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Spoof post for the Earlham Absurd

The last issue of the Word is always a spoof issue--"The Earlham Absurd". You may remember last semesters, wherein I used the Word as a vehicle to confess to my parents that I got a tattoo.

Anyway, here's my spoof article for this semester--they've been taking my posts and publishing them as articles so it is in appropriate blog format.

"Looking back on my semester abroad, it’s hard not to feel nostalgic—already!—for the adventures we had in the Middle East. As I write my final essays, take my final exams, spend my last JD 50 stipend from Bruce, and prepare to say goodbye to my host family, I am reflecting on the times, good, bad, and especially scary. Consider what it must have been like: we came to a foreign country where we didn’t speak the language only to have the region erupt into war as soon as we arrived.

I’ll be honest: there were a few times there, that Leila, Arielle, Tyler, Rachel, Bill, Kelly, Rhea, Eric, Simon, Rossa, Ikram and I didn’t think we’d make it through the semester. For example, when we were all crowded together in the cramped luggage compartment of one of the Egypt-bound Jordanian rescue planes that was meant to evacuate Jordanians who found themselves in Egypt at the time of the riot—

Looking back, I can admit it: I had doubts that the skills of constructive dialogue we had learned at Earlham would not be enough to convince Hosni Mubarak to step down as President. But we knew it was time to let our lives speak.

When the plane landed, we dispersed into the crowd and snuck into Mubarak’s home, where he was hiding from the riots that were demanding the end of his reign. While Eric and Simon distracted the guards with witty discourse and charming smiles, Rossa and Ikram hung up the signs announcing the vegan potluck Kelly and Rhea had arranged—an event we hoped would provide a safe space for discourse with Mubarak on the issues faced by Egypt’s leader and his people.

After a lunch of falafel, pita, hummus, and vegan chocolate-chip cookies, we made a batch of popcorn, flavored with nutritional yeast, and settled down on the porch to talk. I cracked a PBR and passed it to Mubarak. Then Tyler and Rachel sat down and, channeling every Peace and Global Studies major ever to walk the hallowed halls of the Landrom Bolling Center, presented a PowerPoint presentation that we had had written, in Arabic, for this very purpose.

The argument was eloquent and backed up by several well-cited sources, clear graphs, and font no smaller than 18 point. When Tyler and Rachel had finished, we sat back and listened to Mubarak present his side of the story, followed by a moderated Socratic seminar, in which the thirteen of us debated on topics ranging from free trade to the legitimacy of democracy as a socio-political ideal.

At the end we all embraced, brought nearly to tears by the beauty and power of our conversation. Bill played “How Can I Keep From Singing” on his oud while Leila, Arielle and Hosni overcame their ideological differences to sing together, their voices blending in the beautiful harmonies. I know I’m a crybaby—I cried at Tangled—but I really was overcome with emotion to see all the things we had studied working in practice.

Well, you all know how this story ends. By the time Bruce, several Egyptian and Jordanian secret police agents, and a very distraught delegation from the US Embassy arrived, Mubarak had stepped down as president and Egypt was freed.

So my semester abroad wasn’t always easy, and it wasn’t always fun. The life of an Earlham student is always overcommitted—it wasn’t great trying to balance schoolwork with social life with actively trying to solve conflicts right and left with getting my articles in to the Word on time! But in the end it was a fantastic experience and to anyone doubting whether or not study abroad is for her/him: I say, do it!"

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