Class is over, Robbie and Henrik have left, and I’m stuck in that odd limbo between finishing everything that I had to do and departing tomorrow. It’s been a good time for introspection, reminiscence and gathering my thoughts on the block and the semester.
I’ve learned and grown so much, studying abroad. This class was particularly suited to my academic interests and has been just extraordinary. I was talking about history and philosophy and art and life with Robbie at a cafe a couple of nights ago with Hannah and Henrik caught up in their own conversation across from us, and I realized that that conversation was what I had hoped for from college as a high school student. But back then, I didn’t know I would be having it in Jordan. I had a vague idea that there would be other great experiences in college, too, but I didn’t know what they would be. CC has totally exceeded the expectations that I had as a high schooler. This block, this class, this trip, this semester – they’ve been extraordinary experiences. I’ve learned about the world and about myself. But I think it’s telling that this block was not unarguably the best block I’ve had at CC. It was absolutely one of the best, but I’ve had many outstanding classes, often unexpectedly.
I’m probably sounding like I work for the admissions office, and I guess that, writing this blog, I kind of do. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not writing this to try to sell you. I’ve had a few mediocre blocks. I hear criticism of CC from some other students, and the block plan isn’t for everyone. But at the end of this block, I feel like I should consider it to be unequivocally the best academic experience, possibly the best experience, period, of my life. And the fact that it’s not, that I’ve had more than a handful of amazing experiences, makes me feel really satisfied with my time at college and my life so far.
Some highlights of the block and my time in Jordan, since I’ve written less posts than I would’ve liked to:
Petra – it’s enormous, and full of intricate tombs carved into the rock. A day and a half was not enough time to see everything, and we were told that 80% of it is still buried. I can’t do Petra justice by talking about it. Everyone should see it.
Ajloun castle – We went to an anti-crusader castle that was Saladin’s headquarters. The guide there just happened to be a professor of engineering and one of the principal archaeologists of the site. His insights into the engineering of the structure and the complex pipe systems hidden in the walls and beneath the floors were fascinating. For instance, despite weathering many earthquakes which removed some upper floors from the building, a domed ceiling inside is one of the oldest in the world, still fully intact. Also, castles are cool and the view from the top was really lovely. The intellectual history buff and the five year old in me were both satisfied.
The Dead Sea – You can’t really swim properly in the Dead Sea; kicking doesn’t do much. The buoyancy was incredible, and perhaps especially neat to me after having grown up swimming in pools just about every day of every summer of my childhood. Don’t let the water get in your eyes, though! The salt burns.
Wadi hike – Last weekend, Hannah, Robbie and I went on a hike with a couple of guys who Robbie contacted. Normally they run big group hikes on Fridays, but we ended up going as a small group on Saturday. What an experience! The hike was up a small river in a canyon. The water level varied, but I got my shirt wet within five minutes, and we swam in places. At other times we had to climb to proceed. It might’ve been the best hike I’ve been on, and was almost certainly the most physically taxing. The whole hike was gorgeous and fun, and we had a great time talking with our guides.
Dr. Rami Daher – Dr. Daher came and spoke to our class about the harms of neoliberalism. In a sentence, large building projects in the Middle East funded by oil money, characterized particularly by Dubai, disrupt urban space, displace the poor and only privilege the super-rich, thereby accentuating social stratification. Dr. Daher has been involved in making Amman, the capital of Jordan, more pedestrian friendly, and thereby more egalitarian. Rainbow Street and Walkalot Street, the first two places outside of malls that our CC group went to hang out, were both designed in their current forms by Dr. Daher. He’s a fun guy and had some fascinating things to say.
Of course, we did more; we travelled almost every weekday, and I’ve hardly touched on what we talked about in class. That was incredibly valuable, too. Like I said, it’s been an amazing block.
Now onto the next adventure!