The wind goes where the boat wants it

Thank God my friend Melissa is a psychology major.

We are beginning week three of my study abroad program’s independent research portion, meaning my days are no longer set by classes and controlled by the chaos that was the SIT office. Rather, they begin with two hours of Arabic tutoring in the local dialect and then are framed by interviews with humanitarian aid organizations and trips to cafes.

In all honesty, my research is going well. Organizations have been very welcoming and responsive, which is the opposite of what I was told to expect. My questions are being answered and the ball is rolling.

Still, I have no idea how to conduct research. I spent all of yesterday trying to find sources for my literature review that would help me format questions and analyze my qualitative date. Nothing. So then I desperately tried to re-word and re-work my research proposal into a question not only worth answering, but one that could guide my interviews in a more purposeful direction.

But this was to no avail.

Finally, discouraged and encouraged all at the same time, I walked 15 minutes from the cafe I had planted myself at for 6 hours to the cafe my friends were working at. And I told Melissa I was worried I would not have anything of worth to bring back to Wofford.

She put on her psych-major pants and in under 10 minutes gave me some steps I could use to code my interview questions and answers, and helped me brainstorm some new key words for my research question. Now I’m getting somewhere.

an example of Amman’s graffiti, which celebrates its diversity

The five of us went on a 2-hour long walking graffiti tour of Amman as our weekend activity this past Friday. The group was about 12 foreigners and led by a former refugee and mechanical engineer turned full-time hip-hop street performer, Aladdin.

Aladdin (pronounced ala-deen, meaning he who rises to the higher religion) is the son of an imam who has chosen his own destiny. That sounds excessive, but it is so true of this man. Aladdin was an early member of the hip-hop culture here in Amman (a story of art very similar to that of hip hop’s early days in the US…except hip hop here is still up-and-coming). He and his friends would perform (rap, beat-box, break-dance, graffitti) in stairways because they could see who was coming and going. If they saw someone who would tell their parents about their art, they would run.

At first, Aladdin’s street performing angered his father, because just like preacher’s kids in the south, there are certain community expectations for the behavior of an imam’s son. But over time, with much grace and patience, Aladdin convinced his family of the beauty of hip-hop as an art form and lifestyle.

One of our stops during the tour was a spray-painted popular Arabic poem at the beginning of a stairwell. But the first line was missing. The first line is so well-known, and said so frequently in Jordanian culture that it wasn’t worth mentioning…it tells you to give up on your dreams when things don’t go as plan, obviously it’s just not your destiny.

“The wind does not go where the boat wants.”

But, that line was missing. The rest of the poem that was in bright red on the cracking stone wall speaks hope to the soul. It tells that actually, you’re not just the boat. You’re the waves. And the wind. And the rudder.

Thus, the wind does in fact go where the boat wants.

Especially if you have friends in the boat with you helping steer and row in the right direction.

My research is gonna go where this little boat wants it.

P.S. There are some beautiful humans in the art community of Amman. I’ll share more about them and the unique space they occupy later.

Take care Wofford,