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My New Family

Audra Vann

I met Etidell during my first visit to the secondary school. She was one of a crowd of teachers who drilled me in broken English about when I was coming and why. Their names clunked off my tongue and soon slipped out of my memory. One month later, I found myself at day one of work—scared, unable to remember much but recognizing faces. Etidell walked up to me with purpose. "What is my name?" she asked. I was flustered, blushed, and threw out a likelihood. "No," she said, without a smile. "My name is Etidell. You will never forget again". She walked away, an air of seriousness trailing behind her. Frantically I wrote down what I heard, jotted a description, and knew I couldn't forget. I glanced up and she had returned, laughing.

Etidell led me through a series of activities. She introduced me to her family and brought me into their fold. I have cooked with them, harvested olives, cleaned, watched TV, and talked about all manners of things. Through weddings and funerals, Ramadan and summer projects, she has been there, pushing me to not work quite as hard but helping me with all that I do.

When my family came to visit me, I took them to meet my new friends. Etidell's family claimed me as their own; "Audra has two sisters and six brothers," Um Hatem offered graciously. "She has two mothers and two fathers." My parents left their home joyous. To have a family take in their daughter so completely was an end to their anxieties. Etidell has been my friend for more than a year. She has been my sister for almost as long. As we reached 12 months of Peace Corps service, Etidell and her family began to work on extending my stay indefinitely. Now every week they propose a new "life" for my husband and me to encourage me to stay. They know we will leave, but they need me to know I can stay.

A month ago, Etidell and I were watching television when she turned to me, with a serious look on her face. I scanned through the television episode, searching for a scene she would be upset about. "Audra, I didn't want to like you," she said. "I thought I hated all Americans. I thought you would be different. I never would have believed that I would have a friend—more than a friend, a sister—that was American. Do you understand?" I nodded. I have two mothers, two fathers, two sisters, and six brothers.

Audra Vann (Jordan)

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