Normal in a Foreign Country
By Alison Holt - Peace Corps Volunteer, Jordan (2012 - 2014)
I stopped eavesdropping on my friends today.
Tamara waited for the water to boil
and asked me to wash the tiny coffee cups
When I finished I brought them over
and she spooned the face into each one
then gently poured in the thick coffee
Presented with cups topped with caramel colored froth
Owham said, “the girls never want to work”
Myasar said “not every girl is the same”
I smiled and she asked, “Right, Alison?”
and I said “Right.”
I drifted off thinking about how much I will miss this
And when I get back to America how will I adapt?
How normal it is for me to understand ¾ of a conversation
to start my mornings with a few cups of Turkish coffee
to greet each passerby so formally
to forget words in English but remember them in Arabic
to only talk about women and men, weight, and food.
I never eavesdrop anymore because now I'm part of the conversation.
This poem was entered in the returned Volunteer category for the 2015 Peace Corps poetry contest. The contest received more than 1,000 submissions, representing over 50 years of Peace Corps service in more than 100 countries.