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First introduction?!

Salaam friends!

I write this excitedly from a cafe in Jebel el-Weibdeh, my old neighborhood in Amman. I am experiencing great nostalgia, excitement, and happiness being here, and am very much looking forward to sharing all of this with you.

I’ve already had the chance to introduce myself briefly to all of you over the internet, which has been really wonderful, and I’ve enjoyed getting to know Dave and Alli as well over the past few weeks. To recount my story a bit, I come to this work first as a student of the Middle East and the Arab world more broadly speaking, and with this background I see myself as an educator interested in sharing the challenge of engaging with a different culture and community than that which I was raised in. Like many who follow a similar path, I began my studies with the underlying desire of better understanding myself and my own community, and as time has gone on my own community (and self) has transformed and grown, in ways that I am eminently grateful for.

Most of my academic background has been in the field of religious studies. After growing up in Los Angeles and initially studying International Relations, I decided to dive into Islamic Studies and to start studying Arabic. For reasons somewhat hard for me to describe, I was hooked quite quickly, and have continued to do this ever since. My journey studying Arabic/Islam has taken me to Oman, Jordan, Senegal, Mauritania, and most recently Morocco, where I’ve lived most recently and had the pleasure/challenge of dealing with a new Arabic dialect (to me, of course). Luckily language struggle is mostly comedic, and sometimes things go smoothly, which is a truly incredible feeling. Along the way I spent some years in graduate school, worked on an Oral History research project in Northwest Africa, and have made lots of friends along the way.

Aside from all of this, I try to spend my time socializing with good people, reading challenging books, listening to jazz, doing yoga, playing chess, and cooking. I do like to get silly sometimes, but I have been known to take things quite seriously, so I try to maintain good balance. I am lucky to be able to travel, aided by Dragons, and enjoy most exploring cities slowly, on foot, and aimed towards good meals.

This will be my second Dragons trip and first in Jordan, and I’m excited to spend this time with you all. I understand myself to still have much to learn. I hope to share some of what I love about all of this with you all, soon! And I hope you come to learn about yourselves, this region, and the world more broadly, throughout the course of our trip. In the coming weeks we will be sharing more information here, on the Yak board, so please continue to check for updates!

In that regard, it would be great if everyone could post a short introduction – who are you, where do you come from, and what excites you about this trip? This is a space get to know each other a bit more – so tell us some things we haven’t heard thus far through our introductions, to give us some insight into who we all are, and why we are doing this. Also its an important tradition to include some silly and light stuff on here: So what is your favorite food? Best album you’ve listened to recently?

OH and a picture!!!

Food is hard for me – its one of my favorite things. But when it comes down to it the truth is I love avocados more than most things in the world.
And I’ve recently been listening to Kassa Overall’s ‘Go Get Ice Cream and Listen to Jazz’. It’s so good. Seriously.

Mohammad and I are looking forward to reading everyones intros, and even more so to meeting in person soon.

All best from Amman,

Kevin