Recently, I’ve found myself nearly overwhelmed by the sudden urge to run away to the Middle East and go totally and irrevocably native. It may pass, but I still want to go back there–really bad.
So I looked up BYU’s TESOL certification program, and figured I could apply in January, start fall of ’11, and be on my way to an Arabian adventure in ’12.
Or…I could bypass the whole certification thing altogether, but I’d probably get a crappier job. Besides, the certification could lead to other things, like perhaps an actual stable day job. Who knows?
Regardless, I should probably find some way to actually use my Arabic degree. After all, why did I get it in the first place? Better put it to use!
So why am I tripping out on Middle East stuff? Interestingly enough, I think it has a lot to do with the current novel I’m writing, Worlds Away from Home. I started it in fall ’08, just after getting back from BYU’s 2008 Jordan study abroad program, and the influence is definitely very visible.
Sometimes it makes me cringe a little, though; the fictional culture is patterned after my understanding of and experiences with Arab culture, but…it’s very pseudo Arab, if that make sense. Kind of like it looks Arab, but it feels more Western. I don’t know–I guess what I’m saying is that it’s bad (or maybe I just think that because I’m in the middle of the rough draft, when everything I write is utter and absolute crap. Blegh).
But the thing is, if I try to make the culture truly foreign, I’m worried it will be more of a barrier to the reader than a gateway. In other words, it’s the classic science fiction problem of aliens: the more you succeed in making your aliens truly alien, the harder it is for the reader to understand or sympathize with them.
But then again, isn’t that why we read? To be transported to different times and places, experience other people and cultures, and be exposed to new ideas? To expand our minds and enrich our understanding? If that’s the case, there’s got to be something good and healthy about immersing the reader in a totally foreign culture.
Unfortunately, that doesn’t make it any easier.
Oh well. I’m up for the challenge. In the meantime, I’ll keep reading T. E. Lawrence’s The Seven Pillars of Wisdom and continuously loop all my Arab pop. Not familiar with Arabic music? Here’s a really good one:
(ps: I’d tell you who wrote/performs the song, but frankly I have no idea. Unfortunately, copyright doesn’t really exist in the Middle East. Oh well. Enjoy!)