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Fifty years later

Jun 24,2019 - Last updated at Jun 24,2019

At this time 50 years ago, I left Jordan to get my master’s degree in economics from Vanderbilt University, in Nashville, Tennessee. After spending a month in Washington, DC learning about American history and visiting the main historical sites and monuments, I travelled to Colorado to spend two months at the Economics Institute in Boulder, the beautiful town sitting in the lap of the scenic Rocky Mountains.

After the course was over, I spent three weeks with four Tunisian colleagues on the road, where we travelled from Colorado to Wyoming, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, Southern California, North California, Utah, Wyoming and back to Colorado. I learned the Tunisian Arabic, and the differences in accent and terminology often led me to a stand-off or cartoonishly funny situations with my travel colleague.

Before this 13,000km trek started, I witnessed Neil Armstrong take that leap into history and the future on the moon's surface on July 20, 1969. That was a moment of universal jubilation. It did not matter where Armstrong or Buzz Aldrin, the co-pilot of Apollo 11, came from; they were fellow humans achieving a great deed for all human beings.

However, upon our return to Colorado in order for us to part ways and join our respective universities, another development took place on September 1, 1969. A coup d’état took place in Libya, and a new young colonel from the army had toppled the regime and declared himself the new leader. My two Libyan colleagues, who were supposed to continue their studies in Boulder, did not know what their future would look like. Their faces were most expressive of bewilderment and fear. Yet both managed to put a brave face and a faint smile to calm us.

I left Boulder to Denver airport on September 3, 1969 and flew back to Washington, DC. I spent another week there before arriving at Nashville’s airport in Tennessee. The elegant Mrs White, the student affairs director, was waiting at the airport. She took me immediately to my room in the dorm and told me that there were two other Arab students who were doing their master’s in economics.

After 11 beautiful months, I got my master’s degree and the university gave me a scholarship to continue with my PhD. However, events in Amman in 1970 broke out. I lost track of my family. I had to drop out because I could not continue while worried to death over my family’s whereabouts.

I took a three-month tour in the US after I received a letter from my father that he and the family had escaped to Beirut, and that they were all safe and sound.

After that fantastic trip in the north, east, midwest and south I left to Jordan.

Fifty years later, Jordan still faces challenges. Armstrong is now dead but remembered. I had a wonderfully rich life. God bless Jordan.

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