I have been rather slow in reporting the progress I’ve made on this goal. But- I’ve tried two meet-up groups in the DC area to date and have a few more that I have my eye on.
The whole concept of meetup.com is an awesome one: to transform internet social networking into real human interaction. As someone who has always been concerned with the increasing role that technology plays in our interactions with fellow human beings, I appreciate this mission. (I still remember lamenting the rise of instant messenger programs; not only did this mean less phone time, but also, conversations via the internet are somehow less authentic than those face to face. I have, and will continue to remain a face-to-face person... hopefully this will benefit my job hunt, but that’s a whole different story). ***just now, I almost typed slang that I’ve never seen typed before but that I know we’re all familiar with: “a whole nother story.” I want to reflect for a minute- what words composed that phrase originally? “Whole other story?” “Whole another story?” We all know nother isn’t a word... is it?***
So back to the issue at hand- I have to date tried two meet up groups, both related to Arabic. The first one I tried was called DC/VA/MD Arabic Social Networking Group. I went to a dinner at Me Jana restaurant in Arlington, VA. I have to admit, I was a little nervous walking in. I went by myself and was somewhat discouraged to find that I was the youngest by about 15 years. It stayed that way for a while until another young white girl showed up. All in all, the experience was a good one and left me willing to try another group. But unfortunately, I was so wrapped up in hating my job at that point that I really didn’t take time to appreciate the people I met- and maybe I just didn’t connect with them very well. (Although I am very grateful to one man I met there who agreed to meet with me a few weeks later for an Arabic conversation- at that time, the revolutions hadn’t swept the Middle East and North Africa yet, so we talked about the Coptic Christians in Egypt).
The second, a meet-up group that in near and dear to my heart, was Circle of Friends of Morocco. This group was and is a perfect place for me. I immediately felt at home with the leader of the group who agreed to meet with me an hour before the scheduled event time (a dinner that I had planned at a nearby Moroccan restaurant, Souk). He lived in Fes for much of his life, a place I called home for a year myself. His family currently lives in Taza- a wonderful city close to the Morocco/Algeria border that has this amazing cave where silly, adventurous Westerners like to “spulunk,” i.e. cave dive.
Anyways, the entire meal was awesome. By that point I was willing and ready to leave my horrible job, and I will credit a conversation I had that night with giving me the final push (for which I am immensely grateful to Brett). I met both Americans and Moroccans with inspiring experiences. I even had a few long conversations in Arabic (as you know, another goal- I need to get working on that though... I usually fall back to English for a few words here and there). A friend I met that night works as an Arabic speaking correspondent on Capitol Hill for a French news station called Medi1 TV. Two of the friends I met that night I’m still in touch with and see relatively often (and even speak in Arabic a lot of the time).