I grew up in a small town in Pennsylvania where the neighborhoods are filled with cookie cutter houses that all appear to be almost exactly identical. I grew up in a town where while religion is important to a large part of the community, it is not everything. I grew up in a town where in the winter the ground is covered in snow, and in the summer the AC is blasting. These are all things that are likely to act as barriers to understanding what life is like for those living in the Middle East.
My understanding of what I thought life in the Middle East must be like prior to taking this course was mostly taken from the way it is depicted in the media and film industry in the United States. On the news, when you see anything about Middle Eastern countries it is likely that it will be about war, poverty, or corruption. Many films that I have seen about the Middle East have been about war and violence. I think that this is the reason for the common misconception that every Middle Eastern country is poor and underdeveloped, which is clearly untrue. While I think that these depictions of the Middle East most definitely have led me to understand the privileges I have had my whole life, it also gave me a false sense of what life is like in other parts of the Middle East that are just as developed as the area that I grew up in.
From a geographical standpoint, the climate and topography of most Middle Eastern countries is drastically different from where I live or anywhere that I have visited in the United States. In my area, any land that has not been built on is typically farm land, and there are certainly no deserts anywhere close to Newtown, PA. While the summers are hot, the highest that the temperature will reach is usually no more than 100°, and in the winter everyone knows that a heavy coat and gloves are a necessity. This was something that I have never really put into perspective when it comes to how this might affect me day to day, but clearly with such a different geographic setting, life in the Middle East is definitely going to be different from here.
In my opinion, life in the Middle East would be hardest for me to understand from a cultural standpoint. From what I know, religion in Middle Eastern countries is very important, and is often what causes a lot of conflict between countries. While I did grow up going to Catholic school, I have never found that it consumed my life or that religion ever caused any sort of controversy between the people around me. I think that the way people from my area who I would consider to be ‘super religious’ practice their religion would seem like nothing to many Middle Eastern people.
These are just a few of the things that I believe will act as barriers to my understanding throughout this course, and I recognize that life in a small suburban town in the United States has a long list of differences from life in the Middle East. Although these barriers are present, I look forward to searching for ways that life may also be somewhat similar in comparison to the Middle East throughout the semester.