Friday, April 27, 2007

My Friend Clare

At the outset, I should confess that, like the proverbial changeling or cuckoo chick, I am going to this conference under false pretenses. I am not a "woman leader"--that would be my friend Clare, who has generously asked me to accompany her. She is a trusts & estates lawyer, philanthropist, and IWF member who, like all the other members convening in Amman, is allowed to bring one guest. So I suppose I will be the Woman Who Came to Dinner. Hopefully, I will not be the only one. Clare's invitation was serendipitous (as such things often are), for she thought I would be in Egypt sometime in May and could hop over to Jordan and join her. Indeed I had planned to be in Egypt with my younger daughter Caroline, who is visiting St. Catherine's Monastery in the Sinai because she hopes to present a paper on two of the monastery's frescoes at a Byzantine art conference next fall. But mother-daughter scheduling didn't work out, and Caro can't get to the Sinai until August and its 120 degree heat. Even as my Egypt sojourn vanished (regrets, regrets--Caro is the absolute best traveler, but that's a story for another day), I jumped at the chance to join Clare. So now I will try to be as good a
traveling companion for Clare as Caro has been for me. Tall order. We'll see how I do.

Having googled some of the California IWF members going to Amman, I'm slightly intimidated by their accomplishments. I'm a bit of an odd bird myself--a somewhat agoraphobic traveler, spending my days at home researching and writing little histories on my mother's family (albeit an interesting one, in that Southern gothic way) when I'm not taking trips here and there. Sometimes, as I hold a letter from the 1880's and struggle to decipher the copperplate, briefly I have the oddest feeling that the writer has stepped out of the shadows to my side. I wonder if a century and more from now our blogs, presuming that they still circle the ethernet, will alight upon spaces yet to be created.

So--returning to the subject at hand--I will be one of many upper middle-class and upper class women, East and West, traveling to Amman. We all seem to be well-educated. My husband supposes that we westerners (mostly Americans?--I'll find out and report) will be secularists, almost to a woman. Of course, I am an exception; and from googling, I know that two of the California IWFers are "staunch Episcopalians," as they say, and one is Jewish. As for our hostesses, I suddenly realize that my presumption that all will be Muslims could be wrong. There are 4 million Arab Christians in the Middle East; a few could be part of the Cornerstone Conference. Somehow--after my reading--I think not. But I will report, and that will be a story for another another day.

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