Saturday, July 26, 2008

Punctilious. Nimble. Globetrotter.1

I haven't blogged much lately, partly because I've been devoting my time to vocabulary review and grammar tutorials, but mostly because I've been doing so much traveling. That sounds counterintuitive, but I always hesitate to blog about trips, for fear of becoming one of those bloggers--you know, the type whose posts are just pictures and exclamation points: "and then we saw this! And it was amazing! And then we saw that! It was amazing too!!! Look at my beautiful pictures2! And isn't my life just awesome3?!?!"

But I'm going to have to do just that, else the blog would be entirely about my classes (and I only have two hours a day, so there's not much to say4) or my roommates (and this blog is not just a quote board, funny as they are, since quote boards irritate me5) or my awkward wandering Amman, into mosques (awkward situation: "so when did you become a Muslim?"), souqs (awkward question: "Are you Iraqi?6"), and Palestinian refugee neighborhoods (awkward event: children throwing rocks at me7). Plus, I'll inevitably write about travel later in August, when Amy flies out to join me on the mbatE20088, so I might as well start now. Get ready for pictures, exclamation points, and total, utter gloating.


Probably my favorite so far of all our group trips (sorry, Jerash and Umm Qais) was our camping trip to Wadi Rum, the southern desert landscape made famous, like everything else in this area, by Lawrence of Arabia9. About 20 of us piled into a bus for the four-hour drive south, during which our driver played the same song on repeat, loudly, the entire way. I kept falling asleep and waking up, only to wonder if I had slept at all, since the bus was still vibrating with the same boom dee-dee boom dee-dee BOOM. The fact that the scenery was persistently, stubbornly unchanging didn't help much with reorienting myself after a nap.

(Speaking of the scenery, can I take this moment to say that I'm convinced that Jordan is just a bizarro Utah? Desert canyons, sand, arches, polygamists. Oh, and the Dead Sea, the Middle East's answer to the Great Salt Lake. We visited a few weeks ago and had a blast floating effortlessly because of the salinity, and stinging terribly because of that same salinity: hangnails in water with a 30% salt content are not cool. Likewise for any other open sores or pores, which, strangely enough, makes it a good thing I hadn't shaved my legs before the trip10. Anyway, Jordan, if you need a new tourist slogan, I've got an idea: "Come on over to Jordan, southern Utah with camels!11")

Confused, inadequate sleep, like mine on the bus, was a theme of the trip, though, as we spent the night there, after watching the beautiful sunset, staying up late stargazing, talking, and dancing by the fire to, I swear, the same song from the bus, over and over again. I'll never be able to hear that rhythm again without thinking of the tipsy, overweight Arab man who tried to teach me to belly dance--and when he said "belly," he meant it. Good times.

The next morning, we set off for aimless wandering through the desert, led by a very cranky Bedouin guide and his open-backed Toyota jeep so old that T.E. Lawrence himself would have opted for a newer model. At least we had the wind in our hair.

We wandered aimlessly past a desert fortress, a huge rock balanced on another rock12, a slot canyon with ancient carvings, camels, and, of course, sand dunes, where we played happily for at least an hour. It turns out running up and down huge hills in 100-degree weather can actually be fun--at least until you realize you've been running up and down huge hills in 100-degree weather. I think heat does something to the brain.

It was no surprise to anyone, of course, when our jeep broke down. As we sat in the sun waiting for our now-even-crankier driver to figure out the problem (um, maybe that your jeep practically a geological formation itself?), one of the other jeep drivers cranked up his sound system to play, I swear, that same damn song. Emboldened by my lessons of the night before, and possibly also that pesky heat/brain combination, I stood up, shouted "DESERT DANCE PARTY," and jumped down into the sand. Others followed suit, and we spent a good half an hour getting down in the desert. What could be more fun than that?

Maybe, possibly, our trip back through the desert, in which we all--squished now into three jeeps instead of four, having given up on the Toyota--raced each other through the scrub and over sand dunes, with our drivers slightly, ahem, three kefiyyehs to the wind, if you know what I mean. Our driver had clearly drowned his grumpiness in something other than water, and spent the drive back imitating animal noises and telling a long story in very fast, very slurred Arabic, the only word of which we really understood was "Iskar! Iskar!"--get drunk! Get drunk! Yeah, buddy, I think you just did. Is that why they call it Wadi Rum?


But see, this is why I haven't blogged much: not only am I a jerk for being a picture-posting tourist type, I'm a jerk for having such an incredibly good life: my weekends involve tooling around the desert with tipsy Bedouin. I love this summer13.


1See here. You won't regret it.
2Nobody wants to see your vacation slideshow. Unless you accidentally leave a picture of your infection-swollen testicle in it, like a guy I know did in his post-mission picture slideshow.
3I'm sorry if you're one of those people. But unless there's funny commentary, know that I'm skimming.
4That's right, two hours. Thank you, State Department.
5 If it were, though, I'd include the many quotes showing how my roommate is convinced I'm trying to convert her: "Is this Jell-O part of your sneaky Mormon plan?"
6My even more awkward answer: "No, the opposite: I'm American." The opposite? Smooth, Hannah, smooth.
7I kid you not.
8 Most Bitchingly Awesome Trip Ever 2008. As opposed to the mbatE2007.
9That guy really got around.
10 Or, okay, at all this summer. Whatever: I have to stay covered all the time anyway.
11Assuming, of course, that either southern Utah or camels are an attraction.
12This was as lame as it sounds: I'm not particularly impressed by balancing from rocks. Keeping still is what they do.
13Exclamation point!


KrumperKids said...

That is amazing! And your hair looks fabulous! And in the desert dance party picture, you look just like your mom! Three exclamation point comment.

Logan said...

What, no hats? Is it somehow not-July in the Near East?

my name is amy said...

1. i'm a huge fan of the footnotes.

2. mbatE2008!!! YESSSS!! each time you post i see how much i have to look forward to. only 2.5 weeks to go!! hooray!!

Confuzzled said...

Haha. I loved the commentary about nobody wanting to see the slide show. One of my good friends just returned from teaching in Taiwan and visited yesterday; he brought his camera, but allowed me to control the speed at which he went through his pictures.

Also, he had funny commentary. That helped. And he knew which pictures were entertaining and which ones made me bite my tongue to keep from saying, "Oh great. Another river. And another sunset . . .

Anonymous said...

We “me and family” made a trip to Petra in Jordan in April 2007. it was a piece of art and  fabulous.

We flew from Berlin to Amman- Jordan. We traveled at modern buses with a guide/driver.

Our route was Amman, Jerash, Ajloun , Petra , Dead Sea.

On the way we experienced architectural, archaeological, historical and cultural places: noble mosques, interesting museums, ancient castle, unique ruins, stone paths, the lowest point on earth with mineral salty water at Dead sea. Also we went to see how nomads live in their tents.

Before our trip we got a lot of warnings and surprising comments on Jordanians' hostility toward Westerners. Anyhow in every city, town and village we felt ourselves very welcome and every person was polite and hospitable to us.

Our guide was the best possible guide. His knowledge of Jordan, the past and the present is enormous and his driving style is convincing, A trip with him was like a trip with a friend not with a formal guide.

From my experience, is one of the best tours at Jordan where all you may need and ask on one place.

Hans Herrman

Ginsberg said...

Yeah, my sister is one of those picture and exclamation point bloggers. "We had a blast!" "Isn't he the cutest in his new swimming trunks!" "Crazy!" I love my sister and her children, who are, in fact, "the cutest!" but your blog is far more interesting to read.

p.s. No one is allowed to tell my sister about this. In fact, there's a reason that nobody in my family knows who "Ginsberg" (not Allen or Ruth Bader, me) is.

Klement said...

Happy Birthday from the Klement