mudbaths, the dead sea, petra (by night and by day) and other jordanian adventures.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

This post was written on April 4th 2012

Alright, so it’s a Friday night in Jordan, I’m sitting in the bar/lobby of the Petra Guest House after another long day of exploration and adventures and I think it’s an understatement to say I’m a little worn out.

Jordan has been spectacular so far.

Let’s just take a moment to remember that the 10 days we are staying in Jordan, going out and seeing sites, was all planned within the last month. After our plans to visit Egypt got cancelled, it left our group scrambling to piece together something cool and still educational for our team to do before we travel into Israel. I had full trust in Jim, Heather, Kurt and Dana - and they didn’t disappoint.

Since my last update (including our tiny excursion in Cairo to the pyramids), we’ve been out and about and seeing all the “must-dos” in Jordan. We flew into Amman on April 1st, checked into our stay at the American Center for Oriental Research, where we hosted a slew of guest speakers talking to us on topics ranging from Jordan’s conflicting historical narratives to Palestinian refugees in Jordan to the current Arab spring sweeping through Syria, a country just a stone’s throw away from us at the moment. Incredibly informative, and a great intro to the Arab world we’ve just stepped foot into.

After four amazing days at ACOR, we moved out and hit the round on an all-too familiar full length tour coach, complete with bad*ss driver, informative tour guide, and surprise - a personal security guard! We drove our team down to the dead sea, and spent the afternoon on Wednesday experiencing the dead sea! All I knew of the dead sea was that as cool as it is, it can be extremely dangerous (I mean, it’s 30% salt), and provided you act a certain way while in the water, you should be fine. But after hearing Europe semester’s horror stories about their dead sea experience, I was more than a little cautious and concerned about what the afternoon should have in store.

But as you can see from this photo here:

It was clearly nothing like anything I had imagined.

We had two hours at the Dead Sea Spa Resort, where we not only had private beach access to the dead sea, but also two full swimming pools, sunny benches to lay out on, free mud to cover our bodies with, and showers to wash off the salty remains after we got out of the water. We went wild when we saw what the afternoon would hold. After changing into our swimwear of choice, we headed down to the water to experience “floating in the dead sea.”

We ran straight to the large tables full of mud, with a sign that simply read “FREE MUD” and began slapping the black, gooey substance all over our exposed skin (and for some people, unexposed skin, and for some others - hair). I’m not a huge fan of mud, but it was both delightful and hilarious to watch our entire team transform into the creatures of the dead sea.

After letting the mud dry for a little bit, we then waded into the salty water. We were told that swimming in the dead sea was basically impossible, because the water is so intensely dense. Fun fact: the dead sea is 10 times more saltier than the ocean! That much salt basically makes you float. I walked in until the water was about at my abdomen, and just sat down. Much to my surprise and excitement, it felt exactly like sitting in a recliner - I was floating in the middle of the sea! All of us students were in a frenzy of amazement and excitement, wading around, floating on our stomachs and our back, washing the mud off our bodies to find smooth and soft skin underneath and laughing as the majority of our boys swam a distance away from us and then proceeded to take off their swim trunks. Not an unusual sight.

After the dead sea, which began to sting after a while, we came back up the resort, showered off the remaining mud and salty water, and made our way back up to the pools and water slide, where we spent the remainder of our afternoon swimming and laying out. It was something all of us Southern Californians have missed this entire semester, and let’s just say our bodies definitely got their fill of vitamin D and sunshine that day.

That evening we bussed out to Petra, where we settled into our hotel and after a wonderful dinner, went out to see “Petra by Night,” a beautiful walking tour under the stars through the canyon of Petra by candle light, leading up to the treasury where there was a small musical show and storytelling. I have never seen Petra before, so it was really interesting to see it in the dead of night, something that looked like the surface of the moon rather than a gigantic archeological site.

After an AMAZING night’s sleep - I can thank many things for that: the dead sea, an amazing shower, down pillows, a huge bed and silent hotel - we set out bright and early to spend an entire day exploring the gigantic stone playground of Petra. With our handy tour guide leading us through, we walked through the canyon, by the gigantic treasury, through another canyon leading us to ancient caves and tombs, around through the city center, and then back again. Something along the line of 5-6 miles, while the more adventurous souls ventured out to the monastery: 900 steps up to the top, and 900 back down!

Petra is INCREDIBLE - I have no words to describe it, so here are my favorite photos from the incredible and enormous archeological site

On another note: I am home in 25 days.

That thought toys with my mind so much...I don’t want to think about leaving this amazing adventure, these ridiculous people, and this part of the world that has touched my heart. Home is waiting for me with open arms, but I’m walking towards it very cautiously, unsure of what it will be like when I arrive back in a place that was once so incredibly familiar. I’m terrified of not being able to fit into the space that I left. There is so much to think over as May 1st draws nearer, and nearer...but perhaps I will put that on the back burner until the last possible minute.

25 days until I go home means I have 25 days left of this insane adventure, and I better be making the most out of all it.

Tomorrow we travel out to see “little Petra” then start the journey out to the Jordanian desert where we will be camping with Beduins for two nights. And by “journey,” I mean a 2 hour bus drive, an hour jeep drive, and then 2 hours by camel to get to the Beduin camp. Talk about adventure! After that, we have one last day in Jordan before we drive off to the border and begin the insanely busy last 3 weeks of this trip in Israel and Palestine.

My life is insane. I don’t know what to do with myself sometimes. I often find myself asking how I managed to do this semester, how I came to be here, and how much I have enjoyed it. I wouldn’t have my sophomore year any other way. I wouldn’t trade anything for this semester. It has meant so much to me - and I don’t want it to end. But the end will come at some point, so there’s not much more I can do right now.

Deep breath, hold your head high, and finish out this semester wholeheartedly.

Stay strong, kid.

Respectfully submitted,