Shotgun Wedding

M-16 actually but shotgun sounds better. When Suleiman invited us to his wedding in Wadi Rum, we knew we couldn’t pass up the opportunity. After telling some of my colleagues in Amman that I had been invited to a Bedouin Wedding, their reactions told me how special it was: my boss said “Jonathan how is it that in 25 years I’ve never once been invited to this type of wedding and you’re here for a few months and… ??” I had little idea of what to expect other than lots of sugary tea, chain smoking, and guns. We were not disappointed on any count.

We headed down to Aqaba to stay with Katrina and get our crew of ajnabis together. All together we were five: Paco, Alcira, Katrina, Victoria, and I. The following morning we piled into the Sunny and headed for Wadi Rum. Paco and I considered trying to find dishdash (Arabic robes) and keffiyeh (traditional headdress) but opted out as we didn’t want to show up looking too ridiculous, offend anyone, or shell out the money to buy them. The girls however came prepared. Katrina secured three traditional Egyptian dresses for them to wear. 

When they got ready and we were about to head to Wadi Rum Paco said “You guys look you’re ready for the circus.”

We showed up to Rum Village around 1pm and were picked up in the parking lot by one of Suleiman’s buddies. He drove us a short distance in the sand to a group of long L shaped open goat blanket tents. There we met our friend and the groom of the day.

The Groom

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Guess I Haven’t Lived

Just as advertised, India is incredible. The poverty is extreme, hawkers will test you patience, and the health of your stomach is always on your mind. In a country this geographically and culturally huge, as Shibu told me “you can’t see India in ten days.” But in ten days you can see a lot. In that time we toured an ancient Jain temple in a hidden Old Delhi alley, looked out on beautiful sprawling Moghul mosques and architecture, visited the Sikh’s sublime Golden Temple, ascended the Buddhist ghompa at the residence of Dalai Lama, and hiked up to Hindu temples perched on ridges overlooking rivers, rolling green hills, some of the highest peaks on earth. One day we were strolling through the chaotic markets of Old Dehli looking down on busy wallahs of all sorts. A couple of trains later we were rolling through fertile farmland and soon we were basking on the beaches of the banks of the Ghanges in Rishikesh watching beautiful Hindu arti ceremonies and hiking through terraced wheat fields and swimming beneath waterfalls.It’s not the easiest place to travel and we met a few young travelers that were overwhelmed and a few old ones that were totally bitter- I heard one lady fully outfitted in high performance gear on the train to Agra say with a London accent “this is fucking awful,” in complete disgust. She was minutes away from visiting one of the Seven Wonders of the World. So if you plan to go look into what you’re getting into. That being said planning doesn’t always work out. We actually completely changed our itinerary the day after we arrived in Delhi. We were looking to travel east through Bihar, Varanasi, the hill stations of Darjeeling, and ending up Sikkim which is that little nub in Northeast India above Bangladesh and sandwiched between Nepal, Tibet, and Bhutan. We called about getting a permit to go Sikkim and were informed that violent strikes had been going on for about a week and that it would be next to impossible to get transport in and around Darjeeling. So we opted to do go North looping up through the states of Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh,  and down through Punjab along the border with Pakistan. It turned out to a be a great route.

Old Dehli

Catch-up: My Mambo and the Holy Land

I haven’t been keeping up lately but the highlights have been my mom coming to visit, a trip to the holy land over Christmas, and visiting India. I’ll save India for my next entry.

In December my mom took the 7,000 mile trip to Amman. Her visit coincided with my 30th birthday and it was great having her around for a little over a week. She experienced her fair share of cabs ripping her off and taking her to places “that she would like more” (ugly shopping malls), than the destinations she requested but in general I think she had a good time. We visited sites nearby Amman including Jerash, the Dead Sea, Madaba, Mount Nebo, and Ajloun. Victoria and Katrina organized a great birthday party at a rooftop restaurant with a great view overlooking the city. I had a great time and appreciated everyone coming out, especially my ama.


Petra Reunion

A little while back, I made my first trip to Jordan’s most famous site. In December I received my Ikama (Residency permit), in the form of a grey plastic card with flowery prints, Arabic writing, and a hologram. With this card I now pay what Jordanians pay for admission prices. You may remember Petra as the place Indiana Jones, Sean Connery, and that fat guy ride up to in their search for the holy grail. Later you get to hear that old knight say “He chose poorly,” after the Nazi rapidly ages into a pile of bones and then Harrison Ford says “this looks like the cup of a carpenter.” If Gonch makes it out here we’ll go to Petra and I am confident a large portion of our  day will be spent uttering those phrases. Looking forward to it. Another good part of Gonch coming to Petra is that he’ll be a tourist and have to pay the entrance fee of 50 Jordanian Dinars (around $70), but when I flash my grey hologram I have to pay just 1 Dinar.

Ah, you are going to Bulgaristan?

We crossed the Bulgarian border around 1am. On the night bus from Istanbul pretty much everyone was from Bulgaria on that bus, except for Katrina and I and a Korean couple with two young boys that sat next to us in the back row. They were a very nice couple, English teachers in Sofia, and one of their boys screamed as if possessed for the first several hours of trip. I not so affectionately dubbed him demon baby. We went through various checkpoints at a snail’s pace at the massive complex of a “border.” Apparently drugs and weapons make their way into Europe over this border so getting through is a process. Around 2:30am we shuffled out into the cold with our passports in hand and we looked even more foreign as we the only ones not lighting up. Entereding the small trailer with a Bulgarian passport agent dressed in light green fatigues, he looked at us crookedly and asked “you are traveling through Bulgaria?” Katrina answered, “We’re flying back out of Istanbul in a couple of days.” He stared at us again over our passports and said curiously “And you decided to come to Bulgaria!?” He stamped, we slid out of the trailer and back onto the bus with the screaming child. Welcome to Bulgaria!

In Istanbul we learned that the Turks call Bulgaria, Bulgaristan, so we obviously started calling it Bulgaristan.

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Turkey Day/Week

Thanksgiving day I went to a potluck hosted by the kind folks at the Fulbright House along with around ten of my colleagues and thirty or so Fulbrighters, plus some family members. Although I didn’t see the Detroit Lions play and our feasting lasted a mere two hours, there was a huge amount of delicious food and a family feel which did the day justice. After a full day in Amman where I slept in, ate leisurely breakfast, and enjoyed taking it easy immensely, I was ready to head for the hills. Saturday morning Katrina and I hopped a 6:00am flight to Istanbul.

Aga Sofia

Rum Diary

When I accepted this post last July and knew I would be moving to Jordan, the first place that came to mind was Wadi Rum. My Dad’s all time favorite movie is Lawrence of Arabia and I think I was about seven when I watched my first installment of the four hour marathon. Anthony Quinn, in his gruff voice, barks something like “Welcome to Wadi Rum” and that really dramatic music comes on as the camera opens onto the valley. Though I probably fell asleep a half hour into the movie, even then I remember thinking how incredible the desert looked. Recently I spent a weekend in Wadi Rum and got my first real taste of the place.

Rakabat Canyon on the Eastern side of Jebel Um Ushrin

I would like to say I’ve always had a love for the desert but in truth it was Edward Abbey that moved me in that direction. After reading Desert Solitaire a few years ago, I have thought about planning a trip to the red rock of Southern Utah almost constantly. As of yet I have not made it but  Wadi Rum had a similar appeal.
View from Camp facing Jebel Khazali