Yes, I am a slacker. Yes, I am trying to improve. Yes, it has been a week since the last time I wrote. And I can't do anything about it except play catch-up again--so here we go.
After Petra we had a long drive ahead to Amman, the capital of Jordon. We stayed at a lovely hotel there, the Belle Vue (French, anybody?) which served a delicious dinner and pretty good breakfast. Meals in general, though especially breakfast, tended to be diminished by the fact that we were warned to abstain from all fresh fruits and vegetables for the sake of food safety, so we did--but that did mean that our healthy options went down a tad. I was dead tired after Petra that night, so I did not go out into Amman. Some people did, but the idea of walking clear down the way to go window shopping just wasn't calling my name. Instead, I went up to Rachel Holdrige's "awesome suite with couches" (in her words) on the 10th floor with Ashely and we all watched "Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow" on my laptop. It was good to have a rest after such a long day.
The next day we drove a two hour loop around the Amman area. We visited the Amman citadel where Uriah, husband of Bathseba, would have been killed in the Israelite siege on the city. This included an old mosque, a temple to Hercules ("Who put the glad in gladiator?") and a museum of artifacts found on the site, including a copy of the Merneptah stele, which Brother Schade read for us.
We also went to Jerash, which was amazing. The remains of the city are more extensive than almost any city I've seen so far. We walked through a huge collumnade and up the main street, which was lined with "breathing collumns"--collumns with a little wiggle room so that they wouldn't collapse in an earthquiake. Our guide pushed hard on one of them and had us put our hands on it so we could feel it "breathing"--moving just a little beneath our fingers. We stood in a theatre where we listened to Jordanian army bagpipers (yes, you heard me) play Amazing Grace and a fast-paced version of Scotland the Brave. We sang some of our own songs there as well (which may or may not have included the BYU fight song). We also saw a temple to Artemis that was in comparatively great condition. We had almost an hour on our own, which was great--I love being able to explore in the ruins. We did lunch after that, which was the best I had in Jordan. It included rounds of bread over a foot in diameter served hot out of the oven. I may gain some weight off of all the bread I've been eating here, but I just can't make myself feel all that guilty. What can I say? It's worth it.
Our last stop was the Amman automobile museum, which sported vehicles driven by Jordanian royals almost since the invention of the car. My dad and my brothers and my Uncle Kevin would have loved it--and I did, too, of course, but I don't have quite so much appreciation for nice cars as they do. Big names included Mercedes-Benz, Rolls Royce, Aston-Martin, Lotus, and BMW (OK, maybe not as cool, but I liked it). There were a few armored sports cars (including one that looked like a tank on the outside and a limo on the inside), a handful of race cars, and a whole stampede of motorcycles. There was even a car that could double as a boat and drive in water. Brother Jackson said this was one of his favorite places to go, and that the only problem was that they didn't give him the keys.
That night I did go out into Amman. I joined a group that was much the same as the one I hiked around Petra with, plus Annie and Will, and we all hiked down to Rainbow street to spoil our dinners by getting a crepe at "Mr. Krepe," a cute little sidewalk cafe style establishment that got a whole lot of business from the Mormon bunch. I got a "banana sweet" crepe, which contained bananas and chopped walnuts and some kind of cinnamon roll tasting sauce (delicious). Katie got one with nutella and melted toblerone. I'm thinking I need to get my dad to make crepes again when I get home--I've got some ideas for him. After dinner I talked with some friends (Mikel and McKenzie, my visiting teachers consequently--though this wasn't an official visit), did some scripture study, and listened to Brother and Sister Stratford tell their courtship/engagement story (hillarious).
The next day had few stops. We went to an ancient theatre in Amman, where we sang happy birthday to Brother Judd and made a giant Y with ourselves in the stands. After that we ventured to our favorite spot of the day, one we had looked forward to for most of the trip--the river Jordan. We sat on the banks and fanned of a multitude of flies while we listened to our teachers teach us about baptism and example and priesthood keys and following the Savior. We read scriptures and sang hymns and thought about what had happened on this river--maybe not in that spot, but not far away. The day was warm, the reeds and the sunlight were golden and bright, and the river flowed peacefully by as we talked about those sacred things. We had some free time after that, so I sought solace in the little church up the hill for a while before walking back to the busses. I met up with Katie on the way to the church and we talked for a while--especially about covenants and commandments and temples (which both of us will be going through this next year, likely by the end of the semester). Despite the heat and the flies, it was a sweet, peaceful time. The spirit was present, and that was the best part.
After the Jordan, we stopped off at a souvenier shop to await our lunch--delivery KFC. I got some pretty Christmas ornaments so I could have something from Jordan and chatted it up in Arabic with the shop owners. I was taught Egyptian Arabic in school, so my accent and word choice sometimes stand out around here, where everyone speaks Levantine dialect--but lucky me a couple of the shop owners were from Masri (Egypt), and even those who weren't understood me just fine and seemed to have a whole lot of fun talking to me. Lunch was great, but I think American KFC is better--with real biscuits instead of white bread that resembled half a hamburger bun. Chicken sandwich, anyone?
We reached the border about midafternoon and sadly bid goodbye to Yad and Yoseph, our guides. We had little trouble going over the Jordanian border, but had to wait a few hours on the Israeli side. I got a lot of reading in and distributed some of the candy and mints I had stashed in my backpack to anybody who looked like they needed a pick-me-up. When we did get through, my bus (the Schade bus now) was able to pick up our bags and leave right away. I finished "The Book Theif" on the way home (FANTASTIC) and definitely cried at the end. Annie had read it before and kept encouraging me to get through it so we could talk about it and had warned me that the ending was sad. She was right--and when she saw me getting teary-eyed from across the aisle she gave me a sympathetic smile. When we got back to the center, we found out that the Judd bus had only just left customs (the drive is forty-five minutes to an hour depending on traffic) because Sarah Donakey's bag had been misplaced by the customs people.
Eventually we all ended up back in one place, though--with Sarah's back found and in tact. It was good to be back to civilization--which according to Mary means that we don't have to pay for the bathroom, we have hot running showers, and we can brush our teeth from the tap instead of a water bottle. I couldn't agree more--Jordan was incredible, but it was good to be home.
More soon, I promise--probably tonight. I'm sorry for the delay--I promise I haven't disappeared into the Judean wildnerness. I'm still here and still kicking and having a great time in the Holy City.