Saturday, August 04, 2012

3 Aug: To the hot springs!

3 August

Sabbath Day in Amman.  Everyone woke at about 6:30am...a pretty decent hour.  Nate and I resolved our differences at least temporarily. I find, however, that it is hard for us to recover from a disagreement.  Anger and resentment seems to simmer under the surface for a while.  So I can say, from the perspective of several hours later, that this morning's little conflict resolution chat really did not take.  We are both still on the defensive.  Sigh.

Church services were enjoyable.  I thought the  meetings were meant to be shortened by the fact that one of the services--Sunday School--was removed.  In fact, the remaining two meetings were simply stretched to one hour apiece.  Thus, we ended at the same time as usual.  Today we were meant to be fasting but I forgot!  Alas, next week.  Speaking of fasting, I enjoy telling Muslims that I and my fellow church members fast as they do, but not for a whole month.  Sometimes I think I catch a glimpse of self-congratulation or superiority on some faces when I mention we "only" fast once a month as a congregation.  Ah, the look seems to say, we are so much more disciplined than you.  These people (and I may be unfairly accusing them of this!) are shocked, however, to learn that when we fast, we do not get up at 3:30am in order to store up food in our bellies for the upcoming day's fast.

After our usual side trip to the church garden, we caught a ride home with a fellow congregation member.  Nate expressed an interest to leave immediately to go study at the embassy.  Initially, I asked him to stick around so I could do some research for my parent's visit while the girls are napping.  On second thought, however, I figured I'd wait to fact find during tomorrow's nap time. Things may be closed today and I'd do better to wait.  I told Nate so but apparently he felt it was already too late to leave to study at the embassy.  He figured, but did not tell me, that he might as well study here.  When I saw him hunker down on the couch and not leaving as I expected, I expressed surprise and some annoyance.  Well, remember that resentment simmering below the surface? It took about half a second for our reconciliation from this morning to unravel and anger to come pouring out.  He left for the embassy after all and I am sure you can imagine on what terms.  What is wrong with us sometimes?

This afternoon: I efforts to not "regret" anything and make this experience "worth it" (two new words from yesterday, remember?), I decided to pay for another expensive private transport to the hot springs at Hammamaat Ma'in.  Nate and I visited the hot springs the summer of 2006, one of my most treasured memories from that summer of fabulous adventure.  Located within site of the Dead Sea and nestled in an oasis in the middle of barren desert, the hot springs feature several spectacular waterfalls.  It is far off the beaten track and not serviced by public transportation so Nate and I had quite the adventure getting there six years ago.  A variety of lucky hitch hiking connections, basically.  Naturally, I did not/could not get there this time around by another method other than private car.  I loved it THAT much to agree with Ahmad (the driver) to yet another 40 dinar to take us there and back.

The trip had highs and lows.  Let's start with the highs: 1) We arrived safely, and that is saying something because the road is windy, Ahmad drives fast, and none of us were buckled in. 2) The hot springs and waterfalls were just as gorgeous as I remembered them. 3) A large and boisterous Christian family from the nearby town of Madaba was there enjoying the main spring and helped me with the girls.  I could never have safely gotten the the girls in (or out) of the waist-deep super warm water by myself.  The rocks are slick with algae, the waterfall literally falls down on top of you and initially frightened the girls, and the water was, at first feel, too hot for the girls' tastes.  Thanks to this family, however, we were just fine.  In typical Arab fashion they simply just plucked Aya out of my arms so I could get in and pull Yumi/Aya into the pool.  Then several of the teenaged girls picked up Yumi and Emi and carried them about the spring until each girl was comfortable enough to be set down.  I had not intended to get in the water because I honestly expected the girls to be afraid.  I did dress the big girls in their bathing suits but mostly to get then excited.  Yet suddenly we were all in, me in cargos and a cotton shirt, soaked thanks to the waist-deep water and the spray of the almost too-hot waterfall.  It was wonderful.  Thanks to the watchful eye of my new friends I was free from worry over the girls and could just enjoy the experience.  The girls, too, loved it.  I'll post pictures on Facebook.

There were some downs, and while I'd like to remain positive, this is my journal, right?  So I get to say the cons. 1) Ahmad was 1/2 hr late--a half hour I spent waiting in the lobby with the girls getting increasingly restless and therefore increasingly aggravating.  I look back on it now and should have come up with some fun activities for the girls to do while we waited.  Instead, I just let them entertain themselves while I chatted with hotel staff and found myself getting more and more irritated with them, with myself, and mostly with Ahmad.  2) My mood did not improve when he arrived with a friend riding shotgun.  He has done this the past two trips we have taken with him and it has annoyed me.  Why should I be paying for his friend's trip?  What if I had invited a friend or what if Nate had come?  He never asked me--the paying customer--for my permission.  I am so accustomed to hitching rides and submitting entirely to the whims of the driver (well, within reason, of course!).  But while I'd like to think of Ahmad as my friend, he was not driving me for free or even close to it.  So I should have some rights as a customer and I felt as though he/his friend had absolutely no respect for my wishes.  So I told them, right off, even before learning his friend's name.  I told them exactly what I thought of this and that I believed his friend should contribute to the cost of the trip.  They both nodded and agreed I have rights, blah blah blah, but I did not hear his friend actually agree to sharing in the cost.  I did not feel mean enough to insist, then, that his friend get out of the car.  I decided to just be cool about it.  Well, after I had my say, that is. 3) I do not recall paying to get in back in 2006 but I had to this time--10 dinar.  I did not pay for Ahmad and Morad so they literally had to turn around and leave the premises after dropping us off inside.  Touchy!  And a financial setback.  As if this trip wasn't expensive enough! 4) Because we left so late AND the need to get back in time for Iftar/the girls' bedtimes, we could not stay long.  Ahmad told us we had a HALF AN HOUR when he dropped us off.  Ha. I did not even answer him, nor did I answer my telephone the EIGHT times he called while we were in the springs.  He finally came in to fetch us himself.  And while I acknowledged that we really did need to get back--it would be 7:30pm by the time we would reach the hotel and the girls would still need dinner--it was a bummer that circumstances were such that we could not stay longer. 5) Nearly three hours roundtrip in a backseat of a car with three small girls.  Need I say more?  Oh, they were mostly fine but the not fine parts were not fun. 6) The ride back was getting long.  The girls were hungry.  Nate was anxious for us to get back.  I could see we were in the outskirts of Amman and should be zooming along an expressway to Shmeisani any minute.  But we weren't; we were stopping at some office building and the freeloader Morad was getting out.  I asked Ahmad and he explained that Morad needed to pop into his office to pick up some papers and we would only be here five minutes.  WHAT??? Well, I let him have it and Morad, too, when he returned.  I was MAD.  They apologized, I calmed down, but still.  STILL!  And Morad, who had profited from this whole experience, never offered to pay a dime.  He nodded and agreed that they had done wrong but at the end of the trip it was me who paid.  I considered refusing to pay the agreed amount but did not want to feel badly about both Ahmad's complete lack of professionalism/concern for my time AND being viewed as a nasty foreign woman.  So I paid in full and that was that.  It was unfortunate to end on a sour note.

BUT it WAS worth it.  Too short of a stay without question but definitely worth it.  The girls were tired, hungry, and bordering on mutiny but we managed to get them to bed without incident.  Nate and I agreed to a permanent ceasefire (I guess not a funny joke considering the volatility of the region...) so we are good there.  We enjoyed a chat, scripture study, and a bit of Foyle's War and expected to settle down to sleep when suddenly a party started downstairs.  In the hotel garden.  We were not invited to this one.  Having not been around all afternoon I had no idea it was happening.  But happening it is, at full volume, at 11:09pm.  Nate says high school grades were released today and the embassy advised employees to expect wild celebratory gunshots in the street and the like.  No joke!  And indeed, we are hearing gunshots, karaoke, firecrackers and more...just feet away from our room!  Lovely.  Of course, speaking to the hotel staff about it would be pointless and probably rude.  I am not concerned for myself but am worried the girls will wake.  Emi already has several times.  It is hard not to feel indignant considering my current mood but I have had noisy neighbors before and have learned that animosity does not help things.  This is a cultural experience.

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