Thursday, August 09, 2012

8 Aug: When in Rome...

8 Aug

Our week of adventures continued today with a trip to Jerash.  Jerash is a town north of Amman that boasts the largest and best preserved Roman town in the entire world.  I visited Jerash as a BYU Jersualem Center student back in 1999 and was astonished by it.  I just could not get enough of the gleaming white of the columns of the cardo or the Roman chariot race in the hippodrome.  For some reason Nate and I did not make it there the summers of 2006 and 2007 so this was my first time back in 13 years!  I really did not intend to take the girls here knowing full well that they would have little or no interest in the history or uniqueness of the place.  I had a change of heart, however, when I saw how much they enjoyed the Roman Amphitheater downtown Amman.  I had a hankering, as well, to get out of Amman on some little forays into the country.  Jerash, I realized, is a natural destination as it is only 1/2-1 hr a way, depending on traffic. 

And so we left shortly before 8am for the Northern Station.  Our trip earlier this week spoiled me; I half expected to find a bus nearly full, ready for us to board and depart.  Alas, there was no bus, and was still absent 1/2 hr later.  The girls were doing all alright but I was nervous because I did not see anyone waiting for the bus.  If there were 20 people waiting then it would only be a matter of waiting for the bus to arrive; we would then depart immediately.  But if we would have to wait another half an hour or more for it to fill, well...problem.  

I had been refusing offers for "service" taxi rides for "only" 10 JD, insisting that we would wait for the bus.  Another foreigner showed up and agreed to split the fare with us--5JD each--but when I asked the girls if we should take the service taxi they both resisted.  Bus!  We want the "school" bus!  I wanted this to be a fun adventure for them, too, so I turned down the offer.  Not long after another foreign couple showed up and immediately paired up with first guy and were off.  Darn it!  I knew I should have taken the offer.  

When I became certain that waiting any longer would be a bad idea, I approached a service taxi driver and bargained him down to 8JD.  With that, we were off to Jerash.

About 30 minutes later we arrived and were deposited at the front gate.  I suppose that was one benefit to taking a taxi.  We entered, paid the "Diplomatic Mission" rate of only 1/2 dinar (well, Nate IS with the embassy and 1/2 dinar is a good deal cheaper than the tourist rate of 8 JD), and located the bathroom.  That accomplished, we forged onward.  Sadly, the girls were exactly 0 percent interested in exploring Jerash.  It WAS hot, with positively no shade, and essentially uphill.  I had forgotten that last bit.  I realized pretty quickly that we were not going to be able to make the loop around all of the ancient city of Jerash.  I reevaluated and decided to 1) have a little "picnic" to improve morale and 2) make it to the ancient souq ringed by columns where we could just "play."

And that sits exactly what we did.  After shaming the Jerash restaurant staff into giving me two bottles of Guava nectar at the REAL price, we parked ourselves in the shade and had the PB&H pita sandwiches I had prepared for the return bus ride (but oh well).  This gave the girls the needed energy to push uphill a bit to the main Roman marketplace.  We stayed nearly an hour while the girls climbed around and over piles of ancient Roman masonry lying about.  I chatted with the many men who were also lying about, waiting for tourists to offer services and trinkets.  I think the girls had a great time.  I, for one, was happy to be in the presence of these ruins even if I could not explore them thoroughly myself.

The trip back was rigorous but without any real mishap.  We visited the WC once again (yay for newly potty trained 2 year olds!) and caught a bus to the load-up spot for the bus to Amman.  The driver of the first bus spotted the second bus and screeched to a halt, knowing our intention to take the bus to Amman.  The first driver shoed us out the door while the second driver waved frantically to us from the other side of the four-line road to "hurry up!" Well, I though.  Here we go, back to Amman!  That was easy.

Ha!  We jumped onto the bus, only to find it empty.  The driver rolled forward about 10 more feet, turned off the engine, and began to loudly advertise the bus destination from his window.  This bus was not going anywhere until it filled up.  Again, ha.

The girls were in a fine enough mood, however, and this delay gave me the time to get them the chips I'd promised for the ride back.  We disembarked and headed across the road to small shop for water, chips, and dried apricots.  We were in there for only five minutes or so when I heard the bus horn sounding insistently.  I grabbed the girls and the goods and hauled back across the street, galvanized by the driver's waving arm.  Again, I thought "That was easy!"

Ha ha!  The bus was only a quarter full but the driver was getting anxious to find passengers.  Honking his horn and revving his engine made him feel better, I guess.  All in all, we waited about a half an hour for that bus to fill.  Thank goodness for the chips!  That kept everyone happy.  And Yumi/Emi's good behavior earned them some "Emperor's New Groove" (in Arabic!) on my iPod.  That left me to wrestle with a tired and grumpy Ayame Little Pants for the remaining 45 minutes of the ride back.  We managed, however, the Chub and I.  We are good pals.  There is no better 15 month old on the planet, I am certain.

Same as our trip to Ajloun, I realized that our route back was taking us near the major intersection by our hotel.  I had been zoning out a bit and realized where we were with a start.  I called out to the driver and had the girls off the bus within 30 seconds.  Unlike the other day, however, I immediately found a cab to take us the 1 mile back to our hotel.  None of us wanted to get back into another vehicle but everyone cooperated.  I am impressed, actually, with how travel savvy the girls have become.  In and out of busses and cabs without batting their eyelashes. 

Lunch, naps!  Well, quiet time, anyway.  Emi is not sleeping, which is highly unusual for her, but staying inside our bedroom where she is supposed to be.  I have a lesson in a half an hour.  I thought in would get in the workout that I missed this morning due to our early departure but alas--it is not going to happen.

This afternoon: Nisreen and I spent our lesson talking about religion.  It started with a question from her: do I think that the West's societal problems have a lot to do with the fact that young people leave their homes and the watchful eyes of their parents at a "young" (unmarried) age?  She actually cited a scene from MTVs "The Real World" as a basis for her question.  Dubious as this program is, she has a point, in my opinion.  Of course Western young people are free to do just about anything they want and, in many cases, do a lot of damage to themselves and others in the process.  Or, at a minimum, make poor choices that reduce their happiness.  I don't think I am alone in connecting the decrease in "traditional values" and the increase in all manner of societal problems.  My response to her:  Sure, Western young people should adopt the morals more commonly found amount Arab young people, but our culture (and government) believes that people should be left to make these choices on their own.  The factor that needs adjusting is parental responsibility.  Western culture, government, and in many cases religion will (should?) promote the right to free agency on moral issues; people who choose to produce children, however, need to step up their efforts in teaching their kids to choose right from wrong.  Young adults will continue to choose for themselves and will probably still often choose the wrong, but increased positive parental influence should improve Western society.  That is my view, anyway, and I shared it with Nisreen.  This got her thinking about Christianity and she started firing off all kinds of questions about nuns and The Reformation and paid clergy.  I found myself talking about Martin Luther and the Gutenberg Bible in Arabic.  Gotta love it.  I hope I did not overstep any bounds as Christians are strictly forbidden from proselyting in Jordan.  The latter part of our conversation was rooted in historical fact but I did throw in a few of my beliefs in there.  She was cute: she wrote down the names of the some of the people I mentioned (Martin Luther, for example) and said she intended to research them further.

Enlightening.  A much-needed boost to my intellectually poor job as a mother.  Not that (my) children do not cause me to use my brain; the emotional and physical strain they put on me, however, frequently leaves little room for intellectual stimulating conversations.  The effort I put into speaking and reading to them in Arabic counts, I suppose, as an intellectual effort.  But anyway, you know what I mean.  My lessons with Nisreen are a pleasure.

Back upstairs Erapie was doing a marvelous time with all three girls.  Talk about another pleasure!  Erapie is wonderful!  She headed off to a birthday party and I began to labor to get the girls ready to leave.  We ha to take out the laundry and pick up fruit.  An hour and much frustration later we were out the door.  We bumped into Nate on his way home and had the pleasure of is company on our errands.  These went well enough but the girls were difficult once we returned.  Is that just their nature?  Or can we blame it on the our schedule/living arrangement?  Are there other families that must/want to go on outings each evening at from 5-6:30pm (swimming lessons, dance, etc) and their kids are cranky and poorly behaved upon returning?  Who knows.  Who knows.  After much crying, time out, and two baths (Aya and Emi), we settled down for a family book read.  This was a positive experience and we ended the evening on a high note.  

Nate is working on a talk he is scheduled to give in church this Friday so until he is done I am on my own.  I believe I will set to mending the one dress I brought, which I continue to wear in spite of an obvious hole, and one of the two blouses I purchased here to complement the four I brought from America.  This blouse, although cute, is chintzy and ripped the first time I wore it.  I finally got my hands on a travel mending kit and should get to it.

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