Friday, September 17, 2004

Dead Sea!

Today started off like all the other days here in Amman - I woke up well before the crack of dawn (today with the help of a mosquito), made myself stay in bed until it was later, got up, ran for a bit, then before I showered, I saw off Jen, Jaime, and Chris. They were headed for the Dead Sea and were going to take the local public transportation. Donna and some others were going to be going there as well, but they had arranged a taxi. I was supposed to meet the whole lot of them later, but I hadn't really figured out yet how I was gonna get there.

First thing's first though. I spent the morning and early afternoon with the wife and oldest daughter of our former contractor for the schools. A few days back, I'd called someone to get his number, then when through an extensive rigamarole of tracking down through multitudes of people who didn't know me _or_ the guy whose number I was looking for, but eventually was passed to his church's secretary. The intent of calling him was to finally get to meet his family here in Amman since I was actually staying for more than 12 hours. Well, after literally about 10 phone calls, I found out that he's currently in Baghdad. But I called his house anyway and spoke with his wife and set up a "breakfast" time today to meet her and their oldest daughter. That was a lot of fun and they arranged a taxi for me to take me to the Dead Sea afterwards.

So I got there just about the time that Donna and her group were coming back. They were supposed to be my way back, but they didn't really have room, and I kinda wanted to stay a little longer anyway, so I figured I'd just reverse the girls' and Chris' expedition from the morning. So I floated in the Dead Sea for a while, then swam in the pool a bit, then floated a little more, then swam a little more, then got my picture taken by Chris after covering myself in the mud (after which I took _his_ muddy picture), then cleaned up and got ready to head back.

Jen, Jaime, and Chris were going to be taking local public transportation south to whatever town they got to today, spend the night, then finish the trip to Acaba in the morning. But they weren't too keen on their trip to the Dead Sea, and didn't suggest that I reverse their trip, but they were looking for buses too and figured that where ever they could find the one they wanted, I could find one back to Amman. So we ordered a taxi from the hotel where we'd been Dead Sea-ing, but when it came, it asked an outrageous price for the trip to Madaba, so we talked him into dropping us off at a closer town that definitely had busses to Amman, and might have others. Well, it didn't have others, but it did have one for Amman, so they talked him down on the price a little and went on to Madaba. I stayed and waited about 15 minutes before the bus came. It was pretty full, but a guy gave up his seat so that I could sit. It was pretty much your stereo-typical television bus ride not in the Western world, except that there were no loose farm animals roaming around. I discovered later that the guy who gave up his seat for me (God bless him) actually did _have_ some live fowl, but they were in a box, so they don't really count.

The ride back was a _lot_ longer than the ride in (the taxi driver on the way in was pushing 100kph the whole way, and I think the speed limit was like 60kph...I dunno what that is in mph. Figure it out yourselves. You're smart people.), but it was relatively uneventful. I didn't know where the bus stopped officially, so I decided that I'd get off when most of the other people got off. I actually ended up keying off of a group of women sitting near me, which meant that I got off pretty far from where I was staying, but it was a place with lots of taxis, so I grabbed one of those and made it safely back to the place we're staying.

Anxiously awaiting me there were the folks I was taking out to dinner. It's the family that I usually stay with as I pass through and I ended up getting back about two hours later than expected, but still within a dinner-ish time (it was 6:30). They were getting to the point of thinking about sending out search parties, but (thankfully) hadn't quite arrived at that point when I showed up.

So then we went out to this great Italian restaurant and had a typically great time just hanging out and talking and now I'm "home," a little sunburned, tired, with very smooth and exfoliated skin (which is also due to my first experience at a Turkish Bath last evening), and full of fettucini alfredo with mushrooms and broccoli (only once in 15 months have I seen fresh mushrooms in Iraq and that was at a store that caters to Westerners, and I have yet to see fresh broccoli there, although we can, on occasion, find it frozen).

Tomorrow morning relatively early, I leave with Donna, the McCs, and Rob for Acaba on the "Jet Bus." I don't know really what that means except that we're supposed to be there at 9AM. I think it's a tourist-y-type bus.

I'll spend at least a day there before heading to someplace in Egypt for diving and possibly more. I'll talk in another post about that though.

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