We had that third kind of vacation, the one that makes you completely forget where you were, and what you were doing. They say that those who come to Africa never go home the same, and those who visit the Egypt and the Holy Lands are forever changed. That is how I feel now, trying to sort out where everything is and where it belongs.
We sort of fell into this trip to Jordan and Egypt, at first we were planning to go to Victoria Falls over the Christmas break, but with the increasing political instability of the region (annual inflation was reported to be 1281%), we rethought those plans, then we began making plans for a trip to northern Ghana, but then Suzanne really wanted to see Egypt or Morocco, and so I began looking for a trip, and sort of fell into this package tour especially designed for families
Ten years ago, I was in Jordan on a Seminary trip, that was highly subsidized, and for which I received class credit. This time we were on our own.
Coming back there were many thoughts that ran through my head during this trip, one was how different it was to be in a more developed country. Back into the land of McDonalds, malls, cities with a downtown, and stores with fixed prices (well sort of). It makes us sound so shallow, to judge a country by how much is available. But being able to easily buy stuff turned out to be a big plus because Jordan and to some extent Egypt, were experiencing unseasonably cold weather, or at least colder than we expected. So during our five hour layover in Cairo, we went to the City Star Mall and bought some warm cloths. Two days later, found us in Amman, Jordan buying more warm cloths, courtesy of our driver George, and his very sweet wife, who in addition didn’t take us to the mall, but to their village streets to find long johns. They also lent us a suitcase of big warm coats and scarves. Then it was off to their house for tea and cookies, and very, very interesting conversation. Turns out he and his wife are Palestinian Christians.
[George our Jordan driver]
In a country 92% Muslim, and 3% Christian, our guide, our driver, and his wife, are all believers in Jesus Christ. What is God doing here, I had to wonder? Over tea and cookies, we had a great conversation about being Palestinian, she comes from Ramalada, he from Jappa, one a place in the news, the other a place in the New Testament. It was a guarded conversation because the US government has been such a strong supporter of Israel, and here are two very nice people, who have opened up their humble home to us, and driven us all over Amman for warm cloths, and lent us coats and scarves, because we didn’t expect it to be so cold, and the reason they are here, at least in some small way is directly related to the foreign policy of our government regarding Israel. I know it isn’t all that simple. I remember this feeling two years earlier at Taize, France, when we spent a week in an ecumenical monastery. The day program separated the children and adults, and the adults were subdivided into small groups based on a common language. Ours was English. As we got to know the individuals of our group we learned they were from Poland, France, Russia, Switzerland, Germany, and Serbia. I don’t remember what we were talking about at the time, but the lady from Serbia said to me, “Your country bombed my land from the air.” It was just a statement of truth, like with George. Though he was too kind to say anything, there it sat in the room. What can you say? Though we didn’t talk about politics, we did talk about how they practiced their religion.
Their daughter had gotten married years earlier, and now had just moved to Jackson, Mississippi, where her husband runs a business. Pictures of their grand daughter Sophie were everywhere. George told us about the marriage customs of Jordan, how it took six to nine months to arrange a marriage, or I should say make the introductions, because each family investigates the other, and all of its relations. It begins with an introduction, followed by a re-introduced a week later (during which time it is expected that you will ask your friends and neighbors about the other). When no problem has been found with the family, then the groom and his family begin arranging the things the new family will need. Things like a place to live, food, dishes, etc. These will come in the form of “gifts” to the bride’s family, but it is understood the bride will “bring” them into the marriage. When these details are complete, the families get together and decide on a date for the wedding, often times, that week-end. Then there is a three day party, which will takes years to pay off. So maybe there are common customs everywhere.
Egypt and Jordan were surprisingly western. I think that was our biggest surprise. Our guides wanted to caution us about how crazy the markets could be, to teach us how to bargain, but we knew all this. I have to say the Egyptian and Jordanian Markets were quite civilized, at least when compared to the Ghanaian marketers.
It was exciting for me to see my family in places I have visited 10 years earlier, to watch them walk the streets of Jerdash, swim in the Dead Sea, gazing over Mt. Nebo, or standing in awe at wonderment at Petra. Never in my dreams did I ever believe I would be in the position to witness this. Even though we knew it was going to be cold, we didn’t realize how cold it would be. Before leaving Ghana we had borrowed as much warm weather gear as we could, we braving the market to buy “brouni uawa” or dead white man cloths. These are the used cloths you and I donated that arrive from Europe or America by the boatload. They are our cast offs, but here they are washed, and starched, and presented in the markets in pristine condition. It is not only used clothing, major brands that don’t sell well are dumped here too. At one of the few department-like stores, we bought Anna a $70.00 name brand coat (still had the tag) for ¢7000 cedis (roughly 70 cents). Warm weather cloths are just not needed here.
[Family in the Dead Sea]
[Steve & Suzanne at Mt. Nebo]
Over the next few weeks we hope to write out the experiences of our trip to Jordan and Egypt, but know that we had a great time, and arrived back safely. God is good!