Miss Poarch goes to Jordan – Post Six (Last One!)

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I want my last post to be short and sweet.

The Ayn Gharandal Archaeological Project has been one of the best experiences of my life. I will never forget the people I met while in Jordan, both Jordanian and American (and Canadian). I have grown as person through adapting to a culture so different than my own. I cast my stereotypes to the side and learned to love and deeply care about the culture and people of Jordan. They are truly misunderstood. One trip can change your life. Travel can change your life. I hope I can continue to grow through new experiences with people unlike myself. Thank you AGAP and thank you Jordan! I hope to see again some day!

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Miss Poarch goes to Jordan – Post Five

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After our excavation in the South was done, we headed up north to see some of the sites that make Jordan famous.

We arrived at Petra in the afternoon to a lovely hotel. The next morning at 7:30 we set out for Petra. It was everything Indiana Jones promised it would be. After hiking through the canyon like road we reached the Treasury. The intricate and ancient carvings were astounding. We continued on to see the point of high sacrifice, the Great Temple, several byzantine churches including the mosaics of the Petra Church, and the North Ridge. By the time we made it back to our hotel we were exhausted and had walked thirteen miles that day. We immediately hopped onto the bus to go to Madaba.

Over the next few days we saw the mosaics Madaba is famous for, Amman, Jerash, Machaeris, the Dead Sea, Mount Nebo, and the baptismal site of Jesus on the Jordan River. We also hiked the Mujib.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Amman, The highlight being our visit to King Abdullah’s mosque. It was gorgeous as well as being an eye-opening look into the Islamic faith, one most westerners will never get.

Jerash was fascinating to my archaeological mind. So much architecture and history packed into one site. Hadrian’s Arch was one of the most impressive pieces of architecture I believe I have ever seen. There are 23 Byzantine churches at Jerash, and I think we saw all of them. We also had the privilege of seeing the temple to Artemis as well as the later one to Zeus. Basking in the presence of such history and culture was breathtaking.

The Dead Sea was a painful experience. Every cut you didn’t know you had will become apparent in that water. However what they say is true. You simply float in the surface. There is no possibility of drowning.

We watched the sunset from Mount Nebo, which is supposed to be where Moses first saw the promised land.

The Jordan River is much smaller than I imagined and honestly was a little underwhelming. The John the Baptist church on site is gorgeous however.

The Mujib was most likely my favorite part of our journey up north. You are pretty much hiking through a river to get to a waterfall. It was very physically challenging. It was well worth the bruises and scrapes once I arrived at that waterfall. It was aweing being in it. (Yes we went in it!) I had such a sense of accomplishment after that hike.

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John the Baptist Church on the Jordan River

Our experience up north was a major part of why I love Jordan so much. It has so much to offer from modern cities like Amman to ancient ones like Petra.

The Treasury at Petra!

The Treasury at Petra!

We had to wear robes at the mosque for modesty reasons.

We had to wear robes at the mosque for modesty reasons.

Hadrian's Arch at Jerash

Hadrian’s Arch at Jerash

I love Zeus' temple!

I love Zeus’ temple!

I'm just floating on the Dead Sea. No biggy.

I’m just floating on the Dead Sea. No biggy.

Sunset from Mount Nebo

Sunset from Mount Nebo

Miss Poarch goes to Jordan – Post Four

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One of the craziest experiences in Jordan (other than being a freaking archaeologist!!) was the night I spent in the Wadi Rum desert. Wadi Rum is beautiful place that seems almost magical at night when one is smoking shisha and looking at the stars.

We get there sometime in the afternoon of a Friday and pile into the back of these pickup trucks to get to camp. We make several touristy stops on the way, including a huge sand dune (which Erin Darby forced us to climb. I thought I was going to die.), two different arches made of sandstone, and a canyon that got very tight towards the end.

We finally got to camp just before sunset. We all started climbing rocks to get to the highest point possible in order to watch the sun set in the desert. It was one of those out of body experiences where all you can do is marvel at nature.

We then had tea by the camp fire before dinner. I love tea! And Jordan knows their tea. Dinner was Zarb which is dinner of chicken, potatoes, and squash that has been cooked in a pit dug into the ground. Delicious!

After dinner came music, shisha, and more tea. (Also there was belly dancing class which I was horrible at.) I am not entirely sure of it was the shisha or the desert itself, but I was certainly in an altered state. It was glorious. It is impossible to express the number of stars in the sky in the Wadi Rum. It’s as if God took a shaker of glitter and went to town.

We slept outside on cliff sides. This was not the most comfortable night’s sleep I ever got, but it was well worth the experience.

After breakfast, it was time to leave Wadi Rum. However we were not going back in trucks this time. We went Jordanian style… On camelback. I must admit that riding a camel wa one of the things I was most looking forward to. I had a wonderful time, but it was incredibly uncomfortable. The most terrifying part is them getting up and down while you are on them. There is a constant feeling of falling off. After two hours on a camel I thought I wouldn’t be able to walk for a while. Luckily we got on the bus and went back to Darna. I think I’ll be telling my grandchildren one day about the night I spent in the desert. I think it’ll make me sound like a badass. Don’t you?

Cramped Quarters!

Cramped Quarters!

Wadi Rum as the sun sets.

Wadi Rum as the sun sets.

ZARB for days!!

ZARB for days!!

Hadyn, the shisha virgin

Hadyn, the shisha virgin

I'm on a camel! EEEEEEEH!

I’m on a camel! EEEEEEEH!

Miss Poarch goes to Jordan – Post Three

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So for fourth of July this year I was on a yacht! I certainly never thought that a middle class girl from Lewisburg, TN would ever be on a yacht in the Red Sea. I honestly never thought I would get to leave America. It seemed like a distant dream that was out of my reach. While I had the time of life and it was one of the most memorable days of the trip, I couldn’t help but think of the classism that was involved with the day. We had to go through this gated community to get to the marina where the yacht was. It was obviously a very affluent neighborhood and did not seem to have any of the local flavor. It was like they had transplanted a western neighborhood into Jordan and put a huge fence around it. The only people I saw that looked Jordanian were the workers. And I suppose its good that they have a place to earn a living, it just rubs me the wrong way. You could spend the entire summer in Jordan and never experience the culture or people of Jordan. It was like a tourist bubble. It was something caused me to think deeply about tourism in general and how authentic the experience is when you see a place through your own lens.

All that being said I did have a glorious time jumping off the yacht and snorkeling above a tank! So I am not sure if I contributed to the problem or not.

Group Shot AGAP 2015

Group Shot AGAP 2015

Aren't we cool?

Aren’t we cool?

Tanning!

Tanning!

Haydn and I jump off the side of the Yacht.

Haydn and I jump off the side of the Yacht.

I'm on a boat!

I’m on a boat!

Miss Poarch goes to Jordan – Post Two

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So I thought I would just express a few opinions on the Middle East and Jordan in this post.

First things first. I was never afraid for my life while in Jordan. I was not concerned about ISIS or terrorists or anything of the sort. Yes Jordan is a majority Muslim country; however, most Muslims around the world are of the moderate variety. Terrorists of any faith are extremists. The people I met were simply lovely and practiced their faith in peace. It was just a part of their everyday lives, as it is in America. I was asked to convert while in Jordan. I was never even asked what my religious views are.

The people of Jordan were gracious and so happy for me to see their country and culture. They want the rest of the world to see them for the welcoming people they are. They are tired of seeing a stereotype portrayed of them as evil people based on their faith and nationality.

As Jordan is the only country in the Middle East I have been to I cannot make broad statements, but Jordan had some the friendliest and amicable people I have ever met. I dare say they are nicer than most Americans are to foreigners. Be aware that not everything you see on the news is an correct assumption about a culture or religion.

Miss Poarch goes to Jordan – Post One

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So I know I normally do book reviews on this page, but I have decided to use it as my travel blog from my trip to Jordan as well.  For those of you that do not know I am a city in southern Jordan called Aqaba. I am staying at a lovely hostel called Darna Village, which is directly across the road from the Gulf of Aqaba in the Red Sea. I am with a group of students and staff from across the country on a dig called  the Ayn Gharandal Archaeological Project or AGAP. We are excavating a Roman military fort that dates roughly around the turn of the 4th century or 300 CE.

It is hard to know where to begin, but I think the best thing to do would be to describe a typical week here in Jordan.

Sunday morning is the start of our work week here. I wake up at 4:15 am and put on my dig gear. This includes my combat boots, a hat, sunglasses, khaki pants and a long sleeve shirt. This may seem weird to be wearing long sleeves in the desert but you want as much protection from the sun as possible. We then load the vehicles with supplies and get on the bus to the site. The site is about an hour north of Aqaba. We then get off the bus and start working, groggily mind you since most of us are still half asleep. We work removing layers of sand called loci from our squares which have been strategically selected within the fort and surrounding areas such as the bathhouse. Some days we may find buckets full of pottery and material culture such as coins, and sometimes we hold our heads low when we return empty handed. We work until 9:30 at which time we have our field breakfast. This consists of hard boiled eggs, boiled potatoes, tomatoes and cucumbers, soft cheese, and pita with jam. We then return to work until noon at which time we return to Darna.

Then its nap time!!

At 4 pm we have lab time. This is where we sit with ceramicist (Tiffany) and either clean the pottery we found that day or read the pottery from the day before.

At 7 pm we have a lecture. The topic varies dramatically. We have had lectures on everything from religion to pottery types to Roman bathhouse architecture.

At 8 pm we eat dinner. Most of the time it consists of some type of chicken and rice. Beef is extremely rare here and pork is not allowed to be eaten by Muslims. We have also had fish and lamb. (And maybe goat. I don’t ask a lot of questions.)

We go to bed directly out of dinner because we have to wake up so early. This process repeats for the next four days. Friday and Saturday being our weekend.

A typical weekend consists of traveling on Friday to an archaeological site or doing some sort of group activity (like yachting). On Friday nights we travel into town in mall groups. It is most always a few girls with one guy. This is mostly cultural. Women are not supposed to be in public unescorted for their safety. Women and men are both required to dress extremely modest when we go into town. I have to wear a shirt above my collar bone, a sweater below my elbow, and long pants. This is also for cultural norms. We walk around the suhk (marketplace) or just sit and have coffee at Gloria Jean’s.

Saturday is our free day. We can do whatever we want. Most Saturdays I go snorkeling in the Red Sea. I mean if you had that opportunity you would take it too. The rest f the day consists of relaxing from the stress and physical labor of the week.

This routine is facilitated by copious amounts of water. I drink at least 4.5 liters a day. It is so hot here that one can easily dehydrate if they do not actively fight it.

I hope this gave you an incite into what I am doing.  I will post again soon!

Sara

The team is taking elevations using the Cold War method. We also have fancy equipment.

The team is taking elevations using the Cold War method. We also have fancy equipment.

Mostly Jordanian food plus hotdogs.

Mostly Jordanian food plus hotdogs.

I am on a yacht!! That is all...

I am on a yacht!! That is all…

This is Sugarbush's square from a distance.

This is Sugarbush’s square from a distance.

Darna Village is the adorable family operated hostel we stay at.

Darna Village is the adorable family operated hostel we stay at.

This flag flies high above Aqaba.

This Jordanian flag flies high above Aqaba.