Monday, January 13, 2014

Wild Wadi Weekend

Hello again from Supervised Study Hall, where it seems I'll reliably have time to blog as long as I'm not grading or forcing the children to be quiet. They seem to have gotten the hang of things by now, and I usually kinda look forward to the 2.5 hours of mandated quiet sitting time. Productivity goes through the roof when you can't really do anything or make any noise. At least it does for me; can't really speak for these layabouts.

What a weekend, though! First off, it was a surprise 3-day weekend: we were going to have class off on Monday, but they switched it to Sunday last-minute, so all of a sudden the world was our oyster and we made the most of it. In brief:

THURSDAY: A return to Burger Shack for delicious burgers in celebration of a fellow teacher's birthday. TONS of students milling around and dancing; they were super embarrassed by our presence but we mostly thought it was kinda hilarious. Then a return to King's for adult refreshments and silly card games.

FRIDAY: A trip to the brand-new Carrefour in Madaba, which is a huuuuge game-changer for the grocery fanatics among us. It's closer by a factor of 4 than any grocery store was before, and has a giant selection (including home goods and kitchen supplies and rugs and shoes) at lower prices than the other grocery stores. It was PACKED with King's people when we were there, and Yasmine and I took full advantage to host a dinner party at which we served baked ziti and Noor baked cookies and a truly delightful time was had by all. And then out to Amman to hang out with Joanna's brother, who was in town, and we got back at 1:30am which wasn't great for what ended up happening the next day.

SATURDAY: See below. Ridiculous.

SUNDAY: Relaxed, prepped for class, watched Downton Abbey, the usual. Back to Saturday.

Really this post is about Saturday, because my threshold of crazy adventures in Jordan keeps getting bumped up. Now that I've piqued your curiosity, here's the deal:

Saturday was going to be a pleasant day: Alli had planned a trip to the art gallery, and my Arabic teacher was hosting a gathering afterwards at a nearby cafe. Normal, pleasant weekend day. But Jordan had other plans: on Friday afternoon, just before the Carrefour shopping trip, Alli sent the following email:

This was somewhat surprising. Immediately I knew I was doing it, and so it was that four hours after falling asleep at 2, I was back up and ready (-ish) to hit the road. The adventure unfolded as follows:

Four teachers (Alli, Meg, Jimmy, and I) gathered at 6:30 to drive to Amman. A bizarrely thick fog had settled over the highway as we drove, and it took us a little while to make our way to the mall at which our "charter bus" planned to meet us. Said bus ended up being a rickety powder-blue affair - I wish I had a picture - whose windows kept getting jostled open, exposing us to the surprisingly cold morning air. I had a hat and a scarf and I wore them the whole bus ride, sleeping fitfully and reading my book as we bumped and screeched our 3-plus-hour way to Wadi Rum.

The only other travelers on the bus were Americans, Russell and Allie, who had gotten the same call and had similarly adventurous spirits. Around 11, the six of us arrived at our destination: Wadi Rum station, a roadside museum of sorts dedicated to a truly beautiful train:


I had been smitten by this train the last time we went to Wadi Rum, and was more or less beside myself to finally be in its presence now. (Check my Facebook profile picture for proof). Not only that, but there was a reasonably big crowd milling around, and some professional-looking equipment, and a lady who introduced herself as Diala and told us she'd be taking care of us. This seemed like enough to go on, so we went into the exhibit for respite from the cold.

Hours and hours we waited. As promised, they served us lunch, which very unexpectedly was a quite tasty chicken tikka take-away that was, even more bafflingly, still warm. How they shipped it out to our desert outpost may always be one of the mysteries of this day. We passed the rest of our time by standing, sitting, pacing, and exploring the nearby railway offerings:

Tracks to nowhere.

The part of the train where the coal gets shoveled. Boiler? Guess Thomas the Tank Engine didn't teach me that much.

Wadi Rum, beautiful even in the clouds. If you look closely you can see Meg wandering across the lower right of the image.

But at long last, that is, at about 3:30, our time finally came. And what a time it was.

The star of the music video was Jaafar, a pop singer of apparently modest fame and allegedly nephew of the king. As far as we could tell, the gist of the video was that he was performing a concert on the flat bed of a train car, and we (along with about 30 others) were to be his audience. This involved dancing, flailing our arms, and looking extremely excited, and we were good at it.

We were so good, in fact, that we were singled out from the crowd to be focal points in almost every shot. When they shot the crowd from behind, we stood at the back. When they focused on the front row, we were the front row. When they needed to surround the lead female concert-goer with excited-looking audience members, we were the go-to gang. And so we listened to about 90 seconds of awfully catchy pop music over and over and over and over again, dancing up a storm all the while and having a blast. Jaafar proved a somewhat unpolished performer, not really heeding the director's instructions (mostly "dance!" and "energy!"), but we did a plenty good job providing our own enthusiasm.

Shooting wrapped up as the sun set, and we took a long cold sleepy rickety ride back to Amman, and cranked up the heat in the car on the way to King's. Exhausted and victorious, we arrived back in time for a full night's sleep.

I have no idea when this video will get released, but I am fairly certain that I will feature in it to some degree. Rest assured that you will know as soon as I do. Most importantly, it was every bit the adventure I hoped it would be, and I feel validated once again in the "never don't go" ethos. No regrets, as they say. 

Life goes on, though, and now it's time to wake up the sleeping girl in this study hall. Again. See you soon!

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