I’m typing this in a Bedouin style tent in Wadi Rum, a desert in Jordan. (I’ll post it the next time I get wifi. [Which is in a hotel near Petra, the next stop on our travels.]) This class is off to an exciting start!
I flew into Jordan from Paris yesterday with my friend Robbie. The five of us on the Colorado College Mediterranean Semester just got done with block break. We were all doing different things – Hannah went to Spain and Portugal, I went to Paris for a few days and met up with my girlfriend, and the others stayed in Morocco and apparently had some cool final experiences. Robbie and I just happened to meet in the airport in Paris and take the same plane to Jordan; it was a happy coincidence. Travelling with someone else is easier than going it alone.
Getting through immigration took awhile, but once we were through we were promptly greeted by someone from the institute organizing our homestays here. We were taken to the apartment we’ll be staying in and introduced to our host, a kindly and apparently well-off old Jordanian woman. Robbie and I turned out to be sharing a room in her apartmen, and Henrik is living in an apartment just upstairs with her younger son. We were given itineraries, which showed that we had time for little besides dinner (mensaf, Jordan’s national dish, consisting of lamb over rice with almonds and a yogurt sauce) and bed. The next four days would be spent travelling.
We were planning on waking up at 7, but ended up sleeping until around 7:20. The snooze button is dangerous. I scrambled to move what few clean clothes I have left (since for various lengthy reasons I haven’t been able to do laundry for two weeks) from my bulky luggage to a smaller pack. Fast forward through breakfast, a taxi ride, seeing the institute where we’ll be taking class later, meeting up with our professors and their families, getting on the bus, driving through non-descript desert, napping, reading, talking, eating on the bus, and finally we arrived at Wadi Rum.
Wadi Rum might be the most interesting desert I’ve seen. The Sahara was breathtaking and sublime, the American southwest has a hidden beauty, and seeing kangaroos in the Australian outback is pretty bomb. I don’t know what it is about this desert, though. I wasn’t that taken with it at first. As we drove through it in the back of four wheel drive pickup trucks, though, it grew on me. There are massive rocky outcroppings hundreds of feet high – they’re not the Rockies, but I can’t think of a better word for them than mountains. In between them, we were driving through sand with a little shrubbery. Maybe it doesn’t sound like much, and at first I didn’t think it was much. But the more I looked at the colors of the sand, the reds and yellows and oranges and whites, and the more I observed the varied and yet repeated formations of rock and contours of the mountains, the more I became absorbed in the place. I started to see little folds in the rock and wonder whether they held any mysteries, to look at the hazy mountains on the horizon and wonder about the shapes of the mountains beyond them. Photos aren’t going to do this place justice.
After a couple of hours of driving, we came to the camp of tents where we had our introductory class and ate dinner. In class, we mainly talked about our experiences in Morocco and issues of identity. Specifically, we talked about Moroccan versus Jordanian identity, national identity, Arab identity, religious and Islamic identity, and asked how those identities were constructed and who constructed them. It’s the first day of class, so we didn’t get any answers, but I’m looking forward to talking more about the questions in the days to come. I’m looking forward to the hundred pages of reading I have left to do before class tomorrow a little less. I have about an hour and a half of battery left on my computer to do it with. Good thing I’m good at skimming…
PS – I usually do write long blog posts. I usually don’t describe every little thing that I did, though, preferring instead to go into depth about one or two topics. Since the first day of the class has been so full, though, I haven’t had a lot of time to process everything that’s happened.