Spent 6 days at a monestary in the desert, washing dishes and sweeping for my keep, attending morning mass and evening meditation followed by communion. Amazing full moons and no car horns. Fresh goat cheese with every meal from the goats next to my 12th century room. Didn’t even know about the Isreal attack on Syria for a few days after. It was of course front page news, but the English daily is little more than a gov’t newsletter here, with little factual information. The talk among the public was brisk for a few days, I mean, no one here likes Isreal, but all is calm now, though the political pot is certainly stirring.
But now I am in Jordan, having spent an extra week in Syria. Have started sleeping less, showering less, changing clothes less, and hiking a lot alone. Often leave my backpack at a hotel for free and go exploring for a few days with a shoulder bag. Such as today, when I caught a service from Amman to Madaba, location of giant 6th C. mosiac map of the Middle East. Hitched up the highway to the top of Mt. Nebo, mentioned in the bible as the spot where Moses looked over the promised land which was to be denied him and then kicked the bucket. Also passed the spot where he had struck a rock a few years earlier and created a miracle spring. From the mountain (more like a hill by our standards) I looked over the Dead Sea, the desert hills of Jordan and the scattered bedouin tents, what’s left of the Jordan River, and beyond into Isreal and Jerusalem.
Caught a vegetable truck driven by a 20-year-old Pakistani student down the switch-backed road to the highway by the sea, then hopped into the back of another truck, which happened to also contain bags of bread, some plants, and a Japanese guy who’d been on the road for a year. Made it to a resort, where they charge to get to the shore, so caught another lift to a hotspring 10 km away along the barren shore line. No houses, no resorts, nothing except the view into isreal and its hills, and some local teenagers with mud on their faces floating in the water. Stuck my finger in from the rocky and garbage-strewn shore. One lick: the saltiest thing you’ll ever taste. And the floating is hilarious, and stings like hell wherever you have the slightest abrasion. Washed off in a hot, natural hotspring river up from the shore, frequented by a few locals and, of course, strewn with garbage. Hitched another truck all the way back to Amman, having met up with another Japanese guy and a girl from Istanbul of all places, passing hundreds of cars with waving drivers on the big hill pass, while the driver in the front cab handed us gum through the window as we returned cigarettes and a danish while the wind blew back the salt in our hair at 120km an hour.
Sleeping on the roof of the dirty, infested but friendly hotel in Amman tonight, playing dominos with the manager and eating more falafel. Tomorrow, hitch-hiking to the desert ruins of Petra carved into the fault-line canyons (watch Indiana Jones to see), then to Wadi Rum (Lawrence of Arabia fame), and hopefully in Aqaba by the 17th to catch the ferry to Egypt and cross Sinai to meet up with Graham in Cairo.
My toes have very interesting blisters and I haven’t shaved in a wee bit.