Friday, January 2, 2015


When I meet people from other countries I love talking to them about their country, over the last 4 year I have gotten to know a young man that has worked at the same golf course as me (he quit this fall as well) and is from Ramtha Jordan, he was always saying I should go visit his family and he had planned on going home this winter and invited me. You have to be careful when inviting me ....I might show up. By the time my travel plans were set he had changed his mind about going but his family invited me to come anyway, so I did.

I arrived in Amann and was picked up at the airport by the family and drove to Ramtha, it was dark but I could already see that this is was a totally different land than Turkey, it was not as rich looking, it was not as clean, and the cars were not as new, we were in an old Toyota Camry. The family shows me where my room will be, the closet that has been emptied for me, shows me where the bathroom and kitchen are. Now it is time to facetime with their son in Canada ( my friend)  so he can talk to me in English to make sure they haven't missed anything, he makes sure they have shown me where everything is, I insist I am fine, I don't need anything. Then he remembers the internet and gets me to hand my Iphone to one of his brothers and soon I am connected to Wifi internet.

I went right to bed, and fell asleep immediately and woke up to the sound of birds singing which is always such a beautiful way to wake up, it was 4 am, which is still when my built in alarm goes off, I listen for movement in the house, there is none. I manage to sleep again and wake up at 6 am, still no movement. I look out the window and see lemon trees filled with big lemons and I know I am going to like it here, but  where is the coffee, I must have coffee. I peek out my door  and see two  brothers sleeping on the floor in the living room, I am probably in their room. I tiptoe past to the bathroom and have a peek in the kitchen, no one around. Luckily I can always read or write to keep busy. No one moved in that house until 9 am and coffee wasn't served until 11 am.  Gasp!.

 My host families are 3 families (all related) living in a compound in 3 homes (13 people total) They all contribute to the running of the 3 homes as one family. From what I see, this works very nicely. Between the 3 houses there was one car, an older Toyota Camry. If you needed to go somewhere where the bus couldn't take you you took "car #11"..... you walked.

One day some cousins came to visit and we all piled into a bus and the car. We went to a beautiful place beside a river that runs along the Syrian border, there was a water fall and soft lush moss. I was in love. We found a spot with some tables among many many other families already picnicking. The men build a fire, the kids jumped in the pool build into the rocks, the women sat around and chopped parsley, onions, garlic, cucumbers, we mixed hamburger (all meat was Kosher) we made kabobs on sticks and handed them to the men to BBQ. We roasted onions, tomatoes and chilis and made salsa. We filled pita bread with a hamburger mixture and roasted them. We ate, and talked, and took turns holding the 2 babies. Then we packed our stuff up and moved to a table closer to the river and watched the sun set over Syria. The hookah pipe came out of the trunk and we heated up water and had tea. We passed the hookah around and watched the show of sundown. It was surreal, the place glowed of peace and family. I couldn't believe the night was real, couldn't believe that this was Jordan.

You can see the glow, it as surreal, it was so soft and peaceful

One day 6 adults and 4 kids climbed into the car and we headed to another beautiful place, we drove for 2 hours. We stopped at a tea stand where I was given a little paper cup of special tea, I had a child and a half on my lap, my elbows could not move, I didn't drink my tea for fear of spilling it down the little girls back on my lap. We stopped on the side of a road on top of a hill and we ate our packed lunches from the trunk, and I drank my special tea, we looked down in the valley at Israel. It looked like Moses was going to come around the corner at any time. I felt like I was in someone else's life, someone more special than me, I didn't feel worthy to see this beauty and feel this peace.

Can you imagine the chariot races, I saw them as if they were real

We drove further and got to some ruins, we clamored out, a few stayed back and spread a blanket on the ground and brought out the hookah pipe, some of us took off to explore, we marveled at the oldness of it all, we imagined great chariot races in the crumbled stadium, we imagined queens slowly gliding down the wide rock stairs. We wondered how old that great big tree was, we bought postcards for our kids so we could one day tell them of the day we bought them. I took many pictures of my new friend, her head scarf, her purse and her shoes all matched, she was glamorous and liked having her pictures taken, she is 21 and will post them on your facebook. She is a devout Muslim, but she is women. We are all the same. I bought an authentic Jordanian head scarf, the design, the color has not changed, ever. The vendor tied it on my head. 

Again we picnicked among the singing birds, we drank tea and again passed the hookah around. I listened as they explained their education system to me and how the men can still have 4 wives, and proudly spoke of their government, their police, they love their country, I could hear the pride and again I felt their peace. We drove home in the dark through the rolling countryside. We stopped on a hill and saw the lights far away of Syria, the night was silent. The kids were sleeping. I couldn't believe how happy I was.

In the day we drove to the Syria border and saw the road that the refugees and the wounded get brought in on, hospitals are starting to fill but yet Jordan is taking in whoever needs medical help and shelter. This will pass they say, we love our neighbors, all of them.

We drove around the country side, they showed me the olive groves, the tomatoes fields, the greenhouses  that the Pakistanians usually tend too, we stopped on the side of the road and ate romaine lettuce, we stood on hills and looked into valleys, we stood in valleys and looked up at old rocks formations, we hiked through some rocks and along trails and saw caves with water running through and pooling in a natural pool made in the rock, the water was clear and drinkable, I wanted to sit in the pool and look up at the stars, stars that shepherds saw long ago that lead to everlasting life, but it was daytime. I have to come back here, I want to swim in this pool.

We stopped at a shepherd's camp, run by an old women, she was the head shepherdess. She invited us in, she made tea, we sat and talked (not me....I listened) sometime its good that you cannot talk, it makes you listen more. She was kind, she was not sad, she was at peace with her nomadic simple life, she had a radio powered by a battery and a tv. She is not poor. She is a shepherdess.

One day we stopped at a bakery somewhere and we all choose a tiny little pastry (a dainty) each piece about a square inch was wrapped in pretty paper, then stopped along the road and laid a blanket on the ground, pulled out the propane water heater and made tea ate our dainties and smoked hookuh. I wish we would stop along the road side and sit on a blanket and eat dainties and sip tea in Canada....just anywhere on the road side, why don't we? Because we are in a hurry!!!!! Always in a hurry!!

The kids wanted to take me to the mall, I don't like the mall but they wanted to show me that they too are modern. It was fun to see their excitement, we went on a roller coaster and some kind of upside down ride, we looked at pretty purses and shoes, the boys love shoes too, we bought some fuzzy bunny slippers for a special little girl. We ate special ice cream, and admired the huge Christmas tree, I didn't expect any sign of Christmas in a Muslim country, but there was the tree.

One day we went to see how olive oil is made, very fast and very efficient, once again I could hear the pride as they explained the process.

Sacks of olives waiting to become oil.

I went to a baby shower of a neighbors where we all sat on the floor and ate out of 2 platters of chicken, one in a tomato sauce and one in a white sauce, we were 15 women sitting in a circle eating with our hands, then we drank tea and a few women started smoking (cigarettes, not hookah), it surprised me to see a women covered completely, holding  a cigarette. I was surprised over and over about the freedom that the women had, they did not seem suppressed, it did not seem that anyone was forcing anything on them. I think we should all take our televisions to the nearest dump and shoot them. If you want to know what is happening somewhere, go there.

We stopped the car at another ruin site, when we climbed down we met a family from Saudi Arabia, the man was important, I didn't understand why but they all insisted I have my picture taken. The man laughed and through my translator, he said he had been to Canada and we charged him for everything, everything had been so expensive, nobody had offered to pay for anything for him. I apologized for my expensive country and said I would not charge him to have his picture taken with me, he smiled,  and admitted that he had loved Canada and the people. We had our picture taken, but he couldn't shake my hand because he is a married man and cannot shake another women's hand. He has same head scarf as I. Maybe one day I will find out why he is important.

The Jordanian head scarf, looks a bit odd on me 

We sat on the floor in the family room in a circle and watched TV sipping tea, my translator wasn't there but we talked, somehow, we laughed, we listened to music, we passed an Ipad around and looked up stuff. We watched horse racing in Dubai, we watched news and shook out heads at the lies that were being told. We walked around outside in the garden and gathered herbs for the hookah pipe, lemons for the salad and the tea, we ate an orange off the tree. The mother of the house washed everyone's shoes every night before she went to bed.

The night before I left it was the 7 year old's birthday, her 2 uncles and 2 older brothers gifted her the bunny slippers, she was thrilled at how soft they were. We sang happy birthday, ate cake, and drank tea,  her picture was taken many times over, selfies were taken and posted on facebook.

I was taken to Amman the next morning,  I wasn't ready to leave. I was given a box wrapped in pretty paper as I got out of the car, I didn't open it until customs made me unwrap it (can't remember where) it was a whole box of different tiny dainties. 
 I will have to come back. I have some new friends.

no, I did not go see Petra, just wasn't interested this time, maybe next time.
I was in Jordan for 6 days and aside from the head scarf I bought I didn't spend a cent, my host family would not allow me to pay for anything, nothing. That in its self is a very humbling experience. The hospitality of these people is incredible.
If something ever happened to Mexico I think I could live in Jordan, I think.

One thing that was very un nerving was not being able to understand anything, not a word, not being able to read anything, not even numbers, not even prices in the market. This is not a language that you can't pick up least I couldn't. 


Barbara Lane said...

Wow. Just wow. I wait patiently (okay, sometimes not) for your posts, checking at least once a week all year. They're always so rich, so full of life, so... perfect really. To find you here again has been the best gift. And now to read of your travels - how rich your writing is!

Thank you for returning to your blog, thank you for sharing, and thank you for introducing me to two countries I'd never thought of in terms of visiting.

Your writing style is spot-on in capturing the essence of everything you share.

Happy New Year. I so look forward to more!

Contessa said...

Maria what a lovely experience you had. I have said it many times, you so have a very special way of making us see what you have seen. This was an extraordinary time. thank you for taking the time to post this.