Saturday, May 26
Only a few more trips to the airport and the staff crew will be complete. Over the last three days, the party has grown with the addition of Marishana, Abby, Damien, Yvonne, Daniel, Allan, Justin, and waiting for another airport run any minute now.
The days have been quickening their pace as more people join us in Madaba. On Wednesday, I had woken up on my own at 6:30am for my first day in Jordan. I stared my day along with the many people on their way to work, honking their cars under the bright, white sun. A brisk, cold shower, and a light breakfast later, I was picked up and driven to the house-apartment the start setting up the residence that will be home for the next 2 months.
By 9:30am I was had entered one of the bedrooms one year after its last use. The embroidered curtains blocked out the sun, opaque with dust. Sand, broken glass, plastic bottles, dried pita, and dead critters covered the floors like an archaeological site showing small remnants of our existence from the last summer that these rooms were active with people I have become good friends with. Everyone is scattered around the world, but here I was started another season in Madaba with two locals, Leith and Thamer who I had previously worked with. Equipped with buckets and brooms we got rid of the dirt. Over the next two days, the Jordanians taught me to clean with maximum efficiency. As the floors dried, we carried beds, desks, tables, mattresses, and dressers up and down flights of stairs, pivoting around tights corners.
During a lunch of shwarma on freshly cleaned floors, Deb joined us from her trip to Amman to where she received her teaching contract for Laurier University, as well as many congratulations from the ACOR (the American Center of Oriental Research). It was a few more hours of cleaning until it was time to call it a day. I was dropped off at the hotel where I ran over to the convenience store to pick up some pop and water. I am proud to say that I was awarded the Jordanian price for successfully dodging traffic, using Arabic, and “looking like a local”. It was 1JD (Jordanian Dinar) for two 7ups and 1.5L of water, plus a stick of gum thrown in as a gift – banana flavoured.
I ripped off my sleeping mask and checked the time. It was 6:45 pm and I had turned a power nap into an hour and a half long snooze. I was supposed to meet Deb and Mashoor in the hotel lobby at 6:30 for a family dinner at Mashoor’s house. I had fallen asleep in dust ridden clothing and didn’t think it was appropriate to show up in the state I was in. Since my telephone was not blinking red from a missed message, I decided that since the last few meetings were not on the dot, we were on “island time”.
After a quick shower, I was in the car at 7:25 and on route to dinner. We arrived at Mashoor’s house atop a hill, where Deb had been living for the past few days, and viewed the Dead Sea and a blazing pink sunset before heading inside. About two minutes from meeting many family members, including Leith’s dad visiting in from Florida, dinner was set on the table – err, I mean floor. The traditional meal consisted of chicken and potatoes, the staple for many cultures around the world. We sat in a circle around the platter and given yogurt salad with tomato and cucumber, and pita bread to pick up our food with. Everyone ate together from a toddler to a grandmother.
Following dinner, many guests stopped by. The women stayed in the same family room next to the kitchen while the men migrated to another living room with its own entrance for guests to enter without coming by the women who were dressed in casual attire. With the youngest boy, Amir, getting into trouble because of his desire to be a grown-up, watching Turkish soap operas, and sharing a bushel of fresh chick peas, I felt lucky to have been able to be part of a Jordanian family night. Although I was invited to sleep over, it was my last night at the Madaba Inn Hotel.
Thursday, May 24
From the last season in Jordan, I had worked with another U of T student, Leah. I was now having a typical Jordanian breakfast at the hotel with Leah and her mum. We fueled up on pita, egg, olives, cheeses, tomatos and cucumbers while they shared their travel stories from camping Wadi Rum.
I checked out of the hotel and brought my gear to the dig house and continued setting up the living spaces with Leith, Thamer, Deb, and Mashoor’s sister – who is notoriously good at cleaning. I could not keep up with her during a scrub down of the dining room. Suds and water were thrown in every direction, and in the midst of being soaked, Rania, invited Deb and I over for a lunch of Deb’s favourite dish of rice, chicken, and liquified spinach. Rania is a loud and fun woman who lives next door and teaches children English at the local private school. I almost made it through the generous portion of food but found myself in a food coma despite the cardamom flavoured coffee after eating. We sat at the table as Deb and Rania smoked and Rania’s young niece, Julu (nicknamed from Julia) pretended to drink coffee with us while her large, green eyes were bulging at me. I came back to their house a few hours later after work was finished for the day to get an internet connection from Rania’s bedroom while Julu played next to me.
I was freshly showered and had finished reading an article on the porch. The house owner who is also Rania’s father, brought me a coffee as I waited for Mashoor to pick me up and drive me to the airport. Marishana was flying in from Paris.
Shortly after nightfall, Marishana and I walked over to the Adonis restaurant just up the street. It is an old Ottoman house that had originally served as the dig house before it was converted into a dining establishment. Cigarette smoke twirled above our heads and onto the ancient archways that made up the ceiling. Music was mixed in from the lively engagement party that was happening that night. Through the wisps of smoke, new introductions were made and I had met Lisa Maher and Ream, both archaeologists with years of experience in the field. Eight dishes of appetizers were brought to our table and were infused with intensely delicious flavours. We chatted and ordered wine until closing just after 1AM.
Although Marishana and I headed back to our bedrooms, we decided it was no point in going to bed then as another roommate was arriving in a few hours. It is no longer a party of one anymore, and the group is growing larger and livelier each time the sun sets.