Wednesday, May 24, 2006

The Dead Sea (Saturday, May 20, 2006)

On Thursday, which is like a Friday because it is the last day of the work week, I was over visiting with Bridget and she asked what Andrew and I were planning on doing for the weekend. We weren’t really planning on doing anything, but Bridget said that she and Jeremy were planning on going to the Dead Sea—so Andrew and I, as well as the Joneses (Ariel and Matt) decided to go too. It was so fun!

We met at Kirk’s house at 9:00. Andrew and I walked there; it takes about 25 minutes. It used to take 30 but then we discovered another road that makes us backtrack less. On the way we saw a horse being used to plow the islands of the road. That was kind of strange…I guess they don’t have roto-tillers here.

Since we got to Kirks a little early, I got to hold Miriam while the Palmers finished getting ready to go. From Kirk’s, the Palmers, Andrew and I caught a taxi to go to the bus station by the Third Circle, where we were meeting the Jonses, in order to get on an early Amman-Dead Sea bus. (Zahran Street is one of the main streets in Amman and there are 7 really fancy traffic circles on it. They are well-known landmarks. The church is right off of the third circle, as was this bus station.) The bus was kind of junky, but it was cheap (1 JD) for an hour’s ride. We kind of got ripped off because Jeremy only had a 5, so he paid for Bridget and himself (Miriam rides free—she’s only 8 months old) and for Andrew and I. But then, even though he told the money collecting kid that he paid for all four of us, the money collecting kid insisted that we pay as well. So we did. We were a little upset, but it was still a pretty cheap bus ride.

The drive was really interesting because we got to stop by a little village. It was so strange. People were looking into the bus and pointing and waving at us. They were telling people to come out of their houses to look at us…I suppose the not too many Americans travel through that village. It was a really cute village. I think that everyone must be banana farmers there because there were so many banana fields. And everyone had flowers in their gardens. It was really pretty.

No sooner had we left this village and the last of the banana fields behind than the landscape was totally arid. It was an amazing dichotomy: lush fields with bananas (and some corn and bamboo and flowers) to parched landscape with nothing (no trees, very little desert grasses).

Then we arrived at the Dead Sea. It was a beautiful sight: red sand and rocks, palm trees, the clear blue sea, and the mountains of Israel/Palestine in the background. The cost to get into Amman beach (that’s where we went because they have change rooms and freshwater showers…and it’s the cheapest beach with such commodities) is 1 JD for Jordanians, 5 JD for foreigners, and 2.5 JD for students. (It’s a good thing that we got our student ID cards a few days ago!) The beach was beautiful, albeit there was trash scattered all over, and we took a nice spot under a bamboo umbrella.

Bridget said that even if people tell you about the Dead Sea, you are not prepared for how it feels to be in it. It is pretty strange. At first I thought it was pretty normal until I tried to stand up and had a hard time getting my feet to go back down to the bottom. It was really cool! I think that even my mom would have enjoyed swimming there! The water was warm and you couldn’t sink. Andrew and I were just floating on our backs…our stomachs…straight up and down in the water…completely effortlessly. It was so cool! There were people reading the newspaper just lying on their backs. I did some synchro (without dunking my head) and it was so easy! I could just lift my legs into the air and not have to scull or anything. Andrew even ate his pita sandwich floating on his back.

I don’t know how salty the ocean is compared to the Dead Sea, but I can tell you that it is a whole lot saltier! If you get a drop in your eye you can’t see anything until you rinse it out (with fresh water); it burns so badly! If you get it in your mouth, it also burns, so you spit and spit and spit to try to get the taste out of your mouth. There is so much salt that while you are in the water you feel all oily and then after you get out the salt starts to get all grainy on your body. (I’m still picking salt out of my ears!) There was salt all in my hair and all over my skin. It was kind of gross, but I think it’s better than the chlorine feeling. The sand collects on the shore as well as all over the bottom of the sea. We picked off a bunch of salt crystals to bring home with us. We got some really big pieces! There are huge pillars of salt in the sea—literally! A word to the wise: don’t shave the day you plan on going to the Dead Sea, and don’t go in if you have any open wounds. (Poor Andrew had a blister on one of his toes…ouch!)

The Dead Sea is famous for its “magical” healing powers. The muds and waters of the sea are supposed to cure almost any ailment (headaches, skin disorders, etc.) People were smearing themselves with mud to clean their skin. Andrew and I did as well. It kind of burns because there is sand and salt mixed in the mud so when you scrub yourself with your pores get exfoliated…and then the water gets in and it burns. But it did feel really nice. People actually collect the mud and sell it. Others make lotions and soaps out of the minerals. I don’t know why anyone would buy it. You walk in the Dead Sea and can sink up to your ankles in mud (before you get in so deep that you can’t keep your feet down anymore).

After a few hours (like 4) we were all pretty much done—Miriam especially. So we had to find a way home. We hired a van to take us back for 20JD. He took us right back to Kirk’s house, so we didn’t have to hire a second taxi. That was nice. However, we had squished too many people into the van so we took a lot of back roads in order to avoid the checkpoints. (On the way to the Dead Sea we got stopped at 2 checkpoints, we got ID-ed at one and questioned at the other – there are tons of checkpoints all along the road that goes parallel to the Dead Sea-Jordan River-Sea of Galilee since Israel/Palestine is less than 5 miles away and there are a few little problems over there…). One road took us to the middle of nowhere! There were a few Bedouin tents and then an even smaller village than before. This one was just a bunch of mud-brick homes, not that mud-brick homes are abnormal because people still make their own bricks in Amman, but these homes were one-room homes with no electricity or anything. It was pretty amazing how scarce everything looked. We had to slow down for an old lady to cross the street leading her donkey…

Now we’re home, showered, fed, and dead-tired! All that sunshine will do you in. Andrew and I were joking that because we’ve now fully experienced the lowest point on Earth that we should climb Mt. Everest…I’m not sure that is going to happen. I’m not really one to complain about the heat…but I do whine about the cold a lot! In fact, Amman has been too cold lately…the Dead Sea was much warmer and the sun was much more concentrated. Andrew and I both got a little burnt. It was a good day though! And this week is a short week so we are looking forward to having next Thursday off of school for Jordanian Independence Day (60 years this year)…maybe we’ll explore Petra!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Haha, I don't know if you'll read this because it was posted awhile ago. I laughed when you said you didn't know who/why anyone would buy dead sea stuff (lotions, mud, etc) I have dead sea lotion (Ahava, it might be just an Israeli brand) that I love and every time someone from my family goes to Israel we put in orders for the different kinds of lotion. I know that Heather bought some mud and gave it out as souvinirs. So I guess it's people like us!! :) Anyways, it's been fun hearing about everything!! I'm excited to meet you someday, Andrew. Nancy, I can't believe you're married! Wow! It's great, isn't it. :)

Love Michelle