Editor’s note: This is the tale of how I left Jordan, which implies that it is also the last tale I will blog on this blog. Thank you all so much for reading and many thanks to those that shared these experiences with me and made them possible. I cannot express the impact this opportunity and my time in this welcoming country and generous people has made on my life. Shukran katiran! Here is the saga of my departure…fair warning: it gets a little weird.
Day 1. Snow day
Our final week in Jordan has been a veritable and finale of absurdity. It snowed so they turned the country off. This has harmed a few of our plans. We no longer have a going away party at the Dead Sea, we have make up class instead on Friday because today because it was cancelled. Taxis refuse to run in the not snow. It’s clearly too dangerous. Given how Jordanian taxis drive in the rain I can get behind this plan. I’ve seen how Californians get around snow and when this might be the first snow you have seen in years I can understand why people would be concerned about driving in it. But I am from the great green north! We are made of sterner stuff.
So we stay inside today and ate a hot lentil soup called adas with which I feel in love. I chuckle at the awestruck reaction and childlike glee of my host family and the local shabaabs struggling to get up the hill. Jordanian weather coverage is quite exciting: a series of pictures if the two inches of snow backed by what sounded like the Arabic version of smooth jazz/elevator music. Occasionally the host will clap and dance along. Unclear as to whether he knew the camera is rolling. Amman meanwhile was flooding on screen, because this city has zero water collection mechanisms. For those of us who wrote our final papers on water shortages, watching literal torrents of fresh rainwater cascade down off-ramps to spend themselves upon the asphalt and abandoned lots of Amman was intensely frustrating.
Day 2. Blizzardstan
I wake with my arm sore from establishing my snow-ball dominance over the local shabaabs.
Get to school. It’s a clear day–cold, but the roads don’t look too bad. I’m preparing to depart for Palestine. I’m a little frustrated about hauling my bags up a slushy hill, but I am now a Stark of Winterfell so this was mafi mushkila. But when I arrive at school I have to ice skate across the terrace and into the kitchen, where I am greeted by no one, rather than the usual throng of students making various forms of breakfast shay. A good three quarters of the program was snowed in at their houses and could not make it to school. Some of this I blamed on fearful taxi drivers but truth be told I was astonished by the amount of snow the Middle East had received. We were hearing reports of Cairo shut down due to its greatest snow fall since Egypt had a king, and students from higher altitudes described impressive snowfall.
What a surreal last day in Jordan! we all thought. Students and staff continued to trickle in throughout the day, some only showing up for a few presentations and a few students never showed up at all. As the day progressed snow fell intermittently and was greeted by excited cries in the middle of people’s presentations. Eventually our death march of presentations ended and it was time for our reentry seminar following which we would be bussed to a nice dinner at a fancy restaurant where the staff would pay for not just our food but also our argila as well. Much excitement! Then we look outside and apparently someone moved Jordan over to Maine. Snow is blowing horizontally and our driver Bassam is bundled in his party van with his expression deteriorating as fast as the weather. Obviously those of us from the north, and a certain cantankerous Sheikh from the Milwaukee area, as well as a boisterous former Potbelly employee from the Chicago area, continued to argue that these roads were certainly passable, so we went outside to have a snowball fight, slipped, fell, bruised our tailbones, etc. The decision was made from on high that dinner was off the table and that departures to home must be made now or not at all. This process severely rushed our goodbyes, which was particularly jarring after our already curtailed reentry seminar brought many to the verge of tears declaring our deep bonds with the SIT tribe. So as weeping friends were literally torn from each other’s arms, three cars departed bearing their heartbroken cargos, heading home in the biggest storm the desert had seen since the one waged by George Bush Sr.
Two of the three returned within 20 min, driven back by the weather. And thus our tribe was snowed in at SIT, with a single available blanket and no food. So, a few brave, valiant souls from a certain consortium of colleges in the LA area ventured forth into the storm in search of sustenance. After a battle with highwaymen, evasion of a Charybdis of incompetently driving Saudis in Audis, and a brief lesson on how to work a de-frost function, we returned victorious bearing shawarma. Thus we settled in for the night, some more comfortably then others, all marveling with varying degrees of frustration or good humor at the absurd circumstance in which we found ourselves, snowed-in in the driest country of the Middle East.
At this point the experience was all still a game, a last laugh at the absence of logic in a country we had grown to love despite, and perhaps for, all its irrational flaws.
Then the morning came and hell froze over.
Day 3: The Grey Grim
Editors note: What follows is a first-hand account of our trek to the border of Jordan and Palestine. We had woken that morning and shoveled snow to convince our academic director that the roads were passable and we could begin our voyage. Bassam begrudgingly agreed to drive us. We believed we were driving towards a post-program vacation, but in truth we drove only towards a storm fierce enough to shake the wills of men.More ramble than coherent account, your narrator was drowned in the thick of the experience even as he transcribed it. For full effect, we suggest this passage be accompanied by the track “East Hastings” by Godspeed You! Black Emperor, and read in the voice of Tom Waits.
caterpillar ambulance tank crawls across a frozen wasteland
we don’t know why we follow but we follow . seems like following is all we can do anymore.
follow the road… when we can see it
following hope… when we have it
great lumbering beasts lurk through the foggy bleak; one breaks itself upon a frozen drift flailing morbidly another, entwined, pulls against its captor
like a fury like a despair
we lost the shovel long ago
long ago we were traveling to Palestine long ago we were excited to go but sad to leave
a new journey was beginning was a beginning.
long ago we were courageous. long ago full of confidence. long ago cheer.
long ago we were warm but with warmth fled all else.
now we are trapped on the road to Jerusalem
we chided the Jordanians for their fear of snow
we were from the great green north we knew snow we loved snow.
embraced in fog
we have forgotten that love.
the border closed at 11:30 due to weather and God
it is 10:40. without snow the road stretched for 40 min with snow it stretches for eons
too many corpses of caravans clog the roadside graveyard; we pass through only to find another and a third
is the tank stuck? Oh god is the army stuck in a middle eastern quagmire?
The tanks rolled in slithing through the sludgy slog they cleared a path we watched it fill again with snow and the incompetence of a Hyundai minivan
it was not the first time i wept that day
we make it through creeping
on the vehicular equivalent of our hands and knees like a vermin but we make it through
as the quavery white heights rise behind, us we tumble through villages
and towns seeing their first snow in a hundred years and we have come down unto these hinterlands having seen enough of snow to last another hundred
Then in greeting like mother at the return of a child the sky wept for us and the snow turned to rain and the trees revealed their naked green boughs and waved us on, beckoning like lovers–we fled the white wastes, the elephant graveyard of trucks and Camrys, vans and buses, past the tanks past the broken trees and broken men we flew, flew past, down and through the rain and bounded over hills, glimpsing the sun across the Deadest Sea, watching the snowy hills of Amman retreating…
And that is how we left Jordan.
 The government said you weren’t allowed to work because of the snow. This was a royally mandated snow day.
 Slowly and with great trepidation
 The Pacific Northwest, though truth be told my town is not reknown for its snowy winters, but we aren’t going to talk about that.
 It was like a spicy oatmeal
 I have heard Arabic elevator music and it is much more exciting than America’s
 It’s not like I expected Dune level water conservation, but honestly you need more than three gutters and a drain.
 I had an evolutionary advantage. They hadn’t even unlocked the ice-ball upgrade. Sad really
 Housing assignments were sent out. I don’t want to talk about it.
 Little did we know of the storm that was brewing
 A workshop about sharing the experience and reverse culture shock upon re-entry into the US. However, we all made crude answers to “what re-entry means to you?” w/re those individuals returning to a relationship after 3 months abroad. We are all 12.
 Commonly known in the states as hookah, but for some reason every Jordanian thinks Americans call it “Hubbly Bubbly”
 Later a hero in a saga yet to be told but read on… if you dare.
 Pacific northwest cause I’m an asshole
 With a not insignificant amount of false bravado
 Fun times for all.
 Ma3 Ba3d
 Command of the remaining car had been handed over to Captain Potbelly, who navigated her back to Medina A’Riyaddiya, with a healthy dose of pushing. Their odyssey is another story entirely.
 But plenty of tea
 Who for modesty’s sake will remain unnamed
 Our savior and fearless guide
 Or any other category with which one might identify
 Nor the last
 Tone shift! Switch from Tom Waits to Samwise Gamgee during the scene on Mount Doom.