Friday, February 7, 2014

The Ruins of Jerash (Jordan, Part II)

If you ever get a chance to visit Jordan, I definitely recommend you rent a car and drive. The country is beautiful and full of so much history. Also, car rentals are insanely cheap -$25-dollars-a-day-cheap – awesome, right?

I also recommend you get a GPS, as there aren’t always signs indicating proper directions for cities and landmarks. However, I will warn you that your GPS will be wrong as often as it is right, if not more so.

Our GPS would often point us in the right direction but eventually lead us to a dirt track in the middle of desert. Now, had we rented a 4-wheel drive truck, this wouldn’t have been a problem, but out tiniest-car-on-earth, just couldn’t hack it. At this point we would have to turn around, curse at the GPS, fiddle with the directions and eventually find out, that although we were only 30 minutes from our destination, we would need to backtrack 2 hours to get there. Needless to say, we developed a very strong, very confusing, love-hate relationship with our GPS.

That first day though, we still had absolute faith in her. And as we cruised down the highway, all we could do was gush about our GPS and her perfect directions. Once we had finally escaped Amman traffic, the drive was smooth. We sailed down the highway heading to the ancient ruins in the city of Jerash.

Jerash is a city located in Northern Jordan. Although it is a modern city, it is a huge tourist attraction due to the ancient ruins located within the city limits. These ruins date back to the rule of the Romans and are some of the best-preserved ruins in the world. More amazing is the lack of rules regarding the ruins. Although, it is clear that the government has carefully maintained them, guests are welcome to climb on the ruins, touch the ruins and crawl through the ruins. It was such a rush to know that the buildings around us had stood for close to 1000 years.

As we walked among the structures, we read about what each portion had been used for and why it was important. My mind struggled to imagine chariot races and festivals being held on these very grounds. The history that I read about and teach about was all around us – it was unbelievable.

As we reached the amphitheater, a local man approached us and offered to take our picture. This was a common offer throughout the day, and although I had declined numerous times before, I suddenly decided to go for it.

I handed him my camera and he immediately took over instructing us. We had expected him to gesture to us to stand there and then he would take one or two photos, but he had something else in mind entirely.

He began by directing us to stand above the amphitheater so he could take a shot with it in the background. He became very agitated when he realized I didn’t have zoom and began mumbling under his breath. He took a few photos and then stepped away. I reached for my camera and he shook his head. Instead, he told B to sit down and then placed me in B’s lap. Next he wrapped B’s arms around me. Both of us were so caught off guard we just followed his directions, laughing awkwardly. Next, he had us stand in an archway and again he wrapped B’s arms around me. By now, we had both begun to feel like we were at prom getting our photos taken. The poses were so uncomfortable and feigned. As he began to move to a different structure, I ran up to him and assured him that those photos were more than enough. I praised his professionalism and gave him a tip. I then took my camera and jogged back to B, trying not to break down and laugh until we were out of earshot.

Once we reached the car, I turned on the camera to review the photos. They were terrible. The settings were all wrong and we were either too dark or too light or too silly. In the end though it wasn’t the photos that made the day, it was the memory. And for the rest of the trip we always debated taking every photo in awkward-prom-pose, but thankfully it didn’t happen.

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