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Archive for June, 2010

Shopping in Mu’tah

I’ve been enlisted to the duty of buying supplies for the crew in the nearest town to our base of operations. Right now, we are all living on the banks of a resevoir in Wadi Al Hasa, near a small bedouin village. The nearest town, Mu’tah, is around 45 minutes away on a long winding sharp incline. There was one small problem with this setup, both of the crew’s vehicles are vans which have manual transmissions. I did not know how to drive stick. So, I had my first stick driving lesson climbing up hundreds and hundreds of meters in a van which had seen better days, sometime long ago. Thankfully there was no fiery crash, and stalling in the middle of an intersection doesn’t really cause much of a fuss in Mu’tah.

Mu'tah from the Van (Credit: Danielle Raad)

The Cop Box in Mu'tah's center (Credit: Danielle Raad)

Aside from that, this duty is a really good way to get to know the culture here. Nearly all the owners of shops I frequent now recognize and shoot the breeze with me. During my last trip to get some clean water for our our base, I sat down with the owner’s son and some of his friends, talked. Jordanians tend to operate on the assumption that everyone smokes, so after declining the offer to smoke cigarettes once, I caved and joined in with them once I was offered a second time. That was my first smoke. I’ve been considering bringing a pack with me wherever I go, since offering them to people I meet might make up for the fact that I only know a few Arabic words.

I get a kilo of Labneh (strained yogurt which is pretty sour) and about 50 eggs at the dairy place every time I visit Mu’tah. And every time, the dairy guy offers me and whoever goes with me a cup, and another cup of a sour, salty yogurt drink which I think is called shenina.

The guys I buy Vegetables and fruits from give me some updates on how the US is doing in the world cup and give me some tips on pronouncing arabic words. The guy who always takes orders has a BA in psychology, and speaks pretty decent english.

My Veggie Stop (Credit: Danielle Raad)

During our my last trip, Me and a couple of the crew gave a ride to an old guy named jebbel who walked up to the window of the van and started talking to us. Its at times like this when you get to know the culture of the place really well. He declined to sit in the spacious back seat because one of the girls was seated there and he didn’t want anyone in the town to think that he was, as he put it, “ehhhhh, you know” with her. So, he crammed into the front with two of us.

Me, Jan, and Jebbel

On that note, a lot of the girls who have gone to Mu’tah have been proposed to on several occassions. In other instances, taxi drivers and strangers have offered camels and other goods to the guys they are with for the girl’s hand in marriage. Most of these are sort of tongue in cheek. I forget who this happened to, but one was offered a thousand camels by a cheeky taxi driver.

So far, i’ve only made this run twice. So, I’m expecting that I’ll be getting a lot more familiar with all the shops in Mu’tah by the time August rolls around.

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The first week of excavation just finished. And it has been a hell of an experience. I’m with almost all of the crew at a hostel in Aqaba for a small break. The world cup is playing in the background. But, my camera is broken.

I don’t feel entirely comfortable writing in too much detail about the excavation on account of the Nat Geo media embargo I signed. But, there have already been plenty of walls uncovered, and I am in the process of drawing my first actual soil profile.

Thankfully, waking up at 4 am every morning, hiking along the wadi to the site, and working in tons of wind and fine sediment, hasn’t scared me away from archaeology. It is exhausting and difficult, but it doesn’t detract from the excitement of what we’re doing. There are plenty of awesome individuals here who deal with the workload with humor and overall crazy behavior, which makes the whole thing a pleasure to go through.

I’m keeping a daily journal of my experiences on and off site in order to get academic credit.

I will write later on some of the difficulties that digs like these face, especially the political side of those difficulties some time later on, because I’ve learned a lot about what is needed to actually set up a project like this.

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In Amman

Thanks to the kindnesses and generosity of quite a few people, I’m in Amman right now preparing for the upcoming dig.

I’m a bit surprised that I haven’t been hit with a sense of culture shock. Which isn’t to say that I’m not a fish out of water. One of the most useful skills I’m learning is how to use Taxi Cabs in the city.

The layout and streets of the city are a bit confusing. This isn’t helped by the fact that building numbers and street names were not put on signs untill very recently. In order to navigate the city, you need to know landmarks and traffic circles more so than street names.

Aside from that, taxis are extremely inexpensive here. The only problem I’ve had with the cost has been counting out change!

Anyway, excavation begins by next week. In the meantime I’m exploring bits of the city at a time and planning what to do after the excavation ends and before my flight back home. I’ll either go to Jerusalem, stay at a hostel in Amman, or visit Aqaba (or a combination of those).

I’m off to eat some labneh and bread. Pictures will be here soon!

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