General, Jordan, Travel

Two years in Jordan with six months to go!

I didn’t want to look back on 2020, I was already feeling blue because my goodest boy – Baby Face “Finn” Finster – had been in the veterinary clinic for two weeks recovering from an acute attack of pancreatitis. We didn’t get to go home to the US to spend time with our daughters after being apart for a year. So, I really wasn’t in the mood to write a blog post of what’s been going on in my life, thinking “nothing great has happened to write about” but, as has become my practice before I start a blog post, I looked through the photos on my phone and realized the second half of 2020 is worth a look back and a report on, I knew that future me would appreciate it and maybe my grandma would, too. I’ve always had a camera, at least since I got my photography badge in Girl Scouts in 5th grade, and have been documenting life around me for long time. While going through my photos for my final blog post of 2020 I found plenty of precious moments that would have otherwise have been lost. Blame brain fog from being in this weird reality of 2020 or maybe it is the way my brain works – I don’t tend to remember details of moments without a trigger like music or a photo. 2 years ago in December 2018 as I prepared to leave the States for Jordan wasn’t much different than December 2020 – this time I was stressed because Finn was so sick at the vet for most of the month which meant I wasn’t going to be with Amelia and Jillian for Christmas. Just when you think being overseas during the COVID pandemic is going to keep you from your children…

COVID-19 update: Jordan did eventually open the airport, restaurants, grocery stores and for a long time local transmission of cases was low and we were kinda living our life. In September cases began to spike, continued to rise, and eventually there were cases in the Embassy community. Lockdowns on Fridays started up again, in late October Mike and I got caught in a two week quarantine after being exposed to a positive case at what became known to a few of us in attendance – the Margarita Monday Massacre – though I don’t think any new cases came out of that event. After a day of freedom the Jordan parliamentary elections locked down the country for 4 more days. Next, the Embassy instituted a 21 day self lockdown; no going out to stores or restaurants and no seeing anyone outside of your family! We could get grocery delivery, go on walks, things like that. Mike went to work, but I worked from home as I have been since the start. The measures put into place did help the transmission at the Embassy and Jordan is seeing a slight slow down. I’m just waiting on the vaccine, when it is my turn to get it you better believe I’ll be EARLY with my sleeve rolled up!

What we’ve been up to: you mean besides sitting in our apartment?
July: Our little group of friends from Mike’s office started their trips home, ending their time with us in Jordan. I drowned my sorrows by going on an EcoHike to Umm Qais on Jillian’s birthday, we cleaned up, hiked the countryside and toured the archaeological site, Gadara. From Wikipedia: Gadara was a centre of Greek culture in the region during the Hellenistic and Roman periods.[2] The name Gadara may have meant “fortifications” or “the fortified city”.[3] The site overlooks the Sea of Galilee  (Sea of Tiberias,) the Golan Heights, and the Yarmouk River gorge. It was REALLY hot, but it was REALLY worth the trip. Solo outings are something I enjoy – if that’s something you think you’d be comfortable with I say give it a go – sign up for sightseeing, go to a museum, take a class; I know I enjoy being on my own time. I met some nice people, ate some great food, got a lot of exercise and learned about Umm Qais, on a crystal clear day you can see Syria, Lebanon and Palestine. The sunset for the drive home was perfect.

Then on Amelia’s birthday a couple of weeks later Mike and I went to Petra! I learned about Petra in Dr. Jordan’s Anthropology class at Longwood (College) University with my best friend, Michele – who was my first confirmed visitor to Jordan and subsequently my first heartbreak cancellation due to COVID-19 (holding out hope we can still visit Wadi Musa together, Shale). We loved Dr. Jordan’s pronunciation of Peh-trough as he showed us photos and told us stories of visiting. It looked familiar – well yeah, from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade!

It is one of the 7 Wonders of the World, and for us – due to Covid-19, completely empty. We wanted to wait to see it with Amelia and Jillian but knew we had to jump on this once in a lifetime chance to have the biggest tourist attraction in Jordan to ourselves.

I had moments of “gosh I really hope there isn’t an earthquake right now” as we walked through the Siq leading to the open area where we were treated to The Treasury. It really is a breathtaking moment when you see the sun shining on this monument.

We walked from the green dot to the red dot and back. Next trip will be all the way to the Monastery!

Since it was starting to get really hot, we turned around at Qasr al Bint and headed back. We could really see the facades of the Royal Tombs, next time I’d like to go up that path and explore the area a little more.

The Urn Tomb (The Court)
This derived its name from the jar that crowns the pediment. It was probably constructed around 70 AD. It is preceded by a deep courtyard with colonnades on two sides. High up in the facade there are 3 niches which give on to small burial chambers, but which was adapted in 446 AD to serve as a Byzantine church. (from Visit Petra)

We had lunch in town and I had the best falafel sandwich I’ve ever had at Beit Al-Barakah Restaurant and then we headed to the Petra Marriott where we ran into friends of ours, sat by the pool, had dinner and then took in this lovely view before turning in.

Til we meet again, Petra..

August: Getting our walks in early, having breakfast at our favorite places and then finding socially distanced things to do became our weekend schedule. To switch it up we walked at King Hussein Park, got bagels and coffee at Bagel Os, and visited Fuhais to put in an order for a custom made chest made from salvaged Syrian cabinet doors and benches from Mosaic shop. One of our favorite things from August was our visit to the Royal Automobile Museum, which is on the grounds of King Hussein Park. From Lonely Planet: You really don’t have to be a car enthusiast to enjoy this museum, which displays more than 70 classic cars and motorbikes from the personal collection of King Hussein. It’s something of a gem, and a great way to recount the story of modern Jordan. Vehicles range from pre-1950s glories to modern sports cars, taking in chrome-clad American cruisers to regal Rolls-Royces along the way, with accounts of presidential visits, Hollywood stars and defunct Middle Eastern monarchies enlivening the narrative.

Driving the cute photo-op cutout car!
Gorgeous view from the rooftop of Cantaloupe Gastro Pub on Rainbow Street – celebrating a friend’s return to Jordan and freedom from quarantine!

After trying out a few test routes in July, I mapped a nice 3 mile hilly walk near our place and joined by my ‘walking ladies’ we’ve been hitting the hills almost everyday after work. We walk, we talk and because there are 4 of us we always have someone to work out with. Now that it is dark out after work we wear reflective moon-sashes and bring flashlights with us, nothing has stopped us yet, well except quarantine!

September: was really busy with work things – I was part of putting together the first Arabic language Embassy podcast which was very cool, one of my colleagues interviewed two youth who’d rehabilitated a community library. I also joined on some construction site visits and took photos of new and expanded schools for USAID Jordan’s social media. Finn celebrated his 8th birthday and he and Iris continued their blissful cohabitation! The furniture we had made was delivered and I got a rug for the kitchen from Essa Farrah.

Happy 8th birthday handsome dude! I love how Iris always wraps her tail around him like a hug.

October: The walking ladies took the show on the road, venturing out into the country to hike (down 1 ‘lady’ due to a broken toe). One of the coolest things I’ve ever done is the Wadi Mujib hike and we had the wadi to ourselves. I didn’t bring my phone in with me because – if you watch the 1 minute video you’ll see – the hike is all in the water, climbing up and sliding down (I didn’t slide down!) rocks, using ropes and swimming.

At 410 meters below sea level, the Mujib Biosphere Reserve is the lowest nature reserve on Earth. Its rugged and spectacular mountains border the Dead Sea coast and are dissected by several river-filled canyons that offer the best river and adventure hikes in Jordan. The breathtaking scenery and the challenge of negotiating Mujib’s fast-flowing rivers make the Reserve one of Jordan’s most popular natural attractions. From Wild Jordan

The beginning of the Siq trail – we’re all done! We were the only ones in there besides our “life guard” who went the whole way with us.
October also brought me back to the brewery to try Carakale’s Saison – very delish!

November: I got out when I could, had lots of plans cancel and was thankful for my family and friends. Hiking ladies went on a early morning hike on the day after a couple of us got out of the Margarita Monday quarantine and before the post election day lockdowns. The hike starts at the Dead Sea highway across from the hotels and we just followed the water up, up, up.

Little crabby under the waterfall!
This hike involved a lot of rock climbing, along the way were lots of little falls and pools.

Most of November was spent in the apartment due to quarantine, the post elections lockdown and then Embassy lockdown I mentioned above in the COVID-19 update. I painted, watched shows, listened to music, worked out. At this point Finn wasn’t acting right and I was spending a lot of time worrying about him. Mike and I celebrated our 28th wedding anniversary, and later in the month we contributed mashed potatoes to a modified Friendsgiving where each household made a dish (or dishes in some cases LOL), delivered to one friends house and she made ‘plates’ delivered back to everyone. It was really fun and a delicious meal.

December: started out terribly and ended on a high note. Finn was clearly not well, with a loss of appetite and some vomiting and diarrhea off and on since August. After running some bloodwork that showed elevated levels suggesting pancreatitis, the vet kept him for two nights. He came home happy but started to go downhill the next day on Friday lockdown so we couldn’t go anywhere. On Saturday morning we brought him back and that is where he stayed for 15 days! At the start of his stay, Mike and I went on a walk to Amman National Park and talked about how we wanted to come back with Finn so he could be in the grass and shade.

Instead, for the next two weeks we would go to the vet clinic everyday and learn more and more about what was going on. We found out he had high blood pressure (and suffered a small stroke), a heart murmur, bleeding ulcers, crystals and bilirubin in his urine (we noticed this on the day he was home with us, thinking it was blood), and small stones and sludge in his gallbladder, which can cause pancreatitis. Due to losing blood from the ulcers he needed a transfusion and the vet’s Rottweiler donated. Dogs do have blood types, and the first transfusion can be from any donor but any subsequent ones needed to be a match. Jordan doesn’t have a canine blood bank so we would have been in a bind if he’d needed a second one!

Each night the vet would bundle Finn up in his blankets and take him, his oxygen tank and IVs home. Once he was no longer in critical condition, he’d get brought out to the waiting room and put into my lap so Mike and I could sit with him for an hour. The best day was when he walked out on his own, and with each passing day he got stronger eventually coming home where we are continuing his round the clock care and getting his weight back up. Once he is stronger we will address his gallbladder issues, keep him on a low fat diet and love him like crazy. Dr. Jaber at Pet Charm Veterinary Clinic gets a million stars from us; his assistant, family and his pets too.

Soaking in the sun at home on Christmas Day, 2020 in a vintage Old Navy tee.
Since we were so good all year, Santa brought us a runner from Iraq. (Essa Farrah Carpets)

Next up: guess I will start planning for my life back in the States, I need to get my checklist started. I have some goals at work that I’d like to accomplish and most importantly I have friends here in Jordan that I need to spend time with. I’ve been lucky to work at home throughout the pandemic but it has cut into my coworker time, and I’ve really missed the friendships I was in the middle of building when we were all sent home. I’m glad that we had opportunities to get together before the first, real wave of the virus hit Jordan, we shared knowledge, said goodbye to team members and celebrated each other.

I wish I had something inspirational to say, like the rest of you I’m getting through this time with some days being better than others. I am so glad that Mike and I and our friends and family are generally healthy and happy. I am looking forward to 2021 because it means I will be back in our home, with my Mike, Amelia and Jillian. Happy new year, everyone.

bye for now.