Jordan (Some)Times

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THE (Occasional) JORDAN (Some)TIMES

Sunday 17 February 2002
Volume 1, Issue 4

– Weather Information for Amman:
Yesterday – High 61F/16C - Low 41F/5C – Hazy
Today – High 59F/15C - Low 37F/2C – Sunny
Tomorrow – High 55F/12C - Low 38F/3C – Partly Cloudy
Still no more snow in the forecast
Some days seem like spring

– Shop Talk:
In a recent action of the Editorial Board (moved and voted to be recorded as unanimous), it was decided to shorten the official name of the paper to The Jordan (Some)Times, without the "Occasional" part. Reasons for the change, sources at the paper reported on condition of anonymity, were economic in nature. This will save the cost of ink (even though the paper only comes out in electronic format) and reflects better the fact that the paper is really not occasional, but rather quite regular.

For earlier issues and additional photos related to journal stories, please click on "Jordan Updates" on the MPP website at WWC and watch for a new photo of `Ayn Hisban (the Spring of Heshbon – see below) and another new photo of the Sea of Galilee as seen from Umm Qays (Roman Gadara) as reported in the last issue of The Jordan (Some)Times.

Circulation of the paper has again taken a quantum leap forward, with the addition of several mostly willing victims and with the announcement posted to the editor last week that one can now access the Times via the WWC online library catalogue. Circulation has also increased due to the opening of the new ACOR fitness center.

Those planning to excavate with the Madaba Plains Project-`Umayri this summer will need to get Security Forms mailed in by the end of February – Don’t delay. THIS DEADLINE IS ABSOLUTE because of the Government of Jordan’s need to have them far in advance of the dig itself. Find them here!

– Perspectives of Jordanians:

"Ahlan wa Sahlan!" – back-seat passenger in student-driver car after the student driver stopped and with the instructor gave us directions in the middle of an intersection. This regular greeting actually pulls together the meaning of two Arabic words, one tied to "family" or relatives and the other to what is easy to accomplish. It would better be translated: "It is easy for you to become like family to us!"

"Minfadhlak, shay! (Please, some tea)" – farm laborers standing at the gate to a large orchard/vineyard operation for which they were responsible. We pulled in for a visit which lasted half an hour and, under the bright sun and a clear blue sky, enjoyed an animated conversation about everything, liberally laced with hot, sweet bedouin tea.

"Minfadhlak, astanna hon! (Please stop here)" – Jordanian Highway Patrol officer in the Jordan Valley. Actually, there were three police officers standing by the road who ordered me to pull Jeepers over and halt, thank you very much. Reason for my arrest – smoking while driving? (no, I don’t smoke, but it would cost me a fine if I did smoke behind the wheel); drinking coffee or tea while driving? (no, I didn’t have anything to drink, but this too would have generated a fine); talking on my cell (mobile) phone while behind the wheel? (no, but again a fine would have been forthcoming); speeding on the straight stretches of open limited-access highway in the Jordan Valley? (no, because there are no long open stretches of highway in the Valley protected from the occasional grazing goat or free-wheeling donkey cart, but this too would have cost me – more for hitting the goat); driving on the wrong side of the road? (no because of the foot-high concrete divider between the opposing lanes of traffic); driving back and forth across the painted lane markers? (no because most painted lines on streets in the Middle East are primarily only decorative); running a yellow light? (no, because there are no traffic lights on the road I was traveling, but this would not only have cost a fine but added to a series of points which could in the long run end up invalidating my driver’s license); running a red light? (no, obviously if the yellow light problem is negated by the absence of traffic lights, so would this be, but it would have cost somewhere near 50 JD / $70 if I had run a red light and would have added several points to my total on the way to loss of driving privileges in Jordan). One of the police officers just wanted a ride up to Amman.

"When you come to do archaeology in Jordan, you not only excavate our soil, you also excavate our soul." – His Excellency Akel Biltaji, former Minister of Tourism and Antiquities, made in a speech several years ago to our group of excavators and re-quoted by me in a lecture on the Madaba Plains Project given to the Amman Cosmopolitan chapter of Rotary International.

– Letters to the Editor:
According to editorial policy, all published letters to the editor or to anyone on the editorial board or staff are carefully selected, edited for content, monitored for attitude, then approved for publication by the entire editorial board and Censorship Committee:

  • "I am really enjoying those Jordan (Some)Times. You have a great sense of humor and they are a lot of fun yet informative at the same time:) Keep up the good work:) – a good person ... and paid to stay that way.
    [ Programmers Notes: Be careful now! I can add whatever I want to say to the bottom of these, even bold them or italicize them to get my point across even better! You don't pay me THAT much! *wink* - I wonder if this is pushing the "good person" envelope? ]
  • "Once again, you really outdid yourself in your update. I just wonder how much work you are actually getting done. I mean, ACOR isn't exactly a 5-star hotel, but your albeit simple accommodations aren't much to complain about, and what, with all that gallivanting about the country visiting this place and that, schmoozing with this government official and that one, what are you really accomplishing, other than entertaining your global friends with your charming tales of your adventures? (you can print that one as a comment from a naive, industrious American:)" – a naive, industrious American (who should know better than to ask these questions).
  • "I am among those who delight in getting and reading The (Occasional) Jordan (Some)Times. Having just read this issue in its entirety, I could not help but notice two things: First, the humor that seems very often to be at Carmen's expense. Are we to conclude that the main reason she accompanied you was for purposes of comic relief? And, second, I noticed that though a picture (or two?) has been included in the publication, you have no one listed as photographer. Perhaps one of the individuals who does some of the other work on your publication could be asked to assume photographer's responsibilities!" – normally a good person, even if obviously impertinent at times.
  • "I have been so happy each time I receive a copy of The Jordan (Some)Times! I share it with Leanne and she really enjoys it too." – veterans of a three-generational team of MPP excavators who know a good thing when they see one.
  • "Keep the newsletter coming! We are quite interested in it. I didn't know there was snow over there. I thought it was a semi-tropical country. Keep on diggin'." – a good person who would not be out of place to fax me my parka and mukluks.
  • "So many interesting things you report from over there. Makes me wish I were a college student again and could participate..." – another good person, this one with potential as a dig volunteer.
  • "Quite impressive is the explosion of subscribers to The Jordan (Some)Times. You'd wonder about the availability of good reading material here in the USA. Just kidding! [editorial comment – Yeah, sure.] It is great fun to read. Keep us on the mailing list." – with help, a good person.
  • "I just finished reading the latest edition of The Jordan (Some)Times. Keep up the good work. That bit about exercising with various weights of potato sacks was priceless. I intend to implement the regimen immediately." – a hard-core fitness freak, for sure.
  • "What a kick!!" – a fun-loving fan of few words.

– New ACOR Fitness Center Opens
The two main directors of ACOR, Pierre and Patricia Bikai, returned yesterday from a two-weeks’ vacation in India and were greeted with the grand opening of the ACOR fitness center named in their honor and identified in a large banner according to locally observed spelling conventions around town: "Well Come - P & P’s Fitness Centre, Spa and Saloon." The center is located in ACOR’s sub-basement, now known as The Garden Level. (Lest westerners come down too hard on misspelled words in other languages, we should not forget that we don’t have a great record of cultural awareness when it comes to such matters. Consider the following examples: When Coors Beer put its slogan, "Turn it loose," into Spanish, it was read as "Suffer from diarrhea"; Clairol introduced the "Mist Stick," a curling iron, into German only to find out that "mist" is slang for manure – not too many people had a use for the "manure stick"; Pepsi's "Come alive with the Pepsi Generation" translated into "Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the grave," in Chinese; when Gerber started selling baby food in Africa, it used the same packaging as in the US, with the beautiful Caucasian baby on the label. Later they learned that in Africa, companies routinely put pictures on the label of what's inside, since most people can't read.)

The center boasts four modern pieces of exercise equipment: a Jane Fonda treadmill with battery-powered stats readout and tape deck; a DP BodyTone 300 Rowing Machine, a NordicTrack Workout Machine with electronic stats readout, and a Lifestyler Dual-action Motivational Stepper 3000p with electronic stats readout. One piece of equipment is unusable – a single five-pound hand weight – because there should be two of these for balanced muscle development on both sides of the body. The skipping rope was stolen by one of the ACOR fellows (the same fellow who spent a weekend in Jordan’s sunny southern seaside city of Aqaba with Carmen – oh, I should say that SHE is a fellow) who has since fled to Syria. If, as a re-entering felon, she can get back into the country, we should have the rope back into service soon. The decor of the fitness center is completed with the pair of adjustable crutches leaning against the wall, just in case.

My first sensation upon completing the cycle with this equipment? A wave of exhilaration ... or was that nausea? It surely wasn’t empty potato sacks.

–The News from ACOR Amman:
Well, it’s been a quiet week (or so) in ACOR Amman, my home town.

We decided recently, given the snow storms we experienced last month, that we needed a spring break and so, over the past two weekends, have found ourselves visiting several of the perennial springs to be explored around Amman and Madaba, and even in the Jordan Valley. The Arabic word for spring is `ayn, which means an eye or a spring – both open and gush with liquid. Last Saturday, we thought to see three springs – `Ayn Hisban (the Spring of Heshbon) west of and way down in the valley from Tall Hisban, `Ayn Musa (the Spring of Moses, actually one of many springs so named, which we understand to mean that everywhere Moses got mad and struck a rock, a spring remains unto this day) north of and way down in the valley from Mt. Nebo, and Zerqa Ma`in, sulfurous hot springs down near the northeastern shores of the Dead Sea, made famous by reported visits from Herod the Great who was well known for getting into hot water, but who looked to these sulfurous springs for healing from a series of maladies.

As it turns out, fortunately we think, the first weekend of our spring break only lasted long enough to see `Ayn Hisban and get lost in Jeepers, tracking under clear blue skies around beautifully green, fertile, often terraced, hillsides planted in orchards (the almond trees were in full blossom), cultivated fields and vineyards of horizontal ground vines. I had not visited the spring for decades and was forced to feel my way there. We were looking rather perplexed at one intersection in a village at the top of the escarpment leading down toward the Jordan Valley and the spring. Being parked in the middle of a small round-about, hoping to guess the correct road out of four possibilities, gave us away. A student-driver car (brightly painted and clearly marked for everyone’s traveling safety and protection) approached from the right and also pulled into the middle of the traffic circle and stopped. The instructor got out of the right side of the car and walked in our direction, welcoming us to Jordan and wondering if he could help. "Wayn tariq `Ayn Hisban?" I tried. Where is the road to `Ayn Hisban? "Two kilometers straight ahead," he said after extending the hospitality visit in the middle of the traffic circle for a few minutes. It was then that the back-seat passenger also welcomed us to Jordan, shouting across the circle. It was also then that another car, arriving at the intersection from the same direction as the student-driver car, also stopped in the middle of the circle, its driver in search of an off-hand chance to be helpful. He confirmed our suspicions and the directions given by the driving instructor. We all climbed back into our cars and cleared the intersection.

This encounter reminds me of two intriguing travel accounts, one from Egypt and the other from Lebanon. In his eminently readable and enjoyable book on the Bible, archaeology, travel in the Middle East and a devotional quest (Walking the Bible: A Journey by Land through the Five Books of Moses [Morrow, 2001], p. 147), Bruce Feiler describes the situation in Cairo: "This is what it takes to cross the street in Cairo: First you have to determine which cars are moving and which are not. This is not as easy as it might seem. Streets have no particular distinction between where cars should be driven and where they should be parked. Step onto a thoroughfare at, say, 9:00 on a Tuesday morning in early winter, as I did with Avner from our hotel, and one is overwhelmed by the sheer volume of cars. Cars in the left lane going in one direction, cars in the right lane going in the same direction. Cars on the sidewalk going in the opposite direction. Cars in the middle parked. Often the only way to tell which cars are operating is to feel the hood. A warm hood means the engine is running and it’s best to stand back. A cold hood means the car is stalled and the driver has stepped away – for a few days."

Distilled from a Time Magazine reporter’s account of visiting Beirut: An American driver, he approaches a round-about in Beirut and wants to enter, but the red light stops him. A number of policemen standing at the intersection watching confirm his decision, but other cars go through the light anyway. The driver asks one policeman about this and whether he can go through the light. The policeman answers that he can do as he wishes. "But, will I get a ticket if I go ahead?" the driver asks. "Only Allah (God) knows," is the response. "But will you write me up if I go?" "You will have to try it and see what happens." So, the driver decides to go through the light and enters the round-about. He is immediately pulled over by the policeman. "But I thought you said only Allah knows if I should go or not." "Yes, Allah knows all things, but Allah does not give out tickets; I do."

Our visit to `Ayn Hisban was a gift. Everything around us on the road down the wadi was either various levels of limestone outcroppings or green things growing. The spring itself issues out of the base of a stone cliff, bubbling and gurgling fresh, cool, clear, clean water (check out the photo). While Carmen and I were the first ones there in the morning, it did not take long for others to arrive. First a car parked across the road, spilling out a young couple looking, we think, for some privacy around the spring’s environs (five days ahead of Valentine’s Day, but what are a few days among friends). They soon disappeared out of sight. Then we hiked up the hill across from the spring, amazingly cross-hatched with natural terraces of bright green grass and grey limestone outcroppings. An archaeological site rests atop this hill, but I have not had the time to check out Robert Ibach’s survey report to identify it. >From the top, we noticed two or three walids (young boys) playing in the pool created at the spring. Other boys began arriving by bicycle. Then the couple reappeared, he gallantly carrying her across the stream, both unaware that I caught them on film with my 300 mm lens. Chivalry may not be dead, but they might be, given the normal rural guidelines for hands-off cross-gender behavior. Of course, I won’t tell and I don’t think the walids will either. But you ... can you keep a secret? Actually, I trust you to keep a lid on things; it’s just the people you tell that I worry about.

We left the spring and got pleasantly lost in the maze of roads, some paved (at least there was evidence that once upon a time they were paved), some gravel and dirt. Jeepers came through again and delivered us finally into a beautiful extension of the Wadi Hisban (Valley of Hisban) where we drove through brilliantly blossoming almond orchards and ended up at the gate of a large agricultural complex. The two men preparing to close the gate and shut down the days operations invited us into the complex for tea. We pulled into the yard between a couple of marginally completed buildings. Leaving Jeepers unlocked with all our camera gear in it in the yard (and deciding that it would be an insult to return to it to lock it up), we ascended some exterior concrete stairs to a cement veranda on the back side of the building. Thirty minutes of animated conversation in snippets of English and Arabic on both sides of the make-shift table were followed by cups of boiled-to-death-and-therefore-safe-to-drink-even-if-really-sweet tea. We received directions for traveling up the steep incline to Tall Hisban on the top of the plateau and left some new friends – traveling which demanded the best of the four-by-four capabilities of Jeepers and the two-by-two driving and navigating skills of Jeepers’ occupants.

Our second weekend of spring break resulted in a trip to the newly discovered Baptismal Site of Bethany Beyond the Jordan where Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist and to `Ayn Musa. The Baptismal Site is being restored as one of Jordan’s hopes for a Christian destination location (and with the help of $7 million from the US). Two kilometers from the Jordan River, it gives one a spectacular view of Jericho and the trail to the river, when opened (not this time, but in one week ... or two weeks ... or one month ... maybe), allows one to walk all the way to the Jordan River. We did this several years ago with John Lawlor (Field A Supervisor at `Umayri), then from Baptist Bible College, and recorded several baptismal events with John the Baptist presiding.

As interesting, perhaps, was our visit to `Ayn Musa, just below and to the north of Mt. Nebo. Steep, narrow roads, clinging precariously to precipitous hillsides led us down, down, down to a stand of Eucalyptus trees which can be seen from Mt. Nebo and which mark the spot of the spring. Two local shababs (teen-age boys) showed us around the decrepit compound of stone buildings and discarded turbine, all sitting atop a limestone slab, over which part of the spring water cascaded (even if in a small stream) and under which was a large open cave with several additional outlets for the water. OK, the output wouldn’t fill a radiator quickly, but the sound of the waterfall was memorable. The cost of this excursion? To give a ride to the two shababs up a new route toward Amman. We received two requests from them enroute: "Go ahead and drive through" as we approached a narrow, walled alleyway doubling as a street, with an internationally known red sign that we should not enter and, further along the one-way street, "See that sign; it says STOP" so they could get out.

Our spring break will have to include the hot springs of Zerqa Ma`in later, as we ran out of time. But we do know that spring is coming in Jordan. To keep us healthy and well through the remaining weeks of winter until spring actually does arrive, we take plenty of Vitamin C. Vitamin C is one of the four major food groups and comes in basically two edible forms – citrus and chocolate. The citrus around here is ubiquitous this time of the year. Grapefruit, Boumalie (bright yellow citrus fruits about the size of small soccer balls with the taste of grapefruit but without the sourness), navel oranges and bloody-red juicing oranges (which must be Christian because of the blood-red segments and juice). Pierre, originally from Lebanon, says they, like everything else important in life, came from Lebanon and began with the Phoenicians. Chocolate has also been ubiquitous around here recently, given the close temporal proximity we have to Valentine’s Day.

Well, that’s the news from ACOR Amman, where the directors are strong, the office staff is good looking and all the ACOR fellows are above average.

Editor: Doug Clark
Assoc. Editor: Doug Clark
Managing Editor: Doug Clark
Editorial Board Chair: Doug Clark
Editorial Board Member: Doug Clark
Other Editorial Board Member: Doug Clark
Desktop Publishing: Doug Clark
Quality Control: Doug Clark
Proofreading: Doug Clark
Data Entry: Doug Clark
Marketing: Doug Clark
Circulation: Doug Clark
Censorship: Doug Clark

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