It is currently 2:14 AM in Amman. I woke up completely refreshed and ready to start my day… at 1:30 AM after having gone to bed, exhausted, around 11:30.
Might as well take this opportunity to tell you about yesterday, a most amazing day, spent wandering the streets of Amman.
Yesterday, being Divine Mercy Sunday, we got up early to break our fast and head out to find a church. We had planned to visit a local Syrian Church, but, sadly, we were unable to find it. We ended up driving around Amman, looking at how amazingly crowded its famed seven hills have become. Our guide, Ra’ed, tells us that the hills of Jordan were, for the most part, undeveloped land until the persecuted Christians from Syria and the rest of the region began descending on Jordan. Now, the hills look like they are stacked with boxes upon boxes, all full of people who have been displaced from their homes.
I asked Ra’ed how Jordanians feel about all of these people, moving to their land and, I’m sure, taking up space, taking up jobs, taking up everything. As the daughter of Mexican immigrants in the U.S., I always find it interesting to know who the “Mexicans” (aka unwanted immigrants) are in other countries. While King Abdullah II has been more than generous and gracious with his land and his resources, you can’t help but understand how Jordanians might be frustrated by the situation.
At the same time, who can blame anyone who has to leave their home and most everything they have and know, fearing their lives and seeking peace?
Yesterday, in our search for Our Lord in a church, we instead found Him in one of His suffering loved ones. We met Zaid, an Iraqi Christian who recently left Mosul to escape ISIS and the nonsense they bring. He had left Mosul, and almost his entire life, just a few months ago. Fortunately, he was able to bring his newlywed wife along for the ride.
God is everywhere. We know this. He is in all of us–Catholic or Protestant, Muslim, Jew, Atheist, or Christian.
Meeting Zaid yesterday was a powerful reminder that He also wants us to pray, unceasingly, for those who suffer and for peace and unity. I have addd Zaid to my prayers. I will never forget him, or the hundreds of thousands of people, just like him, both here in Jordan and abroad.
Pray with me, won’t you?
(Max Lindenman wrote a lovely piece about this experience from his unique perspective. Read it here.)
So, Mass was a bust. Fortunately, we’d gone to the Easter Vigil the day before, so we were good. We went back to the hotel for, what I believe is called…
What? What is that?
Since we are on a tour of Jordan sponsored by the Jordan Tourism Board, they were kind enough to allow us some free time to interview people or what have you.
But free time is not something I normally have.
I never have it when I travel. Especially not for The Faithful Traveler. Look, Deacon Greg Kandra says so in his blog post about our Easter Vigil Mass:
So, when we were dropped off at the hotel around 10 am, I was asking everyone, “what’re you going to do?” because, I’m sorry. I’m a small woman with lots of camera equipment. Loaded down like this, I don’t even go out alone in the U.S.
But the response I got from all was either “sleep” or “write” or “sleep and then write”.
I went back to my room and begrudgingly climbed into my bed. At 10 am. In a foreign country.
Fortunately, Frank Weathers was awake–he’d wisely skipped the outward journey, and was now ready to go exploring. He found a willing partner in me, and fortunately, Denise Bossert changed her mind about staying in and was ready to go!
Woot! (as I only say in writing)
We embarked on what Frank later called “Lonely Planet Excursions, hosted by Joe Six-Pack, USMC”, and headed off to find a church that Frank saw from his window. We found the Church of Jesus Christ’s Entry into the Temple.
Of course, Frank led the way to the upper loft in the church.
Then to the bell tower.
Isn’t it AMAZING?!
God is so good.
Following Frank is an adventure. Not only does the man have the confidence of a… well, of a Marine, he’s brave and he loves exploring. And he has a shepherd’s spirit. He will never leave a man behind. And he’s so tall, he’ll know if you’re lagging. He’s a great guy to have around, and I am so happy he is on this trip.
Denise is newer to this whole travel thing, but she is learning fast, and is always willing to go outside of her comfort zone and explore. I love sharing these experiences with her, and am especially blessed to have such a dear and close friend on this trip.
When we left the hotel, it was raining off and on. By the time we got inside the church, it started to pour, and even started to SLEET! When we left the church, there wise crushed ice everywhere. It was crazy.
But it was a beautiful blessing to have found the church and to have made such wonderful friends in such wonderful people.
We made our way back to the hotel and got completely drenched. My pants, which are too long for me, were soaked, but my heart was full.
Then, we went to lunch at the hotel, where Greg Kandra almost was assaulted by psycho Easter Bunny.
Greg wrote a nice blog post about the food we’ve been eating here along with some of his many amazing photos.
Afterward, a small group of us headed out to the souk–basically, the market. We went shopping.
Frank was our intrepid leader again. He’s so great. Like a tall, skinny mama hen, looking after her little chicks.
I made another friend on this trip: Benjamin Corey, who I really like a lot. He came along on our merry adventures.
Denise also came, and blogged a beautiful piece about her experience.
Greg Kandra came, and also wrote about it here.
We were dropped off at the ruins of an amphitheater, set into the side of a mountain in the middle of downtown Amman. This beautiful reminder of Amman’s Roman history–it was the first Philadelphia, remember–dates back to 138-161 AD. It once sat 5000 people, and God knows what sort of things they watched.
Today, it’s surrounded by shops that, honestly, reminded me of a regular street in Queens.
Our first stop: a patisserie! (Of course, says the chubby girl.)
The patisserie is called Al Sahel Al Akhdar, and it is awesome.
I asked the first gentleman I met if he spoke English (anta tatakellum Ingleesi, yeah saiid?), and he did of course. Very well. His name was Mahmoud, and he was a sweetheart.
He introduced me to the “sweet of Jordania”, as he called it, kanafeh. It was amazing.
Then we wandered up and down the street, looking at all of the pretty wares. These dresses are gorgeous, and in every shop you see. I would have loved to have bought one, but there’s no way I could pull that off.
Everyone was kind and happy when I greeted them with marhaba! Which means hello in Arabic.
Ahalan wahsahalan! They would say: welcome!
After peeking into many shops, we went back to Al Sahel Al Akhdar and bought some stuff to bring home.
“Will you come back to Jordan?” Mahmoud asked.
“Inshallah,” I said, which made him laugh.
“Your Arabic is very good!” he said. “Next time, you will know more!”
“Inshallah,” I said. And I meant it.
(And now, it is 3:51 AM. Sleepy time.)
To read Frank’s take on today, go here! He’s hilarious.