Finally . . . .

Trip Start Nov 10, 2011
Trip End Dec 03, 2011

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Flag of Israel  ,
Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Blogging has become a frustrating chore. Thanks to our wonderful daughter, Amy, I think there is a solution to the problems of blogging from an iPad, with an app, in a foreign country. I am going to write the blog, email the pictures to Amy, and she will insert them in the appropriate place. Pray it works. I'm about to give up.

Because I am so far behind I am going to work backwards. This entry will have no pictures as we have a meeting and welcome dinner with our Israeli guide and the group that will be joining us on the Israel portion of the tour. This entry will be thoughts and observations. If there is time after dinner, I will write about Petra -- the reason tourists come to Jordan.

The group in Jordan consisted of 6 -- three unmarried women, one unmarried man, and Tom and me. It is an interesting group -- a retired teacher from Miami by way of Michigan, an attorney from Santa Clara, CA, a librarian who works for the Graduate Theological Union (GTU) in Berkeley, and a retired chemical engineer from New Jersey by way of China. They are all seasoned travellers to some of the most exotic places imaginable. As much traveling as Tom has done, on his own and with the Air Force, he does not hold a candle to these people. And, although I have done more travelling than most people, I feel like a novice. We have a lot of catching up to do.

Our guide, Samir, was incredible. When he left us at the border, I felt very sad. The guide for Israel has big shoes to fill to be only 1/2 as good. Samir is Muslim but very open to answering queastions and responding to comments. He is from Jordan but lived in Canada for many years and has dual citizenship. Because many, if not most, Americans have a negative view of Islam, I am very interested in knowing the positive side. If Samir is an example, he is a wonderful example. Tom and I hope he and his wife, Jamilah, will some day visit Utah. 

Because of the unrest around Jordan, tourism is down 50-70%. This was Samir's last tour for this year and Overseas Adventure Tours (OAT) has not scheduled tours to Jordan for 2012, as yet. Samir, fortunately, has a small farm where he grows olives which might sustain him and his family for a while. His wife is a tour guide for another company so, hopefully, she will stay busy. Most of their children are married but they do have one who still lives at home and attends the local university. We, actually, ran into Jamilah twice during our tour of Jordan. While in Petra, Samir told us that after 9/11 no one came to Jordan for three years. He bought a taxi to have an income. The government took the opportunity to excavate in Petra and make the walk from the entry to the Treasury more even and user friendly. 

We have NEVER felt unsafe, even walking around the neighborhood of our hotel in Amman at night. The people of Jordan are incredibly friendly and kind. The food is out of this world. The freshest and biggest vegetables we have ever seen -- California, eat your heart out. We never had a bad meal and there was too much food. Today, most of us took a break from eating. Lighter breakfast even though the buffet was typically large, and very few of us touched the boxed lunches the hotel provided for our bus trip to the border. 

Education to Muslims is extremely important. The second night in Amman we had a home hosted dinner with a husband and wife who have four grown children, two daughters and two sons. All of them with university degrees, some with advanced degrees, and none of them with liberal arts/humanities degrees. They majored in subjects such as finance, business, engineering. The oldest is 29 and none of them are married so they all still live at home. Children do not move out until they are married. University students do not seem to waste their time taking general education subjects as they learn that information in high school. They take a test to determine if they are university material, or if they will attend a college, or learn a trade. When they enter the university, they focus on learning their major subject. What a novel idea -- teach the kids math and English in high school and teach them enginnering in the university. The American education system could learn from other countries, including somewhat 3rd world countries.

As the parents age, it becomes the responsibility of the sons to care for their parents. Samir is one of 9 children, 8 sons. His mother has been widowed for several years. He and his brothers fight over who gets to take care of their mother. She rules the family. When one of the sons needed financial help with purchasing a home in the USA, the mother told each of the other 7 sons how much money he needed to contribute. Aging parents, mentally ill, disabled -- all are taken care of by their families. They are not dumped into assisted living/nursing homes or allowed to live on the streets. One day in Amman, we saw a man who looked to me as if he were "homeless." Nope. Mentally ill, yes, but his family would never allow him to live on the street, according to Samir. As Samir said, Jordanians (Muslims) are tribal people and they take care of their own.

Public restrooms were a lesson in cultural differences. Toilet paper might be available, or it might be given to you, for a fee, at the door. Paper towels or dryers to dry your hands? Ha! I have learned to carry a pack of Kleenex in my jacket pocket because all I would get, for a fee, to dry my hands is a Kleenex. Most toilets have a hose with a sprayer. Apprently, as I understand it, they wash themselves first, then wipe. I know -- TMI -- but it is interesting.

It is now time to meet the 9 people who have flow into Tel Aviv today to join our group. Another dinner. More food. I am hopeful blogging will become easier with Amy's assistance. I know there are misspelled words -- please bear with me. I haven't figured out the spell check when usiing the blog app. I miss my Mac!!
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