Tag Archives: travel

That time I was Stranded at the Jordanian Border

Last year we visited the middle east for a period, these are my sentiments on a portion of the trip.

Carolyn in Jordan

 

For the past week we had been traipsing around the southern half of Jordan. Snorkeling in the Dead Sea, climbing up the red stones of Petra, and quenching our thirst with sweet Bedouin tea. It all sounds like a great, exotic time, but the Middle East is an exhausting country. It’s hot, as a female I had to be conscious of my outfits, and everything is dusty, sandy, and hot. While we’re very happy to have visited, we were pretty ready to leave.

 

The Treasury!

The Treasury

 

Our last night was spent in a traditional tent in Wadi Rum. I have never seen more stars than I did that night and I’d say it was a highlight of the trip. We climbed into our Bedouin host’s SUV in the morning and we were on our way down the open highways to the Wadi Araba crossing. On the way we were pulled over and our driver ran into some issues with his registration. He argued for a good long while with the police, and finally got out of the car and paid the fine.

 

Police Stop

Arabic graffiti

 

About 30 minutes later we arrived at the Wadia Araba border and paid our tab for our desert stay. We were a few dinar short, which was ok with our host. But that meant we had zero dinar left – which seemed perfect at the time since we had no intention of returning to Jordan in the near future.

 

We picked up our packs and hoofed it to the first step of the multi-step process to cross the sad, dusty Wadi Araba border. We could see Israel in the distance. Beautiful, air conditioned Israel.

And midway through the process we discovered that we owed 10 JD per person to leave the country. Cash only. No problem, we thought, surely there’s an ATM. Surely.

 

Clearly we’d learned nothing from our week in Jordan. We started looking around for an ATM. We asked a few guards. Nothing.

 

We started coming up with crazy ideas, like buying a doodad from the duty free shop (which took credit cards, which is a relevant point in a moment) and then returning it for cash. No dice. We started reasoning with two of the guards. We asked them why they don’t take credit cards at an international border crossing and they said because there’s no internet out there. Except the duty free shop took credit cards. I made the mistake of talking to them at all – they clearly were not going to listen to no woman. Eventually Caleb told me that it’s probably better if I just stay quiet.

 

The reason we were so insistent on finding a solution at the border was because the closest town, Aqaba, was an overpriced, unpleasant 10 minute taxi ride both ways. That doesn’t sound bad, but wait until my post about the Jordanian taxi mafia and you’ll understand.

 

We finally resigned ourselves to the taxi option, the only way to get to town. But first we were going to execute a last ditch effort and dig through our bags for money. Any kind of money. Euros, shekels, something at all. And lo, behold, a 20 Euro note emerged from a tiny pocket in my carry-on. I flashbacked to me taking this note from Caleb before I ventured out in Vienna for a walk. Goodness I am glad I didn’t spend that on coffee and sachertorte. Hallelujah!

 

We proudly took our 20 Euros to the currency exchange man, which obviously we also visited earlier in our roundabout search for an ATM. He understood our plight, and gave us a few extra dinar for our Euros as 20 Euros is about 15 JD and we needed 20 JD.

 

Crossing the Wadi Araba Border

Great glorious Israel!

 

We were soon slugging our way over the 100 meters of No Man’s Land between these two sandy nations. It is an unpaved, barren bit of land, because Middle Eastern countries naturally need some buffer space. We easily went through our return process to Israel, working our way through the series of clean, air-conditioned buildings. Caleb’s passport proved to be interesting to them, as it always does – but soon enough we were waiting for a taxi on the other side to get to our hotel for in Eilat.

 

That was my hot, sweaty lesson to always research exit taxes before leaving a country. Usually I do, but I slipped up this time. Never again!

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I Speak Arabic and Russian

…is what I will say within the next 5 years. With some luck. And a patient husband.

The night I met my husband, I was but a freshman in college. In fact I met him on the third day after I moved to Seattle before classes even started. And he was a senior. Can you say awe-struck 18 year old? Then the punches started.

And by punches I mean the impressive things he told me. On retrospect they weren’t as big and grand as I thought then, but remember I just moved for the first time in my life and hadn’t even attended my first day of college. I was little.

He hit me with, “I just got back from living in Israel for a year” to “I was in a 60 mph car crash with a drunk”. Then came “I speak ancient Greek and Hebrew, oh yeah and Arabic. Toss in some Chinese for good measure. And I have a twin.”

So that’s super paraphrased, since that is not at all how he said it. He said it in the most nonchalant, humble way. Be still my then 18 year old heart.

To make a long and winding story short, he has inspired me to learn Arabic. It’d be nice to join in the conversations he has with his Arabic-speaking friends. By the way, my husband is the least Arabic-looking person ever. He’s as Aryan as they come.

I hope to speak Russian some day as well, mostly to fuel my love for figure skating. Hebrew wouldn’t be half bad either, I can already say “I love you”! *applaud my meager language skills*

So if any of you happen to speak Arabic or Russian out there, ring me up. I’ll be the one puzzling over how to read from right to left. And upside down and backwards.

(Photo by FontFont)

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My Olympic Adventure

Note, this is somewhat more of a memoir than a post. Take that as you wish.

3:50am First alarm rouses me from my deep sleep. I hit the alarm and the blaring stops.

4:00am Second alarm starts ding-ding-dinging.

4:05am DING! DING! DING!

4:06am I turn off the alarm, stumble to the kitchen and turn on the stove to make some espresso. There is no way the husband is going to get up without coffee.

4:27am Leave the apartment and call our friend to let them know we’re on our way to pick them up. No answer.

4:28am I call our friend again…and again…and again.

4:45am We ring up to their apartment, still no answer. Sadly we leave without them.

6:09am I call a guy in Canada about a ticket he might have for the men’s figure skating training session that starts at 7am. He says he can sell it to me.

6:30am Approach the U.S.-Canadian border crossing at the Peace Arch.

6:31am Get asked too many questions by the border crossing guard. Guard seemed very suspicious that my husband didn’t want to go to the figure skating event with me. How very, very suspicious of us.

7:00am Take a wrong turn at Marine Drive in Vancouver. I start getting stressed that I’m missing the the start of the training session.

7:20am Meet with the guy at Chevron to buy my ticket from him. Section T on center ice, not bad.

7:40am My husband drops me off as close as possible to the Pacific Coliseum. I still have to walk almost a mile to the gate.

7:56am I enter the ice arena. Before I even look for my seat I look down at the ice to see which group is on the ice. It’s not the group I’m waiting for. I relax.

7:58am Still can’t find my seat.

8:00am Exactly an hour late but I’m in my seat.

8:01am Eeee, there’s Joubert! So much glee!

8:05am Javier Fernandez of Spain music begins, it’s from Pirates of the Caribbean. A drunken pirate does not translate well on the ice.

8:06am Joubert paces an awful lot. Just casually skating back and forth across the ice.

8:10am Abbott runs through some nice triples. Looks like he’s come back from the short program disaster.

9:11 Amodio has a nice run through, I’m rooting for him in 2014. He’s got a very appealing style. He’ll definitely be a crowd pleaser.

{This is where I dropped the ball and lost the rest of my notes, so I’m wingin’ it.}

The Zamboni came out to visit every once in awhile. All decked out in its Olympic bling.

When the big guns came out for their practice, everything got noticeably more quiet in the arena. These guys were serious. Incredibly focused, save for the not-so-discreet glances at their opponents.

Very few jumps were made in this practice too. They all looked great.

I love this photo, Weir is always photogenic:

Plushenko was being Plushenko and left before his turn to practice his program came up. It was a let down, but it was good to see him. The last time I saw him, I met him.

This was many years ago. I believe I was a junior or senior in high school. And Plushy does not look like he wants to be there. From what I remember my friend and I had to really get his attention to grab an autograph and a picture. I have no shame when it comes to figure skaters. They’re my rock stars. I also tried to stalk Plushenko in Guatemala, but to no avail.

The rest of my day was spent watching most of the ice dancing practice groups. Don’t mind my over saturated, poorly shot photos, but figure skating is not an easy sport to photograph. With a point-and-shoot. In a poorly lit building. Of twirling people.

Afterwards I walked by no less than 50 policemen on my way to find my husband. Seriously, every corner around the Coliseum had a couple cop cars and a few dozen police. And by a few dozen I mean maybe 3 or 4.

Everything in Vancouver was green and blue, except the people. They were red and white (especially white). I’ve never seen so much Canadian pride.

Don’t you think Canada should use all of Canada before the World should have a shortage? Those poor Northern Territories, so neglected.

See how many flags you can spot!

Anyway, back the to border we went after some more wondering and poking around.

It truly was a beautiful day in Vancouver. Somehow the Olympics seem less grandiose and distant when they are in your own backyard, but I am so glad I went.

And kudos to Vancouver for doing such a great job. So they had a lot of issues, but despite the lack of snow it was a beautiful location. The Spring Olympics is sort of growing on me. Pun not intended.

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Picture of the Day

Photo by Macorig Paolo

Today’s picture is nothing short of breathtaking. It’s like the heavens are descending upon this little portion of the Italian coast.

According to the photographer, this is a photo from Sciacca, Sicily looking towards Africa. It sounds so exotic! At least for those of us who haven’t been to Italy or Africa…

My husband and I will travel in the future. Once we get past the goals of a master’s degree and career establishment. He and I would adore traveling to Italy, Northern/Eastern Europe, France, Israel, Egpyt, Central America, I could make quite the list. I have plans to list the top 10 countries we’d like to visit, why we want to visit, and the top sites we’d like to see. This will take awhile to produce, but it will happen.

In the meantime, this photo is just gorgeous to the nth power.

Looking towards africa

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Picture of the Day

Photo by Swamibu

“Head monk, Abbot-Pra Acharn Phusit, taking the tiger out for a walk at the Tiger Temple outside Bangkok, Thailand.”

As soon as I saw this I had to go see what the Tiger Temple was all about. Well you can read about it here and here. It’s basically a Buddhist Temple that also serves as an animal sanctuary.

I also found a hilarious photo on a site about the Tiger Temple. My, what big teeth you have!

At Tiger Temple people can snuggle with tigers. I don’t know what I’m more excited about, giving Tigger cuddles or enjoying the adrenaline rush from snuggling with a tiger! My husband would just love this place.

snuggletiger

Photo by think2create

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