Quickly, because it's late and I'm tired and my bed is so, so comfy:
Two weeks ago we went to the Dead Sea for a day in the sun and salty water--we put the mud all over our bodies and when I washed it off my skin was so, so soft. You really do float in the Dead Sea. I don't know what I expected, but it wasn't what I got: you really do just bob up! It was hard to keep my feet beneath me, actually.
On our way to the Dead Sea we stopped in Bethany, in the Jordan Valley, home of the Baptismal Site. Like, the place where John the Baptist baptized Jesus. I wasn't expecting to have any particular spiritual revelations, but it was hard not to be moved at least a little when you see the spring where John the Baptist lived and walk where Jesus walked and have 20 years of religious education and cultural brainwashing oohing and aahing in your head. We walked all the way down to the bank of the Jordan River which was about six feet across and, it looked like, about two feet deep and here was the most interesting moment of the whole trip:
there we were, looking across the Jordan river, all six feet of it...at Israel. Where there is what Simon calls a "rival Baptismal Site" and another group of tourists, accompanied by the IDF, doing exactly what we were doing, except in Israel. They waved to us and we waved to them and it was so, so weird. Israel was right there! I could have jumped it! Except that I would have been shot dead in midair!
Anyway, then we had a week of classes and work and then last weekend we went to the Ajloun Nature Reserve, in the north of Jordan. It didn't look like any picture I'd ever seen of the Middle East; it was all green and lush and there were more flowers than I've ever seen. Honestly: bright red poppies and huge daisies and little winking pink and blue flowers. And there were fig trees and olive trees, too--though, no figs or olives. We spent two nights in these cushy cabins (thaaank you, Earlham College!) and during the day we hiked around, up and down the mountains. At the highest point we could see all the way to the Golan Heights of occupied Syria and the Sea of Galilee. Again with the BUT ISRAEL IS RIGHT THERE sentiment. As we stood, about a quarter-mile from the border on one of our walks, looking down into the valley that was Israel, we could also see, up on the cliff nearby, a little watchtower. A guard was watching us...to make sure we didn't make a run for it, I guess. Rachel looked at him through the zoom on her camera until Bruce told her that probably wasn't a great idea.
More tomorrow, I promise. Things have really picked up here in the last few weeks. I will be home in twelve days.