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Israel Day 10

June 25, 2009

Our last day in the Middle East has finally arrived.  Part of me is excited to get home but the other side doesn’t want to stop yet!  I’m going to start this day last night instead of first thing in the morning.

So far on this trip every night has been spent in Israel.  At the very end we spent our last night in Jordan in the city of Petra (not the rock city…that would have been insane though!).  Israel is split between the Muslims, the Jews and the Christians.  Jordan is not.  I’m sure there are a few Jews and Christians (that are just crazy) but not many.  Our hotel is basically less that a block from the mosque and the window in our hotel room is directly facing it.  No biggie.  Well, that was before I knew how loud the call to prayer was.  Good lord!  Still wasn’t that big of a deal until it happened again at 3:44 AM!  But still I am getting ahead of myself.  Last night there was a wedding somewhere in the city of Petra.  Nice and entertaining.  Lots of music and fireworks.  That’s fun.  Oh, right.  We are Americans that are worried about our safety in the Middle East, let alone being Christian Americans in a solid Muslim country.  Fireworks in the distance just make thoughts of other loud popping noises come up in your brain.  Well, all was fine until well past midnight we everyone was asleep.  Except me.  I for some reason couldn’t sleep.  And then I heard it.  Automatic weapons in the distance.  Hmmm.  I rushed to the window (not sure that was the smartest thing to do) and tried to locate them.  It was coming from my left and up the hill.  There were no fireworks.  No oohs or ahhs.  Just several minutes of automatic weapons firing.  All kinds of things are now running through my mind.  I am mentally getting prepared to transform into the special forces guy that I have been training (through watching movies) to become!  Bring it on, Middle East!  Well, finally it ended and our building wasn’t anywhere near it.  (Too bad because I would have opened up a can!)  Time for sleep.

Finally we have a morning that starts AFTER 7 AM.  I wasn’t sure what to do with myself…oh, right.  I slept!  After breakfast we all loaded the bus with our guide that was a little difficult to understand and headed out to our last site.  Drum roll.  Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Petra!  Sweet.  This was one of the main things I was looking forward to seeing!  Indiana Jones was filmed here!  Transformers 2 was filmed here.  Fortunately I happened to have the theme song for Indiana Jones on my iPhone!  So needless to say I listened to it MANY times while we were there!  Petra is known as one of the 7 Wonders of the Modern World.  It is a city built by the Nabateans dates back to 300 BC.  That’s old.  It is cut and carved into the sandstone of the mountains around it!  Outstanding!  Aaron’s (Moses’ brother) grave is here on the top of one of the mountains.  This was insane to see!  The craftsmanship is incredible.  The water systems they built are amazing.  As you wander through this narrow canyon in the rocks you can see so much history!  Unfortunately our guide wanted to stop us every 20 steps for 10 minutes and tell us stuff and all we wanted to do is explore and take pictures!  After about 2 hours of stop and go walking we made it to the crown jewel of Petra.  The Treasury!  This is where Indiana Jones is being chased through the canyons and it opens up to the amazing Treasury.  Inside it is where he follows the directions Sean Connery has given him and discovers the Holy Grail.  I looked.  There was no Holy Grail.  Boo.  Transformers 2 was filmed here, too, but I won’t talk about that yet since it is brand new.  Don’t wanna give anything way!  But the city is incredible.  If I remember correctly I believe that the Treasury took 50 years to be carved out.  That is definitely some patience that I don’t have!  Finally after a few hours of history lessons and sales pitches (every single person that sells something in Petra should give our guide a tip because he didn’t leave any of them out) we got to spend the next few hours however we wanted.  So we all had lunch and then were off to the races.  We explored tombs, an ampitheater, trinket tables, children selling stuff, rode camels and horses and ultimately ended up back in front of the Treasury where we all took (more) family pictures before we headed out.  Simply amazing.

Well, our trip was coming to an end and it was time to leave Petra, hit up the hotel for $7 showers and drive to Amman to catch a flight.  On the way (the long way) we took a tour through all the big wig’s neighborhoods.  We drove past the US embassy (where you are ABSOLUTELY not allowed to take pictures) and the Jordanian president’s house.  They were nice, but we were tired and starving and just wanted to find some American food!  Finally we convinced our guide to take us somewhere not on his list of “expensive to us/free to him” places where all his buddies work and landed at the mall.  There were just a few people there.  Any by “a few” I mean the place was insane!  Apparently when the weather is really hot, the people take naps and stay out late.  Everyone.  So we fought the crowds and had the best Pizza Hut pizza I have ever had in my life!  I am pretty sure that I gained most of my 7 extra pounds just from that meal!  I wasn’t about to stop!

Then we headed to the airport to go through customs/security/just-another-place-to-check-your-bags-and-passport-as-many-times-as-we-can and finally board the plane to come home.  The itinerary for this journey was Amman, New York City, Atlanta, Oklahoma City and finally Orange County.  Well, this was a little more interesting.  The planes were not as entertainmently equipped as they were on our way to the Middle East, but our flight crew was waaaaay nicer.  Not sure those actually balanced out, but I don’t remember much other than being miserable for 12 hours.  We took Ambien (which I think is supposed to knock you out for like six hours) and I slept for 3 hours.  The rest was pretty rough.  New York was an airport.  Then Atlanta hit.  We landed in the ATL at 10:30 AM and were jerked around for eight hours until they finally cancelled our flight.  Apparently (which we found out later) our plane was hit by lightning on the way in and they couldn’t fix it to get us back up.  Glad they didn’t send us out in a crappy airplane, but still they could have told us and helped us out a bit.  So finally after two hours of arguing (this is the VERY short version because I could have written a whole day just on this crap) they finally paid for our hotels, two meals, Delta Dollar vouchers, and flights out the next day (which we basically had to do for ourselves).  Then our flight out the next morning was delayed another two hours!  All in all, Delta sucks.

Finally we made it back to Oklahoma City, but not in time to make it to my high school 10 year reunion.  (Sorry everyone.  Would have loved to see you all.)  We spent the rest of the day with KK’s family and then gave up our flights for more Delta Dollar vouchers and later flights and ended up getting to see the new babies from the Faught and Willard families.  Good stuff.  Insanely high baby fever for one of us.  Then finally Sunday night we landed in Orange County, CA, picked up our kid/dog, and got in bed!

The trip was absolutely amazing and I am so glad that we got to go!  Stay tuned for a post about a few of my personal highlights and favorite pictures from the trip, but for now enjoy pictures from today!

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