May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your rivers flow without end, meandering through pastoral valleys tinkling with bells, past temples and castles and poets’ towers into a dark primeval forest where tigers belch and monkey’s howl, through miasmal and mysterious swamps and down into a desert of red rock, blue mesas, domes and pinnacles and grottos of endless stone, and down again into a deep vast ancient unknown chasm where bars of sunlight blaze on profiled cliffs, where deer walk across the white sand beaches where storms come and go as lightening clangs upon the high crags, where something strange and more beautiful and more full of wonder than your deepest dreams waits for you---beyond that next turning of the canyon walls. ---Edward Abbey (thanks Trudy Hall)

Monday, October 31, 2011

Jordan History and Scenery

October 24—We took the Royal Jordanian plane to Amman and were surprised to have to buy a visa.  Ryuji, the dance teacher at the King’s Academy, arranged for a 30 minute ride to the school and a lovely room in their guest house.   

From Our Guesthouse Porch
We were treated royally, had a lovely lunch with Tristan (Theater and Philosophy teacher) and his advisees, and actually got to see their assembly that featured General Tommy Frank and a surprise visitor.   

Though his speech seemed a bit disorganized, he was generous and humble in answering the students’ difficult questions.  It was fantastic to have been privy to that interaction.  The students seem happy, motivated and smart.  

 Ryuji gave us a tour and introduction to the school.  They are committed to helping their students get into US colleges, and honoring Jordanian culture and language while emphasizing what students from ALL around the world can bring.  It’s about 5 years old, growing from His Royal Highness’s experience at Deerfield School in Massachusetts.  I was thrilled to lead a warm up for his first dance class of 2 girls and 1 boy, then watched them perform what they did for parents’ days and work on a structure for choreography.  I re-tweaked my sprained ankle, but stopped before it got bad.  After a scrumptious dinner I was able to witness Ryugi and his students in a technique class.  It was great to get to know the school better through the interactions and passions of these classes.  Up late!
October 25—I loved going to Tristan’s class.  The students were working on scenes and I was offered the opportunity to give some advise about the physical aspects of their performance.   

The Promised Land

Later, Tristan took us into Madaba to see a large map in mosaic form on the floor of a church, and when we came back out, he was being interviewed for Spanish television about the relations between Arabian and US people, the ways of the culture in Jordan from his point of view, and how things could be better depending on the development of more tolerant and diverse views.  He was eloquent, passionate and wise.  I was impressed.  Then he took us to the mountain where Moses saw and was given the promised land.  There is a church here, and there is information that supports the Christian and Muslim religions, but nowhere was there any mention of the Jews.  I was confused until I understood how many Palestinians are in Jordan.  
I love this photo of a cobbler and son; there's so much in it!
I had another minor incident with a young boy who was sweet and silly, I smiled and laughed then as I turned away, he slapped me pretty hard on the arm.  Tristan gave him a little verbal warning.

Dancers at post concert discussion
Ryuji took us to a dance concert dress of an Italian man named Nicola.  The movement was sinewy and serpentine and was titled, “Protest.”  He and his dancing partner went from vibratory vocabulary through the successional/glide-y scale, into a salsa section and a little partnering.  There was a post showing discussion about the meaning of the title and how the body expresses itself in Arabic and English and back again.  Then we ate a traditional dish for dinner that you eat by scooping the food with bread.  Doing laundry in a machine was a highlight.

Ryuji, Tristan and Students

October 26, Les and I went to the prop study class.  They were in duets with an item that they were to develop ways to show this item as something that it wasn’t, without referring to it as the new “thing:” pot as helmet, whisk as umbrella, box as toilet, vines used for whip and prison bars, mic stand as guitar, tea pot lid as hockey puck.  It was a ninth grade class, and they responded well to Tristan and Ryuji’s insightful comments. 

Master Class with Nicola
 I taught a little introduction to contact improvisation before Nicola came to teach a nice master class, then we were whisked away to the finest restaurant in Jordan!  This restaurant was an old home of stone converted to a nice place with a grotto-like garden and male waiters bringing amazing treats to the table.  I loved the lemon-mint drink too. 

"Best Restaurant in Jordan"

Men who made coffee for us along the road
October 27—Les went to class while I packed.  Ryuji arranged a rental car. (OMG driving with signs in Arabic! Crazy driving!) But it wasn’t as bad as all that.  There was one tense time when a bunch of us slammed on the breaks on the sand/heat/wind-glazed road and the guy behind me fishtailed quite a bit.  Yeeee.

Tomato Truck.  FANCY!
Another really amazing image was passing this small pick up truck, and in the back was not a dog, but a CAMEL!  The animal looked like it had been poured into the bed, as it took up all the space, and the dude was casually looking about as it motored down the highway looking toward the back.  Hilarious and so charming! 

 We drove around Wadi Musa by Petra, settled and went on the “Petra by Night” tour.  It was so beautiful to walk the long road down down down to the spectacular treasury by luminaries.  Looking up through the small crack at the starry sky and wondering what features were in the rocks behind the darkness was as stimulating as the music at the treasury (an elaborate façade and building dug into a cliff) and the tea that they served us on long carpets on the sandy ground.  We walked back and bought some hummus and fresh pita that was falling hot and fresh, one by one, from the ceiling in front of the guy bagging the bread.  
Theater in Petra
Treasury carved out of a cliff
Tombs inside the door
October 28—Petra day.  We walked the same route as last night, but able to see more features in the rocks.  They built support for clay pipes that ran the length of the trail to bring water.  I tried to imagine the vegetation being lush at the time of all this activity, and people from all over the continent and from Africa trading and storing things here.   
Camel race!
The valley opened up and all around us were carvings for honoring those in the tombs inside.  They were at ground level and also very high up the mountain; some were ornate and others were holes with borders around.  We walked through those who wanted to sell us things, give us rides, and feed us to the amphitheater that was expanded (removing tombs) and restyled by the Romans when they came.  We climbed a hill and were able to see the city (ruined by earthquakes) in one eyeful.  
The largest part of Petra at a glance (See the video, it's better)
Putting back the puzzle pieces of the floor
There, there were men restoring a chapel mosaic floor.  It was intricate work, with the original artistry that had humor, detailed shading in technique, and a sense of what animals were here and what people did.  Beautiful and awesome.  
Ancient and new

Our campsite
Inside the tent
 Then, since we forgot to bring the phone, and we thought we had lost the phone numbers for the next leg of our trip, we went back to our hotel to look for the map where we had the numbers.  He even helped us look through the dumpster a bit before we found it in my bag!  UGH.  So we called Alena, who has a Deerfield connection (King’s Academy), and who has a business of taking clients into the Wadi Rum desert.   
Heating water for tea on the fire (inside)
Milad in the kitchen: good food
see the face of Prince Abdullah on the rock to the left?
We arrived before dark by jeep at a nice steep canyon where they had Bedouin-style tents where we would sleep (because it was too windy to sleep on the dune), drink tea and eat dinner from one large platter on the floor.  Alena held a wealth of information and immediately we felt a bond over wanting to understand the ways of other people.  She explained that the little boys who turned violent were in a way punishing themselves for talking to a woman.  They had overstepped the taboo of their culture by engaging me in a flirtatious encounter.  I should have remained aloof so that their fantasies about loose Western women weren’t reinforced.  She also shined a light historical and cultural aspects of the area as we stood in the sand looking up at falling stars and bright Jupiter rising.
Alena at breakfast

Look hard for petroglyph at top
October 29—We rose to the whoops of tourists passing by.  A little later camels passed on their way to their “office,” and then a nice breakfast before we jumped in the back of the jeep and softly swept through the desert to beautiful outlooks, bright petroglyphs of camels, goats, men with spears or crooks, caravans and faces, and the place where camels are for rent.

(There are small carvings of Prince Abdullah and Lawrence of Arabia at our campsite.)  My goal for the day was to feel a camel’s foot because of my curiosity when seeing them walk. 

A foot looks like a hoof, but maybe has toes and appears so soft on the bottom.  I got my wish, and finally one camel let me palpate his foot to discover knuckles and toenails (2) and bones on top of a sole that felt like a leather slipper bottom—smooth as can be.  

 One camel was enamored with Les and nibbled on his ear, flirted with air kisses and even grabbed his hat!  She was a beauty.  I thought Alena was fantastic with everything; she negotiated things we wanted to do, took opportunities to show us differences we may have overlooked, and shared stories of her own years with a boarding school. 
It would be great to get a group of climbers interested in (traditional climbing) first ascents.  It would be a magnificent climbing area.  Or, maybe she could gather stargazers together—especially for a meteor shower.
Bedouin home along the road

October 30—Back at the school, it took me forever to put together a movie for this blog, and somehow Les’s camera lost some pretty amazing photos including the camel in the truck and of his weird chance meeting with a student from St. Marks who now works here in admissions.  I’ve been working with contact improvisation with the trio class, which has been a beautiful sight.  I can see how they relax out of the outside eye, and into the sensation of the form.  They transform from fearful and tight to expansive and liquid.  They remind me of our students in how trusting and willing they are to learn something so foreign.  Sweet!
Things I want to remember:
·      The scent of the jasmine around the dining hall entrance reminding me to inhale.
·      The way the students trusted and relaxed into learning a foreign dance style.
·      The camel filling the back of the small pick-up truck riding on the highway.
·      The assembly at the school with high-powered politicians and world leaders.
·      The silence of the desert as we looked out over the expanse.
·      The smooth slide-y sensation of the jeep wheels on the soft sand with camel’s paddy prints.

His Majesty's picture is EVERYwhere

Now, we leave for Israel....
Fancy Dress!

1 comment:

  1. Thank you, thank you, thank you, Sue! I love following your blog. It is really interesting too to see the transformation of experiences as you enter different predominantly Muslim countries and be able to compare it with my experience here in Aceh. Also, I thought that Israel didn't allow people to enter with stamps from Jordan and other like countries? - Dianna