Home Again, Home Again, Jiggity Jig

We had to leave the excavation early.  It wasn’t our choice and we were never in any danger.  The various universities and their insurance carrier decided we had to leave,only University of Massachusetts, Amherst didn’t go with us, but they left the next day.  We were told in the evening that we would leave the next morning, by bus, for Amman, Jordan.  No one wanted to leave, and in fact, much of the staff remained.  I was leaving over the weekend anyway, so I went with the evacuees.  We were told that we would need $30 for an entrance visa to Jordan, but that the company evacuating us was going to try to take care of that.

Reema Pangarkar and Alex Ference at the Israeli-Jordanian border. image by Alex Ference.

So, we all packed and scrounged around for money and contemplated leaving the next morning.  After breakfast, we boarded a bus that was waiting for us.  There was a driver and someone from the evacuation company.  There were also others in SUVs traveling in front of us and behind us, while we drove from Akko to Beit She’an about an hour away.  It was ridiculous, we were not in any danger in the Galilee. 

We got to the border and had to go through passport control on the Israeli side, where we were charged $30 to leave the country and $6 for the bus ride across the border to Jordan.  On the Jordanian side we had to pay $60 for an entry visa.  In my mind, that is nearly $100 that we needed, not $30 and there were no ATMs.  The people who were supposedly evacuating us simply stood around and waited.  If everyone hadn’t pooled all their money, we would not have gotten through.

We finally got into the bus on the Jordanian side, complete with a car in front and back and began driving to Amman.  It isn’t that far,  something under 100 miles, but we didn’t arrive until 4:30 p.m.  The road went through lots of little towns all having market day.  Lots of fruits and veggies.  The random goat.  The worst part is that there seems to be a speed bump every 400 yards or so.  Yes, we were on a modern bus, but even it’s suspension couldn’t make the drive a comfortable one.  Hard to sleep and simply hard to sit.  We had no food on the bus, and as far as I know there was no water except what we each brought with us.

Finally, we arrived at the Amman Airport Hotel and things were looking up.  As we entered the modern lobby, we were handed large glasses of very cold apple juice. Nice.  We were each given single rooms — something most of the students would have willingly passed up, having shared rooms for the past 4 weeks.  That evening, we received our travel itineraries.  Some people were unlucky enough to have to leave for the airport for 2 a.m. or 4 a.m. flights.  I was lucky, my flight to Chicago left at 10:30 a.m. so we left the airport at 8 a.m. after a  buffet breakfast.

The evening before we had eaten at the buffet, which was for iftar, the breaking of the daily Ramadan fast.  There was a ton of food and it was good.  No alcohol, but what seemed like a mile of sweets and at least that much salad and main dishes.  A lovely outdoor feast with live music.

The flight to Chicago was 13 hours long, but the airline was pretty good. The food was edible and the connection to State College left plenty of time to get through customs, eat dinner and get to the gate.  I arrived home having left the hotel in Amman 23 hours before, exhausted from two days travel.  I can’t say it was fun, but it certainly was an experience.

Leave a Reply