I will proceed to tell the story with, as always, too many details. (Skip ahead to the pictures if details aren't your thing).
So about a week before I was supposed to leave, I got a nasty burn on my arm that came from a heat gun that I was using to melt crayons on canvas. It blistered and scarred quickly, so I wasn't too worried about it. In addition to the burn, I caught the flu and was more sick than I had been in a long time. I ended up going to urgent care the weekend before so that I could get my burn checked out because.. it became infected! I was glad I got sick a week before I left, though, instead of right before so that I would have enough time to get better for the trip. But.. as it turns out, I ended up not being quite all the way better the day before I was supposed to leave, and had had a clogged ear for a couple days before my departure date. Luckily my parents came to the rescue and poured onion juice in my ear for me the night before I was getting on the plane, and my ear cleared up that night! I still had a cold/cough, but it was starting to clear up. Finally the morning came of the day that I was to leave! I woke up and checked my phone to see the time and saw that I had a text message from an unknown number. I looked closer and saw that the preview of the message said "flight canceled." I opened the message in a panic, and indeed... the message was telling me that my flight from Paris to Amman had been canceled, and to book another flight. I immediately called Delta and explained the situation, to which the customer service agent replied "oh, I bet it is because of the Air France strike..." Well, I had no idea there was a strike going on! So I waited on hold on and off for a half hour, while he checked out other flights for me, and eventually told me I could fly out from SLC the next day to JFK and from JFK, switch to Royal Jordanian airline which would take me straight to Amman. With no other options available, I had him book the flight for me. So the trip pushed off for a day, I had a completely free day.. which, in theory, sounds great.. but it just felt strange. I was prepared to be leaving, and felt weird all day because I felt like I wasn't where I was planning on being, and had my bags packed for nothing. But.. the next day did come! And I had no text message telling me flights were canceled. As I was getting ready, I squirted face wash into my eye and thought.. "seriously!?" I did not go blind, though. It took a couple hours for my eye to feel normal, but no vision was lost. And I didn't even burn myself on the curling iron. So things were looking up. After everything was set, I met my Dad at his work, and he took me to the airport! There was NO line in security (hooray), so I was through to my terminal with about an hour and a half to spare. (I'd rather be five hours early for a flight than 2 minutes late). Everything went surprisingly well with the flights! I switched from Delta to Royal Jordanian without too much hassle at the JFK airport, and even had an empty seat next to me for the ten hour flight from New York City to Amman. Once I got off the plane, I found the point of entry so I could purchase my visa and get out of the airport. There were three or four lines for visas, with about 15 people in each line. I got in a line and proceeded to wait. Fifteen minutes later, a few people had cut in line and only a few had finished their passport check and visa purchase. I found out I needed cash to get the visa, so I had to go to the exchange desk and exchange some US dollars for Jordan dollars. Luckily, the people in line let me back in my spot instead of making me go to the back, so I was sure I'd be out of the line within no more than 20 minutes. A few more people cutting in line and about an HOUR later, it was finally my turn. I had my picture taken and passport returned and went straight for the baggage claim. I checked all of the carousels and saw no sign of my bag. I checked again. Still no sign of my bag. I was already past my point of control from staying up all night on the airplane so I could adjust to the time change, waiting in a super slow line - knowing my brother was waiting outside the airport to pick me up and having no way of contacting him, traveling for such a long time by myself and being in a foreign country for the first time. Not finding my bag just tipped it over the edge. I went into the Royal Jordanian customer service area and told them I couldn't find my bag. The lady helping me filled out a report and said they would deliver my bag the next night, to wherever I was staying. I had no idea of the address, so in my emotional state, I had to borrow their phone to call Devin and get his address and let him know that I was alive and would eventually make it out of the airport. I finally finished the baggage information with the airline, and then went to the exit where they were scanning everyone's bags. The man in security checking the bags on the conveyer belt said something to me in Arabic, and I just looked at him with a blank face, trying to figure out what he was saying to me. After repeating the same thing a couple times and still not getting what he was communicating to me, the man behind me luckily spoke English and said I was good and I didn't need to have my bags checked. (Later realized from a couple similar experiences that it was probably because I am white. How funny!) Finally, I was out of the airport! I looked around and saw a sea of people, but then easily spotted Devin and Claire who were waiting for me! It was so good to see familiar faces! Poor Devin and Claire were waiting for me outside of the airport for over an hour, though!
As soon as I got out of the airport, we were off! I immediately got a taste of the driving in Jordan as we drove to their house. Lots of lane drifters and cutter offers and crazy merging! I also saw a few camels, some sheep, some goats, some Bedouin tents, palm trees. It was pretty cool! We got to the house and the rest of the family came out to meet us and say hello! So good to be with family!! I was exhausted, so I only made it a couple hours before crashing and went to bed around 8 - same time as the kids. Unfortunately, I also woke up wide awake at 3am and couldn't fall back asleep. I got over the jet lag within a couple days though, thanks to Devin and Emily's advice to stay awake on the plane ride!
My first day there, three eight year olds from their ward were being baptized in the Jordan River! We ended up going to a part of the river that the Roman Catholic church had built out, which was super nice and also separate from tourists. It was so cool to be at the Jordan River for a baptism!
This was the sectioned off part of the river where they had the baptisms.
This was inside the pavilion type thing. It might be holy water? I'm really not sure.
Claire, waiting before the baptisms.
These pictures are of City Mall. They have H&M, GAP, PF Changs... All sorts of places that I had no idea would be in Jordan! They patterned their malls after American malls.
On the way to the Dead Sea!
There were so many stands like this on the way down to the Dead Sea, all of them selling floaties... Even though no flotation device is required to float in the Dead Sea!
I just liked these trucks.. So many of these everywhere, and they are usually packed with fruits, vegetables or livestock.
Some goats crossing the street as we got closer to the Dead Sea.
Arrived at the Dead Sea.
It was so beautiful! I think my favorite part about it was that there were no living things inside of the water. Just lots and lots of salt. The water felt super thick and tasted super gross. (A little splashed on my face). It was so fun to float in the water, though. I loved it!
On the way home from the Dead Sea, we hit a stop light behind this bus. The driver got out of the bus, climbed on to the roof, and threw down the luggage to a few people that had gotten off the bus. Somehow he managed to do all of this and get back in his seat before the light turned green. Granted, it was a pretty long light, but it was quite a show.
McDonald's in Arabic. I was also surprised to find out that Amman has a Papa John's and a Popeyes!
A view of the Amman skyline. Such great views like this everywhere because there are so many hills!
We went on a tour of the Olive Wood Factory. They make all kinds of things out of olive wood. The carvings in this picture are of Mary for the nativity scenes that they sell.
Everyone that worked there was so so nice.
This is a view just outside of Amman at the yard of a fruit stand. There were pomegranate trees, fig trees, grape vines and apple trees. Yummy.
This is the entrance to Jerash!
Inside the hippodrome.
Andrew and Peter gladiator fought inside the hippodrome, while Claire acted as commentator and the rest of us were spectators.
A view of the city at Jerash.
The amphitheater was so cool. When you stand exactly in the middle, everyone in the audience can hear you speak, without having to raise your voice at all. It's pretty awesome to stand there and hear your voice carried through the whole amphitheater without the use of a microphone. Those Romans knew what they were doing!
Right after going to Jerash, we drove a little bit further to Ajlun castle! This is the view of the city from the castle.
My first time inside of a castle! Pretty fun!
A few days later, we went to Petra! We stayed at the Petra Moon hotel Friday night and then walked like two minutes from the hotel to the entrance of Petra. This is just inside the entrance before we started walking in!
You literally turn a corner and then see this through the opening!
The treasury! I can't figure out how they did this back in the day. It's amazing.
Some of the caves at Petra are inhabited by the Bedouin. They sell things to tourists all day.
I loved seeing camels everywhere.
We hiked up to the monastery! It was hot and almost 800 steps to get up there, but it was worth it! It is incredible!
One of my favorite parts of Petra was riding a camel!! I was kind of nervous because they are so tall and I'm not so fond of heights. Once I was up, it was totally great, though! I want to do it again!
It was such a fun trip, and so fun spending it with family that I don't get to see very often. They were so so great and took me EVERYWHERE we went. I was sad to leave them!
The Air France strike ended only two days before my return flight, so I had no idea if my flight would be canceled or not. It ended up happening that the flight that was the night before mine was canceled but the night I left was still scheduled. I got pretty lucky! Since my Air France flight wasn't canceled this time, I flew from Amman to Paris. Unfortunately, my layover was only 5 hours.. not quite long enough to leave the airport, so Paris will have to be a trip for another time. Too bad since I was right there! I had a great flight from Paris to SLC, though. I watched four movies!
I always forget how beautiful Utah is until I leave and come back! As we were landing, I was so excited to see grass and trees and so many fluffy white clouds and the mountains!