Thursday, December 31, 2009
Monday, December 28, 2009
J had told me about previous digs when the local workers (mostly younger guys) would practice their English on him, and about some of the things they would say. One particularly funny story involved their idea of how rich we all were. It seemed that many of their ideas about us were derived from what they saw on US television, which for the most part was not good! The popular 80s nighttime soap drama, Dallas, was popular over there, as was Knight Rider. One day this kid kept asking J if he had a kit car (spoken in a very heavy Arabic accent). "Do you drive a car?" Yes. "What kind of car is it? Is it a kit car?" A what? "A kit car." What's a kit car? "You know; a kit car!" No, I don't know what that is. " A kit car- you know- it talks to you." Oh! A KIT car! No, that's not real; it's just a t.v. show. We don't really have those in America. "No?" No. "I thought everyone drove one." Nope. "Oh." Of course, even to have this much conversation meant that this kid's English was very good! But most of the time what they were seeing of US television formed much less of an innocent picture of how Americans lived and how we acted! I would see this acted out later in camp. And, I would come to better understand their religion, but for now, I was being driven around Amman's city center, listening to a short lecture on Jordan's government and history. We made a brief stop at the site of the ancient Roman theater and then drove up to the Citadel before we made the hour and a half trip north to Abila.
Saturday, December 26, 2009
This would be my first meeting with the man who would eventually become a rather significant person in my life. Adnan Shaweesh met our group at the Queen Alia International Airport in Amman, Jordan at around 9:00 p.m. We had all waited together as he secured our group visa, and then motioned for us to move through immigration where he greeted us with a very warm Jordanian welcome. After we passed through the last check point, where we got our passports stamped, indicating where and when we had entered the country and with what type of visa, we finally were able to pick up our luggage and take it outside to be loaded onto the buses that were waiting to take us into Amman to the hotel where we would spend our first night. What a long journey it had been! We were all exhausted and more than ready to stretch out onto real beds, but instead we were all expected to make an appearance in the dining room of the hotel where dinner had been prepared for their esteemed American guests. I don't think anyone felt much like eating, but upon seeing the smiling, welcoming faces of an impressive wait staff offering us their best hospitality, we had to at least go through the motions. Honestly, that first dinner made almost no impression on me, as I was like the walking dead. I had been up literally 24 hours, at least, with almost no sleep, and while I feel certain that I got a plate full of food, I could not give anyone even the slightest description of what I actually ate! Finally, after thanking everyone profusely over and over, we made our way up to our room where we found our luggage waiting. I remember basically getting undressed and falling into bed. There were two, so I took one and J took the other. All we wanted to do was stretch out as much as we could. No touching! It was probably close to midnight by that point, and I had no trouble falling right to sleep. I was in an unbelievably deep sleep when around 4:00 a.m. a sound so loud, like a siren going off straight into our room, woke me up. I jumped out of bed, scared to death at what it might be, and with my heart almost beating out of my chest and my voice shaking, I called out to J, "WHAT WAS THAT?!" J just rolled over and very calmly said, "Oh, I forgot to tell you. There's a mosque right across the street from our hotel and that was a call to prayer." OH! You forgot to tell me! Our bedroom window was open to the night air, as was usual for summertime in Jordan since so many hotels don't have air conditioning (except for the expensive, fancy American ones). The loud speaker on the minaret from which the muezzin's recorded call was being "broadcast" was pointed directly at our room, no kidding! Lasting about 15 minutes, the melodic, yet very loud, Arabic prayer finally ended and I fell back into my deep sleep, only to be awakened again at 6:00 a.m. for breakfast and to get ready to hit the road to Abila. J thought it made a funny breakfast story, telling everyone that I had been so scared by the call to prayer earlier that morning, and that he had forgotten to say anything to me about it. To me, it was my initiation into a strange new world.
Friday, December 25, 2009
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Monday, December 21, 2009
Monday, December 14, 2009
Anyway, you can't talk about a dig without talking about money, and like I said, J and I didn't have much to spare. There were certain items that had to be taken along, as Dr. Mare was a miser, and unlike directors of other digs, he would not shell out money for all the supplies the area supervisors might need. J had been supervising Area A for several seasons, and so knew pretty well what he would need and never be able to get from Dr. Mare or in Jordan. So off to Lowe's and Wal Mart we went to check off the essential items on our list. When I think back on how different traveling was before 9/11 it completely amazes me. But then I think about all those trunks the archaeologists from Mallowan's day had to transport overseas by ship and then by camel or donkey to the site. Like I said, it's a major production. One thing that I can definitely brag about is how absolutely little I can get by on in terms of clothes when I travel now! I have it down to an art, causing gasps of wonderment and awe from anyone who witnesses me carrying only my one tiny carry-on bag and purse, even when I'm going to be gone for weeks or even months of traveling! However and unfortunately, on this trip each of us would be carrying two huge suitcases, as well as several carry-on bags, camera bags, food, and pillows. Either J or me or each of us were carrying in our bags the following: one pick and trowel each, one spade each, brushes, plumb bobs, approximately 50 heavy spikes, several rolls of duct tape, colored tape, a knife, clothes line and pins, laundry detergent, several sets of old sheets, sun screen, two folding camp chair, fans, books, notebooks, pens and pencils, rulers, tape measures, a boom box and lots of cassette tapes, handkerchiefs, tissues, hats, several jars of Jiffy peanut butter (there is no such thing in Jordan), bags of hard candy and tootsie rolls (you really start to crave sweets), bags of life savors, beef jerky, all types of cereal bars and nuts, powered drink mixes (to add to our water), several boxes of plastic storage bags (both gallon and sandwich size), rolls of toilet paper, several large bath towels, rolls of string, several flashlights, loads of batteries of all sizes, at least one hundred rolls of film (of course now it's digital photography, and the biggest concern is having enough memory), first aide supplies, medicine for colds, allergies, headaches, upset stomachs, and diarrhea (about 20 boxes of Imodium D), and finally, our passports, our money, and our sunglasses. Oh yeah, clothes! Yikes! I almost forgot, and believe me, J stuffed that in last around everything else, thinking that most clothes items were not essential! His philosophy was to pack everything you thought you needed, then take half of that out, and then take half of that out yet again! He kept reminding me, as well as everybody else going on the trip, that we were not packing for a beauty pageant. So we took something like two pairs of pants each, 4-5 short sleeved t-shirts each (with no indentifiable writing on them), one long sleeved buttoned down shirt each, one skirt for me, a pair of shorts for him, a bathing suit (for me) and trunks (for him), enough underwear and thick socks for maybe eight days, a pair of sandals each (I also threw in a pair of flip-flops), tennis shoes, and heavy soled boots (which we wore on the plane so as to not take up space in our bags)! We also took enough shaving cream, razors, and toothpaste to last for 2 months, while I also had to take enough feminine products to last for two months (eee gads!), and make-up and hair products (although why, I'll never know). You should have seen all 50 of us when we gathered at the international airport terminal in New York! Real archaeologists always laugh at the Indiana Jones character who only travels with his bullwhip, his revolver, and his fedora. They wish! Ha!
Sunday, December 13, 2009
Being the literary person that I am, to offset my fears about basically being on survival mode for eight weeks, I read up on the life of Agatha Christie. Already a very famous mystery writer, she met her future husband, Max Mallowan, while she was traveling in Turkey, where he was digging at Ur, a site thought to be the capital of Mesopotamian civilization. He worked there from 1925 to 1931; they were married in 1930. It was then that her books started taking on Egyptian and Middle Eastern themes, as he later dug in Aswan, Egypt, among other places. I particularly loved the pictures I had seen of her sitting under an umbrella in a comfy camp chair out of the fullness of the desert sun, all dressed up in a long white Victorian dress, writing witty thoughts in her journal (this part I am conjuring). Interestingly, rumor has it that she would order everyone around to get her this and get her that. She was already so famous that everybody was intimidated by her, and so jumped at her every request! Also, keep in mind that archaeology was done very differently back in the late 1800s and early 20th Century. Then, it was much more of a treasure hunt, and the European archaeologists oversaw the digging, which was done by the local men (not themselves, of course, as they didn't want to get dirty unless something spectacular was discovered, for which they would then take all the credit!), and so with all the mystery and adventure that had surrounded the archaeologists of those early days, combined with the Indiana Jones of the movies, who wouldn't prefer the myth to the reality? Of course, I too, prefer myth, and so I easily pictured my own husband beckoning me to come look at what amazing find he had uncovered, and then me scurrying over to gaze in wonderment, agreeing with him that this would, indeed, secure for him a better, more prestigious university position! (Whoah! Cut! I must have been making a Victorian movie in my head. Reality check, please!) Back to Max, he was a Professor of West Asiatic Archaeology and the Director of the British School of Archaeology in Iraq for a couple of decades, and while they were happily married for the first several years, she unfortunately had to endure Max's many affairs (which didn't keep him from being knighted), most notably his affair with Barbara Parker, whom he married (get this!) only a year after Agatha died (in 1976). He died a year later, so he only got Babs for a short little while (I'm happy to say!). I was paying more attention to what Agatha Christie had said about liking to be married to an archaeologist, saying, that the older things got the more he liked them! Ha! (He was also 14 years younger than her, and, again, she was probably desperately hoping this would indeed be true!) I wondered if maybe she traveled with him, not so much as fodder for her imagination, but more to keep her eye on him! I already knew that my own J had fallen for a girl or two while away for summers at Abila, as only a year before a letter had been sent to my house (by mistake?) pleading for J to understand that she was already engaged to another guy! (This had caused another blow up between us, but still I married him amyway. And my J never promised faithfulness, only loyalty.) Ultimately, though, I had to prepare for the reality of things, not the way I dreamed them up, but the way they would be. And so I prepared my packing list for the items we would need to take with us for our eight week stay in Jordan. This was the late 20th Century, after all, and archaeology had changed.
Friday, December 11, 2009
Well, like I mentioned earlier, money would be our biggest obstacle, not for him so much, but for me, and so we would have to wheel and deal with ol' Dr. Mare, who was a notorious miser. J felt like he owed him his entire academic career up to that point, but still we had to ask if he would pleeease waive my dig fee, and maybe pay some of my airfare too, pleeease! J was not only a little afraid of Dr. Mare (who was around 70 years old), but there was this whole gang of really old guys (crotchety "gerriatric" academics) at this dig that had been controlling Dr. Mare's perception of how things should be run at Abila, and J was extremely intimidated by them (he had loads of horror stories about them as well), and had me scared to death too. J had also drilled it into my head that life on this dig would be no picnic, providing me with every minute detail of the conditions under which we would eat, drink, sleep, shower, pee, poop, and yes, dig! He didn't want me saying that he hadn't warned me. And so, thus, we would use the term "honeymoon" very loosely.
Thursday, December 3, 2009
Monday, November 30, 2009
Friday, November 27, 2009
Ultimately, to make a long story short, reading more Lewis (his autobiography Surprised by Joy, as well as his apologetics works) brought me eventually to the place where I could accept Jesus as God who came to earth in the body to make the ultimate sacrifice of dying in order to save me from having to keep trying to do it for myself! I knew I needed saving from Karma, at least; I knew that I didn’t want good and evil to exist together into eternity, and that something ultimately had to work to keep them separated so that Heaven, or Paradise, could actually be experienced; I knew that every human being had the potential to be or do “evil,” and that coming back to earth over and over might increase the odds of that happening, not decrease them. And so in one moment I acknowledged my need and Christ’s gift, feeling in that moment of accepting this “grace” a huge relief and thankfulness! No other religious system described a god who so loved what he had created that he died for them so that in accepting him they were free; Instead, they had more or less offered up a formula for how you might do it yourself. And good luck! (But you can have all the time in the world that you need.) On the human plane, laying down your life for someone had always been perceived as being the ultimate act of love, so why wouldn’t it be true on the Divine level? Well, I held that Grace in my heart for all about 5 seconds before my true nature took back hold of me and I thought, Oh shit! You’ve got to be kidding!
Monday, November 23, 2009
These are some of the discussions that J and I would have, which would ultimately lead to my asking him what he thought the answers might be. When Tolkien came up, and how much I loved that story of good versus evil, and how little self-control was exhibited when the chance to wield great powers were at stake, and how the worst of everyone started to come out so that ultimately sides had to be taken; and how only an act of sacrificial love would save Middle Earth (like almost all heroes journey stories, where the hero must go into the underworld, face himself or some form of evil, and either be defeated by it or return triumphant to save the day) I thought, yes, I'd like to read another author who wrote like Tolkien, even if only slightly. I was still hoping someone would point me in the direction of a real hero, or at least something I could believe in.
Sunday, November 22, 2009
Friday, November 20, 2009
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Sunday, November 15, 2009
Friday, November 13, 2009
Now, since this story is not about my parents' divorce and how screwed up I became, I'm going to make a long emotional story very short: I swore I would never get married. Okay, I did get married a year after graduating from high school, but that's only because I still didn't know what I wanted to do with my life. I was not at all in love with the guy. He wanted to marry me, I had become temporarily homeless, plus I was only 19 (and a little screwed up). That marriage lasted one year. It was after that that I swore off ever getting married again! And I stood my ground until I was 34. (Though I had a baby sans marriage when I was 23; but again, another thing this story is not about.)
So I became a single mom for eleven years. But here's the thing: I got motivated! I figured out what I wanted to be, and where I wanted my life to go, at least for the most part. I started school and then kept going. I began reading, not sappy love stories where the women got married and lived happily ever after, keeping house and doing who knows what else; I read the kind of literature that opened my eyes to a past that I had not up to then learned anything about, and to an understanding of the human condition of peoples back in time and around the globe that I might not ever be able to fully appreciate. At the same time I was also studying literary criticism, and while it also definitely expanded and challenged my thinking, I knew that I never wanted to be a critic, nor could I ever be a true academic. But I did want a bigger life! I still wanted adventure and travel, but I also wanted the chance to really experience other cultures and people. I didn't want to "sit out" life. I wanted to dance! And this is when my heart began to open up enough to let a certain young(ish) graduate student working on his PhD in ancient history take hold of my imagination so that I might eventually once again consider marriage.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
Though I am not an archaeologist by profession or otherwise, I have learned an awful lot about it in the years since I married my husband in 1993. Since the early 1980s he has been part of two excavations, one in northern Jordan close to the Syrian border, and one in central Jordan in the Kerak plateau. I have been fortunate to have traveled with him over much of the Middle East, throughout Turkey and Greece, and most of Western Europe. While this is not his story, nor is it in the least academic in nature, it's mine, and I've come to see it as being valid in its own right, especially in terms of my personal observations and experiences. And like so many of the wives (or male spouses) of near eastern archaeologists, we each have our own stories to tell: of life behind-the-scenes in the dig camps, and about the variety of work done in the field, including how it is to work alongside both the natives and the other foreigners; about selling archaeology to starry-eyed college students who want and expect to have more of an "Indiana Jones" experience; about some of the gossip we've all heard about various well-known, as well as lesser-known archaeologists; about sharing slides and introducing Biblical archaeology into the local churches; about what it's like taking students on Bible Land tours to the Middle East before 9/11, and to Greece and Turkey after 9/11, plus all of the other related traveling we've done abroad, and of the vastness of the cross-cultural experiences; and finally, how it all had to work at home.
This is my story. I hope in telling it I dig up some yet uncovered part of myself.