Thursday, December 31, 2009

Camp Accommodations

     Not all dig sites and accommodations are created equal, and the Abila dig falls pretty far down on the scale of plushness. When we finally arrived at the location where we would be staying, I knew that the only thing that would get me through this would be J himself and my own determination to survive. After driving through the last vestige of civilization, the city of Irbid, we drove about another 8 miles north/northeast along a lone road to the village (actually, I'd call this something way smaller than a village) of Quawayibah before pulling into a large paved area in front of a school where half of our team would be living. (The dig group picture posted earlier was taken out in front of this school.) It had already been decided by the director that all the single men would be staying here, while further up the road about another 3/4 of a mile another school would house the women and married couples. In Jordan (as in many Muslim countries) boys and girls are separated by gender after primary school, thus the requirement for two post primary schools to serve the local area where we were staying. J and I would be housed in this 2nd school, away from where the main camp activity would be, which would be things like first morning breakfast, dinner, pottery cleaning and reading, lectures, and any basic general socializing (between the guys and girls, or just between anyone who could still manage to get along as the days and weeks slowly went by). This was also where all the sterilized water, food, and general supplies would be kept.
     As it was already past noon, the buses had to be unloaded, and the two camps set up. Our "beds" for these eight weeks would consist of 3-inch foam mattresses, and so J, who had learned that he must always look out for himself, and who would now include me in his care, secured two for each of us. Sheets and pillows, remember, everyone had to bring for themselves from home. J also secured for us a room on the ground floor (both schools were two stories), for two reasons: one, because it would be cooler; and two, he preferred being able to make a quick run for it in case of a bathroom emergency. Each room had individual entrances from the yard on one side and windows on the other, which would help in the way of any cross breezes that might blow through. The floors were concrete (thus the necessity for 2 mattesses, one stacked on the other, which a few people would be upset about later when they discovered what we had done). Each room also had a couple of desks in them, which gave us something to put our stuff on that needed keeping up off the floor, like our snacks. J had also previously warned me about all the critters that we might find in our shoes in the mornings (namely, scorpions), or that might scurry across our faces at night, so we kept as many items in sealed plastic baggies as possible. However, as for ourselves, well, unless we wanted to keep the covers pulled up over our heads all night, we had to be game for whatever! Anyway, while we wouldn't have any place to hang up our shirts and pants, J did string nylon clothesline across the room so that we could hang up our wet laundry. After we arranged our room by setting up our beds, our chairs, the clothesline, the boom box on the ledge of the chalkboard, and then laying out all our food stuffs, we were soon ready for several lectures about all the particular do's and don'ts and how to's concerning the dig and camp life (as well as the cultural nuances we needed to be aware of), including explanations on how to wash our laundry, as well as how to properly use the toilets, flush them, and dispose of the toilet paper (which we also brought ourselves).
     Actually, how to use the toilet would require a short demonstration, which my husband got elected to do. Picture a very large man squatting down, balancing himself  as if he were on skis, explaining how one might best keep one's pants, and anything else that might get in the way, dry! A little comic relief is always good when faced with a potential nightmare! Finally, it was explained to us that two of the toilets (there were only 4) would be converted into showers, which we would also be shown how to use. And just when I thought things couldn't get any worse, we were handed out the daily toilet cleaning assignment schedule, from which no one would be exempt! This I drew the line at, begging J to please do mine for me! I just didn't think I could stomach cleaning up other people's diarrhea! And, like a gentleman, he agreed to do me this huge favor, and so had two cleaning days every week instead of one. Poor J; I really did feel bad for him, and I felt bad for all the other girls who didn't have anyone to save them from this horrific ordeal. That is until some of them started not doing their job, and/or otherwise pissing everybody off for one reason or another. But as far as J went, I promised I would try to find something that I could do in return for him!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Understanding Islam

     It struck me that while I had spent many years during my adult life, thus far, reading and trying to understand different world religions, I had left out Islam. I had read quite a bit about Christianity and Judaism (and Buddhism and Hinduism and Native American animism, as well as a whole host of other earlier religions), but for some reason had stayed away from reading anything about another one of the world's largest and fastest growing religions. And I started wondering why that was. In truth, I hadn't even given Islam much thought. In preparation for this trip I had read up on a few things about visiting a Muslim country, but more in order to understand our cultural differences. However, it would become much more clear to me as I spent time in Jordan that while we, in the US, tried to keep religion and matters of state separate, here it was not the case. Here, religion defined the culture, from public prayer, to food and diet practices, to how women dressed, and how and why it was that men and women were kept basically separate from each other (and so it would be that on this trip I wouldn't actually meet or speak with even one woman), to rules about touching and speaking to someone of the opposite sex; plus it even affected how the very conservative people from the local villages viewed the majority of Americans!
     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

Arriving in Jordan

     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

Love, Food, and the Flight Over

     I had been from the start physically attracted to J, that is, once I got over resisting how large he was, both vertically and horizontally. Sometimes I would be reminded of this more than at other times, and certainly flying made it very evident. Coach seats on airplanes are unbelievably tight, both in regards to the amount of butt and thigh room there is, but also in the amount leg space between the seats and the amount of room between your meal tray, once you let it down, and your waist! I was already feeling irritatingly cramped, yet we still had another seven hours of flight time left before we would land in Jordan. Never mind that J was completely miserable!
     J had a very healthy appetite for all sorts of activities, and eating was definitely one of them! I think that might have also played a big part in how I won him over. If "the way to a man's heart is through his stomach," then that could be how I clenched getting his (both stomach and heart)! While eating did eventually win out in our marriage over any other activity (read into this sex), from the beginning I was enamored by him enough to turn myself into a combination Julia Child and Betty Crocker. My mother had made cetain that I knew how to replicate everything she knew how to cook, teaching me the art of baking, but mostly frying, a variety of different cuts of beef and chicken, demonstrating how to overcook vegetables, whip up some creamy, buttery mashed potatoes, and make delicious casseroles and baked beans, how to cut, chop, and mix together a mean garden salad, and even how to concoct a variety of beverages (namely, sweet tea!). She also instructed me on how to bake loaves of yeast bread and pans of corn bread, and how to bake a whole array of cakes and cookies and other desserts from scratch! All this I knew fairly well by the age of fifteen when she divorced Dad, leaving me to be the cook for him, my brother, and myself. By then I already owned several heavily soiled cookbooks that I had either inherited from Mom or that my grandmother had given me. I loved to cook, especially when I had someone to cook for who loved to eat!  And so I cooked large, and I cooked fat! Both before and after we were married I would make J huge breakfasts, to be followed up only a few hours later with lunch, which would often be fast food, followed sometime during the evening with an enormous dinner. On top of that, most every night around midnight he would get a craving for something sweet, and I'd oblige him with whatever I could make quickly, often throwing together something like rice crispy treats or brownies or chocolate chip cookies. And so, surprise of all surprises, this did nothing to help him control his weight or me mine. Never mind that we both had hit the age of 30 something when one does not burn off fat like one used to! And now here we were trying to sit comfortably in these stupid airplane seats! Arrrgh!

     I was already glad that we had come prepared to supplement the dig food with our own snacks from America, but I was wondering how closely the food on the plane would resemble what we would have to eat once we were landed in Jordan, and it wouldn't be too much longer before I would find out. Finally, after lunch and another movie, we began our flight over Jordan. Jordan is actually about the size of Indiana, and we would shortly be flying into its capital city of Amman. As I excitedly looked out the window (peering over my seat mate), my heart almost stopped beating. All I could see literally was desert! Brown, sandy, rocky, wind blown desert. I strained to see in every direction even one tree or bush. Nothing! People on the plane started cheering even before we began our descent, happy to be back over their beloved homeland. Me, I started crying! I couldn't help myself; the tears just came, and they wouldn't stop. All I could think about was that I had signed up for eight weeks of this! I get mad if somebody cuts down a tree in the US. Probably because I know what could happen: this! What I was viewing now through the window truly scared me. Suddenly all the stories I'd read in the Bible of people roaming in the desert came flooding (oh, and there was no water in sight either) into my mind. I did not want to roam the desert. I did not want to go on an archaeological dig in the Middle East. Somebody, please, save me! My husband took one look at my face and knew instantly that he was in for one long summer.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Flying on Royal Jordanian Airlines

     This was the first time I had ever flown, and this flight would be about 16 hours long, with a stop in Amsterdam for refueling, where we would stay on board for the remainder of the flight to Jordan. J and I had barely gotten any sleep the night before, and had left for the airport early in the morning, as we had to make connections from Cincinnati to New York. And, since it was an international flight, we had to be there several hours early. This was the case for most everyone, and so by the time we boarded, we were all totally beat. I was still feeling the excitement of it all, even though I was nearly ready to collapse exhausted into my seat. J liked to board as quickly as possible. He had anxieties about not being able to get enough overhead room right above our seats for our carry-on luggage, and thus having to store it further away from where we were sitting, causing a huge inconvenience for the entire flight if we needed anything from our bags. Which, of course, we would! I was clueless, and so let him take the lead on all matters concerning this trip. The airplane had rows of 3 seats lined down both sides, with 8 seats in the center section. My husband was a rather large man, standing 6'3'' and weighing around 280, and so seating for such a long flight was then (and always has been) an important arrangement to him. However, there was always lots of vying for seating arrangements, as family members all wanted to sit together, or be as close as possible to one another. J's biggest concern was that he have as much leg room as possible, but on Royal Jordanian, the bulk heads were always reserved (as is the case on most international flights) for women with small children. And believe me, this flight was packed with women and children (a situation I found extremely unnerving)! Interestingly, the Jordanian government allowed children to fly free in order to insure that children could regularly fly back and forth to the States to see family members, thus keeping family and country ties both strong. This meant that almost any flight on Royal Jordanian during the summer would be filled to capacity with mostly women and children. To us, it was less expensive than other airlines, which kept the costs of tickets lower, and since Dr. Mare was paying for some of the supervisors' tickets, this is the airline he wanted to use.
     J and I found our seats, stuffed our luggage above our heads :) and settled in. We had 2 seats along the side of the plane; I had the center seat and he took the aisle. Some other poor soul had the window seat. Loud Jordanian music played as all the passengers boarded, rearranged all their seating to be more to their liking, made requests from the stewardesses for things they needed, hushed their children (or not), and then finally fastened themselves in for taxiing down the runway. This (and I swear it's true) took almost 2 hours! J assured me that this was not in the least bit extraordinary. I was so tired I stopped caring about how much longer I had calculated we'd be on the plane at this rate. I did, however, still feel like crying. Fortunately (I say this sarcastically) by around 11:00 we were in the air, and I was saying good-bye to New York City and to the U.S.  For all intents and purposes I was already in Jordan. Dinner was served about an hour later, with a choice of either chicken or beef. (This is standard fare for the Middle East). On the screen every so often, besides showing us how far we'd traveled, where we were, and how far we had yet to go (and this gets very boring after awhile, though I was fascinated at first), the location of Mecca would appear. This was so that during the flight the Muslims would know which direction to face as they knelt on the floor and prayed. This happened several times on this flight (like I said, it was a very long flight!). I was somewhat clueless as to what was happening exactly, as there was so much constant activity going on around me, and I was so tired. All I wanted to do was get some shut-eye. I was squished in next to my husband and some Muslim man that I kept trying not to touch, and so getting comfortable was not at all easy! By this time I was feeling very grouchy, sitting up trying to sleep on what was the longest night I'd spent in forever. And then darn it, if it wasn't only but about 2 hours before the sun started to shine in the morning sky over the Atlantic Ocean (remember, we were flying east)! Though everyone tried to keep their window shades down, it was hopeless trying to ignore all those bright rays seeping through the cracks. And yes, using those airline blindfolds over your eyes does work, but I couldn't sleep anyway. Besides, people were beginning to stir, breakfast would be served shortly, and every passenger would ultimately have to use the bathroom!  I tried really hard not to ever have to go to the bathroom (I was younger then), but had to at least once during the night. This meant a long walk past a sea of strangers, waiting in line with women who mostly didn't speak any English (or who didn't feel the need to with me), until it was my turn. I can only say that my first experience in an airplane bathroom was shocking to say the least. By the time I got around to going, they were all in a mess! After I shut myself in, I surveyed the situation, making absolutely certain that I had actually locked the door, fearful that somebody might walk in on me, or that we'd hit an air pocket (either one), catching me with my pants down. Only wearing socks, my feet got soaked, as water and toilet paper both drenched the floors. Hoping that there would be enough paper left, and that it wouldn't get sucked down the toilet, I carefully placed some over the footprints that I faintly saw outlined on the seats! Then I peed and got out of there as quickly as possible! J suggested to me later that the custom of sitting down on a toilet seat was possibly altogether too foreign of an idea to many of the passengers who might have preferred squatting over it. (I would learn more about this later.) I really didn't want to make a second trip to the bathroom, but geez, on such a long flight you have too. So I excused myself again, this time taking with me my toiletry bag so that I could freshen up after my night's "sleep." I washed my face, put fresh make-up on, sprayed my body with some powdery feminine smelling aerosol, changed my underwear (I did all this while trying not to touch a thing!), fixed my hair, brushed my teeth, and exited like a pro. I was only smiling on the outside as I returned to my seat. After breakfast and one movie, we would land in Amsterdam. Half way there, and I would not be allowed off this plane.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Baggage and Marriage

     Baggage and marriage. When you wait until you're 34 to get married, you can bet you'll have plenty of baggage! And certainly both of us did. I was a fairly new Christian trying to quickly learn how to fit into my new life, like any other new bride. I was also a bit of a feminist, trying to fit myself back into a strict and narrowly defined patriarchal social structure. His baggage would run deeper than anyone's I had ever met, but I would discover that little by little as time went on.  I was only just beginning to feel the weight of what I had done, more than I consciously thought about it, though at that point. Still, I was excited that I had been able to so fully embrace this religion that I had most of my life feared and hated, and that I had been able to fall in love with a man who would keep me safe and secure within its social structure, patriarchal as it was. I was too busy being thankful to notice how from earlier back in September until early June severe damage had already begun.  Plus, I was headed off on an adventure; one I had been hoping for, it seemed, for most of my life. Granted, I had not been pining away for a trip to the Middle East, but we were planning on making a stop in Europe on our return trip, and so I had that to look forward to. This first part of the journey (and the longest part of it) would be for J. I would more fully enter his world in hopes that I might be able to share in what he so loved, and in hopes that he would love me more for sharing in it with him. We boarded the plane around 9:00 p.m., as overseas flights often leave later, and from the moment I stepped onto that plane (we were flying Royal Jordanian Airlines), I left behind me everything that I had known up to that point. I had wanted a life of adventure, a life that would change how I saw the world, a life that would open me to ways of loving what I didn't understand. What I was about to learn were lessons from the desert, lessons about laying down your own will, and about loneliness. And just like with archaeology, a discipline that requires that one not search to find, but requires instead that one wait and let the dirt reveal what lies underneath it, so my life would be for the next sixteen years.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Our Packing List

     My passport arrived in the mail by the beginning of February '94. The director needed everyone's passport numbers as early as possible, as he needed to secure visas from Jordan for the whole group. He taught at a seminary in St. Louis, and would be bringing the bulk of the students. There would be a core staff of about ten, traveling from various locations in the US, each bringing with them students from their own universities and colleges. These would include all of the area supervisors, the photographer, surveyor, bone specialist, ceramics specialist, and any other specialist. There would also be various other people, like I said earlier, who would be coming along too for some reason or another, so that there would be around 50 Americans, as well as the Jordanian workers who would be required by the Department of Antiquities to be hired by each dig. Of course, among those would include at least two cooks, two bus drivers, and two Jordanian workers for every "foreigner" on the dig. Most digs are very big productions, requiring quite a bit of money to operate, and so one job of the director is to raise money for each season. Most digs go every other summer, and Abila goes on even years. A lot of the money comes from churches, some from universities and seminaries who join a consortium membership which allows one or two students of their own to go, other money comes from corporate donors, like say, National Geographic (although I don't think Abila had any corporate donors), and still other money comes from rich private donors who are generally interested in archaeology, Biblical or otherwise.  In all, one dig for one summer may cost up to about 1/2 million dollars. Some bigger digs cost more. This is one reason why there is also a dig fee required of anyone wanting to be on one. This money must be paid up front and in full many months before the actual departure date. Also, to ensure that no one will back out, it is non-refundable.
     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

Agatha Christie

     The dig would last eight weeks, plus we wanted to take some time on the return trip home to break our flight and tour around Western Germany and Austria for another week or two. My girlfriend, Cindy, agreed to keep Christie during the time we would be gone, as she had a son Christie's age around whom Christie had spent most of her life up to that point. (She and Shaunn were both 12, and while I do vaguely remember life becoming very awkward for boys and girls at that age, I expected that they would just play together as they always had. Unfortunately, she says that they hardly even spoke! Sorry, Christie! :)) So, that would take care of one problem. Still, the money would be tight, but Dr. Mare had agreed to waive my dig fee. (I can't remember about the air fare.) We would just need to live frugally.
     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

Volunteers and Dig Fees

     J had been telling me many stories over the years we dated about his travels in the Middle East, and especially about the archaeological dig he had been participating in over the past ten years. Since his first trip in 1984, he had been "promoted" to assistant director at the Abila dig (most likely because he had been one of only a handful of guys who had kept returning year after year, and did the director's bidding), and so because of that the director of the dig, Dr. Harold Mare, paid J's airfare plus waived his dig fee. Dig fees could be anywhere from $1000 to $2000, and went to support the dig (which would be typical on any dig in the Middle East). Supposedly the money went towards your food and camp lodging, but that was always questionable at Abila, as life there had been reduced to its lowest terms. (In order to place it geographically, Tell Abil is located in the northern most tip of Jordan, about three miles from the Yarmuk River valley, a very deep gorge which forms the modern border between Jordan and Syria. Abila is mentioned in the New Testament as being one of the ten cities of the Decapolis, but is known in modern times for its spring, which is called Quweilbah.) Archaeological digs rely very heavily on volunteers who are interested in participating for a variety of reasons. Most are seminary students, or students of biblical studies, anthropology, geography, ancient history, art history, or really, just about any discipline that might touch on the history, culture, politics, language, geography, or geology of the Middle East. However, not just students want to dig. Old priests (we had one, Father Leo, from WV who was about 90!), gay priests (I say this because I swear another particular Father on this dig was gay--he always brought some young, hot gay guy(s) with him every season!), your average religious lay person, and even non-religious very rich older women who have a lot of extra money to throw away and who want some adventure and/or meaning in their lives all want the experience of digging in the Middle East (you guessed it-we had one of these too, as does probably every dig). Okay, so just about anyone, really, who has the time and the money and is not afraid of flying can find their way to a dig  Me? I just wanted to go in order to be with my new husband of eight months. I had no particular interest in the Middle East, or in any desert region for that matter! Nor did I have any particular interest (as of yet) in Jordan as being part of the Holy lands. Well, I was sort of interested in Petra, as I always thought, until I learned better, that I might have to escape and hide there during the end times (and believe me, that's a whole other story! I was raised in this wacky occult religion run by Herbert W. Armstrong. Please. Don't get me started on that!). Okay, where was I going with all this? Oh yeah, I mostly just wanted to go to anywhere in Europe, but now that I think about it, how adventurous would that have been? J thought it was hilarious that he, a regular Protestant guy, would be the one to take me to Petra for the first time, and we would just walk in and walk out, and the world would still be going on as usual!
     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

Rocky Start to Marriage

     My marriage got off to a bit of a rocky start. The more J kept saying, "I can't believe I have a wife and a daughter" (he always insisted that he was joking when he said this, though it never felt that way to me), the more I felt like he thought he had made a huge mistake. He began talking to me about adopting my daughter, and while she was fine with it, she didn't want to change her last name to his. His response to that was, "Then what's the point?" And so it seemed to me that there wasn't one, and we dropped that discussion forever more. We were also trying to make it financially on adjuncting jobs and his campus ministry position. At one point we realized that we were driving one car to work in two different time zones and three different states! He was teaching introductory western civilization courses at colleges in both Ohio and Kentucky, and I was teaching Freshman composition in Indiana, Ohio, and Kentucky. Together we were juggling three part-time careers, our newly formed family, and our pathetically meager finances. (My car had  been repossessed some time ago, by the way.) There was a lot of tension besides, as he had finished his PhD coursework, and was taking dissertation hours and applying for full-time positions all over the place. That meant attending at least two conferences a year, presenting papers, and interviewing as much as possible. He often felt as if his two MA degrees from the seminary were a black spot against him whenever he applied to secular universities and colleges, and that his MA and PhD from the state university were virtually being ignored by Christian colleges affiliated with his own denomination. Plus there was the fact that he was still ABD (all but dissertation; he hadn't actually earned his PhD yet)), which was weighing on him too. The one bright spot in all of the career building he had been involved in, and the focus of his dissertation, was the archaeological work he had been doing in northern Jordan since 1984. He went every summer on even years, and 1994 would be no different. Our biggest obstacle would be money, but he was determined to take me, and I was determined to go.