Friday, July 09, 2004

Alive: the reflection paper part V

A big part of our experience was the people we encountered. We had local guides in each country, we met servers, shopkeepers, fellow travelers, and the occasional random person on the street. In the Umayyad Mosque we met some Irani women as the women in our group gathered for a group photo. They asked to be in our picture and to have their photos taken with us. When they discovered where we were from they smiled and giggled. We all shared some sparkling eyes and smiles—a moment of camaraderie and hope. At Crak de Chevaliers I met an American couple who live in the Middle East for business. In Hama I met a couple of men in the street to whom I talked for a few minutes—one was a schoolteacher who spoke about what life was like in this town and who helped me learn a few Arabic words, the other a teenager from Canada whose family was from Hama and who had been forced into this trip by his mom and wasn’t particularly appreciative. In Petra I got asked on a date by one of the dining room staff. I had two marriage proposals in Jordan and two in the Sinai—all four turned down. In Amman I met a shopkeeper who told me his life story and asked that I and my friends would both pray for him and his country and that we would encourage the tourism industry because the economy has been so devastated by conflict in the region. He shared a sad story but our conversation ended with hope for a better time. On the ferry from Aqaba to Nuweiba, we were the only westerners on board. I had been stared at a lot on the trip so far (mainly because of my blonde curly hair) but this was the epitome of staring. I could feel the eyes on me. I didn’t meet any of the people on the ferry because they were mainly men and that seemed inappropriate. It certainly was an experience of the average person, though—the people appeared to be mainly working class, mostly men, with the occasional harried family with lots of antsy children. All people going about their daily life and work in the midst of the things that make our evening news.

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