Once again, I found myself on a trip to another country (in this case, "another" is referring to someplace besides Israel, which is the norm at this point), touring around places that mostly I'd never heard of, let alone had any idea that I'd ever visit, with 81 of my best friends.
Here are some of the cool places we got to visit:
- Mt. Nebo, from which Moses looked across the Dead Sea into the land which would someday be inhabited by the Israelites, and where they say Moses was buried. Our tour guide told us that they still haven't found his grave. Our Old Testament professor told us that, according to the Book of Mormon, he was never buried at all -- Moses was translated. Sometimes I wonder why we get tour guides, since I'm almost always more interested in what our professors have to say.
- The Church of the Map in Madaba with the famous floor mosaic map of the Holy Land from the Byzantine era
- Machareus -- the palace ruins where Herod once lived, or one of the places he sometimes lived, I guess. We talked a lot about John the Baptist here, as this is a possible setting of the story of his beheading.
- King Abdullah's Mosque in Amman . . . this was an instance in which it was really neat to have a tour guide. Mohammad is a Jordanian and a religious Muslim. It was really neat to hear him tell about the mosque and describe some aspects of Muslim worship that were clearly an important part of his own life. One thing I will definitely take from this experience abroad is a great sense of respect for the other religious groups which I have had a chance to learn about.
- Amman Citadel, where there were some cool ruins from way back when and an archeological museum with some really old artifacts. Okay, this is where I realized that I am really starting to take things for granted. When I start thinking, "All right, some more Roman columns," or "Great, more old pottery shards and stuff from the Middle Bronze Age . . . is there any special reason we've come to see more of this?" . . . I guess I haven't been in the States for a while.
- Roman Theater in Amman, which was, to be completely honest, not extremely unlike other Roman theaters we've seen on this trip . . . but that didn't make it any less cool. Really, actually walking on, in, around the colossal remains of some old civilization is incredible. And, of course, such an occasion provides an excellent opportunity for more singing, photo shoots, etc.
- Jerash -- I have been joking a bit about seeing a lot of old stuff and maybe not appreciating it as much as I should, but I was certainly not anticipating the awesomeness of this site. Honestly, Jerash was on our schedule, but I had no idea what it would be. As one of our professors later put it, Jerash was an ancient Roman city just as neat as Ephesus, but without the crowds. We walked through Hadrian Gate, across the Oval Plaza, down the column-lined Cardo Road, past temples and monuments. And then, we had free time to go in, over, around, through the ruins, exploring . . . and taking lots of pictures, of course. Jerash was awesome.
- Royal Automotive Museum in Amman - I guess the idea behind this museum was to display all the cars of King Hussein, serving as a tribute to him and giving a history of Jordan and the legacy of the Hashemites. Well, I don't know much about Jordan's history, and I probably know even less about cars, but I do know that I saw some really cool cars. Ferrari . . . Bugatti . . . anyone? (David and Eliott should look up the Bugatti, but I call it!)
- Jabbok River, the setting described in Genesis 32. Here Brother Harper taught us a little bit from the Old Testament. It was a really neat moment of us being able to read from the scriptures in the (approximate) location where the events actually took place, our study guided by a professor who was able to give us much more insight than I would have gotten from those few verses on my own. Brother Harper has taught us a lot about covenants, and I feel like the things I've learned in his class will be some of the best temple prep I'll get. I am really grateful for this incredible opportunity to study the scriptures in this unique way.
- Jordan River, site of Brother Ludlow's baptism. . . . and the site of the baptism of Jesus Christ. (Actually, Brother Ludlow said he was baptised further up the river -- still really neat.) It was really neat to be able to visit this place. It was certainly one of the more sacred sites we've visited. We read some scriptures, and then had some time down by the river to touch the water and sing a few hymns. There were other people around and it looked like some baptisms were taking place. On a side note, there were a lot of flies.
- and . . . PETRA!!! Grandma Kathy especially was excited for me to be able to come here, so I knew it had to be good. It was awesome. Maybe it doesn't really have a direct biblical connection, but Petra was certainly one of the coolest sites we've visited. One of the coolest things I've ever seen. The rocks and cliffs and canyons themselves were spectacular . . . and then there were absolutely magnificent carvings in the rock face left by the Nabeteans. A lot of people have seen the incredible face of the treasury, the spectacular sight that greets you as you emerge from the long, narrow siq . . .but realize that that is just one structure among many. We kept hiking around and, even after spending the day in Petra, there was lots of stuff I hadn't seen. A couple interesting things . . . there were people selling stuff everywhere -- mostly jewelry. Bedouin women and even children - lots of little boys who would come right up to us and follow us around with their postcards. As I was coming down the trail from the monestary, there was a little table of the same sort of jewelry we'd been seeing all day, but I guess whoever had been selling it had stepped away, and a young French boy had picked up some necklaces and was saying "For you, one dinar!" His mock accent was great, everyone around - tourists from all sorts of countries - were getting a good laugh. We stayed one night in the the Taybet Aaman hotel in the Wadi Musa near Petra -- that was so cool: a hotel built on the ruins of an ancient town, so we felt like the little rooms we were staying in were stone cottages of an old villiage. And there were, I think, some actual ruins in between some of the buildings. It was really cool. One last thing, I got to ride a horse out of Petra, and my horse-leader-guy even let go of the lead rope, gave me control of the reins, and let me just gallop along. That was exciting.