Friday, August 9, 2013

Al Asraq

I had a very pleasant dinner with bishop and bishop-emeritus and the priests of the greater Amman region to celebrate the two newly ordained priests and the attaining of a canon law doctorate for one young priest. The dinner was held outdoors and it was a great occasion to be with so many young priests and deacons. It seems that my world keeps expanding as I get immersed in various scenes in Jordan.

I was so angry earlier in the day because I did not know what to feel. I feel great anger at the system and for the woman who was showing off her son's arm to collect money. They boy's arm was dead. It was just lingering and dangling midway between the elbow and shoulder. Why didn't she bring him to the doctor's? Why is she exploiting his very serious injury. I know she is poor, but the king will take care of her and her son. She doesn't need to do this. He could go to a school for people with disabilities. Oh, the range of emotions I felt was strong.

I laughed shortly afterwards because traffic was backed up. The police were out managing traffic and the people did not know how to respond to it. They kept protesting and saying they wanted to make a left turn right now instead of going to the traffic light and taking a left. I loved it. People made more of a traffic jam because they didn't want to follow established rules of the road. It made me so happy that I almost forgot about the boy's dangling arm.

I went to art class to do a little more painting. Much to my surprise, I came very close to finishing one painting and I have some finishing touches on the next. I'll conclude on Monday because the studio is closed for four days.

To celebrate the Eid, the Jesuit Community went to Al-Asraq, near the Syrian border on the road to Iraq. It was a planned outing to have a community day. It turned out to be a very lovely day.

Al Asraq is a long-time wetlands that was largely settled by the Chechens and Druze. It is a classic oasis that hosted many types of large animals associated with Asia and Africa, like lions, Elephants, rhinoceroses, foxes, wolves, leopards, and other big game. Unfortunately, in 1979, the kingdom began to pipe the oasis water down to Amman for water and it dried up all the lands.

Last month, water from Disei in Saudi Arabia (a vast underground water supply), began to be pumped to Amman and Zarqa, thus eliminating the dependence upon water from Asraq. The water levels will begin to rise slowly, but it will take 25 years to reclaim itself. In the meantime, Syria is damming the springs that feed the oasis, so water may never be restored again. It is a shame.

The site was nice to visit and was well-kept. The terrible thing was the kids the pestered us the entire time. Both Michael and I complained separately and the rangers came to collect the kids and turn them away. They were Syrian kids from the camps and a few were from Iraq. They almost ruined the experience. The eight of them set off firecrackers and two carried guns that were probably toys.

The place would be beautiful if it could be pastoral and scenic, but those kids destroyed that aspect of it. Water buffalo are brought in each day to fee along the banks, which helps keep predatory plants down.

After the kids were escorted off, the community had lunch at the site and it was a lovely time together. We had a neatly packed lunch with healthy snacks. It was very restful under the goat-hair shelters provided by the site. I will come again, but I know better that I can complain sooner about these children who destroy silence.

On the way back, we took the desert highway. We came upon an old bathhouse that was called a "hunting" lodge. The secular artwork inside pointed to a different sort of hunting inside. The Italians did a fair amount of restoration on it within the past year and the place looks great. The environs were clean and there was even a trash basket to collect waste. The docents were very animated about showing of their places.

We then passed an old Ottoman Inn, which was quite elegant. It was on the World Heritage listing so it had the same designation and cleanliness as the baths. It certainly looked like a well-kept inn where people could relax in luxury.

The desert is quiet active. You would think that since it is dry and devoid of much vegetation that it would be still, but there are sandstorms all over the place. Desert devils rise up in columns and dance across the top of the desert floor providing great entertainment.

To complete the day, we went to see a movie called Pacific Rim. We laughed all the way through it and it would good entertainment. We dined at the Indian fast food kiosk and watched all the people parade through the Taj Mall. We've not see the place as busy with people as tonight. It was like being at Macy's on December 23rd. Much to my pleasure, we bought a piece of gym equipment so we can do sit ups and some toning.

To see photos, click on the link below:

1. Pics of Al Azraq
2. Pics of the Baths

3. Pics of Ottoman Inn
4. Pics of My First Two Paintings

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