On Wednesday, October 8, we embarked on a six hour bus ride to Wadi Rum, the largest valley in Jordan surrounded by granite rock and sandstone. We were greeted by a very kind and welcoming group of Bedouin men at a campsite surrounded by mountains of rock and soft sand. In the front of the campsite were huge tents covering layers of pillows and blankets that we would later eat our dinner and breakfast. It was immediately exciting. We were immediately in awe of the sky and that swallowed up the miles and miles of sand. We were immediately looking for Fernando, who managed to climb up one of mountains in the first five minutes and had to be ushered down by our director.
We saw a lot in Wadi Rum. A surprising amount considering when I found out what Wadi Rum actually was, I struggled to think of what they could have for us to do in the middle of the desert. Answer: everything.
I’ve been avoiding this post all day, but desperately wanting to write it as soon as possible before I forgot too much. But here’s the thing about Wadi Rum: it would be an insult to condense the experience into a play-by-play blog post. I could tell you that we rode camels and then ate a delicious meal on pillows and had a campfire and toured the desert in the back of trucks. But what does that say about Wadi Rum? It doesn’t tell you that after the lights were turned off, everyone drifted into the corners of the stone and you could feel a certain spirituality settle around the camp. That everyone talked in hushed tones and voices were filled with awe and prayer and hope and relief and fear. I want to tell you that hookah smoke mixed with the campfire and that sweet sickness permeated the worn out cushions.
I want to show you this:
And tell you that we somehow managed to choose the one day it rained. That we stood on top of a mountain and laughed as a dust storm swept through and a part of me worried that if I stood up, the winds would carry me away.
When I told my mom I decided to leave Catholicism, she cried. It was an understandable reaction, and one that I had expected upon my telling her. But that didn’t make telling her any easier. When I told my boyfriend that I was not a practicing Catholic, he nodded and was gracious and supportive, but I can tell he finds it a little difficult to find a balance of our differences. When I told my sister I left the Church, I think I broke her heart.
But standing in the darkness of Wadi Rum, being surrounded by nothing except miles and miles of sand, I felt such an intense sense of peace. The map in my head began to unfold and I, for the first time in a long time, began to feel the presence of God. Looking up at the clouds, almost tangible in their puffiness, I felt so indescribably content with everything.
There are so many people in this program that have such strong feelings about where they come from, about what they believe and what they want to fight for. It’s intoxicating and alienating at the same time. I want so bad to feel Lana’s love for her country, Judy’s desire for spirituality, James, Kyle, and Nick’s commitment to duty, Ronald’s passion for equality. Everything that I had ever wanted in the past is now being matched and exhausted by people my age, but who are so much smarter and so much more experienced than me. It’s exhilarating and defeating at the same time. But here, at Wadi Rum, I could feel the shards of anxiety disintegrate and mold into something different: a sense of certainty that I have been searching for.
I laughed so hard my stomach hurt, I slid in the sand and let my feet sink so deep I couldn’t feel the heat from the sun, and I looked out from on top of the camel and took a deep breath and thanked God for the unique and wonderful opportunity that surrounded me. The one thing that I wished more than anything was that Tony was standing next to me so that he could feel the same sense of peace I did. This feeling that I had, and continue to have every time Jordan opens up to me a little more, is so big I want to share it with someone.
When I told people I was going to Jordan, they almost always questioned by decision to do so.
Those are questions of ignorance. I want everyone to look through the shallow surface of politics and into the the real beauty that is the ancient world of Jordan, because it’s spectacular.