I downloaded all of my photos from Jordan yesterday, and as I scrolled through them I became immediately overwhelmed, wondering how on earth I would be able to organize, format and post more than 1500 photos. Although who am I kidding - all 1500 images aren't worth posting, but that's still a big number to sort through. So it will likely take some time for me to shuffle through the deck, pick my favorites and figure out the best way to share the stories associated with these pictures, not to mention I will likely get on your nerves before too long as this blog is about to become an All Jordan, All the Time network.
It has long been a dream of mine to see Jordan - Petra in particular - and it was one of those dreams that always felt just out of my reach. I have traveled all over the world, but the idea of bandying about in the Middle East - in a country that borders Egypt, Israel, Syria, Saudi Arabia and Iraq - seemed unlikely. A nice dream to have, but not one to really hope or plan for. But I really should have known better, because I felt the same way about Cuba, and an opportunity to go there fell in my lap in March 2006, and two weeks later I was on a plane to Havana.
When will I learn?
Once again, a wish I had tucked away in a remote part of my brain - where it was safe from my deepest longings - came to life unexpectedly thanks to Tara Bradford, who decided it was time to share her love for a country she has strong ties to. She gathered together an extraordinary group of travelers, and in the course of one week we hit just about every major hot spot in Jordan. I'm not usually a fan of such go-go-go journeys, but it was impossible not to enjoy every single moment surrounded by such a passionate, generous, courageous, lighthearted group. I am still in awe of the fact that not only did I get to go to a part of the world I've dreamed of for years, but I got to see and experience it with them.
Sometimes my good fortune overwhelms me to the point of tears, and in this case it makes me want to howl at the moon.
I honestly don't know where to begin. Two of my fellow travelers - Rebecca and Gillian - have already posted two wonderful essays about this trip, and what I love most about this is that I am now getting to know them in an entirely new way. There has been much discussion in the blogosphere about all the ways we share who we are in our blogs, and how a blog, by its nature, is always going to present an incomplete picture, whether we intend it that way or not. Not to mention that certain perspectives, ideas and thoughts aren't capable of coming to life until after we're back home, bags unpacked, jet lag still lingering. So as I try to process and share all the wonder and beauty of my time in Jordan, I will also be savoring all the ways everyone else on this trip processes and shares their memories.
On our last day in Jordan, our brilliant, generous, beautiful driver William explained to all of us how we helped him see Jordan in new ways. I get weepy thinking of this, knowing that after all the extraordinary gifts he gave us, that we, too, opened his heart in ways I don't think he had expected. It is easy to walk by the same building everyday and not notice it - to consider it simply part of the background of my everyday life. But the instant I walk by that same building with someone who has never seen it - someone who perhaps notices an interesting crack in the window or the color of its walls - I am given the gift of an entirely new perspective. All nine of us saw different things as we traveled around Amman, Petra, Aqaba and Jerash, and I am looking forward to seeing Jordan through everyone else's eyes as much as I am looking forward to sharing my own stories.
On my just-under-24-hour journey home, my mind kept replaying image after image after image of a trip that included being the object of the most intense curiosity of my life on a public beach in Aqaba, talking to women involved in the Bani Hamida Weaving Project, exploring Petra, eating enough hummus to feed an elephant and smoking a hookah pipe. My heart and mind are crowded with so many moments and memories, each one clamoring for attention, wanting to be distilled to its essence, expressed and then released into the world on wings of gold. I must now ask all of these stories to be still, and be patient, and trust that in time they will each be given due attention, whether through a photograph, a work of art, a story or maybe even a dance.
There is so much to share, and only so much time, but I will do my best. This is my promise to you, dear Jordan, for you have blessed me in ways even I have yet to discover.
[My first round of photos are right here.]