29 August 2020

Returning Home

Getting back to our home amidst a pandemic was no easy task. Especially considering we have been nomadic for the past half-decade. Seriously. Since summer 2015, we have moved 7 (seven!) times, four of which were international moves. Now, we did have a “house” at each place, but it took a couple years before realizing what it took to make each house more of a “home”.

Before that, we were used to traveling for a couple/few weeks at a time, and that’s no big deal. But actually living in a new place – getting an address, doctor, dentist, chiropractor, and learning where to shop – is totally different than visiting a place. We found that taking a few precious items with us to each place helped. We also learned that certain smaller items did a lot to make a place feel more like a home. Fluffy towels. A couple rugs. A couple pieces of artwork. Refrigerator magnets. All of which we could either pack with us or purchase inexpensively once we arrived.

Now, we are home. Back in Barbados. We really missed the island. We do miss the mountains of the US West...the vastness of the deserts...driving 500 miles a day on a road trip. I also missing shooting and hunting. But come on. Living on a tropical island, with great peeps, most Western comforts, and amazing food? Like Kaelin’s dad says, “It doesn’t suck.”

Getting here, however, that’s a whole other plight! Once COVID became a pandemic, pretty much every border in the world shutdown. And we were still in Jordan at the time. Luckily, the governments of Jordan and the US collaborated to get us back Stateside. We wrote about that experience HERE. So we self-quarantined like good World Citizens for a few weeks. Our first month was spent in southern Utah. Then we spent a month or so in Colorado. Then back to Utah (and camping!). Then back to Colorado for about a month, because Utah was on New York’s quarantine list.

Quarantine list? Yes. See, some US States handled COVID better than others. Even those with large populations, like New York, handled it well in the end. We were initially flying through Miami, Florida, but because of the quick spreading of COVID there due to mis-governing, Barbados would not allow flights from Florida to land. Barbados was interested in protecting its citizens and containing whatever small spread there was.

With a population of around 300,000, Barbados has had only a handful of COVID-related deaths. That’s how well they managed it. Of course, it’s easier to do on a small island in the ocean when compared to the vastness of the US with 360 million people – most of whom value their individualist freedom.

Anyhow, the Barbados Government is extremely diligent in their handling of the pandemic and require all arrivals from high-risk countries (of which the US is one of only a few at the time of writing this) to take at least two PCR tests a week apart. To be free to move around the island, two subsequent negative tests within a two-week period are required. Until the two negative tests are achieved, the person must be quarantined, and is not allowed to roam even outside their room without repercussions. If you can’t afford one of the five or six government approved hotels, the Barbados Government will provide you room and board at their newly-renovated quarantine facility – at an old lighthouse barracks on the eastern side of the island overlooking the ocean. Gorgeous views from there!

The Barbados Government also does NOT charge you for your first test at the airport or your second subsequent test. Really, they’re amazing. And pretty efficient.

So, we planned ahead and made reservations at the Hilton. It’s adjacent to the SCUBA folks Kaelin often dives with here (Barbados Blue). And we’ve stayed there a few times, so we’re familiar with it. Plus, we figured we might as well rack up loyalty points! The staff at the Hilton are great. Very friendly and helpful and accommodating.

Once we get two subsequent negative COVID PCR tests, we’ll be heading back to our Barbados home. We call the place “Picasso” because of its funky architectural style. It’s where we lived last time we were here and found the location to be convenient. It also has killer views of the ocean. And our landlord is amazing. We’re excited to be returning. Returning to the island. Returning to Picasso. Returning to our “home”.

10 August 2016

The Power of the Fulbright Program

The Fulbright mission, “…to increase mutual understanding and support friendly and peaceful relations between the people of the United States and the peoples of other countries,” remains a dominant driving force in cross-cultural communication and appreciation. I’m proud to be part of the Fulbright Family. I stand ready to help anyone who is thinking of pursuing a Fulbright opportunity. The program is, quite frankly, amazing.

One of the Forgotten Fortresses of the Eastern Desert: Qasr Q'ilat (Castle-castle). It's really a dam that's been there since, according to my Bedouin guide taking a smoke break on the dam, Roman times. He showed me Roman engravings. This is OUT IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE. But such a neat place!

Ive had some time to reflect on our experiences in Jordan, now that weve begun settling back into life in the States. And here's the thing: I have absolutely nothing bad to say about the experience – or the Kingdom, or its people. I can honestly say: What a fantastic country with truly delightful people! Simply outstanding. Really.

I work with Heritage resources, so this quote struck me. It's at
Bethany Beyond the Jordan.

The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan has certainly become one of my favorites (and I’ve visited, lived, and/or studied in many different countries). Really, it’s become a second home. Though we were fortunate to visit several other countries during our time there, flying back to Amman was always a welcoming experience. It’s a great feeling that my thought was not, “When we get back to Amman…”, but, “When we get back home…” – and by “home” I mean Amman. There’s “home” in Amman and then “home, back in the States”. Crazy. I don’t think I’ve ever lived in a place where I’ve felt like that (apologies to my beloved Isle of Spice).

On the Jordanian side of said River. The contrasting tourism of the River Jordan between Jordan and Israel is astounding. You have to see it to really grasp it. Tip: the Jordan side is much more relaxed.

I even catch myself comparing the US to Jordan. Just the other day, eating my boiled egg for breakfast, I said out loud, “It’s a good egg. Not Jordan-good, but decent…” And these thoughts/comments extend beyond food. Driving on freeways, watching American news, talking with people...I continually compare the US to Jordan – wishing that, in some ways, the US was able to be more like Jordan. That’s a thought I never would have had before my Fulbright experience.

The Sahabi Tree. Sacred and the only green thing for dozens of kilometers in any direction.
It's said Mohammad rested in its shade as a boy. More info here:
http://www.sacredfootsteps.org/2014/08/11/the-blessed-tree/

In the end, when I consider all that we did, saw, and accomplished in a short six-months, the thing that speaks to my heart and soul – what really is, I believe the power of the Fulbright program – are the people. The local, permanent residents of Jordan: Bedouins who have been there for generations, refugees who travel thousands of miles for something better, and others who have decided to make the Kingdom their home. That’s what Fulbright is all about, that’s where the true power of the program rests.

The dark lines running through the mountains are dikes. Formed underground as magma cooled in fissures (cracks) of already-solidified rock. This is along the highway from Amman to Aqaba.

It was truly a wonderful experience living there. A blessing. We had multiple visitors with whom we were fortunate enough to explore the amazingly delightful country. We met countless friends while in the field, forged some good collegial relationships, and saw some amazing sights. But there’s so much more to see, explore, and do! Perhaps one day we will return. InshallahThank you Jordan, and thank you Fulbright for providing this opportunity. I am humbled and ever-grateful.

A textbook example of a large deflation hollow in the Eastern Desert (the pale, sandy area center-and-left). These are created when wind transports a lot of fine-grained sand into an area devoid of rocks. And usually ventifacts can be found around them.