Day 8: Swimming at last, and back to Amman

All the way over on the Eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee, we visited a fish restaurant. Our purpose was two-fold: eat fish, and also swim in the restaurant's swath of beach.

In that case, my purpose was actually one-fold, because I hate fish, even if (or especially if) it's deep-fried and whole. Miriam and I ate their surprisingly delicious spaghetti dish instead and avoided looking at the disgusting fish. But I heard it was good, for people who like that sort of thing. I know Jeremy would have loved it.

At last, at last, a happy time for Miriam. She finally got to go swimming. I hadn't seen her that excited in a long time. I'm sure it was one of her favorite things on the whole trip. The water was pleasant and refreshing, even though we only got to stay for about an hour.

Then it was back on the bus for the final push back to Amman. But first, there were more border anxieties to contend with.

By the time we arrived at the northern border crossing between Israel and Jordan, Miriam had fallen asleep again. I thought it might be OK if I left her on the bus with the professors and their wives, who wouldn't be crossing with us. I had her passport, after all, and I'd seen similar things done many times on the borders between Jordan and Lebanon and Syria.

The Israeli border guards - again, all young females - were just as determined to show us who was boss as their sisters at the King Hussein crossing. About half of our group got through before one of them decided to get picky. All of a sudden, she was asking for a piece of paper that none of us had, not even the ones who had already been stamped through. It took a good 30 minutes of us waiting in line for her to decide that she didn't need it after all, and start stamping us through again.

By the time I got to the window, the border agent was extraordinarily testy. When I handed her two passports and she saw that one was for a baby who was not with me, she almost had a heart attack. She yelled at me to go get my child and come back, which was fine with me, though I do wish she had asked nicely. By the time I got back with a sleepy Miriam, she had relaxed a little and was even charmed a little by her (ah, the benefits of having a cute kid).

There was still the Jordanian border to go, however. We waited forever for a decrepit old bus to shepherd us through no-man's-land. I also should mention that through a freak twist in the chain of authority, I was now in charge of the entire group, at least until we arrived back in Amman (where Jeremy would take over again).

Fortunately, everything went well. The Jordanian border guards took their sweet time processing us, and lots of natives cut in line. It felt good to be home again.

We met our Jordanian tour operator at the border and after we were all on the bus, he discreetly asked me if we wanted him to talk over the bus microphone on the way home. I couldn't think of a nice way to say, "absolutely not!" so we put the question to the entire group. They made their wishes known and the tour guide kept happily quiet all the way back to Amman.

I don't think I could have asked for a better trip than the one we had. What is amazing is that my expectations for so many of these places were really very high - and yet everything still measured up. I think that is a true sign of a wonderful traveling experience.

Shawerma of Death

Day 8: From one shore to another