"...you're off to great places! Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting so... get on your way!"
If you made it this far in life without reading Oh the Places You'll Go by Dr. Suess, take a moment and have a listen. You are missing out on one of the great adventure guides of the 20th century (at least in this humble globe trotters opinion). One of my best friends gave me a copy when I finished my PhD and I still get a bit misty eyed every time I read it. The pearls of wisdom conveyed in the thought-provoking anapestic tetrameter just tug my heart strings: "because hang-ups and bang-ups can happen to you," right? Thinking back, there were some really rough patches and notably low points that have ultimately led me to where I am today. Coming out on the other side, I can say with confidence, it has been worth every step. In the upcoming series of "Oh the Places You'll Go", I'd like to share some of my most memorable hang-ups and bang-ups I have encountered along the way.
A particularly fortifying experience that stands out in my mind was my first archaeological field school in the Negeve Desert, Jordan. During this six week field season, there were approximately 40 students and researchers excavating an Iron Age Nomadic cemetery (a summary of the field excavations can be found here). It wasn't the 117 degree temperatures, or the exotic local fauna (despite the infamous camel spider, night prowling black scorpions, or curious Palestinian pit vipers that frequented the shade of the excavation trenches), or even the goat slaughtered outside my tent for a 'coming of age party' for one of the boys. The eyes and tongue are particular delicacies in case you were wondering. The true challenge that made me question if I was cut out for life as a field scientist was... amoebic dysentery. A word of advice to any novice adventurer seekers: make sure to wash all of your raw fruits and vegetables in bottled water and whenever possible, cook them. On a similar vein, it doesn't hurt to travel with antibiotics. It just might save you a shot in the backside at the local village clinic. I'll spare you the gory details, but take my word for it, you don't want dysentery. Ever. Despite about 9 weeks of digestive distress (and about 2 years for a full recovery), I survived albeit a bit thinner, humbler, and infinitely more cautious about my food preparation.
Six of us decided to travel following the end of the field school. We headed down to southern Jordan to the port city of Aqaba. After a bit of scuba diving in the Red Sea and getting stung by a jelly fish, we decided to catch the passenger ferry to Suez, Egypt. Upon arrival at the ferry terminal, the customs officials voided our Jordanian visas in order to arrange for our Egyptian ones. Any of you who have seen that delightful Spielberg flick The Terminal, might have an inkling on what' s coming. Upon voiding our visas, the ferry tickets promptly sold out and without Jordanian visas we were not allowed to leave the terminal. The next ferry wasn't due for another 13 hours, during which time we ran out of food, Jordanian money, and the terminal toilets flooded. The next ferry we were able to book passage on was a commercial freight carrier. When there is extra space, passengers can travel for a nominal fee. Now, I don't think it was technically a "mob", but boarding that ship was definitely the closet thing I have experienced to one. At some point in the mayhem, boarder control noticed a knot of bedraggled, slightly terrified North American kids amidst the turmoil and proceeded to "escort" us with M-16s onto the ferry. Before we could board the ship however, our passports were confiscated to "expedite" our Egyptian visas. There wasn't any room to lay down on board, but I think most of us were able to grab a corner of steel and a few hours of shut eye. We sailed around the Sinai Peninsula and on to Suez, Egypt. Upon return of our passports, complete with Egyptian visas as promised, we hailed a taxi (aka Egyptian Rally Driver) to take us to Cairo. With luggage piled high, we sped through the desert night towards one of the greatest archaeological meccas of the world: The Great Pyramids of Giza.
To Be Continued...