Another spring break = another adventure

Yes, my dear readers…. it seems as if I’ve taken a hiatus from this blog.

We are still back in the U.S. and busy with our lives here – John continues to study Chinese; I attempted a “crash” Chinese class only to realize it’s time to brush up on my charades skills by the time we arrive in Wuhan (but that’s not for another whole year so plenty of time, right?!). I’ve also been busy with my own work which I’ve been lovingly calling “my year of yoga” but that’s a story for another time. Oh, and the kids have been busy adapting to suburban life and all the fun that comes with that (activities! sports! friends!).

And yes, I’ve missed to report on birthdays and our many fun (domestic) trips we’ve taken to explore American history in our VA backyards so I guess we’ll just have to leave this blog as a place to share our more “foreign” adventures.

Cue in spring break this past week.

You see, spring break has been a very active travel time for us in the past – 2017 Bhutan, 2018 Cyprus, and 2019 Jordan. Yes, as in the Middle East kind of Jordan.

I know – you’re wondering why would I want to fly halfway around the world again and not just take the kids to Disney World since that’s so much closer?

Well, Amman, Jordan just happens to be the current home for our awesome friends with whom we try to meet up every year (hello, Smith family!). We’re known for sharing many, many belly laughs, lots of excellent food, and countless late night chats and shenanigans no matter where we happen to meet up and this time was certainly no different. Well, perhaps a little different considering we left John at home. You read that correctly – John didn’t make the cut to come with us (insert sad face).

Since John’s Chinese training is so intense, he’s not able to take any time off yet he reluctantly wholeheartedly agreed that we should go without him. Besides, being home alone would allow him plenty of time to do the laundry and play Civilization on Luca’s video console study Chinese even more intensively. So, win/win, right?

Very fortunately for me, my regular blog readers will know that spring break is a “Tante thing” and we were thrilled that Tante Anne joined us for another exciting series of adventures.

So, a few days before school let out (oh, the horror of taking kids out of school to fly them halfway around the world to show them new cultures and ancient civilizations and oh yeah, to maintain those amazing friendships they have formed….. let’s just say from now on I will report that my kids have a fever and cannot attend school), we headed East.

We explored the Amman Citadel and Roman Amphitheater (Josh’ favorite place in all of Amman!) on our first full day and feasted on the best hummus and falafel in the city. Tante Anne learned to appreciate the many hills and stairs that would remain a constant companion for the rest of our time in Jordan. Also very, very old and big rocks – those would remain a common sight for us throughout this trip (it was often hard to fathom that the many ruins we saw date back thousands of years – yes, thousands!).

The next day, we headed North to the ancient Roman city of Jerash. We’ve been to plenty of Roman ruins but nothing quite compares to Jerash – we were blown away by the sheer size of not only the city but also the height of some of the ruins. Simply amazing that ancient civilizations created this.

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Did I mention we shopped for matching souvenirs? Oh, the shopping we did – just ask Juliana and she will recount every item she bargained for.

And just when we were getting used to having insiders drive and show us around (and point out the ancient Roman sewage system, thanks Olo!), it was time for Tante Anne, the kids, and me to begin our own journey.

First stop: Madaba, the ancient (yes, I realize I am repeating this word a lot but it turns out there’s a ton of really, really old stuff in the Middle East!) city known for its mosaic tiles.

After lunch, we headed further south to the Jordanian desert known as Wadi Rum. Now, all four of us had previously explored the Gobi desert together and I must say, I was not entirely too excited to check out another desert but my travel mates insisted they really wanted to go. After all, I had already seen a desert – how different could this one possibly be?

Well, it turns out, a whole lot! Exploring Wadi Rum was simply amazing – the changing colors of the landscapes (red sand!), the huge canyons and rock formations, and the skinny one-hump camels – all in all so breath-taking and oh so different from the Gobi (An extra bonus: our tents were equipped not just with running HOT water and electricity but also with air conditioning! How very un-Mongolian!)

And yes, the fact that we were racing around the desert on the back of a pick-up for an entire day and climbing on every possible rock formation (in a deep twist of events, it turns out Juliana is part mountain goat) and racing down sand dunes *may* have added to a day of laughter and fun.

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Our next stop brought us to a particular highlight – Ancient Petra (yes, another “ancient” place but oh my goodness, Petra was nothing short of amazing).

One simply can’t travel all the way to Jordan and miss Petra, the city that dates back thousands (thousands!!!) of years when the Nabataeans established a trading post there. Petra is also known as the “pink or rose city,” due to the changing colors of the rock formations in which the Nabataeans carved buildings (mostly tombs). Oh, and if you do get a chance to visit Petra, just be advised that you will be walking a whole lot – our team was ready for the challenge and by the end of our first day, we had clocked over 10 miles of hiking!

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Exhausted from our first day in Petra, some of my travel mates *may* have felt they had “done” Petra and were ready to move on early to our next stop but that plan was fortunately nixed when we realized we had already fully paid for both nights in our hotel in Petra. The Smith family had sold the hike to the Petra Monastery as one of the (many) highlights Petra has to offer so of course, we did not want to miss that and sought out to do our second day.

However, our guide the day before had told us we would need to climb over 850 ancient “steps” to reach the monastery and that was only after we had successfully hiked or taken animal transport to the base of the monastery which lies deep within the city – roughly 4km from the entrance. I did mention we had already hiked over 10 miles the day before, right?

So Anne took it upon herself to research alternative transport options and found support from the visitor center who referred her to a driver who would DRIVE us to another location where we were promised a 30-minute “easy” hike to reach the famous carving. Well, who could say no to that?

Well, let’s just say that didn’t quite happen. We soon found ourselves literally taking the road less traveled and embarked on an over 2-hour hike up and down and across boulders, mountains, cliffs, and everything in-between. Signs and other hikers were few and far between which may have made Anne and myself question our decision a few times but – let’s just give a major shout-out to our travel team – nothing got us down. No boulder was too high (literally!) or hard to cross and boy, the scenery was breathtaking.

And just when we were contemplating (yet again) if we had really taken the right path and if we were really on the right track to the Monastery, a Bedouin appeared out of literally nowhere to help us navigate the unfamiliar terrain and guide us to the majestical structure.

Words can’t describe that sense of accomplishment (and relief!) we all felt so we did the natural thing as soon as we had a chance: sit down at the shop across the way from the magnificent structure, rehydrate with fresh orange juice and take it all in. We may have spent a few hours sitting here with some of us venturing on a few more (much shorter) hikes.

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So, yes – it was an incredible successful trip to Petra!

The following day we headed back North to meet up with the Smith family just in time for Kasia’s birthday – and we celebrated in full style at the Dead Sea!

Cue in resort, pool, adult beverages, and more and more belly laughs. It was truly fun!

Oh, and yes – we also floated in the Dead Sea – well, for about 2 seconds. In a complete surprise, the Sea was especially rough both of our days there with waves crashing on the shore and let me just say, getting your head under water in extremely salty water is no fun. But we all went, bobbed and floated (some of us covered ourselves in mud first – no pictures to proof so just use your imagination!), and then made a run for the pool!

And before we all knew it, our time in Jordan had come to an end.

Saying “see you later” to our dear friends always brings up tears and many emotions so imagine the shrieks of excitement that ensued when our phones started alerting us on the day of our departure that our flight was delayed. With each new updated message, the kids got cheerier and cheerier. But then it was finally time to head out the door, emotions ran high as we slowly (oh so slowly!) made our way back home!

But the good news is that our next meet-up is already fully planned!

Until the next adventure, my dear readers! Until then – remember to always the road less traveled!

Parting thoughts:

  • Major thanks to the Wadi Rum camp that equipped our tents with our own bathrooms and HOT water to allow everyone to take hot showers and clean of all the sand following the jeep tour!
  • When you travel to Jordan, make sure you have the right gear i.e. shoes. We saw some people hike around Petra in flip flops and I am not sure I’d recommend that option!
  • Speaking of hiking, this is a trip to take if you want to remain in shape. Not only did we hike over 10 miles the first day and over 7 miles the second day, but our smart phones recorded us climbing over 82 flights of stairs!
  • And if you’re hiking out and about in the middle of absolutely nowhere in Jordan, don’t be alarmed when your cell phone suddenly tells you that you’re in Israel (I may have been a little concerned over that message!).
  • If swimming in the Dead Sea, do not, I repeat, do not get water in your eyes or mouth. I may have been too busy reminding the kids of that to not listen to my own advice and yes, it hurts.
  • “2 lies and a truth” can become an interesting game when playing with kids.
  • We can’t thank the Smith family enough for their excellent tour guiding and hospitality skills and for sheltering and feeding us when our flight was delayed.
  • Major shout-out to Tante Anne who worked the phones with me when it was clear we would miss our connecting flight in NYC and then calmly agreed to rent a car and drive through the night back to DC so that the kids would get to school and we wouldn’t be stuck at the “wonderful” JFK airport for 20+ hours.
  • A final shout-out to our new camel addition, Jordie (awesome present, Anne!). He will be joining his two-humped brothers and sisters when they are released from storage in a few short months.

    Meet Jordie












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