Hello again and buckle up for a super long blog! As I alluded to in the previous blog, this one is all about my experience in Petra! Boy did I have high hopes for visiting one of the Seven Wonders of the World! The sites were as amazing as expected, however, after I contracted a touch of food poisoning the day prior, my time was very different than I had initially imagined. While I didn’t get to go as far into the trail as I had hoped, my experience proved to be such a valuable one and certainly one that I will never forget.
The day began just as any other. We loaded up around 6am and started to make the 3-hour drive south. I was already feeling pretty yucky by this point, but was really hoping it would pass without a hitch. Unfortunately, that just wasn’t in the cards for me, I guess. We made it to Petra and walked toward the ticket counter. 50 JD per ticket. You read that right! 50! The people have certainly capitalized on the history of the area. Of course, getting to see a site like this is a once in a lifetime opportunity, so we took it. Once our tickets were bought, we started the trek to the Treasury. We were constantly offered horse rides by the locals, however, we turned them down each time. It was about a mile from the point of entry to the first clearing. I started to feel really sick once we made it to the Treasury. When I say sick, I mean I felt horrible. I couldn’t keep anything down and felt worse with each additional step.
It was at that point that I decided it would probably be better for me to stay in the clearing with the Treasury than to continue on with the group. This was probably the best decision I could’ve made. Over the course of 2.5 hours while the others explored, I had the opportunity to sit in the shadow of the magnificent artistry of the Nabataens. The intricacies of each column and carving on the face of the rock were breathtaking. Knowing I wouldn’t make it any further than the Treasury, I went through just about every emotion you could think of. How could I be squandering such an unbelievable opportunity? Why of all days did this happen to me? I was incredibly upset and disappointed, however, that quickly turned around when I gained company.
Although they initially only wanted to sell me items or rides to viewing points, conversations began to spring forth. At first, they primarily used English to converse with me. I decided pretty quickly that I wanted to try to use to my benefit and really test out my speaking abilities. This was one of the most gratifying experiences I think I’ve had here. Having full conversations in another language with locals is something difficult to wrap your mind around as a language student. For me, it’s a very scary thing to do because once you’ve committed to addressing them in their native tongue, you better know what you’re talking about and you better be able to keep up. I’ve had decent conversations with taxi drivers and plenty of others, but for some reason they didn’t seem to mean as much to me as these did. Eventually the guys trying to sell things would just come sit next to me and talk. I really did not mind this. I was never alone in the absence of my group and it was nice. Some of the things they said were interesting… to say the least, but overall, the practice was amazing. This was honestly the only saving grace of the day for me. Those guys will never know how much their exchanges meant to me.
Once the rest of the group journeyed back to my location, we started on our hike back to the main visitor center. I actually almost died during this. I kid you not, I’ve never felt so close to death before in my life. The combination of heat, sun, dehydration, food poisoning, and hiking back was nearly enough to knock me out. No matter how much water I tried to consume, I could not hold anything down. This is a good time to note: if you may think you’ve contracted even a light sprinkling of food poisoning, Petra is definitely not the place to go to figure it out. After a hike uphill, through the canyon, and over the open trail, we finally made it back to the center. I was so done that I was truly close to tears. Up another set of stairs to the bus and I felt like I was going to collapse right then and there. I was terrified of passing out, but had resigned myself to it. I don’t consider myself out of shape and I wish I were exaggerating, but alas, this was my reality that day at Petra.
We loaded up into the bus and I was thanking God for letting me get that far. I was so ready to get out of there that nothing else mattered. My hopes were slightly crushed when about 10 minutes into our way back, the bus stopped at this restaurant on the side of the road. Sometimes I still struggle with the different standards here and I’m pretty positive that the sanitation of that restaurant was nowhere near up to what we would consider code in the U.S. The number of flies swarming all around the inside of the building only added to my distaste and irritation. I understand that the rest of the people in the group may have been hungry, but I was so over it all that I just sat there and zoned out for the majority of the time. The ride back consisted of me laying on the bus seat, praying to make it back in one piece without getting sick again and trying to make myself sleep.
When we got back to the apartments, I took a freezing shower, changed clothes, and made myself a cup of tea, in hopes that maybe a little sugar might do me some good. Things got better after that. I no longer felt as though I was in any danger. The day ended with a group dinner and I was able to keep it down. Sometimes it’s the little things that can keep you going. I’ve had some pretty low points; however, this was no doubt the lowest in my last 4.5 months here. Regardless of my unfortunate circumstances, the locals still managed to improve my state of mind by leaps and bounds. They truly made my day so much better and I will always remember and be grateful for that. All things considered, Petra was incredibly beautiful and the people were very friendly and eager to please. If given a second opportunity, I would love to go back and experience it in its full entirety. If you’ve made it this far, thanks for sticking through it and stay tuned for my experience with border crossings in next weeks blog!