When I returned from Europe to Jordan almost exactly one month ago, I came back to a different social scene that when I left. School got out at Whitman a week after I left, and most of my fellow teacher friends had left, including the two Jons, my neighbors up the street. With Whitman no longer being in session, I haven’t need to stick to a traditional schedule for any work all month, and have been jumping between relative boredom and exciting adventures.

There’s been some changes at EGT. Lillie left the company to return to America for school, a few days after I came back to work, and at the end of June, Jeff left as well. Dan, my housemate that joined me at Philip’s place back in early February, also moved out while I was away and so I came back to an empty house again. He still works at EGT in the composting and agricultural department, so I still see him, but it’s weird to not have him around, listening to new and interesting music I’ve missed out on for the past two years, and cooking up massive pans of sauteed onions on the beat up old stove.

They don't like being photographed too much, so I promised them I'd only put it up if I was clearly the silliest looking person in the picture. I win!

They don’t like being photographed too much, so I promised them I’d only put it up if I was clearly the silliest looking person in the picture. I win!

He left me with ideas on how to be a better cook, though. Dan would tease me a little about my OCD tendencies to try to cook things exactly to a perfect recipe, down to the half gram, and after watching him cook up simple yet tasty dinners for four months, I decided that my immune system is probably up to levels high enough that I could chew through uranium, so making some less-organized and regimented food concoctions would be a good way to amuse myself with some extra time. Besides Dan’s Famous Sauteed Onions, I’ve been making spaghetti variations and other types of pasta with raw tomatoes. They take a long time to cook and prepare compared with my two-year-old habits of just walking up the street and paying a JD or two for a pile of schwarma (and I still do that most of the time) but the pride is definitely there.

I was coming back from church two weekends ago, and my friend Omar gave me a call and invited me over to Books@Cafe where he was having a beer with a friend of his. He informed that he had been offered a job in Dubai, and was taking it. Omar was our champion cyclist in the past two Dead 2 Red races from the past years, so myself and our fellow cyclists were very sad to see him go. He left a few days ago, but not before I went with him and some other friends to Wadi Zarqa Maa’een near the dead sea. The four of us had a great time, but when we reached a steep wall in front of us at the end, with an even larger waterfall rushing over us. A group of rough looking men were relaxing in the spray of the water, wearing faded t-shirts and cutoff jeans. They proved to be helpful though, and showed me how to climb halfway up the waterfall and where to take the four meter jump into the water below.

To atone for losing Janelle's camera two months ago in Wadi Hassa, I brought my own NOT waterproof camera for this trip and it survived just fine (it was close at times)

To atone for losing Janelle’s camera two months ago in Wadi Hassa, I brought my own NOT waterproof camera for this trip and it survived just fine (it was close at times)

We had to turn around after that and splash back through the water for another 2 hours to reach Omar’s car at the dirt and gravel lot by the Dead Sea highway. I rejoined the Cycling Jordan community after not being with them in rides since the Dead 2 Red in March – that was definitely a good change! I just went on a long 82 kilometer ride this morning, the same route that I called one of the unluckiest bike rides imaginable last year. This year’s was much more smooth, and although I did get sunburned (those three weeks in Europe destroyed any slight tan/dark-skin sun protection I used to have) it wasn’t nearly as bad, and only two people got flat tires and only one needed to turn back. Good enough odds to bet on!

Tomorrow I’m going to be taking a short weekend trip back to Palestine/Israel to visit Nazareth and the Sea of Galilee, two locations that I would have seen last year with our choir trip in September if the Israelis hadn’t decided to essentially cancel it at the last moment. Apparently, there’s a direct bus line that goes from Amman, to the north crossing, “Sheikh Hussein Bridge,” and then all the way to Nazareth, for 30 dinars. I’ve booked my hostel stay for two nights and I’m looking forward to having one last visit to the Holy Land.

That brings me to the biggest change of the summer…my decision to return to America. Some contracts and work didn’t go through as planned, plus I was starting to get homesick after the trip to Egypt in April, so after I returned from Europe I officially booked the plane tickets…the first one-way flight I’ve booked in two years. I found the most budget tickets I’ve ever seen – $520 to fly from Amman, to Riga, Latvia, to Copenhagen, and then to Chicago. Considering that it was $400 cheaper than the next available option from Turkish Air, I figured the strange flight plan was worth it. I can only hope that they don’t attempt to harvest my organs during the flight, or else I might need that extra cash to attempt to buy them back again.

With Jeff, Lillie, and myself all departing from EGT, it’s really made me stop and think and look back on the two years we’ve all been together, putting the place together – literally and emotionally. Classes and buildings have expanded like wildfire, and we’ve added departments left and right. Wajih is talking about who he wants to hire to replace me; he says that the technology required to manage and make sure the center has its tech running properly requires someone full time, not just once or twice a week like I’ve been since last July. It makes me proud, very proud to have been part of such an awesome group of dedicated people, working for something like assisting refugees struggling here in Jordan.

In my opinion, the place has slowly been changing over from requiring constant foreigner support and adjustments to its own well-balanced, routine, and organized system, managed almost entirely by talented Arab administration like my former translator Wamidh, Ahmad, Wajih, and Khalil, not to even mention the accounting team and the recycling team. I think if Philip was here with us now in Jordan again, he’d be particularly pleased with that aspect of what EGT has become – self-sufficient, and able to run itself without foreigners flying halfway around the globe. Technically, with every month that passes, I think that we’re “needed” at EGT less and less to provide organization and ideas for the running of the company. That’s just my opinion of course, and I’m only there twice a week these days.

It’s time for me to spend my last two months preparing for the return that has been booked and sealed for September 8th, 2010 – the day before my dad’s birthday! Finding and training replacements for PTEE, Whitman, and EGT will hopefully go smoothly. There’s so much to see and do still before I leave, and going to Nazareth is one of those things. Something tells me that these fifty-eight remaining days are going to go by way too fast, just like I said two years ago when I bought another set of plane tickets…