so this is international travel

as far as adventures go, this one has been awesome.  but tomorrow the hard stuff begins.  we left charlotte and flew to j.f.k. in new york.  we had an 8 hour layover there and had to walk out of security to get to the terminal where we were leaving from.  since we were already outside, and could not get our tickets for 6 hours, we ventured into the city.  i have never been to new york city before, so that in it’s self was pretty exciting.  we rode the subway over to canal street because we all were in the mood for some good italian food.  we found a restaurant we just randomly walked into that had some delicious food.  anyone that knows me well knows that the highlight of any trip i take is the food.  i have traveled on some strange vacations and took some weird detours just to get the food i was craving.  anyway, once we got there and ordered the food arrived quickly and was amazing.  the presentation was good the taste was even better.  in talking to a local he recommended a local bakery/coffee shop that he said was the place to go for tiramisue and a coffee, and it was on the way back to the train.  we stopped in there and it was such a beautiful sight, and smell, that it almost brought a tear to this fat boys eyes.  i asked for tiramisue and the girl behind the counter replied, which kind we have four.  if there was any doubt that i was in the right place before that statement, it was all washed away.  i got that and a coffee to go for 6$ which i thought was reasonable since the slice of tiramisue cheesecake i had in my bag had to weight in between a half and three fourths of a pound.  we walked back to the train and i spent several stops slowly eating my cheesecake and enjoying my coffee.  all this and we have not even left the states yet.

the transatlantic flight was tolerable, but not exceptional.  it was about twelve hours long and i spent ten of it awake.  i tried to sleep and i could not get comfortable enough to make it work out.  so i tossed and turned in a seat that had long ago lost any resiliency that the padding once had.  don’t get me wrong, the stewardesses were extremely nice folks, and did everything they could to do accommodate everyone on the flight, including the belligerent  guy two rows back from lucas and i.  they even gave us real knives and forks to eat our mystery meat with.  we had something that supposedly was chicken served with rice.  lucas and i both agree based on the taste, smell, and consistency, it was probably cat food.  about 3 hours from our destination they came around again and served us some fake omelets, i am pretty sure it was actually foam rubber.  i made no attempt to eat the “eggs” and just sent he tray on to a happier place. once we got to jordan we got the opportunity to go through customs which isn’t fun in any country from what i hear.  it was not all that painful we just had to open out bags and cases and talk about what every electronic component did with the customs guys.  they picked a few things they wanted to keep until we left the country and sent us on our way.

after leaving the airport we met up with an sp employee that lives here full time and she helped us get to the hotel, to our rental car, and to eat an extraordinary dinner.  we ate at a bedouin cafe that had some of the most amazing food i have ever eaten.  really fresh vegetables, meats, and several variates of hummus along with fresh baked breads and juices that were squeezed on demand.  we had a great meal and a great time talking about what projects we will be taking on when we come back here from kurdistan.  aside from going from saturday morning until late sunday night with only two hours of sleep i felt pretty good but i knew it was bedtime.  we got to bed about 12:30 and ted and i were up by 5:30 and getting ready for breakfast and another day of traveling around.  the hotel breakfast was a cool mix of western influence and old world arabic.  they had lots of fresh fruits and vegetables along with yogurt, french toast, olives, fres squeezed juice, cereal, and anything else you can image.

we had today to look around at the local sites because we had a day between flights.  that was just the way that they fell, so first thing this morning we went to the jordan river to visit the baptismal site where john the baptist baptized Jesus. which now is not part of the regular part of the river, but water still stays in that pool due to a natural spring.  we ventured over to the current banks of the river and found we were about twenty feet from the israeli border.  it looked like a short swim, but the guards on both sides discouraged it with well practiced dour expressions and shiny sub-machine guns.

after we finished up here we rode over to the dead sea where lucas and john went to play in the water while ted, jim, and i enjoyed the view from the restaurant and soaked in the air conditioning.  it was about ten degrees hotter down at the sea than up in the hills of amman where we began our day.  once they finished frolicking in the sea we drove across the street to where they are holding the fia rally race starting next week.  we parked, got out of the car, and walked around like we were supposed to be there and ogled all of the quarter-million (or more) dollar rally cars.  it was a site to behold as they crews were unpacking the cars and reassembling them to prepare for mapping out the course.  upon leaving here we set off for the ruins of karak.

the castle at karak was started circa 1000ad and every large social group of the age seemed to have occupied it, or attempted to for many years.  it was by far the largest castle i had ever seen, not that i am an expert or anything.  it went on forever and had a massive network of tunnels and rooms that you could walk around in and check out.  there was very little supervision and most of the time no railings around cliffs with drop offs of several hundred feet.  it would have made a park ranger from the us cry like a little girl to see people clambering over artifacts and running around that close to the cliffs with zero supervision and no protective railings.  once we finished there it was back on the road to get back to the hotel before dark and eat a light dinner, or half a chicken (it was that or beef innards), and get some rest because tomorrow we meet downstairs at 4:30 and fly to kurdistan at 7am local time.  so now it is way past time to get some rest so tomorrow we can start the hard stuff.

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