Jordan 2008!

After Jordan 2006, and Yemen 2007 comes the much anticipated return to Jordan 2008!

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Kamaran Island, The Red Sea, and Western Yemen

The first term of classes at the Yemeni Language Center is officially over which means that we get a whole 9 days of break until we start the second half of classes. We are now 5 days into the break, which means that we have just returned from the longest trip we will take during our time in Yemen. Our journey ranged between 7200 and 0 feet above sea level and hit a number of landmarks along the way, but perhaps more interesting than any one location was the incredible diversity of landscapes that we came across during our travels. I never imagined that so many different kinds of terrain could exist in a country as small as Yemen. It would be like going from a city 3000 feet higher than Salt Lake City to San Francisco in about 78 miles. We started off in what looked like the Scottish highlands as we went back through Manakha, and as we descended the mountains changed to a valley with torrential rains that reminded me of the green mountains of Oahu. There were waterfalls coming down from every side creating a river that was surrounded by bananas, palms, and even a Pandanus tree, which I haven’t seen anywhere since I left the pacific. Once we got out of the mountains, it became glaringly apparent that we WERE in the Arabian Peninsula as everything totally flattened out with the exception of some scattered sand dunes that were covered with entire herds of wandering camels. By the time we reached our main destination we were looking at a coral reef system with a variety of tropical fish. On our way back out we stopped by a nature reserve that looked like a slice of tropical Africa, complete with baboons. Seriously.
It was really shocking coming out of the Yemeni highlands to find that we actually WERE in the Middle East and that the Middle East gets really, really hot. It’s shocking to think that this is the society that came up with the idea of covering a human being from head to toe in black cloth. I’m not one to go shirtless, but it seemed the very most basic instinct I had while I was on the Yemeni coast. I was never really able to fulfill this instinct, however, until our group got on some really shady looking watercraft and motored ourselves to a secluded island off the coast (far away from pious Muslim eyes.) I spent two whole days sans-shirt and began to wonder why the wretched rag had ever been invented in the first place. Our two island days were spent, swimming, snorkeling, relaxing on the beach, and playing cards, mafia, and ping-pong (of which I remain the undisputed and undefeated champion.) Night swims on the island were particularly magical due to the billions of plankton in the water that light up at night when disturbed. It looks like all of your limbs glow when you swim. During these night swims, a game was played among the group members entitled “the west wind blows” in which everyone makes a circle around one individual who says: “the west wind blows for anyone who…” and then anyone who fits the description provided must trade places in the circle with others who also fit the description, eventually resulting in a new person in the middle. It’s essentially musical chairs of who’s done x, y, or z. I soon found out why Mormons are so overrepresented in the CIA. Almost instantly, the game began to revolve around psychedelic substances and sexual experimentation. My position on the fringe of the circle was quite secure.
Our time off of the island was a mix of various death marches through historical Yemeni cities. Imagine if there were a stadium-sized sauna filled with street vendors and garbage, and that’s about what we experienced in various western Yemeni villages. Not that we didn’t see anything interesting there. We noticed some form of medical bloodletting that involved suction cups and a number of plastic crates containing chicks that were spray-painted green and blue and pink and orange. Apparently they sell them to kids.

We stopped by some historical… thing… building… place… I’m not really sure since there was not very much explanation during these death marches… anyhow, there was some tower-like structure that our military escort wanted us to go into, so they led the way into the front entrance. The soldiers went in, and the bats came out. I’ve seriously never seen so many bats in my life. It was like rabbits coming out of a hat. We didn’t go in, but one soldier stood at the door with a stick, trying to make solid contact with the exiting rodents. One of our final items of business in the hotter part of the country was to visit a nature reserve to see the baboons that apparently live in Yemen. Another complete change of scenery. It really looks like you should be in some kind of African highlands. Anyhow, I’ll include pictures of all of the things described above, and hopefully it will do it some justice.


At 2:35 PM, Blogger said...

Ciao form Italy


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