In what is becoming a rapidly evolving tradition each anniversary, we left town last weekend to celebrate our third wedding anniversary. Our first anniversary was celebrated in Dubai, while the second was in New York. This year, our destination of choice was Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Philadelphia is pretty neat, feeling somehow like a young town with a number of quaint streets laden with European-style pubs and off-beat shops. It also has tremendous significance in American history, as the city is home to Independence Hall, where the American constitution was signed, the Liberty Bell, the first US Post Office, and the home of Betsy Ross, who is said to have sewn the first US flag, among other things.
Touring on a bus that converted into a boat was an exciting way to see the city and the Delaware River. While on the tour, our guide showed us Will Smith’s house, right on the river. According to our guide, the residents of Philly know Smith is in town when they see flags mounted outside the house. Smith’s dad, who lives in the house year-round, puts out the flags whenever his son comes home. I guess this makes life for Smith’s stalkers much easier. Anyway, I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.
One of the most unique places I have visited in this country so far is Williamsburg, Virginia. What made this place special for me is it the vast amount of history associated with it. During our two-day visit there a few weeks back, I received a crash-course in American history.
Thanks to our quick museums tours, I got to know about the Revolutionary War, the victory in Yorktown, the Boston tea party, what taxation without representation is all about and the daily doings of the early immigrants who formed the first colonies.
Visiting Jamestown, which is right down the road from Williamsburg, was pretty eye opening as well. I laid my eyes upon the original location of the first colony that gave birth to what is now the United States. It was exciting to see the early haunts of Captain John Smith and Pocahontas, two characters that for awhile I thought of as mere fiction.
Downtown Williamsburg was the most enchanting part of it all. It was a bit surreal for me to wander down cobblestone streets alongside people dressed in colonial clothes, speaking in colonial accents, while listening to colonial music and eating colonial food. It was a trip back in time in every sense of the word.
Dining in Williamsburg was out of this world, as we savored a colonial dinner in the dark using only candles for lighting — just like the good old days. Overall, it was a memorable trip. I will let the pictures — taken by the super talented husband — speak for themselves.
When the husband told me of his desire to take me to Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, Virginia I answered saying: "Great. But no roller coasters." "We’ll see," he said under his breath.
As soon as we arrived, the first thing we did was ride a roller coaster, the park’s legendary Loch Ness Monster. I have no idea how he convinced me to do it. I just succumbed so quickly — with no resistance. The experience was terrifying in every sense of the word. I was so scared that I decided to close my eyes during the ride and pretend that the whole roller coaster experience was just a bad dream. As soon as this near-death experience came to an end, the beaming husband asked me how I felt. "I need a beer," was my reply.
The day rolled on with still more adventures including haunted houses, bumper cars, Halloween shows, water rides and one more roller coaster. Yes, I succumbed one more time. "I want to you to share my love for roller coasters," he said in his latest attempt to convince me to ride another roller coaster — this time the Big Bad Wolf. I obliged for I’m too weak. This second ride was as terrifying as the first except that this time I decided to conquer my fear and keep my eyes open. I did not conquer anything. I was scared to death.
By the end of the day, yes, the husband wanted to try yet another roller coaster. This time I resisted. "Come on how can you keep doing this?" I asked a bit annoyed.
"Well I’m like Grissom in CSI. I love riding roller coasters," he explained.
"Did he say that in the show?" I asked.
"Oh yeah," the husband said smiling. "Do you know when I was about fifteen, my friend Steve and I once rode the Loch Ness some 25 times in one day."
After three years of marriage I discovered something new about my husband: he rides roller coasters.
We spent this past week at South Carolina’s Myrtle Beach for a big family gathering. Among the many unique experiences I went through during this marvelous vacation — besides spending quality time with family — was swimming in the Atlantic Ocean. It was a first for yours truly.
What was so exhilarating about this activity was battling the "ferocious" waves and eventually learning to ride/surf them. If memory serves, I don’t recall ever facing high waves while swimming in the Red Sea – the site where most of my outdoor swimming experiences took place. Is this what distinguishes a sea from an ocean? I wonder. I must admit, being whacked by a strong wave can be painful but it’s loads of fun.
Another fascinating moment was watching a fisherman catch a shark, drag it and gut it out to get its meat. I was not the only spectator either, as many tourists gathered around the fisherman to take pictures of his most recent acquisition. However, I was the only one who asked the fisherman: "Is that a ‘real’ shark?" Somehow the whole thing was just surreal. Anyway, I’ll let the pictures [they enlarge on click] speak for themselves.
I think this picture speaks for itself [Yes, it enlarges on click]. Last weekend was simply out of this world. I never thought I would do something like this in my lifetime … ever! It was something I used to see in the movies. But after some planning and encouragement from the husband, I decided to embark on my very first whitewater rafting experience on one of the oldest rivers in the world, the New River in West Virginia.
I have to admit, though, I was dreading it. I was so worried the night before that I stayed awake almost all night. I kept thinking I would end up clinging to a tree after the boat flipped, just like in the movies. But I didn’t! With our friends: Sarah, Elliot,the husband and me, the whole experience was absolutely exhilarating. I would do it again in a heartbeat. What a weekend!
I’m back to the US after a hectic 20-hour trip from my parent’s place in Amman to our apartment in Maryland. The 13-hour Royal Jordanian flight from Amman to Chicago was long — way too long. I was — and still am — suffering from a nasty cold that left me coughing and sneezing for the duration of the trip. It was truly awful. As for traveling RJ, everyone on the plane was animated as usual. For some reason, the concept of reading on the plane is practically non-existent amongst the majority of RJ travelers. As a result, everyone was quite sociable and chatty, making the idea of taking a nap almost impossible.
Anyway, enough ranting about Jordan’s national carrier. The best thing about traveling with RJ is that everyone on the plane claps upon landing. Quick question: Is this only a Jordanian tendency? Don’t get me wrong; I really like it. When arriving at Chicago’s airport, the immigration official there told me "welcome home." That was when it hit me. I left home to go back home! This is my existence nowadays. I live in limbo, with my heart divided between two different places. It’s really an overwhelming and -– sometimes — trying existence!
Meanwhile, here in Maryland, the spring is just wonderful. The weather is very pleasant and the cornucopia of spring colors is simply breathtaking. Yes, I’m really glad to be back.
If I were to evaluate the two weeks I spent in Jordan, I would say that they were simply wonderful in every sense of the word. The most important thing for me was the quality time spent with my family. As for my assessment of the capital Amman, it seems to be doing really well. Money seems to be pumping into this city, as it becomes more cosmopolitan by the day. Construction is taking place literally everywhere. Brand spanking new projects are mushrooming up all over the place and the talk of foreign investments is continual.
Even my friends who mange their own businesses in the city seem quite content and optimistic. They assured me that new projects are being handed to them all the time and that their business is booming. However, everyone was complaining about the hike in gas prices in Jordan. I was shocked to realize that nowadays filling my old Kia Pride with gas requires double the amount I used to pay only a few years ago.
During my visit, I could not get myself acquainted with all the security checks taking place all over -– an aftermath of the terrorist attacks in Jordan last November. One shocking and unusual scene was finding a security guard in front of our church on Easter morning. I asked my sister about the unusual scene and she told me it was nothing compared to last Christmas when a number of police cars were parked outside the church during the service. It was really sad to realize that churches are among the potential targets in Jordan. Churches, of all things; churches that are attended by no other than Jordanians themselves.
Anyway, on a totally different subject I’m glad to announce that I returned armed with all the goodies that make life worth living: Baklava, Turkish coffee, Jameed, Arabic spices and nuts. Happy times await!