Day 9: Karak, Madaba, Al Qul'at ah-Shawbak, Mt. Nebo
I just got back from doing laundry in my tub—by hand. If you have never experienced this before because you have a very nice and fancy washing machine that does this all for you, let me encourage you to try it. It will humble you considerably and make you appreciate the things you have so much more (especially if all the clothes are filthy with sweat and sand).
It just keeps nagging at me how so uber rich Americans are! Even those who consider themselves in the lower end of the Socioeconomic Status are still a BILLION times richer than the people who live in these countries! It has really been an eye opener for me to see how people live on day to day life.
People (especially pastors who are preaching on tithing) talk about how rich we are and how we are the richest country in the world. You know, the normal, “Wha-wha-wha-whawha-wha.” I always listened to it, and believed the people telling me it, but you really don’t start to believe something until you see it for yourself.
I have been hanging out a lot with some of the Bedouins here in the Middle East. They are some of the most interesting people in the world. Honestly, I believe many of them are some of the most intelligent people in the world.
If you don’t know what a Bedouin is, a Bedouin is a modern day nomad. Literally, they travel around, taking their herds of goats or sheep, and live around the desert looking for more water or grazing land for their herds. They dig wells and my stay in one spot for a while, but over time the well dries up and they move on. Most of the Bedouins live in tents. Sometimes they stay long enough to build nice mud-brick houses, but those are too abandoned when the water runs out. (As we drive through the desert we pass HUNDREDS of abandoned mud-brick houses.)
These people can be some of the most annoying and some of the kindest people all at the same time. Most of them in modern days have picked up tourism peddling, trying to sell trinkets, bracelets, souvenirs, or necklaces for, “One dollar!” or “One dinar!” or “Five Egyptian pounds!” In this sense, when they are following you around and constantly shoving stuff in your hand to try to get you to buy it (totally ignoring western social boundaries), they can be some of the most irritating people in the world. I was so frustrated at them, I wrote a rant about it here.
However, once I sat down and got to know them, I really see why they are so pushy. They are really not trying to get rich. They are trying to get enough money for the day so they can buy clothes for their kids, food for their family, or (what make you feel so ashamedly blessed) water for the next day.
Here I am, a college student on a University Study Abroad trip, carrying my bottled water, wearing my sunscreen and sunglasses, taking pictures with my fancy, everything proof camera, and then complaining about how hot it is and how I now have sunburn on the back of my neck…
How embarrassed and ashamed I felt after meeting Mahmaud (I’m not sure how to spell it, but it is pronounced “Ma-*phlem*-mood”). Mahmaud was a very tiny, ten-year old Bedouin boy. I made a video about him here (coming soon). He followed us around and just talked with us, offering to take our picture and show us around the ruins of Petra. He lived there on the site of Petra with his father and sister (he may have had a mother too, but he never mentioned her and I never saw her). Mahmaud was the cutest Bedouin boy we met so far.
“You want to see the camel?” he would ask us, and before we could reply he would say, “Come come! Come here! I show you! Follow me! Come on!” Mahmaud took us up to show us his goat herd he was watching while his dad was tending their stand in Petra. (That is also in the video). After walking through more desert, he showed us the well where he got his water. He offered us some, but we had to decline. (Jordanian water and American water are just different enough to give us… well… Herod’s Revenge.) Hugging the rock face, we climbed some more rocks to a small shrine he showed us with a carving of a camel and two men on the outside of it, weathered away my millennia of erosion.
It was in this moment that I realized how different our lifestyles were (especially the lives of him and other American kids). He doesn’t go to school. He probably will never go to college. He will probably grow up and take over the peddling business when he gets older. He probably can’t read or write (but I don’t know this for sure). He will probably never get to travel to a foreign country or even take a vacation for that matter.
However, he is very intelligent, in many ways more so than America kids. He speaks at least four different languages fairly fluently (I know this because he spoke Arabic to his family, English to us, German to another group who was passing after he realized they spoke German, and gave directions to another couple in French after they asked him where to go next). He knows how to relate to people. He is optimistic about his future. He has no fear. He isn’t worried about “What do you want to be when you grow up?” He doesn’t have a slew of health problems and psychological disorders he could possibly be diagnosed with. He doesn’t worry about greed. He isn’t envious of his fellow Bedouin friends (because they all have to worry about food for the next day). He doesn’t have to worry about “what’s in” with the latest gadgets and apparel. He doesn’t worry about texting or whether or not Johnny has a crush on Susie, who he wants to be his girlfriend. In so many ways, he is happier than most American kids.
As I sit here in my five-star, air-conditioned hotel sipping on wine and typing on my fancy computer, I am ashamed about how blessed I am and how I am worrying about money because I had to take out loans for this school trip. I have a suitcase full of luggage: one dress shirt and pants for fancy dinners, multiple clothes for different days (meaning I am not wearing most of the clothes in my suitcase most of the time), shampoo and body wash to keep myself clean each day as I take a shower, deodorant to cover up my body odor, and several books I am reading for leisure. How spoiled am I?
I once read in a book written by an Indian (in Asia, not America) who talked about how Americas are so rich they have entire rooms full of clothes they only wear occasionally. He was saying that in the same walk-in closets in which we store our clothes, some husbands cram their spouse(s) and children in the same space. After looking at some of the caves and tents I’ve seen the Bedouins live in, he is totally right.
I really started to feel guilty until I realized that I can do something about it. No, I may not be able to help every Bedouin out there by giving my money to them. (Which I honestly think is a stupid idea anyway because all we are doing is teaching the Bedouins to accept handouts and to become dependent on handouts. Any organization that just goes in somewhere and gives out freebees is totally well-intending, but totally doing more harm than good in the long run. Being over here has really shown me that. Anyway, end of soapbox.) God wants me to be responsible with the money I have. He wants me to use the money He has blessed with wisely, as a good steward of His kingdom. If He wishes for me to help out the Bedouins, than I will. I will buy many of their trinkets they make in order to give them some money. I will spend some time with them and help them sell stuff, herd goats, or carry water—whatever they need me to do.
Mahmaud has taught me so much. I started to feel guilty that I had spent so much money to go on this trip until I realized that I am learning important life-lessons—lessons that are invaluable and cannot be bought with any self-help book. Even though I have paid more money for this trip than Mahmaud will probably ever own in his lifetime (and I’m not exaggerating, this is probably true), the lessons that kids like him have taught me, as well as the pure facts of the archeological sites, are priceless.
Following His Call,