Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Dirty Digging

Yesterday we visited friends from Andrews University excavating at Tall Jalul, near Madaba.  It was so refreshing to see familiar faces!  And, of course, it was nice to be back at the site of a dig in process.  I have only been on one dig, but it was extra nice for Owen, since digging is kind of his life (and what he loves doing).  He went back alone today for the full experience. 

It was fun to see how much Jack loved it, too--he very badly wanted to go down into all the squares, and kept asking for a shovel so he could dig.  Owen found him a trowel and let him dig in an out-of-the-way area.  Later, at pottery washing, they let Jack help scrub sherds with a toothbrush (with unimportant sherds, of course), and he did about a 1/3 bucket's worth...a couple times over!  He was so diligent and attentive.

We also took advantage of the pool at the Miriam Hotel, where the excavation team stays.  It was so nice to swim!  The water was cold, so Safita didn't really feel like braving it, but Jack the Adventurous jumped right in and squealed and laughed away.

After lunch, we went to the souk in Madaba to go shopping.  We've had our eye on some copper jugs for a few months now, but the old man who owns the shop where they live is suspectably dishonest...You know, in the way that true sales people can be.  That was our general feeling about him, and our experience yesterday seems to confirm it.  We thought the price he gave us before was exorbitantly high, so we did some research on what a copper jug--possibly antique--was worth.  This man is funny; his shop is filled mostly with silk rugs (beautiful!), antique-looking items, and random trinkets.  It's not large and kind of dingy.  But, he seems convinced that whatever you might want, he will have it, and it will be the best quality from anywhere else you might find it.  We also were asking about mosaics yesterday, and he said, "I have the most amazing thing, you will not believe it!" and proceeded to pull out some mosaics wrapped in plastic bags and hidden under a pile of rugs in a corner.  He had a few hidden in various spots throughout the store--what??

Anyway, back to the copper jugs, he gave us the same price this time as before, but when we tried to bargain with him based on our research, he acted seriously offended and left the store.  Then a younger man with very good English came in to deal with us, which was great because he happened to know several of our acquaintances here and has himself studied at ACOR.  He made us a deal for 2 jugs for the price of one.  We could live with that (who wouldn't want two??).  The old man nearly had a heart attack when he found out...not sure if he's acting or legitimately felt ripped off.  It was so funny that he kept wanting the young man to give us a price for various things, but when he did, the old man would keel over or cover his face and groan in dismay; it didn't phase the young guy.  Were they playing good-cop/bad-cop shopkeepers?  Who knows. I think the old man is just a character.  The old man had also told us the jugs were antiques, but the young man said, no, these are new.  We found out in the course of being there that the young guy is the old man's nephew.

So, we had asked the nephew (as mentioned above) about a good place to find mosaics, so he took us into the street and was pointing out a few, when his uncle looked at him sternly and said (in English), "Show what you have."  I wondered, why didn't he just tell him that in Arabic so we couldn't understand?  Strange.  So he complied, but he knew his uncle's prices were way too high (and we knew it too, because we had already shopped around), so whenever his uncle was out of earshot he would tell us, "Go check around."  I love buying from honest people.  For a lot of this stuff, there's no way to really quantify its actual value, so it's worth what it means to you; and it's nice to support the local people. 

At the various mosaic shops, several of them took Jack up on their laps and showed him how to put mosaic pieces in--oh, he loved that!  They gave us tea and juice and just sat to visit with us.  They even told us tricks for making a good mosaic--my mind was reeling to remember so I could try it at home!  Again, I loved their honesty: a few of them would make sure to tell us which stones were natural and which were colored, which were local and which were imported.  I'm also still amazed at how much people here love kids, and how they almost beg us to let them play freely in their stores; I know it's not just so they can invoke the "you break it you buy it" policy, because other Jordanian friends have communicated the same sentiment: they are kids, let them play and be free!  When Jack almost knocked a whole row of mosaics off a shelf, one young shopkeeper said, "No, it's my fault.  I should not put them there.  I only want him to not hurt himself."  I'm really going to miss the kid-friendliness of this country! 

Several of the shopkeepers also gave the kids gifts--not uncommon, I'm finding--so we actually came away with more free stuff than what we bought!  Like I said before, children are a golden ticket in this part of the world, and for more than just free stuff.

We ate dinner with a couple friends at this really amazing little restaurant called Adonis.  The cave-like atmosphere was so cozy, accented with Bedouin-style cushions and really neat wall sconces...And the food was amazing!  It was a good day.


  1. That looks fabulous! Love the copper jugs! Is the mosaic pictured one that you bought?

  2. Yes, I am in love with copper! The mosaic pictured is just a picture we found online...we haven't bought any yet because we're still deciding what we're doing with it, and that determines the shape and size. But we do like the tree scenes similar to what is displayed in the picture above.