Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Jordan Challenge 24 : Getting Active in Jordan

Although winter in Jordan can't hold a candle to winter in Vermont in terms of temperature, snow or length, it is still not the mild drop in temperature I was expecting.  It's cold and rainy and the tough part is that going indoors isn't a great help because nothing is insulated.  The plus side, I guess, is that eventually you figure out that you're about as well off leaving the uncomfortable indoors and venturing back out. Which in turn (together with some of the great friends I've been lucky to meet since coming to Amman) inspired me to get moving again, on a bike and in the rock climbing gym, in the last couple of weeks.

Back in the first month I was here I took a bike ride with the awesome group Cycle Jordan. I'd been meaning to do some more, and when they sent out a notice inviting people to join in a Dead Sea ride as a way to end 2011 and prepare for 2012 on a high note, it seemed an excellent idea.  Happily, my friends Elizabeth, Jayme, Sarah and Gaelle were all up for the adventure, and so off we went.  In addition to the ride, Cycle Jordan treated us to a terrific barbecue at the entrance to Wadi Mujeb, a very well know National Park featuring a deep canyon that allows for "wet hikes" and abseiling in the spring (which will, I hope be the subject of a write up in March or April).

Jayme, Gaelle, Elizabeth and I on the bus from Amman (bikes on the roof).

A bit of the scenery from our starting point (Jayme's photo)

...and us at our actual starting point (Jayme's photo)

Gaelle, Elizabeth, Sarah and Jayme at the end of the ride.

Not only did Cycle Jordan provide a fabulous barbecue, they even brought marshmallows for roasting at the camp fire.  We all agreed that we will definitely be doing this again!
One of my favorite discoveries from my 2010 Year of New Things was rock climbing.  There are all kinds of reasons that I think it's a great activity, most of which I've chronicled in previous posts.  When I packed my bags to move to Jordan for the year, I threw in my harness and climbing shoes, because I knew, both that Jordan has some very famous outdoor climbing areas and that Amman is home to Climbat, the first climbing gym in the Middle East.  Though it took me a full four months to do it, I am happy to report that my gear has finally made it out of the closet and onto Climbat's wall.

My cycling friends Jayme and Gaelle are both also avid rock climbers, and unlike me, have been going on a regular basis indoors and out since we all arrived here in September.  When Jayme reminded me that I had resolved to start in the New Year and more than a week had already passed, I knew she was right. So, on a Thursday night I joined the two of them, plus some of their climbing friends to re-acquaint myself with knots and ropes and sore muscles.  I forgot to bring my camera, but happily, received a second climbing invitation almost immediately from yet another fellow Fulbrighter, Elizabeth K.  Although I was still nursing sore shoulders from my Thursday night session, I joined Elizabeth, her friend Ahmad, fellow Fulbrighter Usama, and Tim, Ben and Will for a Sunday morning session as well.
Usama headed straight to the top on his very first climb.

Elizabeth and Usama show a little post-climb exhilaration after their first climbs of the day.

Ahmad showing his approval while Ben gives Will a refresher on knot-tying.

Tim and Ben do a quick consult before Tim heads up the wall.

It was Usama's first time climbing and Elizabeth's second, which threw me in the ironic position of being The Teacher of the Knot, meaning that I got to show them how to make a figure eight and "tie in" to start climbing. Turns out that spending a rainy day in a climbing gym with a group of people you don't know well is not only a great way to get some exercise, but also to get to know those people a lot better (nothing bonds two people faster than having one of them holding the other high up on a wall by the tension in a rope).  And because Tim was involved, we also all had to stretch our brains a bit.  In between climbs we had to try to figure out the ten countries of the world with four letter names (in English) and the four with only one vowel (y doesn't count).  Now that my muscles are no longer sore, and I finally figured out the tenth country (Oman), I'm ready to head back to Climbat.  Here's hoping for more time on a bike and on the wall in 2012!

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