Thursday, March 13, 2014

Ancient Relic Appreciation

I have been reminded in the last month how many ancient sites I've been privileged to see in my lifetime. The sermons at our church have been on the churches mentioned in Revelation. Years ago, when Jason and I took college students to Turkey I saw the ruins of Ephesus and Pergamum. I have seen Topkopi Palace, the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia so many times that I tired of them. I've seen the underground church in Cappadocia and stayed many times in the city of Antakya (the Antioch where Paul started his journeys). Since we've been in Jordan I've seen Mt. Nebo, the Dead Sea, the Dead sea scrolls, the ruins of Jerash, Karak, Pella and Ajloun castle. 
I'm living in a country where you can't throw a rock without hitting an ancient ruin with the ancient ruin you thought was a rock.
Now that we're nearing the end of our time living among a lot of old, dead civilizations I'm starting to appreciate the experience. 
While walking through Jerash with our kids, our son enthusiastically lead the way to each ruin. He was the only one of the four of us to have been to Jerash before. Our daughter was tired and trudged behind us groaning at all the distance between each ruin. 
"Just leave me here and come back for me," she moaned. I told her that she would look back fondly on the chance to see these things someday. I also told her that she lives in a good time in history. Travel is affordable enough for us to see ancient sites, mankind has dug up quite a bit of them and many of them haven't been destroyed since their discovery. She agreed that this was true, but it didn't make her more enthusiastic about the experience. 
I think about places like Syria and Iraq which have lost sites and artifacts in the recent past. Those are sites I, and everyone else will never get to see.
I confess that part of this newfound enthusiasm for ancient things surely is due to my old age. So, Jordan, bring on your ancient architecture!

Friday, March 07, 2014

Run Visa Run

I've been privileged to live in a time period and in a country that has granted me citizenship. This means that I can move and work freely within the bounds of our countries borders. Since we are such a big country with a good economy, few of us consider applying for visas to work in other countries.

Other people groups are unable to find work in their country and move in order to work in a different country. This often requires a visa of some kind.

We are not Jordanians but have been living in Jordan for nearly 2 years now. This has required us to get a visa. Our hope when we first arrived here (with the promise of a teaching job) was that we would be able to get an iqama. An iqama is a 1 year visa that is given to those working in Jordan for a local company. When the job fell through we considered the other visa options available for US citizens:

-a student visa, valid for as long as one is a student at a local university (we attended a language school that couldn't get this visa for its students).

-an investment visa which you acquire by investing a large sum of money in a local market. (we don't have a large sum of money)

-a tourist visa, good for one month with the ability to be extended.

Ultimately, we had to settle on the last option. This requires one to go to your neighborhood police station after your first month here and register for 2 additional months in the country. When those 2 months are up, you can apply at a government office for another 3 month extension which (if approved) gives you the ability to stay in the country for 6 months. After those 6 months, there are no more extensions given and you must leave the country. You can come back into the country the day after you leave and start the 6 month process all over again. The government at any of these points can choose to deny you your visa and you have to pack up and leave. Thankfully, they've given us all the extensions up to this point.

Anyone trying to do a border crossing with a family will understand that it can be costly and time consuming and wearisome. There was a time when it was a cheap and easy and fun to make a visa run into Syria. A mini vacation and you have a new visa. For obvious reasons, Syria is no longer an option...Egypt is iffy at the moment. Saudi Arabia is not option and Israel is an awkward option. Last year we were able to visit our friends in Ukraine for our visa trip. This year we were able to go to the resort area of Taba, Egypt.

There are many people here (predominantly Sri Lankan, Bangladeshi, etc) who work as maids in order to make enough to support their family back in their home country. Jason does a fine job providing for us and I hope that we will never have to be separated by so much physical distance in order for him to continue to provide. I have a new appreciation for living in a country where I don't have to wonder if my visa request will be denied. We'll move back to the US in a couple of months and I won't have to worry about the government kicking me out of the country.

I'll look back on our time here in Jordan as a great cross-cultural adventure. We definitely got to spend time in a good country. Thank you Jordan for renewing our visa.