Saturday, September 17, 2011

Salt Of The Earth

Johnny:  First let me say what an honor it is to be sharing American music abroad.

The last two weeks have been a blur of preparation, packing, getting poked like a pin cushion with vaccines, and wondering what adventures lay ahead.

“AhlanwaSahlan” means “Welcome” in Arabic.  We certainly felt warmly welcomed by Karin Ehlert and her staff from the US Embassy upon arriving in Jordan last night.

Today, Brian, Danny, Joe and I had the pleasure of spending time in Amman, Jordan with our affable new friend, Emad.  He greeted us with a bowl of fresh fruits from his brother’s garden.

 Emad showed us around town and took us to a local mall to find swimwear. (Our luggage and instruments will be arriving to meet us later tonight - I’m sure they’re having a unique adventure of their own.)  We didn’t find any athletic clothes at the mall, but I did find that elusive pair of perfect new jeans I’ve been looking for (70% Off - only $20 US)!  With that bargain under my belt (literally), we hit the highway for the Dead Sea.

First, though, we each had our first ride on a camel.  The ride was remarkably smooth: a steady rounded lope with a view much higher and better that the windshield of any SUV...and you can’t beat the mileage.  These are amazing animals.

The Dead Sea is the only place on the globe where the crust of planet Earth recedes to an "in-depth low" of minus over 1,300 feet below sea level. This is the lowest site on Earth!  Talk about deep thoughts.

The salinity level is over 33%.  That’s even higher than a New York City pretzel.
There are no living creatures in the Salt Sea, except for the most simple micro-organisms.

I walked over salt-encrusted rocks and stones into water as warm as the most pleasant bath I’ve ever taken.  As my feet left the end of the reachable bottom, I felt the most strange sensation.  The salt level causes a buoyancy that actually pushes you up out of the water.  I emptied my lungs and tried to dunk my body under and dip my head in.  No dice.  My feet flung up in front of me and I found myself floating on the surface of the sea as if I were in an invisible lounge chair!  You could not drown in this sea if you tried. 

 I closed my eyes, relaxed every muscle in my body and had about 20 minutes of peaceful, healing flotation-meditation under the warming sun.
I waffled between clearing my mind of all things and thinking about the incredible history of this area of the world and how lucky we are to be sharing our music here.

The band and I met people from all over the globe who had come to experience this natural wonder.  They were lounging, chatting in various languages, laughing, and relaxing, and most were covered head to toe in a dark mud.
After covering ourselves with the dark mud treatment (SPF 100), we invited some new friends to our concert tomorrow night at the Al Hussein Cultural Center.  I don’t know if we’ll recognize each other, as I could barely even recognize Brian (“Mudman” seemed very comfortable in his most natural state).

We all showered, took one last look across the Sea at Israel and Jericho, and headed off to an incredible dinner with Emad in the older city section of Amman to cap off a perfect day.  Even more impressive, with a parking situation not unlike midtown Manhattan on a Saturday night, Emad got an audible cheer from the JRB for a most impressive parallel parking maneuver that defied physics!

We are ready for a full day of music tomorrow with a morning workshop at the UNRWA School in Wehdat, an afternoon radio interview with Mood FM, and a free evening performance at 7:30 at the Al-Hussein Cultural Center.

“Shukran” means “Thank You” in Arabic.  Shukran, Emad.

Dead sea

Danny: Amman Jordan

I am writing this entry from the shore of the dead sea. We are swimming, I should say, floating in this salt laden lake, that was formed thousands of years ago. At the bottom, lies the ancient cities of Sodom and Gomorrah.

This is also the lowest point on earth, it is 400 ft. below sea level. You can really feel the pressure drop when you drive down towards the lake.

The mountains you see on the other side are Israel. I am also looking across to the right at Jerico.

We just took some mud treatment from the lake bottom.

You really can't swim on your stomach and when you float on your back, your body pops out of the water.

When I went up the hill to shower the mud off my face ( I didn't do the full body), I met a Jordanian couple, Thomas, Elisha and their son David.
He is a drummer and Guitarist for a church praise band an we all spoke of the power of music and praise. They told me the story of Sodom and how the Dead Sea became salty from Lot's wife,'who turned into a pillar of salt. That site is to the left of the sea. Not far from here, we saw a sign for the road to the place where Jesus was
Baptized by his cousin John.

It is so beautiful here and you can just feel the history pouring out of the ancient rocks. Here is some salt crystals from the Sea and some assorted shots

When I see couples, families and children swimming and having so much fun, It reminds me of how much we are all the same. I feel so blessed to be here, meeting such wonderful, welcoming people. So blessed to be anywhere, writing to you:)

Hotel California

View from our hotel in Amman

An oasis of calm outside the lobby

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