Oct. 16: Toronto to Jordan

Four of us just arrived at JFK in New York (from Toronto) and have SEVEN hours to wait and wander before lifting off for Amman. Two others will arrive later to join us on this flight and we will meet the rest of the group at the hotel.

Because I have not yet finished my reading, I parked myself in the nearly empty lounge while the others have gone off to wander. I noticed this family group and introduced myself.

New Friends at the airport

Turns out that the young man is Jordanian married to the young American woman. They are taking five-month old Leila to Amman to meet the ‘teta’ and ‘jed.’ The other woman just met on the plane from Boston. She was visiting her husband who works in Boston. He is a chemical engineer studying English and has their three children with Jim. Complicated story – he ran away from Iraq and he and their children have limited rights. They are not allowed to go to public school, for instance. She works in Jordan to support the family.

That’s all for now. We have many hours, so I may get to know these people better.

Ann Castel and Bobbi Speck

Been here now almost five hours and several more to go. Here is Ann Castel cramming for our discussion in Egypt of The Yacoubian Building. Bobbi Speck is trying to figure out some useless electronic gadget she bought from Brookstone. Still waiting for Paul to show up from San Francisco and David from Chicago. Victor, Eva and I make up the rest of our merry little band here at Gate 14 of Terminal 3.

Our new Jordanian friends have written lists of food recommendations (in Arabic) and suggested that Egyptian food is the nadir of Middle Eastern cuisine – due, they say to cooking oil extracted from bulls.

David Schmitt our leader and Rhonda

This is Rhonda, a criminal and real estate lawyer in Ramallah. She is a dual citizen and came to the US to have her baby. She is returning home to join her husband and three year old daughter with 2-month old Joseph. Her daughter has no papers or status as a Palestinian, which accounts for her decision to come to the US for this birth. Both Rhonda and Saoud are warm and outspoken and very strong women. Oh yes, that is David Schmitt, our esteemed discussion leader. Where, oh where is Paul Ortega?

Where is Mecca?

I have never seen this on a plane – obviously, so that the many Muslims will know which direction to face when praying.

Glad to report that the security guy at the gate bent the rules to confirm that our missing participant, Paul Ortega, from San Francisco, was on board. But he wouldn’t bend them enough to tell me where he is sitting. Funny, I met Paul at a Great Books event in Asilomar CA last spring and felt sure we would recognize one another.

My meal has arrived and I am famished.


Most of us have made it to Amman, happy but tired. Some disappointment at dinner that there was no wine or beer to be had. Not sure how ‘dry’ we will find ourselves. Four more arrive tonight and we are off to Jerash in the morn. Now, toute de suite, to bed.

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