Daily Log(Starting April 18, 2009)

April 22, 2009

This morning we woke up decently early in order to get to the Ammon Airport by noon. We said goodbye to the Bedul and headed off. The drive to airport was fairly uneventful.

When we initially arrived in Jordan, we had to leave the transit( a piece of equipment) at the airport because we didn't have permission to have it in Jordan, since we are going to use it in Syria. Holly and Dr. Finlayson had to go through a lot of flack to get it back today. But to make a long story short, they finally let us have it to take across the border.

We also met Mohamed Turki at the airport with a van, to take us and our luggage into Syria. Leaving Jordan was sort of an inefficient hassle, because of the transit. We also had to pay a 5 dinar exit tax. At one point we were standing in line to get our passports stamped, and one by one the man took our passports but didn't hand them back. We were wondering what the hold up was when another man came and finally handed the first man the stamp so he could stamp the passports. He then proceeded to stamp the 20 twenty or so passports he had collected. I guess he was just looking busy until he had what he needed to do his job.

The Syrian side of the border thankfully didn't take nearly as long. Bruce, our Australian member, arm wrestled with one of the Jordanian guards, which was quite funny. I should note that the guard was chided by his superior.

We were running late due to our extended time at the border, but we did still get to stop at Bosra on our way to Damascus. Bosra was especially interesting because it houses a classical theater a lot like the one we will be excavating. The theater is also constructed out of basalt. The basalt was apparently chosen, because after sitting outside in the sun all day it collects heat. Therefore the seats of the theater would have been quite warm for their ancient patrons.

After viewing the theater, we ate dinner at a restaurant nearby. We order the usual, which is barbeque chicken, flat bread, hummus, etc. There were these bags of water tied to the ceiling above our heads. We were told that they scare away flies.

When we finally got to Damascus, it was dark and lights of the city were quite beautiful. We got to house that we were staying in for the next couple of nights, to find that we couldn't get in. Apparently there were three locks and we only had keys for two of them. So, we ended up camping out on the steps of the stair well, with an insane amount of luggage until some could get the other key to us. But everything did work out and we got to sleep.

April 23, 2009

This morning I woke and ate Raisin Bran with warm milk. The cow "milk" Dr. Finlayson bought last night tasted pretty weird, so I decided heating the milk in the microwave was the best way to rectify the situation. It didn't taste nearly as bad warm. Sally is still feeling sick so she stayed at the apartment, while Holly, Bruce and I caught a cab to the Suq. Dr. Finlayson was already off trying to take care of paperwork with the Department of Antiquities.

Flagging a cab down was fairly easy and cab driver drove right to where we needed to be. We arrive at the Suq which an immense down town market. It had everything from spices to wood crafts to metal work to carpets, etc.

We were able to find a bank to change our money from dollars to Syrian pounds. The current rate is about 47.6 pounds to a dollar. We then found an internet cafe, which has been my only way to communicate thus far. The connection was fairly good, but I was unable to get on Facebook. I don't know, if it is generally blocked here in Syria or what. So sorry Facebook friends, it might be awhile before I can get a hold of you.

We then headed to Azem Palace to rendezvous with Dr. Finlayson. Azem Palace is a historic building that has since been converted into a museum. Dr. Finlayson has been working with the staff and students there to preserve the collection of ethnographic and historic objects. We got a tour of the museum and Dr. Finlayson was able to get some equipment that we need for Palmyra. Then Holly, Bruce and I headed back to the Suq.

We were supposed to all meet Dr. Finlayson between 4:00 and 4:30 to eat dinner. We waited at Bab Sharki(sp?) but Bruce thought we were at Bab Tuma(sp?). So after wandering around looking for him at both gates, we asked the man at the internet cafe if he knew where Bruce was. He said that Bruce had already gone to the restaurant. So we headed over there and found him.

We then caught a cab home. We dropped off Sally, since she was still feeling unwell. We then headed over to a super market, to get some last minute supplies. I was able to find some adapter plugs for about 50 cents each, which what they should cost.

April 24, 2009

We woke up decently early and when the van to Palmyra arrived, we loaded it up. We then drove across the desert, which is pretty desolate. We made one stop at the Baghdad Cafe, to walk around and stretch, etc. Then we were off to Palmyra.

When we arrived we drove past several of the many ruins here. Our first stop was our new home. We were given two really nice apartments across each other in a stairwell. Bruce gets one apartment all to himself, since he is the only male. On the female side there are two rooms. I am sharing a room with Sally, and Holly and Dr. Finlayson are in the other room. We have a kitchen, a bathroom, and living room as well. There is also a washing machine in the kitchen to do clothes.

Mohammed's family then fed us dinner. I met a turtle and very rambunctious dog named Lucy, as well. After that we went into town and checked one of the internet cafes.

April 25, 2009

This morning we woke up and headed straight for the Tower Tombs. The Palmarenes buried their dead in these multi floored buildings that are quite impressive.

We climbed up to the top of the mountain, so we could look down on our site and the rest of Palmyra and get a good perspective on what we were about to do. After that we went and checked out the dried up Efqa sping.

We went to the Palmyra museum after that to get necessary paperwork done. We were pretty much told to come back tomorrow. We can't start digging until the paperwork is cleared.

So, we went and ate lunch at a restaurant across the street from the museum. We then headed over to the Ishtar hotel to find Mohammed. Nahim, Mohammed's brother, offered us a very reasonable price to eat at the Ishtar for lunch everyday.

After that we picked up a few groceries, and got to relax until dinner. After dinner Holly showed us some of the basics of the program Indesign. I also washed a load of laundry. We have the amazing luxury of a washing machine, but we don't have a drier which means we get to take the laundry up to the roof and hang it out to dry.

April 26, 2009

This morning Dr. Finlayson made us pancakes, which were pretty good. Because we couldn't go out to site yet, Dr. Finlayson showed us a powerpoint presentation about the funerary portraits found in Palmyra. Dr. Finlayson has done extensive research on the subject and has some interesting theories about them. We then headed over to the museum. We filled out some paperwork, but also got tour the exhibits as well. We also picked up some equipment that had been stored in the museum's basement for us. After that Sally and I went to one of the internet cafes to email. I tried to update the website to no avail. We then headed over to Temple Bel and looked at the ruins until lunch. After lunch, I again tried to update the site with my own computer. I was able to get two pages up, but it was a slow and frustrating process. That night, Holly showed some of the basics of the program Illustrator and I watched a couple episodes of Voyager.