Sunday, October 12, 2008

Portrait #54: Water (part 2)

recap on what water taught me about Jordan:
1. Understatement is to be expected.
2. Safety is of secondary concern.
3. Environmental preservation can only happen to the extent that everyone is still fat, dumb and happy.
4. I still have a phobia of drowning.

(details of 2-4...)
Had we been in a country where the authorities are terrified of being sued, and people live by the motto that safety is more important than fun or comfort, this trek probably couldn't have happened. Or there would have been warnings posted all around: "Slippery Rock"; "Detour"; "Do not step here!" Then there would have been stretches where bridges or at least rope would have been set up to avoid the bigger risks.

Yesterday, when we got to the waterfall, our guide had us all peek down at the cliff we would be rapelling. He fake-pushed me as I was peering down and cracked a series of jokes. Apparently, the Wadi Mujib folks used to be even less concerned, and allowed hikers to do this without guides or anyone nearby who was trained in using rapelling equipment. Haha. I guess people just jumped down holding the rope and hoped they survived! With the proper equipment, this was very low risk, but it was still approached impressively nonchalantly! And just for kicks, as we all rapelled down the waterfall, there was a fieldtrip of 100 schoolgirls jumping around in the pool of water below!

Then there were the stretches where we had to slide down rocks because there was no other way of getting down, or cross a current of water so strong that it knocked the us slighter women down. It was like whitewater rafting except in shallower water and on foot instead of in a boat. Oh, i just realised that in the U.S. there is NO WAY we could have done this without lifejackets. I'm so glad I'm in Jordan, I figure that if you're going to go on an adventure like this, there's no point being all that concerned about safety.

This was definitely the most telling lesson of the day. I haven't yet pinned down exactly what the source of all this water is, since on three sides the gorge is surrounded by desert, and the fourth side is the Dead Sea which, as we all know, is NOT a source of fresh water. In fact, Wadi Mujib naturally flows into the Dead Sea and is a primary source of the Dead Sea. I guess the salt stays in the sea but the water evaporates, so it depends on this constant source of replacement water.

But, you see, Jordan has a water shortage. A very serious water shortage. Wadi Mujib is one of only a few (3, I think) major water sources in a country with a population of several million. So engineers have dammed the bottom of the river flowing through the gorge and rerouted it. Now, ALL of the water in Wadi Mujib is routed to Amman, Jordan's capital, instead of being left to flow into the Dead Sea. This means, no pun intended, that the Dead Sea is slowly dying. It's evaporating and not being replenished. Meanwhile, people in Amman are happily drinking and showering in the amazingly clean fresh water of Wadi Mujib, not thinking of the fact that the water they are enjoying is not just rerouted from a natural water flow, but that the natural water flow has been completely blocked off. I don't know a lot about these things, but I can't imagine that there's any way this can be a permanently sustainable arrangement.

What really bites about it all, though, is the following: Wadi Mujib is a Nature Reserve. Can someone tell me how it qualifies as an environmentalist sanctuary, a government-sanctioned nature reserve, when the entirety of its water is feeding potential environmental disaster?

I once had a near-drowning experience. No, actually, I didn't, but I still remember clearly a day when I was playing in the sea and the waves came crashing down on me and I panicked. I thought I was going to drown and needed help to get out of the water. I was quite shaken up by this experience. That was the day I realised I have some kind of phobia of drowning. I love water and I love swimming - after all, I grew up in a beach paradise! But when the water starts to threaten me, I panic. It's been a long time since I've felt that way, though, so I guess I'd forgotten about that. Until it was my turn to rapel. I started out great, lowering myself down the rock as if I were some kind of pro. But as soon as the water from the waterfall hit my face, I panicked. I stopped breathing and could only think clearly enough to remember that if I completely let go, the guide would lower me the rest of the way himself. I guess that phobia's still there. Next time I rapel down a waterfall I'll wear a ski mask or something.

1 comment:

Mom said...

Oh, goodness, Katie. And Dad and I were just starting to feel like maybe you could be safe and sound in Jordan.

Now I'm imagining you unconscious, being dragged down a mountain waterfall by some guide who thinks its funny to pretend he's pushing people over the side.

Lord have mercy!

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