Fire Tea

November 08 2016

Dec 2011 I crossed by foot the Arava border from Israel into Jordan. The intended trip with friends to Petra for the day wasn't well planned, so I explored the beach town of Aqaba solo instead. I walked quite a bit, and when it came to cross back to Eilat, Israel I was far along north on the road, and chose to continue walking instead of taking another cab.

Though perfectly legal to cross, Jordan is considered unsafe and there are still tensions among the people of the bordering countries. The Hebrew-marked print of my water bottle had to come off, I figured it would be safer. I continued walking the sandy dirt along the single road to the border crossing, now almost in sight.

The afternoon heat was scorching. A man in uniform whistled at me at the military outpost on the side of the road. A small shack, a tower, and a few Humvees were all it was. I pointed in the direction of the border, trying to indicate to the man I wished to continue ahead. I barely had time to turn my head and take a step before he whistled again, this time shaking a finger.

I quickly thought of the contents in my backpack. An English book from a friend, a small collection of shells, an unmarked water bottle, a jacket, and 3 passports. Walking toward the outpost, I realized this may not go over well. Some trouble was looming: being detained, jail, or worse.

I said "hello," and the man pointed at a white plastic lawn chair: "sit," indicating to place my backpack on the side. "Passport." I fumbled through the front pocket where 3 passports sat together, weighing my options. The choice was easy, but I couldn't have him know of the others. USA relations to Jordan are not quite friendly. Being Israeli or Jewish may have been quickly disastrous. I pulled the crisp red covered booklet - I was now Romanian.

"Jacob?" It wasn't quite my name but I said "Yes, yes" to get it going. "Where you going?" I explained I was headed to Eilat to take flight home to Romania. It wasn't quite true, but my best story out. "You wait here."
A minute later he returned with a ceramic mug, "Fire tea?" We both sat and enjoyed the spiciest hot "Fire tea" I've ever had. It was delicious. "Cigarette?" "Sure." I don't normally smoke, but I had to appease the situation. Two men a short distance away were removing their bulletproof vests and used them as a prayer mat to Mecca. The irony of the situation was much.

"You wait here." Ten minutes passed, and eventually an old Toyota pickup passed by. I was nervous to what will come next. The man whistled again and the truck came to a screeching stop, and reversed to the station. The men exchanged a few words in Arabic, and told me to hop in. They drove me to the border, dropped me off, and I walked across.

Simon Iacob
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