Chapter 121: May 14 – Jerash
Good thing that I don't need a large breakfast to get me going as I was down to grabbing a croissant so that I could finish in time to join the excursion this morning. The interns and staff members stayed behind at the Movenpick while I helped to keep their SOs out from underfoot, or so said the Chief of Staff when he was telling his wife to keep the group under control. He'd already gotten a call from Chief Ivanov.
"She is spying on us," the woman hissed.
"If you are referring to Mrs. Dymtrus you are mistaken. She was not present at the incidences mentioned. There is someone else, perhaps our international guards, that are reporting the behaviors. To the contrary, she has warned several times that her body cam remains operational. And I have heard good things about her from sources that would not say so if the rumors were true."
"Bah! What do they know?!"
"It would appear more than your sources do. Now enough of this. It wastes my time and runs counter to your promises. If this nonsense continues I will know."
"You are showing her undue favor," his wife spat.
"Do not be ridiculous. I am catching many fallacies in these truths you claim to have heard."
They walked away and I felt embarrassed to have been caught eavesdropping. Not by the Chief of Staff but by security. I was the one that forgot the blasted body cam this time. I felt like a pretzel while trying to respond to Polina's questions later in the day. I didn't lie but I refused to put things in a bad light.
We started the day by getting on a minibus and heading to the ancient city of Gerasa, today called Jerash. Our guide was a doctoral student with a talent for bringing history to life. With his words we stepped back in time 2,000 years to explore the exceptionally well-preserved remains of Roman architecture in the Middle East, including Hadrian's Arch, the Hippodrome, the Oval Plaza, temples, theatres, arches, walls, baths and more in the fascinating archaeological site.
The drive was approximately one-hour north and luckily our vehicle was air-conditioned vehicle as we traveled in nothing but a desert landscape. On arrival in Jerash we headed through the ancient city gate. Here, our guide had us drink in the spectacular ruins spread out before us. It showed the grandeur of Imperial Rome and is one of the largest and most well-preserved sites of Roman architecture in the world outside Italy.
The area was settled in the Neolithic era but city itself was founded by Alexander the Great in the 2nd century AD and known as Gerasa. The city was one of the wealthiest in the Roman Empire at one point. We strolled around as our guide told us fascinating stories about the city in its heyday. We saw its arches, theaters and magnificent colonnaded street. We took photos of the Oval Plaza, an intriguing oval-shaped forum, as we were encouraged to conjure up images of the people who once lived here. Hadrian's Arch was spectacular, despite being a ruin. Hadrian was called the "flying emperor" because he spent most of his time traveling to cities around the empire. This arch was built about AD 130. The central gate was apparently only used for important visitors. We also saw the Cathedral, the North & South Theater, and the Nymphaeum.
The heat was pretty exhausting for some of our party, but I was happy to see that water was provided. As soon as we left Gerasa we headed straight to a place to have some lunch and further rehydrate and then it was an hour back to our hotel. I knew that most of those I rode with would be heading to the pools or spa after our return. Being staff I wasn't really sure what I should do so on arrival and making sure that our guide and bus driver were duly compensated, and I had an address that I could forward a letter of recommendation, I headed back inside to look for the Chief of Staff.
You don't just barge up to a man of his position so I stood to the side until he was free.
"Sir, do you have anything else you need me to do?"
"The excursion is over. I made sure that the check got into the correct hands and I have our guide's address if anyone else would like to send along a note. Everyone's personal gear has been accounted for. Everyone has signed back in at the concierge desk per regulations. So, is there anything I can do for you?"
At that very moment a portable translator started making a noise that suggested it was a hen laying an egg. The Chief of Staff gritted his teeth and said, "You wouldn't happen to know how to fix that damn thing would you?"
I smiled. "Let me see what I can do."
I spent the next hour recalibrating several translators. Someone had tried to install an upgrade but for the wrong model. It was tedious but work that I had become quite familiar with as Barney had accidentally done the same thing several times. In the meantime I performed as a human translator to the relief of several staff members and even did some work for the other diplomats meeting with those from the B. It really wasn't that much different than what I had done for Derrick at the Foundation functions that I attended when he needed me.
I had just noticed the changing light and realized I was hungry when the Chief of Staff's wife stopped at the table I was working at.
"Someone needs to teach you some self-preservation." I must have blinked at her like an owl because she gave a worldly chuckle. "Do not volunteer." With another considering look she said, "The meetings are over and they'll just be socializing the rest of the evening. You're free to go as soon as the Interns come to pack away the equipment. You might want to request room service rather than wait for table in the restaurant. There are several reporters hanging around looking for a story."
"Yes, please. And thank you Madam."
"You're welcome." She gave me a considering look and then said, "There's been a slight change in plans. Rather than go straight to Amman we will move to the Movenpick at Petra. I understand you have been?"
"To Petra? Yes Madam. If I am needed for more translations then …"
"Perhaps in the evenings. That will be up to my husband. Tomorrow we will spend most of the day on the road except for those for who their religion's day of worship is Friday. Saturday however, I have requested that you act as interpreter in case we cannot find a guide for Petra. On Sunday you will play chaperone to the Interns while we are in Amman."
"Whatever is needed."
She nodded regally and then continued towards her husband down the corridor who nodded in my direction. I bowed slightly in his and then turned when the Interns bounded up like excited puppies. It seems that once they got the equipment put away for shipping, they were free for the night. Oh my they made me feel old and creaky. I am not even a decade older than they but I do not ever remember being quite that energetic.
I returned to my room to find two bottles of liquor had been sent up by a foreign diplomat as a thank you for assisting with a particularly tricky bit of negotiation with a Belarusian delegate. Eh, what could I say? I would rather deal with intentional slavic coldness than fake friendliness. Once I was able to convey that there was mutual respect and only unintentional misunderstanding of certain terms it worked out and in fact the two men were well on their way to being drinking buddies. Hopefully no one will leave them at the table too long or their heads tomorrow will be swollen and painful.
Looking closer I saw they were the Arak that Polina asked for and I decided to give one bottle to Vit and re-gift the other to Polina and Yegor. That settled I had no sooner sat down to start typing my report than the woman herself asked me to switch to the encrypted chat room that Dylan had designed for us to use. She wanted my take on the conversation I had overheard that morning. Yada yada and all that and she agreed that it was not the big deal I could have made it out to be but that she would be interested in any further conversations I might hear on the subject. She did not believe that it was a coincidence with the fact that a few other women on the B were being slandered and had complained about it.
"I'm not complaining."
"Nyet. But it may come to that. I will look into it on my end."
"Po … I mean Chief Ivanov, it just looks like gossip and being misunderstood."
"Maybe so. But maybe not. Either way it is not an activity that personnel need to participate in, or be hindered by. What are your assignments from here on out?"
I let her know what the Chief of Staff's wife had said but that I would report whether the assignment materialized or not. We signed off after that and I decided to simply enjoy another long soak, wash my hair and other personal ablutions, and then pack for tomorrow's move. And now my hair is dry, my nails buffed, and it is time to rest. I hope Vit's cold finally went all the way away. I am irritated that I forgot to ask Polina about him. How thoughtless.