Never Talk to Strangers

Trip Start Aug 24, 2009
1
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Trip End May 24, 2010


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Flag of Jordan  ,
Sunday, September 6, 2009

Back to Thursday:

Again my boss was absent so work mostly consisted of washing my feet in the sink after my long journey to work, blogging, talking with Yoichi (one of the Japanese interns), and reading up on FoEME. When it was time to go Baha dropped Yoichi and I off at the 8th Circle, we walked to the 7th Circle, and I boarded a bus to theoretically take me home. I however ended up in old downtown, haha. Old downtown is very local, spice shops, butchered lambs, used clothing, etc. I figured what the heck so I spent about an hour walking around and just checking out the happenings of the markets and shops secretly assuming I would be able to figure out how to get home at every turn of the winding streets. Again that was a failure, but I did end up in this area with a lot of buses. No I was not about to get on another bus not knowing where it would lead! It seemed to be mostly men and older women in traditional dress to I approached a couple of young women about how I might get to Shmesani. They were shy about their English at first but as always they were quite good at it, very friendly, and helpful in showing me where to get a cab.

When I finally got to the apartment I felt tired and disgusting so you would think that the last thing I would do is go to the gym…but actually the gym has a sauna, steam room, Jacuzzi, and showers with infinite hot water (think DIY spa) so when Devan asked if I wanted to go I was all about it. I don't know if I said this before, but her gym has this awesome track that is suspended in the air and protrudes out from the building with windows on both sides so you get this really great view of Amman. In between machines I always walk a few laps and just think about how different but beautiful this city is from what I am used to.

Later that night Devan and I called Tony up because he just lives a short walk away and he’s a cool dude. Tony grew up in Chicago but he is half Russian and half Jordanian with Russian being his first language. Now he lives in Jordan helping to take care of his grandparents. He’s a cool dude. Anyway, we wandered the Cultural Street in Shmesani between skater boys and hundreds of nargilehs before grabbing some coffee at El Farouki and then retiring for the evening.  

Friday:

Devan and I got up and started rearranging the apartment and cleaning it as best with could with almost no cleaning supplies. Since there used to be five people living there is had become a little disheveled and the garbage was a bi out of control. Unfortunately there is no recycling here so all of the water bottles we buy, because you can’t drink the tap water, become garbage.

I took a break to see a movie with Casey, Tony, and Casey’s new tenant whose name now escapes me…Sophia? Joanna? Gosh I’m bad. I think it was actually Sonja. She was cool beans though. She is here working for UNIFEM through her university in Switzerland. The movie was horrible so the fact that I can’t remember the name doesn’t bother me one bit. It was with Jennifer Love Hewitt, Alec Baldwin, and Anthony Hopkins. Avoid it at all costs. Also avoid the grocery store we ventured to afterwards, Carrefour on a Saturday during Ramadan is like Meijer the day before Thanksgiving times ten. Total shopping insanity…and a diabetic’s worst nightmare because Ramadan is like a month full of the sweetest sweets ever. LOTS of them. Deep fried batter practically marinated in sugar is the number one enemy in my book. It makes my face contract into a face normally reserved for eating a lime or taking a shot of Jack Daniels.

Later Devan and I headed out to Suk Jara again just to have something to do. It is right off of Rainbow Street, a huge development project that includes dozens of coffee shops, bookstores, retail, etc, so we also went that way and decided to have tea/coffee at the Old View Café because you can sit on the roof and in a city made of hills and valleys there seem to always be a great view no matter where you are. There was a small cover charge for Ramadan but we decided to go anyway. They brought us nuts, chickpeas, turmis, and pistachios and we had our drinks under the Ammani moon. It was beautiful and the breeze (which is currently cold to most people here) felt great. I had fun people watching, especially the people that I decided were out on dates. When it was time to go we had another "Welcome to Jordan" moment. The bill was almost 11 JDs! Apparently the nuts and stuff cost almost 5 JDs and we just thought they were complimentary. Yikes. Summary: we had a tea and a coffee for the equivalent of like $15 US dollars! You live and you learn. 

After out expensive drinks that are 99% water to begin with, we went to the Good Book Shop and then to Books @ Café. Devan was searching for some Oscar Wilde and this Jordanian guy was helping her at Books @ Café. It was funny because they had this really expensive set of all of Wilde’s work but none of his books were being sold individually. The guy was very helpful and friendly, as usual asking us where we are from, how long we will be here, and what we have seen so far. Finally I asked the guy if they carried a specific author and it turns out her doesn’t even work there! I was really embarrassed, haha. I guess since I just walked up after he was talking Devan about the books she was looking for I just assumed he was an employee. We had a good laugh about it though so on the scale of faux pas it was minor.

We ended up running into him again after we had left and were waiting for a taxi and he offered us a ride home since it was not a good time for catching a cab. Slight hesitation but we said sure, why not. There were two of us and I figured I could always gouge his eyes out with a bobby pin while Devan breaks his leg with her kick stroke. Honestly though, without sounding naïve, things are a bit different here and a lot of people are just helpful. He turned out to be a very nice guy named Laith who works in the pharmaceutical field and knows all of the hot spots in Amman. He pointed out a ton of places that will reopen after Ramadan that I didn’t even know existed and he picked up some shwarma for us at a tiny place with a Cedar Point line called Cafeteria Reem. It apparently serves the best shwarma in town and as it was SUPER delicious so I can’t refute the claim. As has been my experience with other Jordanians, Laith gave us his number and offered to help us with anything we might need including taking us to the important sights in Amman and Jordan. It really seems very genuine when people say this here and so far it has always been fruitful to follow up on such an offer so Laith makes an appearance in my Saturday as well.

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Saturday:

More cleaning! It was so satisfying. Adib brought us a vacuum to use that I named R2D2 but is actually something like the Hitachi 3000. I vacuum everything…the hard floor, the rugs, the furniture, the shelves, the tables, everything. We now have 70% less desert dust than we had before. Devan concentrated on the kitchen and you can actually see the stove now that decades of grease have been scrubbed off it.

The only thing more satisfying than cleaning the apartment was getting my laundry done. Laundry here is also known as tub stomping (Clarification: I am referring to how we do laundry in our apartment. I have no idea how Jordanians do laundry normally). There is a miniature washing machine but it uses up almost the whole water tank for our apartment and they are only refilled once a week. Hence tub stomping. It really isn’t different from washing things by hand in large round tubs, except that we wash out feet first and stomp the laundry to simulate a washing machine cycle. It works really well actually even though it took a few hours for me to get through all of my different piles. Then I hung everything out to dry on the patio which is where it is currently.

Devan and I were going to head out somewhere for the evening but I fell asleep and was out like a rock. This Ramadan schedule is really hilarious. People are up almost all night eating and hanging out and then they wake up super early to eat again before the sunrise. Since I am trying to spend a lot of time around Jordanians it means that I too am losing sleep. You only live once I suppose. So Devan was at Books @ Café again, I was sleeping, and my phone was ringing. It was Laith and he offered to pick us up to meet some of his friends and hand out at the Blue Fig, a trendy but not too pricey restaurant/lounge in Amman. Devan was too settled doing work (our wi-fi expired so she was using the café’s) so I headed out on my own. I really didn’t feel weird about it but I was glad to see another woman in the car when they came to pick me up.

We ended up being seven of us, 4 women and 3 men. We shared grape sheesah (not my favorite I learned) and I had some traditional winter drink that tasted like rice pudding minus rice, plus pistachios. It was really thick so I was nervous but it was actually very good. Everyone was super nice. Especially his best friend Turik (sp?) and their friend Rawan. Rawan was super cool. She has an awesome bob and wore the first “skimpy” dress I have seen in Amman so far (it really wouldn’t be skimpy by US standards but since her shoulders and knees were showing it seems that way for this culture). She studied in England for a year or so and now works for a bunch of Brits that apparently like to have a good time. Again, as is my experience so far, we exchanged numbers and she already names like three things she wanted to invite me to including her parent’s home for if-tar. The Blue Fig itself was very cool. Clearly trendy with hardly a traditional Arab in sight; it was like land of the beautiful people like L.A. style of something (for women this meant processed hair (even blonde), makeup, and heels). We made plans to visit the Dead Sea this weekend.

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Today:

I successfully walked to the bus, got on the bus, paid for the bus, received proper change for the bus, got off the bus, crossed the street, hailed a taxi, and got to the office on my own! Yeehaw! That process saves a little more than half a dinar which isn’t a lot but when you are talking about five days a week for no pay it makes a difference. Hopefully I can learn how to make it home as well, haha.

Tonight will be my first if-tar in a Jordanian home. I am really excited. Abib is picking Devan and I up around 6:30 and I need to find something to bring as a host gift. Probably sweets…I think I will call Casey and get his advice. No one needs thousands of too-sweet deep fried batter balls at if-tar and by no one, I mean me. This week is actually the testing ground for Jordanian follow through. I am invited to two if-tar’s, two post if-tar get togethers, and the Dead Sea, all before next Saturday. Dang.
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Comments

kris-teranga
kris-teranga on

Tiff!
So I signed up to TravelPod just to be able to comment!! Although I might find it very useful to have a travel journal of my own. Your entries are reminding me so much of how I felt in Senegal the first time and it is making me very 'Senegal-sick.' I feel like the way people are friendly and helpful etc...is similar to the idea of 'teranga' (hospitality) in Senegal. As there are many shady people, there are multitudes more who are selflessly helpful and inviting and open. Gosh, how shocked people from many cultures must feel when they come here.

Anyhow, more importantly than trying to compare two vastly different countries, your entries make me want to see Jordan. I love hearing about how Jordanians seem to deal with Ramadan - the sweets sound like major overkill. I love it. Are there dates everywhere (as in the fruit)? How are ppl with alcohol, in general? Tiff, I miss you so much, but am selfishly enjoying reading your fantastic writing. Any news on snail mail? Let me know. -Kris

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