Thursday, November 4, 2010

The End of an Era... For Now

As I look back on my year in Jordan, I realize that I have learned so very much about myself and about what I can do when I put my mind to it.

I have learned that it is the people around me who make my life special, not where I am or what I am doing.

I have learned that I truly love teaching English and can actually stand children. Who knew.

I have learned that I am strong enough to travel alone and have fun doing it.

I have learned that life isn't always fair, that bad things will happen even when it's not your fault and you didn't do anything wrong.

I have learned that holding bitterness in your heart is a sure way to be miserable but that you should stand up for yourself when you need to because no one else is going to do it for you.

I have learned that I love living a healthier lifestyle in which I walk everywhere and don't eat Texas-sized portions just because they are there.

I have learned to slow down, to relax and to maybe even have a little smoke break (argeeleh of course) from time to time.

I have learned that though there's definitely a time for relaxing, there's a time to work hard too, which means I really should get over that huge lazy streak I have.

I have learned that I am beautiful as long as I feel beautiful inside. I don't need to be or do anything else except love myself for who I am.

I have learned that I can make and keep some of the best friends I will ever have just by being the person I am.

I have learned that I can master a foreign city, that I can be comfortable in a place where I don't understand the language or the culture because it's still my home.

I have learned that you meet people when you are supposed to meet them and that love doesn't always come at opportune times.

To that end, I would like to thank all those special people who have traveled with me through Jordan. You will always be in my thoughts and memories.

As will Jordan herself. My desert home has a permanent place in my heart.

Traveling Tips and Woes

I left on a 2:30 in the morning flight, which is, I'm convinced, the very best way to travel from the Middle East.

First of all, you're exhausted. You've been up all day, getting in all the hours with your friends that you can, and the weight of all the pre-leaving stress is upon your shoulders. You've just made it through all the tough, tearful goodbyes because, quite frankly, all you want to do is leave these people and get it over with so you can finally go to bed. If you can make it through the maddening stupidity that is in every airport across the globe at this point without strangling someone or falling asleep standing up, you are golden.

(I nearly slugged a security guard on the way to my gate for trying to take away my water. Why have airlines suddenly declared war on water, btw? I was in Turkey, flying to Albania, and the guy took away my water bottle that I had gotten in the airport with a receipt to prove it. He totally ignored the three large bottles of hair products in my suitcase. None of them looked suspicious. But that unopened water bottle you have a receipt for! Trash that at once, you terrorist! It was the same in the Amman airport. I looked carefully at my gate and observed that there was nowhere to buy water before you get on the plane once you are through the gate security. So I bought a bottle of water AFTER I got through the main security and made sure I kept my receipt on me. I get through the gate security even, but one on the other side, the individuals manually searching the bags tried to throw it away. It took a good deal of yelling and a sobbing fit to get my water bottle on the plane. I was dehydrated from all the crying, damnit! And they tell you to "drink lots of water!" and "stay hydrated!" when you are on the plane. Well how the bloody hell are we supposed to do that anymore? It isn't enough that we can't take our own bottles of water and have to buy them at exorbitant prices in the airport. Now they are taking away bottles we buy in the airport. Wow, good thing water isn't a precious natural resource or anything. Whew. Ahem. Apologies for the war-on-water rant.)

Once on the plane, pop your Ambian over dinner and you will CRASH for six hours. Mercifully, you will also make it to America and be relatively cheery for the remainder of your travels, which helps a lot when dealing with the turmoil of international travel.

The other thing I would recommend not doing (besides possibly not fist fighting over a water bottle) is traveling with three rolling suitcases as checked luggage and one small rolling suitcase as your carry-on. And a backpack and purse as carry-ons two and three.

Shockingly, it is actually impossible to pull four rolling suitcases at the same time. It was news to me, but I only had two hands with which to pull the luggage. I get out of the taxi at the Amman airport. The driver conscientiously hauls the bags out of the truck for me and sets them on the curb. And then takes off, possibly laughing hysterically at my attempts to pick up four bags at once, three of which weigh just less than 50 pounds each. I finally had to enlist the help of two flight attendants, who graciously pulled two of my bags over to the cart stand while I hauled the other two.

Don't even get me started on small overhead luggage bins.

My un-lasts, or how I screamed my way into a club

So as you all have perhaps surmised, I am not in Jordan anymore. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

In the weeks leading up to my departure, I concentrated on not thinking whatsoever about my impending goodbyes. I did not count down days. I did not have "lasts" (My last shwarama. My last trip to Carrefour. My last sugaring... eurgh. Back to the world of shaving.). However, I did try to do everything I always meant to do but never really did, such as taking all those touristy pictures and going on road trips just because I could. And, just for the sake of those lasts I wasn't having, I headed to our usual clubbing haunt, Cube, for one un-last night on the town.

You see, Wednesdays at Cube are 80s night. And by 80s, they mean anything from before the year 2010. But not always because I have heard music from this year there. Occasionally, they actually play an 80s song. Regardless, it's tons of fun, if you don't mind sharing that ton of fun with a ton of people and a ton of cigarette smoke.

But the problem is that Cube and I go way back. You see, Cube thinks it's cooler than it is. It thinks it's located in the classiest heart of New York City and only caters to the super cool instead of being off of a dark, rather unpopular street in the center of Jabal Amman. It all started the first semester I was in Jordan. I thought I was doing everything right. I knew that to get into Cube, you had to have a reservation. So like a good girl, I got the number of the club and made the call. Not only do you have to leave your name, you also have to say how many people are coming, what time you are coming and whether your boy ratio surpasses your girl ratio (It better not!). Check, check and check. Everything is hunky dory, right?

And no. We get to the club and, wouldn't you know it, my reservation is nowhere to be found! Wow! How could something like this happen in a country as efficient and well organized as Jordan? Whatever, I talked to the guy, yelled a little bit, and we were in.

The next time, I called the day before we wanted to go. Then I called the day of just to confirm. We're in like Flint, the guy promises. Not a problem. Checkarooni. We get there? Oh... Sorry. Not on the list. I yell a bit more. What is it about this country that loves to hear me scream?

A few more times go by with much the same occurring. A few more "missing reservations." A few people less or more than the reservation says. Always a problem. Every single time I end up yelling. It is not good for my blood pressure. Good thing there's always some stress relief in the form of beverages and dancing on the other side.

So for my un-last time at Cube, all I wanted was a drama-free night. I didn't want a fight. I didn't want a missing reservation. All I wanted was to dance and drink with my friends. So I called up Cube the day before. Then I called Cube the day of, only hours before. Then I sent a follow-up text message to the guy with all the information. No worries, he claims. You're in. You're golden.

We showed up a mere 15 minutes late, and all of our party was there. We had one more girl than guy. "I'm sorry, your name isn't on the list." Are you freaking kidding me? I showed the guy the text message; I talked to the manager. I was finally forced to yell.

At least that was the last time.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Getting fat during Ramadan

I have now survived two Ramadans in Jordan. And I have gained weight during both of them. Why is it that we Americans manage to put on five pounds while the rest of Jordan isn't even eating? The culprit - snacking.

Think about it. Every restaurant is closed. You can't even pick up a juicy shwarama from down the street. It's 1000 degrees in the shade. And in the kitchen, so cooking? Out of the question. We are stuck at home all day with no work to distract us. What do we do? Head to the supermarket and get some chocolate. And some chips. And maybe some bread and cheese. And some more chips. Oo, and some dip. And then we commence our afternoons of sitting on the couch and snacking.

Then all our friends get home from work. And it's time for iftar. So we all go out to dinner. Are we hungry after all that snacking? Not one bit. Do we eat because it's there and it's tasty? You betcha.

Apologies, jeans. You won't be fitting for a while.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Traveling Solo

Before coming to Jordan, I'd never really traveled by myself. Oh sure, I'd gone to see friends and grandparents around the U.S. and physically got there by myself. I even went on a trip to Australia "by myself..." at least up until I met and made friends with the rest of my group in Los Angeles... So technically I had friends before even getting to the Land Down Under.

No, what I mean is, I had never gotten on a plane by myself, flown to the destination by myself, stayed in a hotel by myself, eaten by myself and completed all activities by myself. Now I have done all of those things.

My first attempt at sightseeing solo was coming back from my delightful trip to Albania. I had a six-hour layover in Istanbul, and who wants to spend six hours in an airport when the famous Blue Mosque is right outside?

So off I went. And thank GOD I've already lived in the Middle East because if not those Turkish men would have eaten me alive. As it was, I was able to ask them for directions, get what I needed out of them and then take off WITHOUT being guilted into buying any of their cheap souvenirs OR getting hit on by them. Score. Saw the Blue Mosque. Check. Saw the Hagia Sophia. Check. Saw the Underground Basilica. Check. Saw the Topkapi Palace. Check. Back on the plane. Done.

Then, buoyed by my successful navigation of Istanbul, I immediately turned around and went to Dahab, Egypt, by myself. Snorkeled by myself. Saw the absolutely fantastic Blue Hole by myself. Ate by myself (does the flock of hungry cats constantly surrounding me count as company?). Got saddle sores from a camel by myself. Had a very relaxing, wonderful time.

And THEN, while I was in Palestine with Lena, I skipped out early and went to Bethlehem by myself.

And then I realized. Traveling by yourself opens up some wonderful options. You don’t have to wait or synchronize schedules with anyone. You only have to do exactly what you want to do. The world is open to whatever YOUR budget can handle; you don’t have to limit yourself to what your friends can afford. The world is your oyster, as they say.

But it is not half as much fun as going with friends.

The new love of my life...

For the last three months, since my laptop crashed at the end of June, I've been scrounging, borrowing, begging for, and outright stealing all of my friend's computers for my online needs. Thank you everyone who loaned me a computer! You are the best.

But now, thanks to my daddy's unlimited amount of love and overindulgence, I once again am the proud owner of a laptop that belongs to me and only me! Ah! It was love at first sight.

She is small and shapely. She is super fast and has all the latest gadgets. She is pure white and has a tattoo of an apple that lights up on her back. Best of all, she has enormous... amounts of data storage. My kind of woman.

So now, with the help of my lovely new Macbook, I shall attempt to fill you in on the events of the last couple of months.

To be honest, I was thinking of doing a goodbye blog post, cutting and running, but I realized I just couldn't do that to my fans. And by fans, I mean my friend Sabine, the only person left in the world still reading my blog. Thank you, Sabine! I dedicate this blog and all my future blogs to you. You have stuck with me long after even my parents got bored of my ponderings.

And so we continue...

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Joys of Laptop ownership

Apologizes for being off the air for more than a month. I haven't wanted to spend too much time on anyone's computer when they need it, which has resulted in my never having time to do blog posts. Oh, the joys of laptop ownership.

But I shall try to catch up in the next couple of weeks with some posts when my glorious friends allow me access to their computers.

Until then, I wish to send my darling Meme birthday greetings (her birthday in July and I am a total flake and forgot to call her) and my awesome PopPop birthday greetings for tomorrow, August 3.

Also, if you need updates about my life, please check out these three posts by my roommate Heather, which should give you a tiny bit of insight into what's been up in my life lately: her post on sweets, her post on all of our Ahmads, and her post on our latest trip.