On the bottom floor of our apartment, actually.
Two nights ago, I got up from my daily nap and headed off toward my 6 p.m. Arabic lesson. At about 7:15 p.m., I started receiving frantic calls from my flatmate. I smiled apologetically at my teacher and turned my phone to silent.
At 7:30 p.m. I called Heather back. Here was her story:
She had gotten up from her nap just after me and had started working on her computer. After about half an hour, the power in the apartment went off. The electrical current in Jordan isn't quite as reliable as that in the U.S. (and my previous roommate and I experienced quite a few outlets even in Missouri), so she wasn't really that alarmed. Then she smelled the smoke.
She opened the door leading down the stairs to the front door. It was pitch black, and smoke was rolling up the stairs in waves. Starting to panic, she closed the door again and raced to our balcony. Once there, she cleverly decided that jumping three stories to the ground was possibly not her best option, even while in a burning building, and she turned back to the stairs. She wrenched open the door and, using her cell phone as a light, ran cautiously down the sooty steps.
Once outside, she was met by one of the guys from next door and a herd of our other neighbors. The fire department had been notified and arrived within three minutes of being called. However, the building has no fire alarm, and I guess in Jordan no one thinks to inform residents that their building is burning. Ah well. I guess it's one of those thing you have to figure out for yourself, like breathing or one of those trivial things.
It turns out that an apartment on the first floor of the building had caught fire from an electrical problem in one of the bedrooms. Fortunately, the family living there had vacated the apartment earlier that day, so no one nor their possessions were hurt. The fire was contained within the apartment, and no structural damage occurred on the building. Heather said it was fairly impressive to see the flames shooting out the apartment window, however, and the ceiling above that apartment door is stained black now. On the other hand, I guess if you are going to have an apartment fire, this is the way to do it.
Heather and our friend came to my Arabic class to pick me up. We went out to dinner to give the smoke that raced up the stairs and through our open front door a chance to clear out. When we got back to the apartment, it smelled a bit like really burnt chicken, but all in all was not as bad as we expected. Tragically, the smoke had stirred up some of our massive resident cockroaches, which I was obliged to get our friend to kill before he left. I Febreezed the place down within an inch of its life and decided to call it a day. That's when I noticed that my feet, while usually in a fairly advanced stage of dirty, had become what could only be called filthy. As in dipped in black ink filthy. Ah. Yes. Smoke turns into soot. Joy.
I consequently spent the next hour or so cleaning every flat surface in the house. Then I did it again, because one rub does not get out soot. Two days later, however, I still cannot walk barefoot in the house without getting black feet. I guess it's time for another cleaning, which I will gladly do. Because it's so true that this story could have been much MUCH worse.
I knew those Arabic lessons were a good idea.