Thursday, October 29, 2009

Halloween - The Jordanian Way

If I were in America at this time of year, my days would be filled with enjoying the newly crisp weather, watching the leaves turn colors, and experiencing every haunted house, ghost story and supernatural hunting show on television.

Tragically, my October has been a bit devoid of all of my favorite parts of fall. You would not believe how hard it is to find fake blood here. Or for that matter, blood-red lipstick at the last minute.

Despite the rather lacking Halloween spirit, my friends and I managed to get into the swing of things with two different Halloween parties. It turns out that taxi cab drivers are not used to transporting people with green makeup or blood all over their faces, although I got no weird comments, only weird looks.

I also had a fun time at the Halloween party at my school, where all my little monsters dressed up in super colorful costumes. We had everything from clowns to Princess Jasmine to several Hannah Montanas. Ah. Sure. The shops here will sell Halloween costumes for little kids, but you still can't find a thing for us bigger kids. Apparently adults here are not as keen on smearing paint all over their faces come Halloween. We'll give it a couple of years.

It's nice to see my favorite holiday spreading around the globe.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Semi-Coherent Tirade

I’ve lost a bit of the righteous anger I had going for me last week, which has since dissolved into hopeless frustration, but I’ll try to recapture it for the sake of posterity.

The school is attempting to get us residency cards to make traveling and obtaining visas in Jordan more accessible. To that end, they hired a new H.R. representative to help us along that perilous journey through the bureaucracy. To demonstrate what a progressive measure the H.R. rep is, my friend Maya has been in Jordan working at the school since February. The school is just now getting around to applying for her residency. She says it’s a good thing a herd of us foreign teachers showed up or she would have never gotten in to this ultra-exclusive club.

Residency cards allow you to travel and enter Jordanian-run attractions for a tenth of the price you pay if you are a resident. We would REALLY like the cards by the end of November so we can jet off to Wadi Rum and Petra for the next Eid holiday, and the cards will let us pay roughly a twentieth of the foreigner’s price. Worth the wait. Also it will make crossing borders, our other Eid option, a heck of a lot easier. The second reason is that I don’t want a repeat of my experience attempting to come to Jordan.

Highly emotional and on the verge of hysterical about leaving my family, I was told by the guy at the Delta counter that I could not board the plane without a Jordanian visa or a return ticket to America, neither of which I possessed. The result of this confrontation was me bursting into tears at the counter (I said I was emotional) and my mother buying me a $2,000 refundable ticket back to the U.S., which we promptly refunded. As I am going home for Christmas, I would love not to have a fight at the ticket counter again, even though every person I’ve talked to about this has said the Delta representative was full of go-se (not to get too Firefly nerdy on you).

This promise of residency is what sent me into the questionable clinic in a previous blog (my tests came back clean, though I’d be interested to see if I’m still clean AFTER the blood test). It also sent three of us to the police station last Wednesday to get fingerprinted. After spending a week trying to get all three of us together to make the trip, I ended up skipping my morning class. We grabbed our passports and arrived at the police station, where they promptly made us wait for about an hour. They took my two friends’ passports to renew the visas but said mine had to be renewed through the Ministry of the Interior. We got back to school with zero ink having touched our fingers and some massive confusion about what was going on. The bottom line was that I had wasted an entire morning and that I would have to miss another in the foreseeable future for the actual fingerprinting.

Heather, who has needed her visa renewed by the Ministry for about a month now, went to our HR rep to ask when she and I would be shipped off to the ministry. The next day, apparently, but they didn’t need our passports, just the paperwork. They will, I predicted.

Sure enough, the next day, we got an email asking us to bring in our passports on Saturday. Boy, can I call it. I really like that I know more about the residency system than those being paid to look into it. I took both of our passports in to school on Saturday. The guy asked me some random questions, handed back the passports and said to bring them back today (Monday). What was wrong with Saturday again?

Ah, Jordan bureaucracy. How you make my blood pressure rise.

Friday, October 23, 2009

A Quick, Little Note

Dear Taxi Cab Drivers of Amman,

This note does not apply to the majority of you, who are nice, honest, albeit sometimes creepy citizens. However, I've had a run of bad eggs lately that make me think a reprimand is in order. And because I do not have the linguistic skills to say this to you in person, a pointless complaint session on my blog will have to do.

We are American. This does not mean we are stupid. We have lived here for months. We know how much it costs to get to different parts of the city. Do not go a different direction that will cost more money. We will know. Do not speed up your meter. Again, we will know. Do not try to tell us that it is double after midnight. We know it is not.

Doing these things will result in us giving you less money than you seem to think you are entitled to. Do not yell insults at us through the car window; you were the one who tried to rip us off first.

That is all.



Sunday, October 18, 2009

Wow, do I miss lazy days

We got a bonus three-day weekend because, guess why, a marathon was running through Jabal Amman (where I work), and they didn't think we'd be able to get to school. How cool is that?

But now I am at the end of my glorious three-day weekend of doing nothing. And it occured to me how much I miss doing nothing. Nothing is fabulous.

When you have a normal weekend, you can spend one night going out, one day resting and recuperating from going out and one day finishing the work you should have done on the first day before school.

With a split weekend, I have to go out, rest and recuperate AND finish all my work in a day and a half. It's just not practical.

Therefore, I took the occasion of having this bonus three-day weekend to do nothing. Absolutely nothing. Glorious. I can't wait to do nothing again, possibly at around Christmas when I go home to America, the home of nothing. Lovely.

In other news, one of my classes has been canceled until next Saturday because one student contracted swine flu. Great vacation for the rest of the class (and for me because I have 29 less papers to grade!). Not so great of a vacation for the poor swine, I mean student. Let's hope teachers are like moms, in that they can't catch diseases from their kids.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Gretchen makes a great impression on the maintenance people yet again.

If you'll remember, last time we had maintenance people in our house, I managed to misunderstand them AND ignore them according to the Arabic laws of hospitality. This time, I'm fairly sure I surpassed my last bout of ignorance and rudeness.

A worker was supposed to come over at 10 a.m. to fix a drip in our bathroom and a toilet leak in my roommate's bathroom. A guy is coming tomorrow to fix our stove. Heather, who cleverly went to bed at 10 p.m. last night, was supposed to be up to let the water guy in and converse with him, while I, who went to bed at 2 a.m. after cavorting around the city, slept.

At 9:40 this morning, the doorbell rang. I heard it and rolled over. Heather will get it, I thought. Nope. It sounded again. I blearily sat up and put my Japanese yukata on over my tiny pajama shorts so as not to scare and/or incite the natives. As I rubbed sleep out of my eyes, it occurred to me that I wasn't sure if this was water guy or stove guy. So I opened the door. "Marrhaba," I said politely. I wanted to say, "Are you the kind gentlemen who will be fixing the leak in our water closet this fine morning?" Instead, all I could come up with in Arabic was, "Fi my mushkala?" (There is water problem?) I also grinned hysterically.

The guy took one look at me and headed into the kitchen to figure out for himself what he was supposed to do. "Um," I said, showing off my impressive vocabulary in the morning. "The leak is in the bathroom?" He smiled, nodded and ignored me. Ok. I frantically texted Heather, who told me she was at the shops by our house and would be home shortly, inshallah. I continued wandering aimless around our dining room. Just as the guy started questioning me in extremely mumbled Arabic, our doorbell rang again. It was our guard, who speaks less English than I do Arabic, which is pretty amazing in itself. He went to the kitchen and began doing whatever it was that the guy had just asked me to help him with.

I thought the kitchen would take awhile, so I decided to brush my teeth. I was right in the middle of vigorously brushing, with toothpaste foam dripping out of my mouth, when the two guys showed up at the bathroom door to fix the leak in the sink. I stared at them wide-eyed for half a second, toothpaste steadily dripping from my mouth to the sink, and then gave a muffled, "Hello." There was nothing for it. With my audience watching, I spit the toothpaste into the sink and left the bathroom. "These Americans are so nutty," I'm sure the guys were saying as I exited, "and they sure don't know how to dress themselves."

Fortunately Heather arrived soon after and was able to take of the roll of hostess, which she did much better than I did. She spoke to them in much better Arabic and even offered tea, while I sulked on the couch and tried to stay out of the way.

I really must work on my people skills before the stove guy comes over tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Yes, My Job Involves Making Kids Cry

The last two weeks have been absolutely crazy for most of my school friends and me. We've been grading out the wazoo, and I spent all yesterday morning creating report cards for all fifty of my support girls. I haven't had time to do the usual lesson plans that my weeks involve, and I'm just now starting to get into the swing of being a support teacher.

But none of those things made me feel as bad as handing back the report cards from the first assessment today. In the span of three one-hour lessons, I got to see at least fifteen girls burst into tears over the results of their first tests.

I absolutely hate making people feel bad. I would much rather encourage them continuously than make them cry. But there's no doubt that a good, swift kick in the butt also encourages girls to try harder.

Now I have the results to back up my advice to study harder and pay attention during class. I can speak more frankly to these girls because I have their tests as backup to make them listen to me. I am also motivated to try to help these girls even more, so I don't have to watch them crying over the next test.

And on the other hand, it felt great to watch the two girls that burst into tears during class because they did so WELL on the tests. I especially couldn't help grinning when my "little moon," who I don't think has ever come in top, starting crying because she got the second highest score on the writing test. That right there, having the girls get it and be excited about it, makes teaching English worthwhile for me. I gave out LOTS of hugs today, both congratulations and condolences.

Note to self: start adapting to the roller coaster of emotions that is teaching. Also, get some sleep.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Best of Eid - Aqaba

The last stop on my fun-filled vacation was Aqaba, a beach town in south Jordan right on the Red Sea. Aqaba is a famous sight for snorkeling and diving. We stayed at a fun hostel directly across the street from a public beach just south of Aqaba. Our room was small, but at least it didn't have a bathroom door or shower curtain. Wait, what? No, I kid you not, our room had no door on the bathroom. Super fun.

The other uber pleasant part of our hostel experience was the amount of attention I got from the owner of the establishment. On our first day, he took drove us into town. I'm fairly sure his eyes were on me more than on the road. After telling me several times how beautiful my eyes and I were, he commenced calling me his "queen" for the duration of my stay. This I could deal with, but he started opening doors for me constantly and making me sit in the front seats of cars, a big no-no for girls in Jordan. He also asked my friend some detailed questions about my love life, which my friend was kind enough to lie about.

Our first day there, we journeyed across the street to the public beach, where we encountered families frolicking happily in the waves - in full headscarves and burqas. Wet, that. I immediately became the most undressed woman there, in a tankini, and thus became the center of attention for most of the gentlemen present. That night we moseyed into the city of Aqaba, where we ate dinner and watched two boys taking their camel for an after-dinner stroll. A'adi. It's normal.

The next day we went to the Royal Diving club, where we snorkeled like crazy and slept in the sun. The last day, we slept until 11 a.m., took a fabulous snorkeling trip around a sunken ship, then chilled in the Bedouin tent by the swimming pool at the hostel. Excellent relaxation.

My other famous creepy guy story from this trip happened on the first night. We had gone to a club, and the owner/manager/some guy with influence in the club asked my friend (not me) if he could dance with me. I was holding a beer and danced with the guy only using one hand. It was not a sexy dance. I declined another dance and ran away immediately following. But I guess in Jordanian guy talk, that means, "Come and get me, big fellow."

Shortly after, I wandered to the bathroom. The guy followed me. I came out of the stall to find him trying to press his number on me. I told him I wasn't interested. "You don't want me?" he said, astonished. Shockingly, no, I didn't want him. He then asked me what I was worth. Fantastically nice guy, this one. He continued to barrage me with propositions until I broke down and told him I was married to the male friend I was with. He apologized profusely, then took my hand and began kissing it in remorse, I guess. Fortunately my new husband called me at just that moment and I was able to escape out of the bathroom without further incident.

Traveling with me is always an adventure.

Best of Eid - Dead Sea

Two days after the trip north, a couple of us drove the extremely short 40 minutes to the Dead Sea. Unless you've been living under a rock your entire life (or possibly America), you'll know that the Dead Sea is the lowest point on earth. It divides Jordan from the West Bank and Israel.

The Islamic legend is that the Dead Sea was what used to be the city in which the Prophet Lot lived, called Sodom in the Christian bible. God wished to rain fire and brimstone upon the people in Sodom for their acts of wickedness and sexual deviance. Lot and his family were spared (except Lot's wife who was turned into a pillar of salt while escaping from the city). The angel Gabriel raised the city and threw it back to earth upside down, thus creating the lowest place on earth. Also, I heard a rumor that the salt in the sea is from all the people turned to salt before the raining brimstone. Cheery.

But it is true that the Dead Sea has one of the highest salt contents in the world, at more than 30 percent salinity. For this reason, it is possible to become a champion floater in a matter of seconds and is, in fact, actually difficult to swim or do anything but float around like a turtle on it's back.

But floating and salinity aren't what drive the millions upon millions of tourists to the Dead Sea each year. It's the fabulous resorts and high-class spas that do that.

We only made our Dead Sea getaway a day trip, so we did not get to experience the luxury of staying at a room there. But we did get to dip in fantastic pools, lie in the sun drinking beers and fresh juice (I've heard it's much harder to burn at the Dead Sea because of the distance from the sun and from the high salt content in the air), and enjoy the awkward yet pleasant sensation of being stuck in a horizontal position in the Dead Sea. We also did the ever-so-popular mud smearing at the beach. Apparently the mud at the Dead Sea is all kinds of beneficial.

Then at the end of the day, we got to see a beautiful sunset from the porch of the Movenpick and watch the twinkling lights of the West Bank. So peaceful.

Best of Eid - Um Qais

After Jerash, we went to Ajloun Castle, then headed even more north to Um Qais, another ruins sight and overlook of the Sea of Galilee, where Jesus reportedly walked on water.

I personally preferred Um Qais because the weather was cooling off by then and the colors of the stones were just magnificent. It was also fun to engage in spontaneous religious discussions with my friends and contemplate trying out the walking-on-water thing in the Sea of Gaililee.

Best of Eid - Jerash

This is a long time coming, but here's a brief summary of my excursions during my oh-so-welcome nine day holiday for Eid, the end of Ramadan. You'll remember my previous blog post about driving in the utter madness that is Jordan traffic? Well the REASON I rented a car and aggressively swerved through traffic was so we could take a trip up north to visit the city of Jerash.

Jerash is most famous for the ruins still standing in the city center. They are the most well-preserved and numerous remnants of Jordan under Roman rule still left in the country.

We drove through the back-to-back traffic jam that comprised the marketplace right next to the ruins in Jerash, then parked on a street filled with chicken shops. Lucky me. We headed over to the ruins of the baths (above), then headed toward the main entrance.

We found it, then had to hike for about ten minutes toward Hadrian's Arch to where you by the tickets. We couldn't find it, walked back to the visitor's center, then walked the ten minutes BACK to Hadrian's Arch to find the unobtrusive little ticket booth nestled in a souvenir shop.

We moseyed through the park, stopping occasionally to pose as various relevant gods and goddesses (I wanted to be Dionysus, but tragically he's a god, not a goddess. Apparently I have gender issues as well.). We ended our extremely hot tour at the amphitheater (left).

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Fi Mushkala Kabeer m3 Baab!

Well since I'm up...

I drifted off into a comfortable sleep at about midnight this morning. At about 1:15 a.m., I heard a weird banging noise coming from outside my room. "What is that stupid cat doing," I sleepily thought to myself. I pulled myself out of bed and stuck my head into the hallway to find Sine.

"Gretchen?" I heard Heather say from inside her room. "Could you try to open my door for me?" She was rather frantically pulling on the door and rustling with her key. So THAT's where the noises were coming from. I joined her futile attempts.

Apparently, when she had locked it from the inside, the lock had jammed in the door and would not unlock. To make matters worse, Heather REALLY had to go pee. We continued shaking the handle and pushing the door with little success. Heather then tried to pass the key under the door to me so I could try to unlock it from the outside. It got stuck under the door.

I got a spoon from the kitchen and pushed it back through to her. She stuck it through a different part of the door, and I was able to grab it. I stuck it in the lock and turned. Nope. The lock wouldn't budge. That's when we got desperate.

I tried to call the guard that lives in our apartment and speaks no English. Heather yelled Arabic words through the door that I was supposed to say to him. "Fi mushkala kabeer m3 baab! Mumkin ta'al hawn hella2?" There is big problem with door! Possible you come here now? Unfortunately he didn't answer, so I was not able to practice my emergency Arabic skills.

Our next bright idea was to try to break down the door. I thought we could bust out the wooden frame the lock settles in. Heather was all for knocking a hole in the door itself that she could climb out of. We tried the frame idea first.

This idea also gave me the opportunity to try my cop-show door-kicking-in routine. Even at 2 in the morning, I am clever enough to realize that kicking down a door in bare feet and pajama shorts is possibly not a great idea. So I tried slamming the door with my shoulder. The only result was a rather sharp pain in my shoulder. I backed up even with the kitchen door, about twenty feet away. I took a running leap toward the door and slammed into it with quite a bit of force.

Once the pain subsided, I picked myself off the floor and faced the still unmoving door. "Go try to find something blunt in the kitchen we can use as a hammer!" Heather called. Sadly, our kitchen seems to be rather devoid of blunt objects that could be used to hammer through a heavy door.

All options exhausted, we called our friend who now lives down the street from us. Happily, he was awake. I got to run down our stairs in my tiny pajama shorts and no bra to answer the door for him. He came into the apartment, grabbed the key and started turning. Between the two of them, he and Heather wiggled the door, and he exerted enough raw, manly strength to get the key turned, thus unlocking the door and setting Heather free.

Yay! We all hugged in relief. After laughing and talking, during which Heather said she had once again considered jumping out of our third-story window (I really must buy this girl a trampoline before she acts on her window-jumping urges), we told Heather she could now go to the bathroom.

Heather giggled. "I already did," she said with a laugh. Apparently, desperate and with no rescue in sight, Heather had used her trash can as a toilet. This caused me to dissolve in sleep-deprived and pain-induced giggles for the next twenty minutes of our conversation. Next time I want a roommate who's house trained! Or possibly I could just get her a litter box?

Three cheers for emergency Arabic lessons at 2 in the morning. Hella2 fi mashakil kiteer!

Now I am going to bed to see if I can get a good three hours of sleep before school tomorrow, which Heather will have to go to, seeing as she can't use the excuse "I was locked in my bedroom" any longer.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

TWO Month Anniversary

It has now been exactly two months since I landed in Amman. How time flies when you are frantically adjusting to a new culture, avoiding fasting and teaching at all hours of the morning. I mean, how time flies when you are having fun.

End of Ramadan Blues... Or One of Those Colors

It has now been two weeks since the end of Ramadan. And I would just like to note how extraordinarily happy I am about this.

I can drink water in taxis, while walking down the street, in buses, everywhere.

I can munch on an apple in public.

I can sit outside and eat during sunlight hours.

I can eat lunch at any restaurant in town; I am not resigned to the one Christian restaurant we went to roughly a million times during Ramadan.

I can buy alcohol at a liquor store, all of which are now open again.

I can go to bars and clubs.

I can make it home from school through the traffic in less than an hour and a half.

Life is bliss again.

On the other hand, I AM suffering from Ramadan-sweets withdraw. Oh well. Nothing is perfect.

Dirty Looks are Still Better Than Dirty Needles

This morning, on my day off (and the one day I get to sleep in, I might add), I had to be at school at 9 a.m. to go with a group to get a blood test for my hopefully future residency card (which may or may not take another year to get; the bureaucracy here is not what anyone would call prompt).

I staggered out of bed at 8:10 a.m. and wandered out the door by 8:40 a.m. I caught a taxi in no time. Little did I know it was the only shy taxi driver in Amman who actually goes the speed limit. I rushed up to the school at 9:07 a.m., worried that they had left without me. There, I found my school friend and another guy waiting around and unsure about what was going on. The usual. I shouldn't have worried.

After another ten or fifteen minutes of phone calls and waiting around, we finally found the bus driver who had been coerced into driving us all to the Health Center.

We hopped off the bus and followed our enthusiastic and fortunately Arabic-speaking (but not English-speaking... that caused some problems) bus driver to the clinic, a massive building with roughly fifty guys milling around in various semblances of lines. My friend and I, both in tank tops, quickly became the star attraction in the area. We crossed our arms and looked apprehensively at the huge line of men stretching beyond the building.

Happily, it was not the line for the blood test. Our bus driver finished negotiating with our passports and herded us up some stairs to a tiny room.

Let me pause for a moment. In America when I have to get blood drawn, they take you into a specially prepared metal room with a nice chair you can lie back in. The nurse comes in, calms you down a little bit (well, at least for me they calm me down. I heartily dislike needles and my blood being anywhere but in my body), shows you all of the cleaned and packaged equipment she will use and eventually blood will be gently removed from your arm, usually with a comforting story or some other distraction.

This room looked more like a classroom than a doctor's office. There were two desks set up across from a row of dingy waiting-room chairs. The woman taking the blood had an array of supplies set up on the desk in front of her and was in civilian clothes. Filled blood tubes sat stickily to the side of the desk. It was not exactly the comforting environment I had in mind. I had also been warned that these government clinics don't even change their gloves between customers.

The three of us huddled in the corner in trepidation, cracking nervous jokes and trying not to think about the general lack of sterility in the place we were soon going to stabbed. Much too soon, I heard them call, "Christine!" Whew, I thought. A few minute reprieve. But no, they were all staring at us. And my friends' names are Maya and Paul. So that could only mean... "Christine Marie!" Crap.

"It's Gretchen," I snapped nervously. Eminent pain makes me testy. I approached the desk. She had the needle ready. "Can you change your gloves?" I asked, in what I thought was a polite, albeit tension-filled voice. She glared at me as if this was completely unreasonable but pulled on some new gloves. "And that's a new needle, right?" Gritting her teeth, she threw away the needle in front of her (which in all likelihood she had taken out of a new package while I was hiding in the corner) and pulled out a new needle still in its package so I could see it. It's extremely possible I was acting like a total snot at this point, but I can live with perceived snottiness. I can not, however, live with contracting hepatitis. And in my defense, I'm a huge baby when it comes to shots.

She dabbed a minuscule (what, like there's a shortage?) dab of rubbing alcohol on my arm (thank goodness. That eensy trickle will make all the difference to decontamination), and I stared across the room at Maya, who was dancing for my enjoyment. Then it was done, and I was handed a shred of cotton, which took roughly ten seconds to soak with blood. I shakily staggered back to the corner and mopped the blood off my arm.

Afterward, we were back outside waiting for the last member of our group, who showed up later, to finish her test. My fellow blood testers thanked me for demanding a change of gloves because the nurse used the same gloves with them. At least they can only catch what I've got (a cold?). But when my last friend came downstairs, she said she had NOT been snotty enough to ask for new gloves. And the nurse had been talking on a cell phone seconds before sticking a needle in my friend's arm. Does anyone else realize how many germs are on a cell phone?

In the nurse's defense, it hadn't hurt that much really. Residency, here I come! Hopefully remaining hepatitis free.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Who Needs Turn Signals Anyway?

On the Saturday before Eid started, a group of us decided to go on a trip to North Jordan to see Jerash, a city with the most roman ruins, Ajloun, which has an ancient desert castle, and Um Qais, another ruins sight with a great view of the Sea of Galilee. However, none of these places are within walking distance. This meant we needed a car. It also meant one of us ex-pats was going to have to drive in the madness that is Jordan traffic. Mostly because I'm missing a few brain cells, I volunteered.

The day before our trip, we stopped by a rental car office and strenuously negotiated a car for one day. They let us drive it off the lot. We had no car insurance whatsoever, and (don't tell them this) but I was driving with an expired Texas license because I haven't received my new one in the mail yet. Fortunately they couldn't read English very well in the shop, and dates go DAY/MONTH/YEAR instead of MONTH/DAY/YEAR like in America, so we had all kinds of confusion going for us. Regardless and contrary to popular judgment calls, they let me rent a car.

Let me explain something. Although several of my American friends will disagree, I am actually a very good driver. I accelerate fast, and I break late, but unlike my brother (who always gets to drive my Dad's when Dad won't let me), I have never had an accident. I have also driven in foreign countries before: France and Ireland. Ireland was tricky because of that whole wrong-side-of-the-road thing. France was tricky because the two-way roads are all roughly the width of half your car. Jordan is tricky because, once again, everyone drives like a maniac. So it was with some degree of trepidation that I slid behind the wheel. Driving out of town on highways is one thing. Driving in the heart of Amman, with disorganized traffic circles and crazed, fasting drivers is another.

My first hurdle was driving on to the street and around the corner to the gas station. However, a large van was parked (illegally in the US, completely normally for Jordan) in the middle of the road to my left, so I couldn't see anything. I gritted my teeth, gripped the wheel and made a Hail-Mary turn out on to the road.

We made it. I zipped out into Jordanian traffic, swung around the under the road and missed the turn to the gas station. Fortunately there was another road we could take back to it just beyond. I pulled in, the guys ripped us off while pumping gas, we went back and gave them a talking to, and our first car-owning challenge was met.

And I drove home. It wasn't really that bad. Sure, it required about a thousand times the concentration that driving in America requires, and I had to remember to curb my natural impulses to use turn signals, stay in lanes and be nice to people. But it turns out I'm pretty good at turning up my road aggression and swerving around other cars.

The trip north was extremely uneventful, car wise, besides the stares and ill-disguised astonishment that a woman was driving (the north is more conservative than Amman). In fact, I was driving and my female friend was in the passenger seat while the two guys sat in the back. That must have blown their minds.

I was following another friend of mine in his car, so all I had to do was keep on his tail. That was easy on the highway. In the evening, however, we had to head back into Amman to return the car. It had rained for about five seconds that afternoon, which did not wash the car; it merely turned all the dust into mud. Funnily enough, my windowshield wipers worked about as well as our stove does at home (not very), and soon I was staring out of a smeared concoction of glass, dirt and mud trying to stay just behind my friend’s taillights. Then we entered the city.

The traffic went from three or four other cars on the road, to every car in Amman trying to merge in front of me. Cars were passing a centimeter from my car, going 80 mph. I was swerving, cutting people off, passing people by centimeters myself as I tried in vain to stay directly behind my friend. We entered a traffic circle, one of the most annoying and disorganized parts of Jordanian traffic, and that’s when the rental place decided to call and ask where their car was.

So I’m frantically trying to keep my friend’s car in sight while negotiating around eight cars trying to merge into me from different directions, while driving around a traffic circle, while listening to a man yell at me in broken English. I was not a happy camper.

We made it to the rental place. I parked, calmly got out of the car and suffered a complete mental meltdown. As in, my brain was mush. I literally was so tired from concentrating that hard that I could not form complete sentences.

So all-in-all, my first driving experience was a success.


First of all, I want to apologize for my break from blogging over the past two weeks. I was too busy frolicking and having fun over Eid, and immediately after Eid I got sick. So it was all kinds of tiring just to do my job while coughing up a lung. Now, however, I am much better and actually have, well not FREE time, but time I can devote to blogging again.

So off we go!