Thursday, October 7, 2010

A Horse With No Name

A Horse With No Name

That's what my flight into Amman, Jordan reminds me of...as well as the taxi to Pae's apartment. There were indeed rocks and dry river beds...asses, of the four-legged variety, several camels grazing in the hills with the sheep and previously mentioned "cute little donkeys" as we like to call them. Reminded me of the song.

The language is, well, foreign to me. I've always had some idea what was going on around me, now it's all just sounds and hand gestures. I'll grunt my way around the middle east for the next few weeks I'm sure. Eventually I'll figure out the difference in many of the head-wear that the men wear here. There are the white turban-type thingies, the white head thingy with the black braid around it, the picnic table cloth pattern head thingy...so many different head thingies! I don't even know what they are called yet.

I was greeted at the Kuwait airport with a McDonalds right across from my gate, and announcements every five minutes reminding everyone that the airport was NON SMOKING and to go to the designated glass monkey enclosures...I mean...SMOKING ROOMS if they wanted to smoke. Almost during every announcement, another MURDERER (translation - smoker...second hand smoke is a killer you know)someone would light up and blow clouds of smoke into the air, almost mockingly. I wanted to stand up and urinate on their tables and see what they said... "Eh! Urination for bathroom!"..."Oh yeah ding dong? Well, smoking for smoking room...and by the way, my piss good for sting of jelly fish...your smoke...it give the cancer..." I digress...

Where were we? Ah, talked to some immigration dude in Kuwait and he said that I could go on a tour of Kuwait City on my return flight to BKK. I have a half-day layover (transit) there on the way back to Thailand. Never got to go there as a Marine, may as well use the rest of my Kuwaiti Dinar on a taxi-guided hour or so of their little desert city.

Amman so far is nice, not necessarily on the eyes, but the weather was chilly at night and in the morning. It's getting hot right now, but it's a nice change from the muggy rain of the days in Bangkok. As for the desert here...flying in, probably from about 100 kilometers before landing, the desert hills looked like blood vessels, flowing everywhere, providing the ground with water, only, there was no water. They looked like dried up river beds or drainage areas for the infrequent rain here. I'm guessing dried up river beds, but there were so many, humongous, large, medium and small...Arteries all the way down to capillaries. It looked, honestly, like a different planet. Only when we started getting closer to the airport did I notice signs of life other than tire tracks in the desert. Suddenly I started to see small green circles...little farms on the ground, and orchards (do you call fig trees and olive trees and nut trees "orchards"?) I saw several of what looked like military bases, missile defense system arrays as well as tank-type bunkers...a little too high up to be able to be sure what they were, but it looked military to me.

There was no sprawling view of the city when we landed, just desert, rocks, desert and suddenly the screech of the landing gear clobbering the pavement of the landing strip. Rough landing, left wheels hit first and rocked us back to the right and the rubber of the right wheels caught the ground and we had arrived safely.

Immigration in Amman was pretty quick and easy. After changing some money to pay immigration in local currency, I stood in line at immigration behind about 12 or so Bangladeshi men, looked like a bunch of construction workers or migrant workers to me. They had been seated in front of me on the flight and were acting strange all flight and on the ground in Kuwait as well. The Jordanian immigration officials noticed their nervousness and shiftiness as well and began questioning them out loudly, almost yelling at them, "Why you come to Amman! You have business here?" the leader of the group of "detained" men answered "We come for tourism", "Tourism?", "Yes, here is hotel"...A serious discussion ensued between the 6 or 7 mean looking, hot-dog-thick-Saddam-Hussein-mustache-wearing immigration officers...they looked like they didn't know what to do with the 12 dudes and the dudes looked defeated already...suddenly, with wide eyes and a big smile, the officer at portal 2 in a very nice voice yelled back in my direction, finger pointing directly at me, "Next, Mister!" I smiled, handed him my documents, gave him a ten spot, and within 90 seconds I was officially "in country", visa in hand, good for a month. I'm not gonna run around waving my American passport around these parts, but it sure made immigration easy.

I went through x-ray scanners in customs next. They didn't seem to have a problem with the my luggage that was half-filled with cup-o-noodles! I left customs and made my way to the arrival hall, stepped to the side looking for the piece of paper that Pae had prepared for me with instructions to her apartment...I was supposed to catch my own taxi and work my way there or to several other alternate meeting points depending on my success at "grunting" these foreign instructions to the driver. I was opening my laptop bag when a familiar smile walked over to me and greeted me with P'Guy and "Moo" (pig in Thai). Pae met me at the airport! Yay, she waited there even though my flight was delayed for over an hour. I even risked trouble and snuck a small hug when we met...they're not too big on public displays of affection here.

It was a nice taxi ride home through the rolling rocky desert hills of outer Amman. We saw, as I mentioned before, several camels, sheep and cute little donkeys along the side of the road. Our taxi driver jammed his breaks at one point and the three cars behind us barely avoided a pile-up...sounded like there was gonna be a serious accident from the screeching tires behind us.

Been here one night, ventured out this morning by myself just to familiarize myself with the surrounding area. Cool weather, heating up though. My skin is dry from the airplane and I'm sure it's gonna stay that way, with humidity hovering around ZERO!!!

Things I've seen so far that I didn't expect- Mountain Dew - Tang - Lots and lots of fruit in the market near Pae's home - a total lack of smiles - a dude driving a black SUV with a Royal Jordanian Air crown symbol stuck to the windshield...driving near Pae's neighborhood, he looked very familiar to me! Odd!

Things I've seen so far that I expected- Camels - a bunch of raggedy looking men waiting on the curb of the road, laborers waiting for work i think, outside of a temp agency - no eye contact from women walking down the sidewalk - men staring me down as I explored the area - sand everywhere.

I'll drop by the blog again soon, hopefully with some pictures. Pae will be back and we'll venture further out as she can sprechen zee Arabic more than me! haha.

Pae told me there was a supermarket and a Starbucks around the corner of the apartment...this morning I took a left rather than a right...I'm off again! Until next time!

2 comments:

Naomi Hanks said...

Wow! What an adventure. I think I would be really scared to be a "tourist" over there. Just too many things I am unfamiliar with and don't understand. So glad that Pae was able to meet you at the airport. I bet that was a breath of fresh air. Did she get the B-day card we sent? Hope all is well with her and that you both have a great time together! Love you guys!

Pae and Guy said...

hey Nomers, Pae's birthday card was recently delivered to her by ME!!! Thanks for entrusting me to deliver the happy birthday cheer from your side of the world! She loves it and loves the pictures...which I got also...the kids at school can now see the difference of a couple years in Brooklyn, I have her baby baby picture under glass on my desk at school, and now there is the one you sent me and Pae, they always say "narak" which means "cute" when they see it! Love ya sis...p.s. i didn't see "ultra marathon" on your list of goals...slacker!!

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