If your browser doesn't support automatic redirection, you might want to click here to get to my "new" blog.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Interlude

Ramadan kareem everyone!!

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Trip to Amman -- pt.1

Note to readers: I used to keep public travel and festival diaries (you know, on paper and all) for myself and family and friends and whatnot, so this might've turned out to be a cross between that and a real blog post.
I sure know that I am writing a lot and that it takes me way too much time.
Hope you will enjoy it anyway. :)
So here's the first three days:



Sunday, August 13th

Got up way too early for a Sunday. But what with the terrorist scare of only a few days previously we thought it might be best for me to be at Düsseldorf airport around 11ish. So we had decided to leave around 9ish. "We" being my sister, her husband and me.

The trip to the airport was scary. Their car had been having some problems which - supposedly - had been fixed. They hadn't. The motor occasionally cut itself some slack and slowed down. Still, we got there.

I checked in my luggage, and after a round of hugging, good-byes and the transference of several cat hairs I walked off to the gate and passed the check in front of it in approximately five minutes. Right. So much for the accuracy of information on the news....

Fortunately I had come armed with a thick book, my discman and a ton of mp3's, so I had no trouble passing the time. I also chatted with some Iranian dude who was on his way to Turkey (with a 20 or 30 minute transfer at Schiphol, brave man...) and with a woman travelling with her baby to either GB or the US who was unhappy about having had to taste all the baby food stuff she was bringing on board the plane.

In the end the plane was almost an hour late which did not make the Iranian guy very happy, as you can probably imagine.
And what a plane it was! I knew that I'd be flying a Fokker 50 from Germany to Holland and back, but I had had no idea what kind of plane that would be. Yeah, sue me, all you plane fans out there. ;) For those of you who don't know everything there is to know about plane types...: It is fairly small (about 20 seat rows or so, with two seats on each side of the middle aisle) and has propellers.
The take-off was less smooth than on board a bigger plane and had me battling dizziness. (Thank you anonymous Turkish fellow low-blood-pressured dude on my first flight ever aaaages ago for the seemingly senseless tip about how to deal with this problem!)
As there was no real meal on the short flight, there hadn't been a meal request option available, but everyone got a drink of orange juice and a filled cookie, which I pocketed.

Well, for me the delay had the nice effect of shortening my long stay in Amsterdam. Still, I had enough time to buy drinks and a 5-pack of Smelly Jelly (© aNarki-13 on August 27th; actually it's Snelle Jelle), which is a "gezond lekkere kruidkoek, van nature vetarm". Dutch - you just gotta love it.

Despite my reservations after having seen the bigger KLM planes from the bus that took us from the Fokker to the gate (it says "The Flying Dutchman" on them....) I continued my journey to Amman.

By then I was having real second thoughts about my trip. Not for any of the funky reasons my colleagues and neighbours came up with, but for the simple reason that I am more shy in real life than you could gather from this blog here, and having arranged to meet all those "strange" people was starting to freak me out some.

Anyway, I bravely boarded one of the Flying Dutchman's planes and settled down for the 4.5 hour flight.
Spent most of the time reading and listening to my discman again. Dinner was some chicken curry thing for the regular passengers. Smelled nice.


boarding pass

Me, I had a cup of water (ick...), cous-cous, a slice of Snelle Jelle (lmao) and a fruit salad.

Some time before midnight we started circling Amman, going deeper with each turn. Now this will probably sound totally corny and dumb, but Amman looks grand from above at night. As if someone has taken a handful of jewels and scattered them across a couple of hills.

At around 0:05 local time I arrived at Queen Alia airport (Amman), powdered my nose, claimed my luggage, cashed a traveller cheque at the bank counter there and went through customs, where the very nice young man chatted some with me and wished me a nice holiday.

Then I went out into the hall and pretty soon espied the famed aNarki-13 and his cousin.

And what a cousin she is! During the longish ride into town she kept firing questions at me:
- How come you picked Jordan for your holiday?
- What made you become a vegetarian?
- What do you do for a living?
- Are you involved? Do you have a boy-friend?
And on and on.

Among the few sentences aNarki-13 was able to utter in between was the sad news that I wouldn’t be able to meet Morbid Smile after all, as she had gone back to Iraq already.

Don't know at which time we arrived at the hotel.
Once they had checked me in, aNarki-13 and his cousin took off while Mr Mainly Night Duty took me and my luggage to my room.
So, this was Amman, and that had been aNarki-13.
Good night.



Monday, August, 14th

Woke up, had a cold shower, dressed, breakfasted on Smelly Jelly (© aNarki-13) and Dutch coke and took pictures of my room and of the view I had from my bedroom window.


"my" street

My apartment consisted of a bedroom, a living/eating-room, a kitchenette with a scary gas powered plate which I never dared use and a bathroom.

Around midday aNarki came and picked me up and showed me way too many places for me to get my bearings right away.
First we went to Grand supermarket to get some essentials like chips, drinks and toilet paper.
After dumping all that at my apartment I fed aNarki the filled Dutch cookie from the Fokker flight while we marched to Mecca Mall. The cookie had disintegrated some (sensitive, crumbly cookie...), but he said it tasted good.

We wandered around the Mall for a while, then aNarki contacted the Kid, who agreed to meet us there.
Soon the Kid got hungry so we sat down in the food court and had some drinks while watching the Kid eat.
Halfway through his burger he threw out the veggies and put in his fries. Fascinating.


food court playground and people


Iraqi burger

He merrily tucked in, which might have been a sign of him feeling better after having had a cold. On the other hand... maybe he's just always hungry.
After having watched the Kid dining for about three hours (ok, that's exaggerating things a bit, but it did take him some time) I was pretty hungry myself, so we strolled off to get a bite of falafel and hommus at a restaurant.
We being aNarki and me; the Kid took off in a taxi.

My memory is a bit hazy on what happened next, but I think we went to aNarki's parents' place. Yes?

In the evening aNarki took me to Wakalat Street, a street that's closed for cars in the evenings, where just about anyone goes to stroll around and/or sit down at a café to watch the strollers and chase away the beggars/kids selling stuff.
One girl was rather cheeky and hit aNarki over the head with her bunch of plastic flowers when he sent her away. That seemed to be to his liking, as he told her he'd buy something off her next time.

When the novelty of counting the people who stared at my tattoo had worn off, aNarki asked the Kid to come join us.
I still go all tearful with recollection remembering the great effort the Kid went to in order to make me feel right at home. He kept claiming that aNarki and me'd be making a nice couple and similar crap that very much reminded me of the kind of talk I always get from my colleague A. whenever he hears of me visiting friends overnight...

All the while the young man was continuously smoking sheesha, which - in combination with his recent cold - led to him losing a lot of voice in the course of the evening. I wonder what they put into the sheesha anyway; he became decidedly merry.
On our way out of the street we did indeed run into the little flower seller again, so aNarki kept his word and - me being the only woman present I assume - gave the flower to me. (And, yes, I took it home of course.)


one of the famous combat flowers

The end of this long day aNarki and me spent at his parents' place again, and if I am not mistaken, this was also the night on which his mother "force-fed" me after hearing that I hadn't had any dinner yet. Seriously, I'd have demanded food if I had been hungry. :)

At 2:45am aNarki returned me to my hotel after almost 15 hours straight of playing my entertainer/travel guide. Respect and thanks, man!



Tuesday, August 15th

Not very surprisingly we both kind of overslept on Tuesday after that long day.

I confusedly ambled off in several directions, trying to remember where that bank was that aNarki had pointed out to me in passing the day before.
Eventually I reached the Arab Bank and took my place in the longish queue. When it was finally my turn I asked the lady at the counter what the exchange rate for traveller cheques made out in Euros was. "0.89," she told me, but after I had handed her the cheques and my passport she disappeared into the office area and returned only after quite some time. "Is it ok if I call you [my first name]? [My first name], I am sorry, but we don't accept these." I was quite taken aback by that piece of news, as you can probably imagine. She suggested going to the Bank of Jordan. I dejectedly crawled back to my hotel to wait for my self-appointed travel guide.

On top of being sleepy aNarki must have caught a cold and was running around in a heavy sweater while I was melting in the midday heat...

He took me to an exchange office in the area, where the guy at the counter offered me 60 JD for a cheque over 100 Euros. It had not even crossed my mind to try and barter over the exchange rate but our reaction led to him bartering. All of a sudden he offered a (in comparison) staggering 75 JD for my cheque. Which was apparently as high as he was willing to go, for he did not raise his offer when I declined. "If you had Euros, not cheques, I could give you 90," he said though. Deciding on the spot that the almost 30 Euros that'd leave me with should be all I'd be needing back in Europe (especially considering that I had a credit card now) I changed 100 Euros there so that I'd have some ready cash until we could cash my cheques at the other bank.

Then we zombied off to Mecca Mall, where we tried to revive our spirits with soft drinks (me) and tea (aNarki).
We also got turned away by a bank in the building and checked the exchange rate at the exchange office on the ground floor. At the airport I had gotten a rate of .88 minus a fee of 4JD, so their offered 82 JD for 100 Euros didn't make me too happy.

On this memorable day aNarki helped himself to some of the food at the falafel place. Not so memorable, you say? A-ha! Little do you know, grasshopper.

For later he had arranged for a meeting with Treasure of Baghdad and 24 Steps to Liberty. At Wakalat Street again, but after meeting up with BT and 24 we went to sit at another place than the night before.


Walkabout Creek... er...


... Wakalat Street

(Note: the shoulders on the side(s) of the pictures belong to 24 and BT.)

I don't know how obvious it was but - like with Attawie later, and for the same reason - meeting BT and 24 for the first time made me rather nervous, as I hadn't had that much online contact with them in advance. But I think I did fairly well ;) and it sure was a nice evening. :)

I suppose it's impossible to get together with BT and 24 without talking politics, which is fine by me. Talking politics, that is, not politics.
What else? The usual round of questions of course, like what made you come here and all. I really should have prepared some papers to hand out to people. :)
Oh, and I think BT said I was the first German he met.
After some prodding the Kid finally joined us as well.

Time passed way too quickly, and BT and 24 left us. The Kid, aNarki and me stayed for a while, then wandered out of Wakalat Street, being undecided whether to go home already or not.
The Kid suggested going to a night club, but had we known that there were no decent night clubs in the vicinity we wouldn't have agreed. What a seedy little brothel that was, with some dude making music at an earsplitting noise level, Amstel beer with probably 0.5% of alcohol and not so sexy ladies coming to shake our hands. Brrr.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Trip to Amman -- Prologue

I may be a little late in telling/posting but before and during my trip I just felt too preoccupied to sit down and write anything.


Everyone's been asking the same questions, so here goes:

The story of me conceiving of the idea of going to Amman.

As I was having some spare money (well, not actually spare money as such *cough, cough* but accessible money ;) ) I had decided to treat myself to a real holiday this year, possibly in Turkey or somewhere. Sometime after my colleague A.'s and the boss' vacation. Whenever.

Then I heard that aNarki-13 was not just staying in Amman for a short while but for weeks.
And Attawie was there as well.
About 20 unanswered yahoo offline messages, 10 SMSs - unanswered - and one threat to phone him (just to be silent at him) later the Kid confirmed that he'd be staying until around the end of August as well.

A quick calculation showed that even with the boss going on a three-week vacation it should be possible for me to go to Amman and still see all of these people.
Of course, with bosses things are never quite as straightforward as they seem to regular people, but after a couple of - long - days spent anxiously waiting for his final verdict things worked out the way I wanted them to. (You feel like a rather sorry sod phoning the Jordanian embassy asking about how long it will take them to put a visa into the passport that you have applied for three weeks ago and which should be arriving soonish while not even knowing whether the holiday is going to take place or not....)

Well, it was going to take place, and right after I got the ok from the boss I went to the nearest travel agency to book my flights.
Took the lady there some heavy wrestling but then she managed to include my meal request in the booking and to arrange for an earlier flight than the computer originally wanted to book for the first leg of the journey. The original booking would have left me with only one hour to change planes at Schiphol (Amsterdam) airport - with only one KLM flight from Amsterdam to Amman per night! Better having four hours to waste than the possibility of missing the flight and arriving in Amman a full day later.
She also - as per my request - tried to book me onto a later second flight for the return trip, but either the computer didn't accept it or she made some mistake. She figured it might be because that would leave me with a stay of six hours at Schiphol airport. But she assured me that I'd have no trouble changing planes in the 50 minutes that the booking left me with. Well, what the heck, I thought, if I miss that plane, there'll be several going back from Amsterdam to Germany on that day.

Even earlier I had ordered a load of traveller cheques and finally gotten myself a credit card, so nothing could go wrong anymore. :)


Unfortunately Caesar of Pentra went on vacation in Syria a tad earlier and could not make it to Amman, nor could the Average Iraqi (note: blog still "dead", author happily not :) ) leave Iraq (Get a passport, you bozo!) but more and more people seemed to be flocking there, such as Morbid Smile, Treasure of Baghdad and 24 Steps to Liberty.


When I first started planning my trip to Jordan, my Turkish/Kurdish/Martian colleague A. was already away on his holiday. As he is constantly poking fun at me - or rather implying improper behaviour on my part - whenever he hears of me going to festivals or parties and sharing tents or bedrooms, another colleague and me were wondering what his reaction might be when he returned and heard of my plans. I laughed and said "I should tell him I'm going there to marry aNarki." S.: "Do that!"

So the plan was born. On his first day back at work we kept dropping hints that he unfortunately failed to pick up on. What with him usually being "nosy as a goat" as we Germans say our only explanation for this was that he was still dreaming of his holiday.

Hints included
- me showing a picture of aNarki to a colleague, K., and practically bouncing up and down with joy while announcing that that was HIM by the way and her answering that he looked like a very nice person,
- K. inquiring whether I'd have to be veiled for the wedding.

Finally, a few minutes before my lunch break, I simply showed him the pic, asking his opinion. First he got sidetracked by the other people shown in the photo, then he too announced aNarki to be looking like a friendly person. When I told him that I was going to marry him A. totally disappointed us by merely saying "Congratulations!"

After both him and me had returned from our respective lunch breaks he asked another colleague, Ma., if that marriage story was really true. She said it was, so A. simply accepted it. Blast! S. and me had expected him to be sceptical and - once finally convinced the story was true - to try and talk me out of marrying a person I had never met before. Behind my back he apparently expressed some reservations but not to me, oh no. Actually, he was being so nice and helpful (giving tips for immigration and whatnot) that the joke wasn't funny at all and I soon felt so bad about it that I prematurely cancelled it before S. was due to work that week.

But the joke stirred up something else.
Ma. started getting the idea that what with me meeting several young men over there I might end up marrying someone else. I don't know what possessed her to get this into her head - she knew right from the start that the thing regarding aNarki and me was a joke to pay A. back for all his past comments on me and my male friends and nothing else - but she kept discussing it.

Kept discussing it first mainly as a joke as well but then with mounting concern, probably due to my replies. But how can you reply to someone who's convinced that marrying an Arab - any Arab - automatically results in you ending up wearing hijab (or worse)? So I answered stuff like "Look here, if I were to marry any of the Iraqis I know and started wearing hijab they'd declare me insane cos none of them would want me to." Somehow for her this seemed to imply that I might seriously be considering marriage.

She also told me to not get too involved with the locals when saying goodbye and wishing me a nice holiday. I didn't even ask whether she meant actual Jordanians or the bloggers I was going to meet, as I felt it didn't really matter anyway.
Camel drivers, the lot of them!


A neighbour only half-jokingly asked what I'd do if I got kidnapped into a harem, while his wife was more concerned with Jordan's vicinity to Israel and Lebanon.


So, dear readers, I spent my entire holiday sitting in my hotel apartment and ordering pizza which I had them deposit in front of my door.
The weather was a steady 25°, thanks to the AC in the bedroom; the scenery got a bit boring though after two weeks of staring out into the same street.