Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Jordanian Adventure

Last week I was in Jordan (hence the lack of new posts), visiting a good friend of mine from DC.  It was great to leave the cold; dump the hat, scarf and gloves and just wear a light jacket.  Or so I thought, until my third day there, when I woke up and there was SNOW on the ground.  No joke.  It hadn't snowed in Amman in like 17 years, but it had to snow when I was there.  My friend K was an awesome hostess, she drove me basically all around the country in search of good sights and American food.  I thought it was really interesting how even though the local people are a lot more different from us (meaning less western, different customs, culture, religion, language, etc.) the country itself had more western offerings than Serbia.  For example, their grocery stores carried basically everything I would want from back home, soda, cake mixes, condiments, candy.  In Serbia there are tons of things that you can't find.  Because of that, she took me to this awesome Wings and Rings place, where we had REAL buffalo wings with blue cheese dip and a awesome battered onion rings.  You might be thinking, what a waste, to go eat that in Amman, BUT, we did have real Jordanian food plenty of other times, AND this is what I really miss.  We do get hummus, falafel and middle eastern stuff in Serbia.  Hot wings and mozzarella sticks? Not so much.

The first night, K and I went to Petra, which was A.M.A.Z.I.N.G. I would rank it right up there with Machu Picchu and the Great Wall of China.  What makes it so great, it's not just the Treasury (which is the typical Indiana Jones building that you see in brochures and pictures) but that it's a whole humongous park where you can walk for hours and explore these rocks and caves and ruins.  Plus, the landscape is completely different and cool, unless you happen to live in the desert, which after being there a week, I have no desire to do.

K admiring the treasury

The next day, coincidentally the day that snowed, we went to the Dead Sea.   That was super cool too.  It was freezing cold and I was deathly afraid to get in the water, but I felt like I had to.  After all, who knows when/if I'll ever be there again.  I walked in and it was super salty, like everyone had said and YES, you do float.  You float even when you don't want to float, making swimming incredibly difficult.  They tell you not to put your head underwater, because the salt will get in your eyes and once that happens, it stings like crazy and you can't wipe it off because your hands and clothes are all salty too.  I was lucky not to get any water in my eyes, but K did and it wasn't pretty.  I did swallow some salt, because I was trying really hard to doggy paddle further out, but you just can't, like your legs just keep afloat and won't sink enough to kick right.  After about 20 freezing minutes playing around in the water, we decided to get out.  The Jordanian side of the Dead Sea has a ton of swanky spa hotels/resorts where you can get your mud baths and pamper yourself all day long on the beach.  If it had been nicer out and I had a higher balance in my bank account I would have definitely gone for it.

On Sunday, we spent ALL day watching old FRIENDS episodes, Seasons 4-6 and working on our Pinterest boards and just fooling around.  We also made these awesome Smores cookie bars and ordered authentic food from a local place.  It was rainy and foggy and gross and there weren't really many places to visit with that type of weather.  The next day, K had to work so I went around Amman by myself.  I went up to these Roman ruins called the Amman Citadel and then walked down the hill to the markets and the downtown area of the Old City.  It was really neat to see everything in Arabic and the people running around.  Most women in Jordan don't wear a burqa or niqab, but just cover their heads with a scarf; most of them will wear the robes in neutral colors, but once in a while you'll see them in jeans and a long sleeved shirt and the scarf.  There are also a ton of "westeners" out there, so I didn't really stick out for not having my head covered.  I was determined to talk to someone because I wanted to have a buddy to help me find places and take pictures for me, especially because I didn't have a map.  I finally sort of stalked this older lady that I had seen at 3 different places, and it worked out great, because she was from Atlanta, but was going to do most of the sites I had already seen with her husband, who was in Jordan for a conference.  She was up for lots of walking and sightseeing so we made a great pair.  We went to some more ruins, which at the end of this trip I'm like, once you've seen some, you've seen them all.  I have never been to Athens, but apparently, since I've been to Italy and seen the ruins in Rome and Pompeii and now I've seen the ones in Jordan, I can skip it, which is fine by me.  I'd rather sail around the islands than deal with the madness.  So my new friend Kate and I found the Ben's Chilli Bowl of Amman, basically the most tourist packed-mentioned on every guide book-must go to place in the city.  It was good and super cheap.  We shared hummus, falafels and some bean thing that was surprisingly similar to Mexican refried beans.  Then we started just walking around and went to the Blue Mosque, which is the only one that non-Muslims are allowed to go into.  We had to wear these robes that reminded me of the grim reaper, but I was so happy to be with her because I got my picture taken.
At the Citadel

Markets in Amman

Ready to go in!
Blue Mosque

I forgot to mention that all throughout my trip I got about 6 marriage proposals, hundreds of "you are breaking my heart" and more flattery than I've ever had in my life since I stopped going into the DC Jail. My milkshake was definitely bringing all the Jordanians to the yard.  Damn Right.  So one of them in particular, Waleed, a cab driver by the citadel, was especially friendly.  He was all charismatic, wanting to show me the city in his cab for a "very good price" and I was like, dude, leave me alone, I WANT to walk!  But then I remembered that I had wanted to do the day trip into another city the next day and I needed someone to take we talked and negotiated and he did name a good price so the next day he picked me up and took me there.  He asked that I call him on the way back so that he could take me home, but I didn't feel like calling and waiting around, so I just took a random cab that was there.

My last day, I chilled at K's house in the morning, and in the afternoon she came to pick me up to take me to Jarash, which is 45 minutes north of Amman and has tons of ruins.  We had a pretty good time planning K's friend's upcoming wedding, which we decided should be held around the ruins, and guess who we saw there?  My new friend Kate and Waleed, the cab driver, together.  So I had mentioned him to her and she decided to call him up and ask him to take her around. So I took the opportunity to ask Waleed to take me to the airport the next morning, since my flight was at 6 AM.  We got it all planned out, K and I and her friends went back to Wings and Rings for my last meal and we watched some more FRIENDS before saying good bye and going to bed.

If I hadn't shown up on time, these columns would have fallen

The next morning, Waleed picked me up and he had a present for me.  OMG.  He said, "it's so that you never forget me".  I guess I won't be forgetting him any time soon.

Waleed's present.  My name-heart-his name.