Sunday, April 30, 2006

April 28, 2006 : The sandninja has landed

Finally in Amman. It must be 4am, the prayers have started and the musical chanting reverberates throughout the city, the sound intensifying as it hits the limestone buildings. It’s beautiful and feels like a fitting announcement of my arrival. I fall asleep to this lullaby.

...hours later...

I have no idea what time it is. I awake to the sounds of children playing and car alarms going off. It looks overcast outside...flat light is falling against the building next door which I can see from my window. The apartment is quiet. I venture out and am greeted enthusiastically by Victoria’s kitten, Fel-Fel (Arabic for pepper). He follows me everywhere as I check out my surroundings.

The apartment is quite large. It has 3 bedrooms 2.5 baths, a formal dining room that fits both a dining set and a set of couches, a living room with couches and entertainment center, and a roomy kitchen with an eating area and balcony that overlooks the street.

Judging from the décor and the size of the furniture, I’m guessing this place came furnished. What is it with 3rd world countries and their obsession with over-sized furniture? I can’t imagine how they got all of it up the eight flights of stairs. I almost died just getting my luggage up and I was only carrying my little carry-ons, the driver took up the big bag.

April 27, 2006 : Accommodations at 37,000 feet

It will be another day before I reach my final destination: Amman, Jordan. It’s Thursday afternoon and I realize with a tired sigh that I haven’t slept horizontally since Monday night. The flight from D.C. to London was ahead of schedule the entire way thanks to a nice tailwind. Heathrow, however, apparently has a curfew and doesn’t allow planes to land before 6am, so our flight, scheduled to arrive at 6:20am circled the airport a good 15 minutes before landing at 6:02am.

At least I had a chance to stretch my legs while in London. First stop was for coffee, a latte, which was unexpectedly good. I hadn’t really realized how much I appreciated the indoor smoking ban that Seattle adopted until I was sitting in the non-smoking section of the café surrounded by second-hand smoke. Breathing in second-hand smoke at 6am after being stuck on a plane full of recycled air was more torture than being cramped in economy seating for 8 hours. I had to get out….now.

I reached the city center at about 11am and met up with Ram, my Canadian friend that Vidya and I met while in Jerash last year, and had a quick beer before heading over to the Camden Tube stop to meet up with Joe and Luca for lunch. Was great to see familiar faces, but all too soon it was time for me to get back to the airport. Had a nice little surprise on the way back: the train broke down in the tube about 3 minutes away from the airport stop. We sat for about 50 minutes. Helpless. The Europeans took it all in stride. No one complained, no one got angry, and no one made inappropriate demands. At about 30 minutes, people started to get antsy especially when we realized the conductor had left us. Five minutes later he was back letting us know that a team had been dispatched to fix the problem, “quite a large problem with the train,” he had said repeatedly. That didn’t sound good. Luckily I had given myself a lot of time to get back to the airport. Suddenly, all the lights went out on the train and emergency lights in the tunnel clicked on one by one. Wasn’t there a murder scene in a book that started this way? Hmm. A series of bangs were heard outside along with voices and radios. Lights are now back on. The train’s engine rumbles to life and begins to sputter forward on the track. It’s going very slowly, but at least it’s going. Come on…only 3 minutes until the stop! I think I can, I think I can… We’re within seconds of the stop and the train groans and begins to slow. Nooooo!! We’re so close! It recovers and regains speed. “Heathrow Airport,” the conductor says, and the train grinds to a stop. The doors opened and it was a mad dash by all to get to their flights. Including me because I realized I had left my bags at the wrong terminal. Ugh.