Published: May 27th 2012May 24th 2012
On the metro during my layover into the heart of Frankfurt
The day was hard and long. How could it not be? I left San Antonio at 5:45pm (when my plane was supposed to leave at 4:56pm) on May 22nd and did not arrive in Amman, Jordan until 0312 on May 24th. In my transit to the Kingdom, I had watched 4 movies, slept 2 hours, and had a 6-hour layover in Frankfurt, Germany, which I took advantage of. I quickly left the airport and headed to the heart of Frankfurt just to walk around, catch some cheap dinner, and find free Wi-Fi to let my frantic mother know I was okay. After all was said and done in Germany, I was able to catch an hour nap due to our flight to Amman being delayed an hour and fifteen minutes. Yes, I only slept one hour on the flight from Washington, D.C. to Frankfurt, Germany. I just have trouble sleeping on international flights. Plus that
plane was delayed 2.5 hours from take off as well. It was just not a happy Airplane Day for me. I got off the plane, took out some dinar from an ATM, which I knew would seriously deplete my bank account later, quickly went through customs
and found myself staring at dozens of people waiting for their loved ones to come home.
No one was waiting for me.
Except for foreigner hungry taxi drivers. The good thing about these taxi drivers was that they are government employed and tracked, which made my nervous parents a little more at ease. The bad thing: they all wanted to give me a ride. After explaining where I needed to go, one of the nine that somehow crowded around me when I turned my back to get my hotel's address out of my backpack took off with me in the back seat. I spoke what broken Arabic I knew. Though I have taken two years, it was like everything flushed out of my brain, and our conversation was short and limited. He knew about as much English as I did Arabic so it worked for 15 minutes, but then 15 minutes of silence ensued. I need to focus on what's going on around me and where I am anyways. Though I tried to brush off a few things my dad told me, I knew he wasn't kidding when he told me to remember the SERE training I had.
I read street signs, counted turns, paid attention to the driver's emotions in the rearview mirror, looked for land marks, and even began thinking of every knick knack I had on that could be easily slipped off to give clues to the authorities in case of my disappearance. I knew I was being a little over reactive, after all, I was the one assuring my parents that Jordan is the safest country in the Middle East right now, so what could happen right?
Well, what happened was, we got downtown and our driver had no idea where my hotel was. He stopped and asked for directions several times and either no one knew where it was or they just kept saying down the street and up the hill. I was getting a little perturbed that no one knew where this place was because maybe I had already put a down payment on a reservation for a place that didn't exist. We stopped by a smoothie stand where I suppose the driver frequented because he greeted the people working at the stand quite cordially. A man walked up to the car and began speaking in Arabic, which I only half
understood. The driver replied and then asked what I assume was "Do you know where the Bdeiwi Hotel is?" Every word I know and understand in a classroom setting, but hearing it spoken so quickly and casually, I had to take a minute for my tired brain to process this information. By the time I mentally translated, the guy had already made it back to the stand about 25 feet away and was asking his co-worker. I sat in the car and waited and waited, until something made me nearly jump out of my skin.
A loud and harrowing voice came over a loud speaker in a quite melodic tone. I listened for only a moment and realized almost immediately what it was. "Salat?" I asked the driver, and he replied, "Yes, do you know about salat?" I knew that Muslims pray 5 times devotedly a day facing Mecca, but I also thought it was during the day, not at 3:45 in the morning as well. The driver muttered what I suppose was a prayer because I heard "Allah" in their somewhere and promptly got out of the car to see what was taking so long. I was left
alone, feeling quite culturally insensitive because from media and American stereotyping teaches, I assumed that all Muslims stop what they are doing, literally, grab their prayer mats and pray. I quickly became embarrassed that I fell into that trap we as Americans often put ourselves in by taking a small action by those that are different from us and overly stereotyping it to become accepted as American truth. (Sorry about the tangent.)
The driver walked back over to the cab and opened up my door, which I jumped at. I was antsy because everyone at the stand was staring at the car and looking at me. I feel I would have done this in any country, especially America. I mean who stands around at a smoothie stand at 4 in the morning near a dark alley anyway? He stretched his hand into the car and handed me a smoothie. I was a bit taken aback but accepted it out of courtesy, hoping that this would not be added to the taxi fee. Now, my mother has also taught me not to accept drinks that you didn't watch being made from strangers. So I did what any tired, jet lagged
and starving young lady alone in a foreign country would do at 4 in the morning near a sketchy alley: I drank the whole thing. And it tasted like one of the best smoothies I've ever had. He got back in the car as I sucked away at my smoothie and started up this hill. We reached the top and finally, lo and behold, the hotel appeared. My driver turned off the car, and told me to wait. He went to the front door and knocked. I knew it was very late, but hotels usually have a 24-hour lobby for us wayfaring travelers to be able to get in right? In the name Bdeiwi Hostel and Hotel, the word "hostel" still exists. After a few moments, a drowsy manager appeared in the doorway. The two men exchanged a few words and back to the cab my driver returned to help me with my bags.
I checked in with the slightly annoyed manager, whose English name is David because his Arabic name is something like Daavidah, and headed up to my dorm style bed. He showed me the bathroom, a tiny room smaller than my closet with a pink toilet,
1x2 mirror, and shower with no curtain and a 2x2 floor. There were signs everywhere saying, "Do not put toilet paper or anything else in the toilet please. Thank you." I immediately had problems with that. He led me to the very next door and it opened up to a room of four beds, that didn't look like much. There was an open door that led to a tiny balcony with a small chair, letting in a desirable cool breeze. I wasn't thinking of anything at this time except, "There better not be a single bug in here." I threw all of my bags to the ground and thanked the manager who soon disappeared down the dark hallway back to his comfortable couch two flights of stairs down in the lobby. I took a moment to look around my room. It was home for the next three days, and for $8 a night, I didn't have much to complain about. There was a place to rest my head, running HOT water, and a place to retreat to if I ever needed it. I shut the door to the outside, still fearing I was going to wake up to a nest
of flies laid in my mouth or something, took my shower, and tried contacting my mom, who hadn't heard from me since a quick text that I landed safely in Amman. There was full Wi-Fi but with a lock. So I didn't have a choice but to fall asleep. It was 4:38am and I was wide-awake. After complaining to myself how I just wanted to sleep, I was very mad I couldn't. I messed around with my iPhone, making a playlist called "Adventure in Amman" with all the best soundtrack songs I felt would go well with me riding or walking around the Jordanian capital. 0530 rolled around, and I finally drifted to sleep with the sun rising.