Published: June 4th 2012May 26th 2012
Thank God for laziness! I woke up at around 12pm the next day, Saturday. While most say that’s lazy, keep in mind I had 6 hours of sleep when I’m supposed to be on vacation. Delayed jet lag is the worse because you think you’re fine the first couple of days and then bam! You’re dead tired and sleepy in the middle of the afternoon. If I hadn’t woken up at a teenager’s time and started to head out to wander the streets at 1:15pm, I never would have met Michael and Landon. I met them as I got a small card with the hotel’s information and a simple downtown map on it. (The previous night I went to a café down the street for a couple of hours and couldn’t find the hotel for 20 minutes even though I learned it was a 5-minute walk away. No repeat of that please.) They finished talking to David, the hotel manager, and I asked him if everything on the card was in walking distance. David turned to me and said, “Yes, where you are going?” I picked some arbitrary spot that seemed interesting on the map and said, “The Roman Theater.”
“Hey, that’s where we’re going,” Michael said excitedly. I looked at them and knew they were American from how they were dressed but I asked unexpectedly excitedly, “You’re American?!” They affirmed it and I let out a sigh of relief.
Now, I understand that this whole process is about submerging yourself in the culture and opening up your eyes, but let’s face it: everyone wants to know there’s someone like them somewhere nearby. In fact, it is quite a small world because Michael was born, bred, and raised in Bryan, TX, the neighboring town to my university and its city of College Station. They are both from the University of Utah and were there for an internship. Michael studied Arabic previously, but still was not blending in with his royal blue Rangers shirt on. Landon knew no Arabic at all but was slowly learning a few things over the two weeks they had already been here.
I tagged along with them and we some what chatted along the streets getting to know each other’s situation and what not. It felt good not wandering the streets alone. Although Jordan feels safer to do so, I still
don’t want to look like that one traveler that’s just…eh…I don’t know how to describe it. But sometimes I like being alone and other times I just wanted to be with someone else. As we perused the streets, we started passing this huge Roman ruin that I knew wasn’t the theatre but Michael seemed to know exactly what it was.
“This looks like a bath or sauna or something,” he said casually. I didn’t have a clue, I just knew it was old and cool simply for the fact that rising out of the grime, car infested and market filled center of downtown was just this huge piece of history kept safe behind a regular backyard fence that was a bit higher. Suddenly, an older man came from behind us and opened the gate to the ruins, casually walking in. He turned to us and said something in Arabic that ended up being, “Would you like to come inside and see?” Michael did all the talking. We accepted the invitation and walked around this ruin, which proved Michael accurate by being the Nymphaeum, Roman bath dedicated to the mythical nymphs. The man gave the whole back-story of the
architecture, and true to Jordanian hospitality, let us climb all over it.
Landon has a photographer’s spirit. He was telling Michael and I where to face to get a good shot with the lighting a shadows and what not, changing angles frequently. I could tell I was with Americans because he used common and comforting phrases like, “Dude, get all up in that,” “Oh, that’s it right there,” and my favorite from him, “MONEY!” Landon’s sense of humor brought in a sense of home as well. Every other phrase coming from his mouth was laugh-at worthy, and filled with the good-home American spirit. Although I knew I wouldn’t want that every day, I was happy that I found someone I could go to when I needed it.
We finished up our accidental exploration of the Nymphaeum, then continued to the Roman Theater. We passed a few carts with several souvenirs for the wary tourist a few meters from the entrance. We could see a profile almost of the theater but not in it’s full glory. There were some stone stepped, made slippery by millions of feet annually wearing away at the friction of the steps. I
nearly slipped off a few steps but maintained my bearing. To the left of us, massive columns opposite the theatre stood towering over the visitors of the theatre. We took a few pictures near these columns and I felt a bit sad that I hadn’t brought my Sony camera, but made due with my iPhone. We started to go in but Landon piped up, “Hey let’s come back later in the afternoon. The sun is too bright overhead. If we come back when it’s lower the lighting will be a lot better.” Michael didn’t speak photography as he admitted over and over and we turned away from the theatre. We wandered around the streets for a bit until one of us piped up about hunger. The search for a mahtaam, restaurant, began. That’s when we met “The Guide.”
From across the street we hear someone calling after us asking if we needed help. We really didn’t but he crossed the street anyways and here comes a guy dressed in some nice jeans and a yellow polo with a confused tourist trailing behind him. He walks straight up to us and starts talking about how he saw
us and figured we needed help. He is Jordanian but lived most of his life in Houston, TX, which would explain his excitement for seeing Americans. Relentless to help, we found out that the tourist was a German with the French name Marcel, and they just met that morning in a similar fashion. Marcel spoke very good English, which was another relief to see an English-speaking tourist. However, I got sick of hearing English after a while.
Our newfound tour guide took us up and down the streets of Amman, to which Michael and Landon were familiar enough with by now, giving us the lowdown on many buildings. We told him we were just looking for something cheap to eat, and by that we meant a schwarma stand or something. Instead, he took us to a place where he used to work, which coincidentally enough was the same restaurant I went to 12 hours earlier. It was deader during the day. No live music, many empty tables, and only a couple sat smoking sheesha together. He took his knowledge of Jordanian food and threw it at us, took our order and everything too. Lunch
wasn’t too bad of a price, though I was looking at that time for something more in the 1JD range. I paid 5JD for water, and this meat thing in a pita-like bread. To this day, I have no idea what it was but it tasted all right. I wasn’t blown away. What blew me away was how persistent this guy was.
He sat and asked us about our meals and talked about his “girlfriend [he] used to have back in the States” more times and in more ways than I’d like to remember or record. He seemed enthused to take us to the Roman Theater, and was going to show Marcel how to get to the Citadel. Michael, Landon, and I looked at this as an opportunity to lose him. I reminded them I needed to grab my camera from the hostel. They agreed and we headed to the hostel, leaving poor Marcel to deal with him, or so we thought. Halfway up the main hill to the hostel, I casually looked back and saw him speeding up the hill to catch up to us. We were stuck with him for the rest of the day.
Our trip to the Roman Theater proved awesome at best, even with our tag-a-long. He provided us with some good information about the place that I couldn’t otherwise understand in Arabic from a kind Tourist Police officer who showed me some cool things about the theater. There are two arrows with points on either end, making a compass looking cross in the center of the stage portion of the theater. When you stand on it and talk, your voice booms and echoes throughout the entire theater. An ancient surround sound system so to speak. I always wondered how thousands of people could hear one little person, or a play with no microphone. Another spot of interest was near the side of the stage, if you talked at a particular spot on the wall, the other side, hundreds of feet away could hear you loud and clear. It was used for directors in order to communicate with either side. The power of ancient technology can sometimes be overwhelmingly cooler and almost mystical compared to the modern advances in science today.
Our tag-a-long guide offered to take my picture and carry my camera bag, which was nice. He kept
me away from Michael and Landon’s antics unintentionally but was useful nonetheless. We climbed up the steps, took some pictures, climbed up more steps, took more pictures, and then we climbed some more…and then took more pictures. By the time I got to the top, I could feel the secondhand smoke getting to me and I was winded. It was beautiful from the top to look at so many sights and sounds of the city from this embedded archeological treasure.
At the top, Michael scared the crap out of me by going up into a handstand on the edge at the top. I was so shock and worried at the same time, that I froze and didn’t take pictures. Landon took some epic ones though. This little stunt attracted a lot of attention and the locals, who probably don’t witness random gymnastic acts on a daily basis, stared and point, some with excitement and other with fear.
We continued our exploration of the Theater’s grounds by going into the Modern Traditions Museum. There were clothes of all sorts that you would traditionally see Bedouins wear. We strolled through the small collection of displays quite quickly as
we were ready to head back to our respective homesteads, defeated by the blazing afternoon sun. Sure enough, our tour guide offered to escort us back to where we lived, as if we didn’t really know how to get there. We walked toward my hill near the Hamudeh bootleg DVD shop (There’s one on every corner in the heart of downtown. I’m half tempted to get Men in Black 3 or other summer movies I’m going to miss in the States.). I bid them a good day after we exchanged phone numbers and continued up to my room and out of the sun.
Unfortunately that wasn’t the end of my day. You see, the day before, I’d met two Africans in the street on my way back from chillaxing in a café. One of them seemed legitimately interested in me and wanted to keep in contact. I came back to my room, opened Facebook and there was a friend request and a message. He wanted to meet for a bit and just relax. So we met that evening for a small dinner and chat at the café across the street from the café I ate in earlier that
day. I figured it would be nice to have another black person there just to talk to and maybe even travel with. He’d been studying at the university for over a year, so I figured he knew his way around Jordan. False!
He’d never been anywhere. Not even to the Roman Theater, which was quite literally a 13(Whoop) minute walk from his apartment. He said he liked to go to school, go home, get on the computer, eat, and go to sleep. The next day, he’d do it all over again. No ambition, no desire to see anything or travel. This was not going to work.
Turns out I had accidentally gone on a date, since he paid for everything, and as he walked me up the hill to my hostel, I got this feeling that he wanted something in return. He kept talking about, “Oh, I will show you where I stay. We can go to where I live. Come to my house.” I politely declined with the “Oh crap! Oh crap!” thoughts swimming through my mind. He insisted and I finally had to make a firm, “No. I will see you later.” But that
was not the last I would hear from him. He would not give up. To this day, I wake up and go to sleep to unanswered Facebook messages, “Hey are u there?”
There are more photos below