Monday, November 29, 2010

Amman, Jordan

Fancy bike wrench for getting the wheel apart.

At the bike shop, the guy tried to take apart my wheel. He couldn't. Then, we couldn't. Instead of using the monkey wrench on the my gear teeth, he had a special tool that had a long handle with a short stretch of bike chain at the end to wrap around the gear teeth. I yanked on that. He yanked on a second wrench, but we simply could not budge the inner parts of the wheel. I don't know if the guy in Jerash broke it by brute forcing it or if it was already that way, but it didn't matter. I wasn't getting my bike fixed that day so it looked like I was going to be stuck in Jordan for at least an extra day. The problem was that extra day was the Muslim holy day so they were officially closed and would only work on it if they had time.

Amman city and hill top ruins

I grabbed a cab to my hostel. The driver did not know my place and no one else seemed to either, even with an address. When we finally got there and checked in, I resigned myself to being there for a couple days. Amman didn't have a list of things that I was excited about. I was worried the next couple days were going to be frustrating. However, that ended up not being the case.

Wild Jordan Cafe.

I responded to the mental frustration of being held up on my trip by pursuing some of my favorite culinary treats, even if it reduced my wallet. The Jordanian currency, the dinar, is worth more than the US dollar so eating was expensive. I found real (calorific) cookies by the bike shop instead of the normal lightweight wafer like cookies that predominate the Middle East. Around the corner from my hostel, there was another shop that sold falafel by the bag. Then, up the hill from me was Rainbow street that had a very Western feel. The restaurant that I ended up at had English place mats and menus. I didn't see any Arabic. Their menu was a brain association map. On the pasta page, they had pasta in the center, then lines towards chicken, seafood, and veggie options, and then lines to the specific meals. On another page, they would have sandwiches with the same thing. It was fun, but a little hard to read. I had no idea that English would be so predominant in the area.

Falafel maker.

Rainbow street stores.

While my hotel area reminded me of most places I had visited in the Middle East, the rest of Amman and especially Rainbow street were a little different. They reminded me of the European influences that I saw in Beirut, but they weren't as predominant. It seemed to have a better balance, but that is probably just by the luck of where I happened to be. On Rainbow Street, I saw my first Middle Eastern drum circle. I saw two kids decked out in their finest American hip hop gear which gave me a chuckle because I didn't think that kids dressed like that in the US would be hanging out in a trendy area like that. That area was quieter. All of Amman was because they were honking their horns less which was a welcome relief. What else . . . women's dress was more liberal. I saw burkas replaced by a lot more scarves and tighter fitting clothes even if their shirt still covered their butt. A lot of things were the same. Jordan, more than most places, seemed obsessed with handing out plastic bags and straws. Hashish was everywhere.

Buffalo Wings & Rings map. I thought it was weird to have one in Iraq, one in Indonesia, one in Jordan, and the rest in the States. Maybe they were congregating around US military bases.

All the latest fashions, including wrestling t-shirts.

On my second day there, they were hosting the Amman International Marathon. I ran into a few racers after the event and talked to them. They were lighter skinned and spoke perfect unaccented English. I thought they were European or American, but they were not. They were locals. They helped me find their traffic circles when terrible hostel directions failed (Locals have have often not seen maps of their home. They d0n't need them.). It might sound silly to be searching for traffic circles, but there are 8 numerically named and ordered traffic circles from downtown extending out to the west. The easiest way for me to find a lot of things was by first going to the closest traffic circle. My bike shop was 8km away near 7th Traffic Circle.

The Amman International Marathon course in front of my hostel.

I was so excited to find a real grocery store!!

On my last day, I ran into a lost looking American. They had the same terrible Lonely Planet guidebook that had been failing me throughout my trip so I offered to lend them a hand. They had just wrapped up a Libya to Cairo to Amman overland tour and were now about to fly out to Sardinia, Italy. We spend the day wandering. I got a haircut. We saw more Roman ruins which I was decidedly over. We had ice cream. We had a great chat about why we travel.

Elections were in full swing and there were candidate posters everywhere.

They still have tape stores in Amman!

What is the point of traveling? What are we trying to get out of it, especially with these longer trips? We never help or learn about others as much as we end up helping or learning about ourselves. Do we do it to learn about ourselves? Do we do it because something is missing at home and we think we will find it somewhere else? I know I would love to find the set up that keeps me in one place. However, I am not going to stay in one place when it is not going to be more satisfying than traveling. I want to be a medium fish in a small pond somewhere. I want to belong to a community where what I do matters. In Antarctica, I have that, but that is inherently a temporary community. It is also incredibly educated for its size. I truly wonder if I can find something like that in the States. I had that in Pittsburgh. I've had hints of it in Colorado. I feel like it could happen in Christchurch, NZ. All of these spots and others I think are like them happen to be the places I want to look for jobs when I get back to the States.

I like the Arab Bank logo.

The Iraqi embassy in Amman.

On my third day in Amman, I got very bad news. My bike uses 700cc wheels instead of the standard 26" wheels. In the States or even Europe this would not be a problem. I was in Jordan. They had called around to the other bike shops and were still having trouble finding one. After a few hours searching and making me panic, they finally found a used one. I don't know if it came from a shop or off one of the employees bikes, but I didn't care. I needed something to get me moving. I told them to slap it on there and drop off my bike ASAP. When they were ready to drop it off, I was picking up a new friend at the Intercontinental hotel. It made sense to drop and store it there while we went to dinner.

Le Royal Amman Hotel. I love this building.

This is one of the finer hotels in Amman and like any fine hotel, they do not understand bikes. They don't want to let them inside. When you show up with one at the hotel they are confused. Why would anyone with money for a nicer hotel ever ride a bike? I always assumed that if you were the customer, you are right. However, I guess if you are riding a bike, they assume you aren't a customer. The same type of thing happens if you ever go to a tourist office and ask for a nice place, they will never recommend the nicest places if you are on bike because they assume you are a budget traveler. I met a Dutch guy living on his pension that was often frustrated by this. It was a hassle, but they did let me drop off and store by bike until after dinner. The next day I was off to the Jordan Valley to cross the Jordan River into Israel.

For Ben.

1 comment:


    to answer your question.