Saturday, November 20, 2010

As Salaamu, Amman!

Thursday afternoon I worked like crazy until 3PM, then raced home to get my backpack. I've been a little grouchy this week - so I am apologizing now, coworkers and salespeople.. I felt really bad leaving so much work - but not bad enough to cancel my vacation. It will be there for me when I get back.

One thing that has made me laugh over the past several weeks is the complete panic that everyone is in about the new TSA x-ray scanners. You have the choice of (thanks to new technology) being seen pretty much naked under your clothes, or the choice of getting a creepy extreme "pat-down". Every single morning on the news, there was a story of people getting molested at the airport and completely outraged at the x-ray machines. I don't know why, but it makes me laugh. I even made fun of it on my facebook status. Sara can't wait to give the TSA scanners a cheap thrill at the airport tomorrow! One friend commented that last week he could have gotten a prostate exam, since they were already down there with plastic gloves. Another friend flew to Denver on the same day I did - and got BOTH the pat-down and the x-ray. I started giggling like the immature person I am as soon as I got to security. But I guess the TSA just "is not that into me". I got neither an x-ray or a physical inspection. I was just waved through, past an indian grandma in a sari getting what appeared to be a full groping. I am actually kind of insulted. It was so anti-climactic. As a person looking a big birthday in the face, I totally took it the wrong way. What does that indian grandma have that I don't?!

Turkish airlines really impressed me with the random on-demand entertainment. I read an entire book, then watched the 1980 movie Fame! Then, 4 episodes of Modern Family and several episodes of How I met your mother. Nice assortment, Turkish airlines! When you are faced with a 10 hour flight, the most exciting thing that happens is when dinner comes. It totally breaks up the time, and up there in the thin air and extreme boredom, it actually tastes pretty good. I ate everything but the garnish.

Yeah, that's the girl you know and love!

After an absolutely beautiful sunrise, we landed in Istanbul where I contemplated buying this:

I almost got an airport massage, but it was too expensive so I got some wierd pistachio ice cream instead. The guy who scooped the ice cream pretended to hand it to me three times, snatching it back with a crazy face and laughing at me each time I tried to grab it. 15 hours ago when I was all stressed out, I would have wanted to punch him in the face. But I was in a loopy mood, so it just made me laugh along with him. Oh, Istanbul airport, you are more fun than a barrel of monkeys!

On the flight from Istanbul to Amman, I chatted with a nice Norweigen couple, and read some more. The guy from my hotel was holding my name on a sign when I arrived, and we listened to Jordanian music on the way back into the city. I always love foreign pop music. This type sounds a lot like Greek music, minus the bouzouki and plus the more gutteral arabic language. It's a little bit dramatic, but very dancey. Oh habiiibiiii!!! Habiiibiii! Lots of angst about Habbibi. Habbibi means dear, beloved, honey - something like that. I liked the one song that sounded like a snake charmer to a disco beat.
I checked into my hotel where I have an awesome room, and I picked it for the lovely outdoor restaurant/garden. It's in a really nice neighborhood near the third circle. The man who checked me in made very sure that I knew I had a NICE SHOWER in my room. Twice he told me I have a NICE SHOWER. Hmmm... was that a hint?
I had one beer outside at 11PM, studied the map, wrote a little bit, then SHOWERED and went to bed. I was having a terrible nightmare when I woke up at 4:45AM. I leapt out of bed, heart pounding, and turned on all the lights. What was I dreaming about and why was there still a spooky man's voice singing through my window? I was so scared and confused. I had completely forgotten about the muslim call to prayer. Kathy and I heard this in east Africa. Starting early in the morning, and a couple times a day, there is singing and praying over loudspeakers. It's actually very beautiful to hear. But at 4:45, the man's voice made its way into my dream and gave me the scariest nightmare I have had in the longest time. I slept for another few hours, then ate the free breakfast!

Now I'm just wandering towards the heart of downtown, where I am going to take the Lonely Planet-suggested walking tour, that stops near some good kebab and dessert shops. I love middle eastern food and pastries. There is a place in Chicago, next to the Kedzie brown line station called nazareth sweets, that sells delicious baklava-type things soaked in honey and rose water. It feels really safe here walking around. Nobody has hassled me. Amman is a nice city. The call to prayer happened again when I was walking around, but I never actually see anybody face mecca or pray or anything. Nobody actually closes down shop to do this. At least not where I am. I wonder who does it and how many people do it? Maybe just in their homes? I have no idea.
I did take 5 classes of Arabic at the discovery center, so I still can't read anything (including the sign below) but I know a few words, and I can recognize the letters. A lot of signs start with the alif, then lam character - which spells "al", which means something like "the". I keep seeing that. It's a lovely language written out:

Time to find some hummus and a kebab. I am at a beautiful place I read about in the New York times - it's called books@cafe and has a lovely rooftop garden overlooking the city, with a bookstore downstairs.

1 comment:

Kate C. said...

I am so excited you made it safe and sound! I had the same weird ice cream thing happen to me in Istanbul and then after all of the games it wasn't even that great...

Can't wait to hear more about Amman and all of the fun food places you find.

Great pictures!

Oh and some news from here - at the GOTR gala last night, Ann bought a Cara race package. You might have a new running partner for some races.