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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

You’ll never know who you’ll meet….

My first morning in Jordan, I was awoken rather early (I thought it was 7AM but apparently it was more like 5:30AM) by the sounds of the ‘Call to Prayer’. In the predominantly Muslim country, the Call to Prayer is heard several times a day (5 to be exact) urging Muslims to pray towards Mecca…or at least this is my understanding of it. I must have been startled by the sounds and woke up but quickly realized that it was way too early to wake up and decided to go back to bed. I didn’t emerge from my room until 3:00PM on my first day there. It was too late to go to the Amphitheater or the Citadel as I was told that it closed at 4PM. So I just hung around the hostel.

I never heard the early morning Call to Prayer after that. The following morning, I was the face you’d see when you walked into the the hostel (granted that it was after 10:00AM).  I hadn’t seen anything of the city except for a walk down the streets of downtown with my co-worker, Khaled, the driver. I absorbed everything and was glad to be escorted by a local male.  I had heard stories about single women in the Middle East…It’s a hard place to get by, on the one hand, constant stares of desire (or so the say) by the men, and often times looks of disdain, mostly from other women, if you’re wearing anything that exposes some skin: tank tops, sleeveless tops, shorts, skirts, you get the picture.  But, if you’re with a guy, somehow it’s as if you got an ‘Get out of Jail” card and you don’t seem to get as much attention than if you were walking alone.

 My days in the hostel were mostly spent uploading photos to my blogs; yes it would take me an entire day to post the few photos that I did and most times I was already sleepy soon after I woke up. These were lazy days…Sometimes Moktar would ask me if I was hungry and prepare breakfast for me and other times I would let him know when I was hungry.  As I suspected, I never got paid but I did get free meals, water (they had bottled water) and my lodging free. My best friend Abdil told me that I should tell them to pay me but I could never manage to bring myself to ask Mohammad for payment when I felt that the little that I contributed was already being compensated by my free food and board.

On my fourth day, someone had signed up for a tour to the Dead Sea so Mohammad asked me if I’d like to go along. I had always wanted to go to the Dead Sea so I thought, I may as well go especially because it was another female going and she probably wouldn’t mind the company.

We were driven to Amman Beach and there we had to pay 15JD ($20) to get into the ‘resort’ which had a few nice pools and a restaurant but most importantly, access to the Dead Sea.  We hung around a bit by the pools and the buffet at the restaurant looked really good but for JD15, I just couldn’t justify it; so I ate the snacks that I had brought along.  I finally decided to walk down to the Dead Sea and test out the waters. One guy explained to me that it would feel like you’re floating on water but I didn’t feel this.

It was a neat experience but I had imagined myself going out to the Dead Sea and getting a mud massage. I couldn’t find any massages or a place that applied the mud on you but I did see a guy on the beach that had a bucket of black mud that people were generously coating on themselves. Mohammad had told me that I could apply the mud on myself and it would cost me 2JD. When I went to inquire about the price, the guy told me it was 3JD ($5). Surprised by the price, I tried to bargain with the guy but he wasn’t having it. He had a monopoly on this beach and enough demand that he didn’t feel the need to give me the 1JD that I was asking for.  So I walked away. The other girl, Rosie, paid for it so I helped her get the mud on. After all was said and done, she commented at how much better her skin felt. I didn’t buy into it then. But now, in hindsight, I’m mad at myself for being so cheap and wish I would have just paid the extra 1JD. Well, I suppose my reasoning then was that I’d be back so why not do it the next time.

Here’s the video of me going into the water for the first time:

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Rosie didn’t want to stay very long and admittedly, yes, it was bloody hot! So within 2 hours, she was ready to leave; it was her tour so I had no say in the time…for 15D, I would have definitely had forced myself to stay longer.

Later when we got back to Amman, since we hadn’t eaten, Rosie and I decided to go out for some food. I decided to eat a light snack because the hostel was going to have a barbeque that night. For 5JD, the hostel offered roasted chicken, grilled tomatoes and onions, baked potatoes and pita bread along with shisha (water pipe) outside on the rooftop.

On the way down to find a restaurant to eat at, Rosie introduced me to the people who ran the tailor shop at the bottom of the hill. How was it that Rosie, who only arrived the day before already knew people in this city?  She said that they had called out to her and offered her lunch the day before.  Everyone at the tailor shop, the father, son and nephew were all extremely friendly to us and I decided to ask how much they charged for their work. They told me that since I was a ‘friend’ that they wouldn’t charge me…hmmm…I don’t like to feel  obligated to others especially because as a former business owner, I know there is no such thing as a free lunch. But I started to think about all the things that I could bring down to the shop to get mended. I eventually did bring them all my things that needed fixing, three pairs of pants that had lost buttons, my waist pouch, my Hawaiian flag, my red backpack that was starting to tear at the front….and yes, in the end they never charged me a penny! So I made sure that I bought them a small bag of nuts as a thank you gift.

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One of the many perfume shops downtown                   The tailors down the street
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this little girl kept stopping to look at us                       some of the guests at the hostel, rooftop barbeque

Over the next few days, I was feeling more confident about checking people in and Mohammad would place a lot of trust in me to handle the place. He would joke with other customers that I was the boss and I made the decisions. I suppose the ‘bossiness’ in me will always be there and with anything I do, I will always take it seriously and will do my best to do a good job. Before I knew it, Mohammad had me training some new girls that he had wanted to hire; I suppose he was realistic and knew that I wouldn’t be there forever but I thought, I have no job security here!

I met a lot of nice travelers that came and went. It was cool to be THE foreigner working as I had often gone to hostels and was envious of the foreigner working; now I WAS the foreigner working!  I even got to meet a guy from Madrid…which is the next stop after Jordan and one of the few cities that I didn’t know a soul! I also didn’t know then that I would be meeting someone that would greatly change my trip…

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