Day one: A new sunrise
It is shortly after 3 p.m. local time in Amman, Jordan, and I am just walking off of the Delta aircraft where I have been for the last 11 hours. The journey from terminal 14 at John F. Kennedy International Airport to Amman Queen Alia International Airport was an exhausting one, filled with screaming children and lots of laughter. The 19 of us from Northeastern University were seated throughout the cabin, and I was fortunate enough to be seated next to a peer, Alexandra Siegel. The 7 hour time difference makes me feel as though I have been in the air for almost a full day. I barely slept on the flight. I felt restless, anxious, and ready to land. I dozed in and out of consciousness throughout the first 5 or 6 hours, but was wired from then on. I ventured around the cabin; it was dark and everyone was mostly asleep. I wound up in the back of the plan, and got to chatting with the flight attendants. Cecilia, Stacey and I discussed recent politics, the duty-free selection offered aboard the plane, and what it’s like for them to jet all around the world for a living.
As people awoke and began calling for coffee or assistance, I returned to my seat so as not to be in their way. Before I knew it, we were descending and preparing to land. The view from the plane was spectacular, and like nothing I had ever seen before: vast desert, with patches of green here and there, and the occasional structure. We were landing in the middle of nowhere, it seemed. After the wheels touched down on the tarmac, I thanked God for what was a safe trip, and prayed for the success and safety to follow my throughout my travels.
I collected my things and proceeded off the plane. The bunch of us exchanged our dollars for dinars and hopped onto the customs line. As we snaked through the roped-off area, Professor Sansone, Alexandra and I expressed our relief that we had finally arrived. The conversation veered into film when Indiana Jones came up, and reminded me that I want to pick up a fedora once we get settled. We spoke about Titanic and Pearl Harbor. Personally, I was never a fan of either film, because I felt they were both too focused on (imaginary) love stories instead of the historic events. Both Professor Sansone and Ally seemed to agree. Finally, we were each called to a counter at customs and visas were stamped into our passports. My eyes were scanned by a machine I’ve never before seen, and for a moment I felt like I was about to enter the Matrix or something.
After customs came baggage claim, and that’s always a blast. Lily and I attempted to open up Calvin’s stroller to make life a bit easier for Professor Hempel after she came through customs. It was a successful mission, and it only took us about 6 minutes to correctly snap it open. Whew. At least we got it done, because for a while there I felt like a total dumbass. How hard is it to open up a stroller, I mean really. After everyone collected all of their belongings from the endless conveyor belt, our group proceeded through one final security checkpoint before exiting the airport complex. Professor Sullivan awaited our arrival, and stood alongside Ahmad, who would be our “guy” over the course of the next two weeks, whatever that means. I’ll let you know…
I was the first one through the exit, and shook hands with Professor Sullivan. He was wearing a red polo, which stood out in a sea of suits. He’s also quite pale, so he it was hard to miss him as he stood surrounded by Jordanians. We stepped out onto the sidewalk and into the breeze. It’s not as hot or humid as I anticipated. It feels as though I am standing on a beach on the coast of Long Island instead of the middle of Jordan. I expected similar heat to what I feel as I step off the plane in Larnaca, Cyprus. Instead, I was pleasantly surprised by how cool it was. The sky was clear blue with scattered white wispy clouds. The tail of my white button down flapped in the breeze, and the sunlight was blinding. This place is very much alive. People were jumping into taxi cabs and busses left and right.
We began lining up our bags as two gentlemen loaded them, one-by-one, onto the big, yellow Mercedes bus. Moments later, we were traveling once again, though this time on the ground. I sat in the last row of the bus, with Rob Tokanel and Abdullah. Our hotel, the Imperial Palace, was about 40 minutes away from the airport. The drive, though, didn’t seem that long. As the minutes passed, the vast emptiness slowly became more buildings and farms. Strangely, it felt like home to me. The sights here are reminiscent of Cyprus, where I am from and where I go to visit my grandparents and cousins. The building styles and natural dry environment are familiar to me. I’m sure, though, that as I get to know Amman, it will be very different from Cyprus and a world all its own. I look forward to exploring this vast city of hills tomorrow. For now, I bid you goodnight.