Posts Tagged ‘Arrival’
Note: this was written on May 12, about the first night in Amman.
On the first night in Jordan, many of the people on the trip turned to me and asked where they should go. “We need to all go out!” many of them insisted. Last year, a similarly eager group went out on the first night in the hotel, and I stayed behind. I didn’t regret it then, and I still don’t; the trek across the Atlantic, and then some, is exhausting. There will be plenty more nights to enjoy, I thought last year, and I was right. It was the same situation. So, I agreed to a walk around our part of town, not more than 20 minutes from the hotel. Rainbow Street- the tourist trap in downtown Amman that would, I knew, become their favorite destination- was out of the question for me. After the previous day of travel, I was exhausted. So, a simple walk was what I thought we agreed upon.
15 minutes after dinner, we all reconvened in the lobby of the Imperial Palace Hotel. As we ventured up the sidewalk along the main road, the group seemed to have grown. By the time we were crossing the street, it seemed to me that at least 35 of our 47 stood around me. A few moments later, I heard someone utter Rainbow Street. It was my friend Joe, the other guy that came on this trip to Jordan last year. He was talking about jumping in cabs and venturing downtown. As soon as I heard that, I knew where I would be going: back to the hotel for a quiet night.
Once I crossed the street, I heard someone shout my name. I also heard one of the girls shouting “America!” I didn’t turned around, not even a look back over my shoulder. I turned the nearest corner and went for a stroll as I originally intended. The air felt cool, fresh on my face, and each breeze brought along with it the scent of jasmine flowers. When I close my eyes, I could swear that I’m at home, where I grew up with my grandfather’s jasmine plant in the basement. Or even in Kofinou, Cyprus, where my grandparents have a jasmine plant just outside the front door.
But then I open my eyes, and I can see I’m in not in New York or in Cyprus, but in Amman. A place, I thought, where I might one day have a home. Just then, at the moment the thought appeared in my mind, I saw a for sale sign. The house looked a bit out of my price range, but it was a funny coincidence. There was a jasmine vine in the front yard too. It all felt so familiar to me, and it felt so right to be standing there, on Al-Ri’asah Street, on a cool night in Amman.
Familiar, yet different. The street felt right under my feet. The hotel felt strangely like a home base in this city. It was like I never left, but things were different. Little things. There were photos now hanging at each landing of the stairwell, photos of various tourist attractions and historical sites in Jordan. The hallways had new plants scattered throughout. Things change, but they stay the same. The first floor landing was still used as a staging area, it seemed, with a ladder and mop plopped in front of the doorway. The lobby was still lit by a gorgeous, Christmas tree shaped golden chandelier that spanned all six floors of the hotel.
I made my way up to my hotel room. I’m ready for this adventure to really begin, and to meet my new host family in a few days’ time. Goodnight for now.
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.