Posts Tagged ‘Boston’
It almost feels as though 2014 didn’t happen at all. Though it was a tumultuous year around the globe, with the return of Ebola and the continuing epidemic, the unjust killings of innocent American citizens by unpunished American police officers, natural disasters and the bizarre disappearance of two airplanes, my world seemed to stand still. So much was happening all over the world, but as I observed my immediate surroundings, it felt as though things were happening in slow motion to the point where I witnessed decay rather than progress. In the movie of my life, I was the one character caught standing still, almost frozen, as the rest of the picture moved around me, colors swirling and whooshing and encircling me while violins played over the picture. I haven’t been able to breathe comfortably in more than a year, struggling to tread the waters and stay afloat in a house filled with all of my earthly possessions. I have been drowning.
I had plans to move to Beirut in September 2013 to begin working with Transterra Media, but quickly nixed those plans when I faced the reality of becoming a homeowner, a recent college graduate with mounting debt and having accepted a position within a company that wasn’t willing to offer me a salary, or even a position beyond an internship.
Those post-graduation plans began in Boston, while I was still enrolled as an undergraduate student at Northeastern University. Then I returned to New York from Boston in the middle of the summer of 2013, and the house I came home to has been in a constant state of disorder since then. My brother and I began a major renovation due to water damage and moldy beams shortly after my father relocated back to Europe, and shortly after my return to New York. All of my belongings from five collective years at university in Boston packed away in boxes for a year and a half, three suitcases filled with clothing I haven’t worn in almost two years, and boxes of books I haven’t been able to access, let alone read, occupy most of the area that used to be my bedroom. Compounding all of my shit into my bedroom at the end of the hallway are all of my brother and father’s things, including two dining room sets, three couches, two full bedroom sets, two sets of kitchenware and appliances, etc. It was a struggle living that way, without any order, not too dissimilar than a season of A&E’s Hoarders. I managed to reach the end of 2013 hopeful that, in 2014, I would be able to achieve all of the things I had to put on hold in 2013, and that I would see the end result of the renovation early on in the year.
Well, unfortunately for me, 2014 came and went, just like that.
In the blink of an eye, twelve months somehow managed to elapse. I now find myself cooped up with my dog and my brother, living in my Aunt Andrea and Uncle Jimmy’s house somewhat uncomfortably for almost three months now, still waiting for my home to be livable again. Somehow, our house is actually in worse condition than it was at the beginning of the year. Since returning home, all I have done is wait for incompetent people to do jobs they are incapable of doing well. It began with one asshole contractor in 2013 and now involves three separate teams of contractors, all equally irritating in their own right. Over the course of the last twelve months, I have been jerked around by a number of people, offered too many platitudes and false promises, and treated like shit. Honestly, the time since August 2013 feels like it has been one dark, long, inescapable nightmare. It’s fitting, then, that I spent the final hours of the NO YEAR that was 2014 in bed sweating out a nasty virus and plowing through a box of tissues alone and with only a bottle of Vicks Vaporub and a mug of hot tea on my bedside table. The virus is seemingly the direct result of a rough year. As I sweat in bed through four blankets and two sweatshirts, waiting for the imminent end of the year, it feels as though my body is ridding itself of more than just a virus; my body is fervently fighting to endure the virus and the end of the nightmare.
I have lost, effectively, a year and a half of my life. I have a lot to catch up on in 2015. Thank God I had my brother by my side to suffer through the bullshit year with me, for if anyone knows what a shitty year it has been, it’s him. Thank God 2014 is over. I’ll always looks back on the past year as one of the worst of my life, for nothing seemed to go the way I hoped it would. As a matter of fact, nothing seemed to happen at all.
It was nice to wake up this morning, on the first day of a new year. I rolled out of bed, popped two more Tylenol capsules, and took a look outside. The sun is shining brightly in a clear blue sky, the wind moving the barren arms of the trees and the few brown leaves left rustle up and down the roads. It’s a fresh start.
Happy new year, everybody. Here’s to making shit happen this year.
“Sometimes you find yourself in the middle of nowhere,
and sometimes, in the middle of nowhere,
you find yourself.“
I arrived in Italy on Sunday morning. American Airlines flight 1585 landed in Rome around 10:20 a.m. after eight and a half hours above the Atlantic and western Europe.
I lingered at the airport in Rome for about two hours, waiting for the bus to Perugia, where I am now living for the summer. While I sat in the airport, cigarette smoke filling the wide corridors, I fished a pair of shorts of my suitcase and changed out of my sweatpants. It was still the morning, but Rome’s temperature had already risen to 30 degrees Centigrade.
From the restroom, I went to a little cafe in the airport and had a sandwich with prosciutto, tomato and fresh basil. Now that I’ve been here in Perugia for almost two days, I realize how overpriced that sandwich was. It had to be, though, right? I was at Rome’s international airport, after all.
The Sulga bus arrived promptly at 12:30 p.m., and after about 20 people boarded, we began the journey north. After a tonsillitis diagnosis, a two-day sprint to finish preparing for my trip, and an overnight flight that I couldn’t fall asleep on for the life of me, I was exhausted, to say the least. Completely worn out. I fell asleep soon after paying the driver my 22 euro fare. The couple of times that I woke up, I noticed a beautiful landscape all around me. I’ll be here for six months, I told myself. There’s no need to fight to keep my eyes open now. After a convincing argument with my inner photographer, I slept the rest of the way to Perugia.
I arrived and was escorted to my apartment by 5 p.m.
That night, all I wanted to do was sleep, but I only managed 4 hours. Last night, all I wanted to do was sleep. I thought I would be more successful this time. I had a full day of Italian instruction at the university and had dinner prepared by 7:30 p.m. At 8:30, I was laying down, and fell asleep within minutes. Then, I woke up. I felt around the night stand and found my watch. It was almost 2:30 a.m. Fuck, here we go again. Another sleepless night, I thought, angrily dropping my watch and rolling over.
Here I am, five hours later, still awake. I suppose the three-way impromptu google video chat with Matt, Melissa and Kristina back in Boston didn’t help my attempt to fall asleep again. But we laughed, and it was nice to see some friendly faces and to catch up. I gave them a virtual tour of my apartment, and invited them all to come visit me here in Italy.
As the clock ticks towards 8 a.m., I’ll stop my rambling here and head to the university for day two of Italian. Class begins at 8, but not promptly. Nothing is prompt here, and in that way, this place reminds me of Amman.
Ciao, for now.
I had a serious case of deja vu when I landed in Amman on Friday evening, almost one week ago. The airport looked and smelled the same as it did last May. The visa process and baggage claim were exactly as I had remembered them. Although this time, I was not asked to scan my irises when obtaining my visa. That made me feel like less of a badass. It also put me at ease. Apparently, this time I didn’t seem threatening enough. A good sign, for my journalistic prospects and aspirations here, I suppose. (Another good sign: a bird shit on my head when I arrived in Boston, before I met up with the rest of the gang at Logan Airport to depart for London.)
We waited as a group for about 20 minutes to exchange currency before standing in line for about 40 more to obtain visas. I exchanged $23, as I had leftover Jordanian Dinars (JD) from last year. The process was smoother this time around, because last year no one really knew what was going on. And, to be honest, Queen Alia International Airport (still, shock!) isn’t the most organized place in the world. (But really, what airport is organized? Exactly.)
After I paid my 20 JD, had my passport stamped and was officially welcomed back into the country, I ventured down the escalator to the right. Carlene was just ahead of me, and only a handful of students remained at the visa counters.
Down at baggage claim, just off to the left off the escalator, my eyes were quickly drawn to my spotted bag. This time around, I packed only 30 pounds of shhtuff. That’s 20 below the fixed limit set by Virgin Atlantic. (Also, it just occurred to me that we, as a group, will be flying back to the states on, yup, Virgin Atlantic. But, I stand by my previous post- it’s not my decision. I hate that airline.)
I also noticed an interesting bag that another passenger was rolling around earlier in the day at JFK, pictured to the left. An omen of my future as a traveling reporter? I hope so….
After hopping over the baggage belt to snag my bag before it traveled back around, Laura helped me to spot Sam’s bag. Again, I tried to pull it off of the baggage belt so I wouldn’t have to wait for it to come back around. Moments later, almost as though it were rehearsed, Sam came down the flight of steps. In London she was told that her luggage wouldn’t be put onto the connecting light since she had lost her ticket. Needless to say, she was pretty upset. I was here in the region last year, but most of my peers this year went out and purchased entirely new wardrobes that are deemed more appropriate this culture. Sam was one of those people. When she saw me rolling her bag toward her, a smile immediately stretched across her face. I was just happy to help, and relieved that a missing bag wouldn’t be occupying her mind; there would be enough going on in the coming five weeks for her to worry about.
We all waited there until everyone in the group gathered their bags, and walked through the narrow, short passage to get to the exit. There stood Ahmed, who was our handler last year. He smiled and shook my hand, welcoming me back to his coutry. I was pleasantly surprised that he remembered me, as we did not have any especially memorable interactions last year. This only furthered my belief that this nation and its people are unique, and different than other people I have met in my lifetime.
Over the course of the last five years of my life, I have done quite a bit of traveling. After living in New York for 18 years, I moved to Boston to attend university. Since then, I have gone on a road trip along the eastern seaboard to New Orleans and back. I ventured to San Diego, California, for a brief if unpleasant trip. I went to Germany and the Netherlands with my brother during the 2010 FIFA World Cup. During our time in Amsterdam and Cologne, we watched the semifinal and final rounds of the tournament. In Germany, it was a pleasure watching the fans drink themselves silly after Spain embarrassed them. (In my aunt’s words: the Germans deserved it. And she lives there, among them. And I agreed with her. My brother and I were very excited about a Spain v. Holland final match.) In the Netherlands, people were very friendly after the national team defeated Uruguay, and after my brother and I made clear we were not there from Spain. After the last minute loss to Spain in the finals, though, the people were in a different state of mind: miserable.
In Jordan, the people are always nice. It could be weeks without rainfall in the world’s third-driest country, and the people are cheerful. Amman might be overrun by protests on any given Friday afternoon, but the general population (read: those not protesting) reamins in good spirits. The culture here is a welcoming one in which the people open their hearts and homes to strangers, always. (My host family has done so two years running now. More to come on my new host family later today. And a shout-out to my host family that I lived with last year. I hope to see them again this time.)
The Ammani people are always so eager to help, and so happy to speak with me. I think that’s another reason why I love to be here, both personally and as a journalist. Back home in the states, most of what I write is still for a grade; here, what I’m writing means something, and it means something for more than just me and a professor and the registrar. We are writing and reporting stories that would otherwise never be told. We are writing for a global audience. I am writing for more than a grade here. I’m here to be a journalist first, and a student second, but in Boston that gets turned around. I like it better this way.
Another thing about reporting in the states: people feel so burdened by reporters, it seems. Whenever I call for an interview, or to request an interview, I can usually feel the “ugh” on the tip of the person’s tongue, and sometimes it even comes out. I find it especially infuriating when I am working on a piece for the Huntington News and Northeastern professors say they can’t comment or don’t have time time. In Jordan, people jump at the chance to speak to someone who will listen to them. Reporters don’t roam the streets here. News media in Jordan don’t have the kind of control over information- and the information society has access to- that the American media do. America is a country run, essentially, by the media. (I guess politicians technically run the country, but lately it all seems like public relations and nonsense. It’s on the brink of unbearable.) Jordan is a nation run by the regime of King Abdullah II bin Al-Hussein. The media, though a free one, is censored and filtered by that regime, and its government. I’m not going to say it should be one way or the other, but I think a happy medium would be ideal. I look forward to these next five weeks as my input toward that cause.
Note: this post has been sitting in drafts for almost a week now. It’s been modified slightly, since it’s almost a week since its inception. I need to stop over-thinking this blogging business. From now on, they get written, skimmed, and posted. Well, I’ll start living by that after I run through, edit and post the 3 or 4 other drafts that have been written and stowed away in the depths of the wordpress inter-webs since we arrived in Amman. All of that will be up later today, as I play catch up. We now have internet access USB drives, so, expect said posts shortly, after I sleep for a bit.
The crew on the Virgin Atlantic flight from Logan Airport in Boston to Heathrow Airport in London was the worst. Not the crew as a whole, but particularly the one (of many) blonde stewardess(es) who woke me up four times (FOUR!!) within two and a half hours. First, she felt it necessary that my pillow be behind my back instead of in my hands on my lap. You know, because if a pillow gets loose in the cabin during takeoff, that’s real trouble. I managed the near-impossible task of falling asleep before we ever even rolled away from the gate, but she had to ruin what had the potential to be some fantastic sleep. Well, as fantastic as it gets on a plane.
Next, a couple of hours later, she woke me up to make sure my seatbelt was on. It was. But, the seatbelt light wasn’t even on, which I pointed out to her. Her response: “For your safety, it should be on at all times.” REALLY? You felt it necessary to wake me up to to check that my seatbelt was buckled under my blanket? You suck at your job.
Rant about airplane safety: I’ve been on enough planes where I feel comfortable saying that, if anything were to happen, Gob forbid, that seatbelt that’s buckled across my lap is going to do nothing for me, especially not save my life. If anything, it’s just there to keep me in my seat for an extra half second while I pull the clip up to release it. Airplane safety, to me, seems like a bit of a joke. Sure, I understand not smoking on the plane and not opening the emergency latch mid-flight if there is no emergency. But seat belts? I don’t buy it. It’s different than a motor vehicle seatbelt, which actually has a locking mechanism and has saved lives. These seat belts on these planes are just ridiculous, like the ones on a school bus. If it’s just holding my waist down, and not my upper body, then it’s just going to hurt me. In my opinion, if there’s a problem on a plane, there’s very little that can be done to avert disaster.
I woke up, again, this time on my own, and got up to stretch a little bit in the aisle. I used the lavatory, drank some water, and returned to my seat. Across the aisle to my right, two men had changed their seating and I was now staring at two empty seats. “Jackpot!” I thought. I collected my blanket, pillow and headphones, and snuck across the aisle into my new paradise. I plugged in my headphones, chose something to play in the background, and curled up into a ball. What felt like hours later, but was only mere minutes, the blonde woman again shook me awake. She had become the bane of my existence on this flight.
“If you want to sleep in these seats,” she said, “you’ll have to pay extra.” I was exhausted. I was still half asleep. I wasn’t really listening. I said “fine, whatever,” and rolled around. She tapped my shoulder again, this time harder. “Sir, what are you doing? If you don’t pay, you have to return to your seat.” At this point, I was ready to smack her in the face. I didn’t. I sat up, nodded, and said “Fine, I’ll pay.” All I wanted, for crying out loud, was some uninterrupted sleep on the flight. She strutted up the aisle without another word toward the rear of the plane. Moments later, another, kinder and prettier flight attendant arrived next to me. She knelt down, and asked how I wished to pay. I pulled out my American Express card and said “credit, please.” She smiled and took my card. I asked what the charge would be in US dollars. She clicked a few buttons on her little portable register. The privilege of sleeping on these two seats cost me $43. It was a bit steep, especially so many hours into the flight, but I paid it. I didn’t want to sleep sitting up, nor did I want the devil, err, the evil flight attendant, to wake me up ever again. As soon as I signed the bill, I laid my head back down and was sleeping again within five minutes. Unfortunately, as the captain prepared the plane for landing, my sleep was again disturbed. It would have been fine if it were anyone else, but there she was, her cold eyes looking down at me telling me I had to wake up, sit up straight, and, again, fasten my seatbelt. Ugh, the seatbelt. I know that you can’t be laying down across seats without a belt on during the final descent, and I knew that this wake up call was inevitable. It always is. But I wish that the same lady who charged my credit card woke me up. I just hated this woman so much at that point that it didn’t matter I had slept for over three hours.
Alas, this terrible travel experience finally ended and we landed safely in London. The whole group, all 40 something of us- 46, if I had to guess, but don’t hold me to it- walked through the labyrinth that is Heathrow Airport, through yet another security checkpoint. Down a few flights of stairs and up some more escalators, we wound up on a bus that drove us to the terminal where we would eventually catch our connecting flight to Amman with British Midland International airways. Three new friends (Melanie, Eric and Amanda) and I walked through the terminal a bit and found a nice little restaurant. We sat on two couches and ordered some drinks to kill the hour until we could board the plane.
The flight to Jordan from England was a much, much better experience. There was only one blonde flight attendant, Georgie, and she was sweet. Sarah, another member of the crew, was so kind throughout the flight. (She’s also beautiful; her deeply green eyes and sharp, dark features pulled me in from the moment I saw her as I boarded. The English accent doesn’t hurt, either.) She and I got to talking when I woke up, on my own, from my nap around 12 p.m. (London time, 2 p.m. Amman time). My seat, 28D, was in the final row of the plane, just in front of the lavatories. So, when I woke up from my glorious, uninterrupted nap, I ventured into the crew’s staging area/cabin located at the plane’s rear.
The timing was perfect, as the crew had just rolled out drink carts, so I had the space to myself to stretch out a bit. Sitting ans sleeping on three planes in one day caused the worst feeling in most all of my joints, especially my knees and neck. Sam and Matt eventually found their way to me, and the three of us stood there, chatting, until we were forced to return to our seats for, you guessed it, the final descent. We had to buckle our seat belts, after all, because the little light went on.
We touched down at Queen Alia International Airport, and as I looked out the window while the plane descended and the landing gear roared from below, I was overcome with happiness, and joy. It felt so nice to be returning to this place that I fell in love with just last year, and to the people who welcomed me and my peers into their country. To see the desert and the tarmac as we descended was, for me, pure bliss- especially after the long, long day of traveling that was now coming to an end.
Disclaimer: I began writing this post on a (digital) post-it note on both of the flights, from Boston to London and then from London to Amman. I finished it earlier last night, and tweaked it a bit more this morning. More soon, photos too. I think I may set up a flickr account, or some other web-based service, as viewing photos in a slideshow is much easier and more enjoyable than within a blog amidst all this text.
I’ll end this post by apologizing for how long this post is. I guess I had to rant about the longest day of travel I’ve ever experienced. Thanks for reading, y’all.
One more thing to add: after revisiting, I may have miscounted. The mean flight attendant woke me up THREE times in a matter of two and a half hours. Still, it was annoying.
This morning, I didn’t wake up. I just haven’t slept. I spent all of yesterday saying goodbye to family and friends, as well as procrastinating packing. I got to see a lot of my cousins, aunts and uncles at my cousins Joanne and Charlie’s home. We watched some television together, shared a kettle of tea and many, many desserts. Around 10 p.m. I left with my brother, and returned home.
We spent the rest of the evening, until about 1 a.m., together, playing Fifa and watching television. A few good friends, Frank and Rob, came over to say goodbye and bid me farewell. We chatted a bit, and they eventually left to head home to go to bed.
After my brother called it a night, seeing as he had work this morning, I spent a few more hours watching the last few Mad Men episodes I hadn’t seen. Around 2, I finally made my way upstairs and packed.
This morning, after not sleeping, laughing and spending a good time with my family and friends, and packing, I arrived at JFK Airport and flew to Boston. I landed at 9:47 a.m.
Now, about 10 hours later, I’m at Logan again and boarding the flight to Heathrow Airport. For now, London is calling. More to come soon, after a long flight. And finally, some sleep.
Being back in New York, I know I’m home. It just feels right, you know? It feels natural. Not to say easy, but rather comfortable. I didn’t feel at home in Boston, I was never comfortable there, and it didn’t help that I spent the better part of four years bouncing in and out of residence halls.
I don’t want to be misunderstood; I am incredibly happy with the education at Northeastern, and that I wound up in Boston for my undergraduate studies. However, I will be clear on one point: I have zero to no love for the city of Boston as a place to live. People are rude, life’s expensive, and it’s a fake city. (Take that with as many grains of salt as you would like, as this is all coming from a New Yorker.)
In two days time, I will arrive in Amman, again, almost a year to the day from my first visit. I’ve spent just over two weeks of my life in Amman, and about four years in Boston, but can say that Amman felt like a more natural fit for me. Maybe that’s just a first impression, and five weeks this time around will leave me feeling otherwise. I don’t think that will happen, but people always (used to?) say, “Never judge a book by its cover.” (I question whether or not the phrase is still in use, because I haven’t heard it since middle school.) You might say two weeks in a city is that kind of an experience; I got to experience all of the best Jordan had to offer. Maybe you’d consider two weeks an insignificant amount of time to “live” somewhere. Maybe last time I was just a visitor. This time, though, I will throw myself wholeheartedly into this country, the host family experience and the culture. I take off tomorrow.
To kick things off this early, snowy morning, I think I’ll use someone else’s words.
“I’m a morning person. The earlier I can begin, the better. I wake up knowing what I want to write- when I’m in progress with a story,” wrote Eudora Welty.
I don’t know that I’m quite a morning person by 21st century standards, but I will say that I love the morning, that promise of a new beginning that is realized with every sunrise. It’s a beautiful thing, the dawn of a new day, and a recurring challenge to live life the best way you can.
– – – – – – _ _ _ _ _ _ – – – – – –
Well, here I find myself once again: packing for a flight that takes off in less than 12 hours. This time, though, I’m flying in the opposite direction, and domestically, to Salt Lake City, Utah. Nope, still a little too early to form real sentences…
“These hards will try hard to define me/ and I’ll try to hold my head up high/ but I see despair here from the inside/ its got a one track mind/ Now I’m sitting alone here in my bed/ I’m waiting for an answer I don’t know that I’ll get/ I’m telling you that these times are hard, but they will pass.” So go the lyrics of one of the newest songs on regular rotation in iTunes. (Obligatory irrelevant fact: play count currently stands at 8, and I downloaded- er, bought- the song on Wednesday.)
Ok- let me just throw this out there- I realize I haven’t blogged here since returning to the United States from Istanbul back in June. But, I’m back. A lot has happened since then, and there’s a chance I will share my adventures of the last six months at a later date. For now, though, I think I will stick to the purpose of this post, which is to make an announcement, of sorts. In the summer of 2012, I plan on returning to the Middle East and continuing my formal education in Egypt and Kuwait, which will serve as a nice second chapter to my summer of 2011.
In just 11 hours, though, I will be taking off for Salt Lake City. From there, I will make my way east toward Park City, where I will attend the Sundance Film Festival until Tuesday the 25th. I could not be more stoked for this trip! That’s a lie- I would be more stoked if I didn’t have to sit through classes (and a 4 hour bus ride to Manhattan) all day before my flight. Expect another post from the airport, or the bus, depending on time. Be back real soon….stay tuned. Sundance should be epic.