Posts Tagged ‘New York’
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.“
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.
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.
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.