Monday, March 9, 2015

Monday, March 09, 2015 - No comments

Journey to Jordan #1: Anticipation

(Written March 7 on the plane to Istanbul)

Getting ready for this trip, I realized how long it’s been since I went somewhere new.  It used to be that I’d lead a trip out of the country every three months as a rule.  And even when I moved to Turkey, there were all those visa runs to Bulgaria, Greece, and the UK.  But now that I’ve got a residence permit and a stable life in Turkey, I don’t get “out” much.  The last new place I went was...Zurich in 2012?  But even that was just a layover - 24 hours and a whole lot of truffles and macarons.  :)  Before that, it was Albania.  But both of those were European and therefore slightly familiar feeling.  Plus, I was with friends the whole time so I didn’t have to think too much about navigating in a land where I didn’t speak the language. completely different.  It’s the Middle East, for one - pretty unknown territory.  Technically I’ve “been there” - a day trip to Aleppo (back before it was leveled...) and a few days in Cairo.  (Again, hosted by people who, even if they couldn’t speak Arabic, knew their way around.)  This time, my roommate and I will be with friends in Amman for a few days, but after that, we’re on our own.  Being touristy, I’m sure Petra and Aqaba will have plenty of English speakers (“You want ride camel?  Special price for beautiful lady!”)  But even so, it still feels like a wide-open adventure.  

Now that I’m over (for the most part) this nagging cold, I finally have the brain space to be excited.  And I am excited!  Excited for new.  Excited for phrasebook conversations.  Excited for my camera to see things it’s never seen before.  Excited for “hope this tastes good cuz I have no clue what it is” menu selections and figuring out a new set of coins and bills and that feeling of victory when you ask reception for more toilet paper and they show up at your door with...toilet paper!

Packing for this trip was quite the ordeal.  Our hosts weren’t the detailed email type, so we were kinda flying blind, relying on online forums and what a friend who had been there last year could tell us.  “Cover your butt” was the universal consensus.  But does that mean “front and back” or is a long sweater over a regular shirt enough?  Headscarf or no?  Would it make us feel safer or is it like Turkey where a non-Muslim covering is weird?  Then there’s the matter of finding headscarves that match your tunic that match your sweater....  Sure, we live in “modest dress-land”, but whole ensembles that met the criteria took some effort to scrounge up.  Let’s just say the pazar made a good chunk of change on us this week.  The thing is, though, where we live, “modest” is synonymous with “village.”  Modest-cute - which is what I assume the gorgeous downtown Ammani women and most of the friends we’ll spend the first few days with will be wearing - is a whole ‘nother animal.

Oy.  So complicated.

And don’t even get me started on all the last minute bathing suit cover-up conversations.  When we go to Aqaba, we’ll be snorkelling in the Red Sea.  (Clownfish and coral below the surface, and a view stretching from Egypt to Israel to Saudi Arabia above.  Wow.)  It’s supposed to be like 27/80 degrees, but since it’s March, the water will still be cold, so we’ll be getting wetsuits.  But when we’re on the beach and walking to and from the hotel, are t-shirts okay or do we have to wear our jeans and tunics?  Sites like Lonely Planet and Trip Advisor are helpful to an extent, but most of the people on those forums are the “how much can I get away with” type, and not so much the “honour the culture” type, so it’s always hard to tell.  Even though I hate packing clothes that I’ll literally only wear once, I decided that in a t-shirt and long skirt, I’ll be cool enough and more covered than most of the other tourists, so I should be safe. much to think about!

Then there’s the whole matter of edibles.  Whenever we go on a road trip, the joke is that I pack snacks as if we’re leaving the country.  But this time we really are!  My roommate is going to Amman for work, and I’ll be on my own at the apartment for most of the day.  Will the people hosting us be the “put a bag of coffee in the freezer and stock the fridge for you” type, or will I need to fend for myself?  Will there be stores nearby? And can I even leave the house alone to look for food?  And will my zero Arabic be enough to get what I need?  

So...a good three kilos of my luggage is food and snacks.  I’ve got fruit leather, almonds, chocolate, Ramen Noodles, enough Starbucks instant to last me all week, and two cans of tuna which I dearly hope won’t explode in my suitcase or look “suspicious” to the security guys.  I even packed a bunch of single-serving honey packets for coffee or emergency sore-throat treatments.  I don’t want to offend my hosts by busting this stuff out, but I also don’t want to starve.  So, if my over-preparation is all for naught and it's a week full of falafel and good hummus, I guess I’ll still be eating a good portion of my luggage allowance in order to make room for souvenirs and the much-anticipated “American grocery store” run!

You can see why I’ve never been a light packer....

BYOCB:  Bring Your Own Coffee Break