On My First 26 Hours in the Middle East

I got into Jordan around 9:00 pm last night (Saturday) after leaving my house around 3:00 pm Friday. Since then, I’ve been going through cycles of exhaustion and inexplicable alertness, and I think it’s safe to say my circadian rhythm is as rhythmic as my regular rhythm (i.e. not at all). But I’m hopeful things will get on track tonight.

So I figured I’d record some initial impressions as I sit in my hotel room waiting for the melatonin to kick in.
Amman is decidedly foreign to me – in the sense of being unlike anywhere I’ve been. Having traveled across most of Europe in the past decade and a half (weird that it’s been that long), Europe no longer feels foreign. It feels like Europe. I’m pretty comfortable navigating those spaces; I have a sense of how Europe works; I know how to be an American in Europe. I don’t feel that way about Jordan.
This is the first time I’ve traveled somewhere that I have to be careful about the drinking water. And if my next post details gastro-intestinal issues, it’s ‘cause I forgot and just brushed my teeth with tap water. I’m hope-assuming that rinsing my toothbrush in tap water doesn’t normally result in dying of dysentery (this is a nice hotel, and I think I’m only paranoid about it because of Oregon Trail), but I’ll keep you posted.
This is the first time I’ve traveled somewhere with bidets or bidet-type attachments available in most bathrooms… no comment on that as of yet.
This is the first time I’ve traveled somewhere with an X-ray machine and metal detector in the hotel lobby. I think it makes me feel safer? Maybe?
But Jordan’s also more familiar than I expected it to be. Partly ‘cause I’m not all that sure what I was expecting. I’ve traveled enough now to know that anywhere I go will surprise me in a variety of ways, so I seem to have gotten pretty good about letting go of expectations.
But this is the Middle East. And, ya know, people have a lot of ideas about this place. And I’m not immune to cultural messaging, even if I’m highly dubious of it. That’s why I wanted to come – to see for myself and shake some stereotypes out of my head.
Amman is a big city. It’s the capital of Jordan, with about 4 million inhabitants. And I’ve done big cities before. So that’s not particularly intimidating. And they’ve been taking us places where the menus are in English, and the people mostly speak English, so that’s been easy, too.
I notice the foreignness more in the smaller things: the way they inundated us with food at lunch (which was amazing, but we probably only ate half the food they ordered), and, especially, the completely lackadaisical attitude toward sidewalks. That might be what stood out most to me today – that crosswalks are practically non-existent, and people seem just as likely to use the road as the sidewalk even if there is a big ol’ sidewalk next to them. I’m glad I haven’t had to cross a street yet without our local guides, and I’ll be damned if you’d catch me driving here.
But I’m feeling drowsy, and I’m really excited for the week ahead (provided I stay dysentery-free… please, pray for me).
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