Petra, Jordan to Amman, Jordan

07.04.2010

Today was adventure-filled and perfectly appropriate for celebrating Fourth of July, America’s Independence Day.  I hitched a ride with Hillary and Jen, the two British girls I met yesterday.  Both of them are from the U.K. and getting their advanced degrees in studies related to Arabic countries.  They have been volunteering at an orphanage in Amman teaching English for the past six weeks.  Hillary’s degree is in Arabic Studies and Jen’s is in Arabic Literature written during the Iraq/Iran War.  Jen had tracked down this obscure book that even the author doesn’t have a copy of it.  The author’s home had been taken over by the Iraqi government and all of her work had been destroyed.  Jen had been looking for this particular book for a year and found it in Jordan at this University we stopped at on our way to Amman from Petra.

Jen was our driver of the POS Chevy Aveo they rented from this guy who looks like Mr. Las Vegas Pimp-Man, according to Jen and Hillary.  This car was totally trashed and in my opinion, only hitting 4 out of the 6 cylinders because it was gutless on the hills.  It should have been a lot more peppy, but otherwise it did just fine and Jen is my hero as far as driving goes in a foreign country.

We found the University after asking around for directions a few times.  Jen and Hillary are both fluent in Arabic, which is AWESOME.  We parked the car and walked up to the security gate.  Each time we stopped somewhere, Jen had to explain why we were there and what we needed and then someone either gave us directions or took us to where we needed to go next.  So, we were given directions to the library.  Once in the library, we were taken to the director of the library, where once again, Jen explained her story.  The director sent someone to find the book, he brought the book back and I thought Jen was going to cry she was so happy!  She asked if she could photocopy it and the director sent they guy to photocopy it for her.  We were offered Arabic coffee (which I absolutely LOVE!) and sat for a bit chatting.  We were able to excuse ourselves for a bit and went outside to sit in the shade.

While we were sitting on the bench outside of the library, this Jordanian girl and two of her friends stopped and wanted to know why we were there.  We were the only Westerners on the campus and stuck out even though we tried to blend as much as possible.  Jen and Hillary answered in Arabic which impressed her even more!  She was very animated and very much in my personal space, which I found to be uncomfortable and quite funny all at the same time!  She was firing questions at us in English and Arabic and was so funny, I couldn’t help but chuckle a bit.

When she left, Jen went into the library to check on the progress of the book and came back about five minutes later with the copy in her hands.  She was so excited!  It was so neat to be a part of that.

We took off quickly after that with our next stop, Karak Castle, about an hour or so away.  Throughout Jordan and much of the Middle East, there are these annoying speed bumps in the middle of nowhere on the highways.  If you don’t pay careful attention, you can hit them at a higher speed than you should.  Well, Jen accidentally hit one going a little faster than we should have.  I noticed afterwards that the gauges in the dashboard had stopped working, so we pulled over.  The car sounded fine, but Jen shut it off to see if turning it back on would reset the gauges.  Yeah.  The car decided to not start at all.  No noise, no nothing.  We all got out and opened the hood to take a look.  This car was a piece of work!  Half the things that should be connected were not.  The battery was not secured, so when we hit the bump, it moved.  All of the wires were still attached and the fuse box seemed fine, too.  I checked the spark plug wires and it looked like one of them was loose but I didn’t feel comfortable messing with it.

We tried to start the car again and this time it actually made a sound, so that was a good sign.  We decided to let the car sit for a bit and try it again after it had a chance to cool down.  Hillary went to get us sodas and snacks.   We were sitting there drinking our sodas when a woman told us there was a mechanic further down the road and we could take a bus there and he could help us.  Jen and I decided to take the bus while Hillary stayed with the car.  As we were walking towards the busses, two guys asked if they could help, one of them was a mechanic.  We showed them the car and explained what had happened.  They looked things over and decided to try to bumpstart the car.  We all got behind it and rolled it downhill a bit and it started right up!

We took off for Karak and got there in time for a late lunch.  I had a chicken kebab with some rice and a Coke.  We wandered over to Karak Castle and paid the 1JD to get in.  They had a nice museum with lots of information about the history of the area.  We looked around for a bit and then decided we needed to make tracks to Amman in order to get there before dark.

The car was running really horrible at this point.  We pulled over at one point because Jen was concerned it was overheating.  I told her that it was fine, as long as the gauge didn’t go past the half-way to three-quarters mark, we were okay.

We finally arrived in Amman as it was getting dark and then the fun really began.  Hillary was navigating and Amman is basically a city divided up by a bunch of hills and valleys.  It was very confusing, adding to it that the people drive like maniacs and it was quite stressful.  Oh, and did I mention the brakes had started to go out on the car and Jen was having to use the hand brake aka e-brake to stop?!  Yeah, it was that bad.

Jen was a trooper and we found the car rental place after a bit.  Poor Jen!  She was shaking when we finally parked.  She really did an amazing job, though.  I never once felt like we were in any danger or close to getting in a wreck or anything like that.

Jen and Hillary proceeded to tell the car rental guy (aka Mr. Las Vegas Pimp Jordanian Car Rental Dude) about all of the problems we had, while he and his posse of pimps dismissed their concerns with “Well, thank God you made it okay, that’s all that really matters.”  Yeah, buddy, you are lucky we made it safe and sound!

We cleared our stuff out of the car and one of the guys was going to give Jen and Hillary a ride back to their place.  We gave each other hugs and kisses goodbye and I gave them my contact info.  (I hope they are reading this, and feel free to correct me if I got anything wrong!)  I asked where the best place was to get a taxi to the Farah Hostel and the guy offered to give me a ride, so we all piled into the car and he dropped me off about ten minutes later.

I made it to the hostel and decided to spring for a private room with a bathroom.  It was late, I was tired and sweaty and I really didn’t feel like interacting with too many people.  I took a shower and went to sleep.  It had been a long, exhausting day, but it was the adventure I was promised!