After being grumpily thrust my visa, and buying my bus ticket I settled into a window seat of an empty bus excited to be back in Jordan. My phone was having an off day connecting to any sort of signal, and so I had previously informed Ali over internet that I would aim to be at the University by 5pm and we’d go from there. The bus left at 5pm.
My first impression of Amman 2016 was the awesome might of its terrible traffic system, jammed to capacity to the tune of hundreds of honking car horns, helpfully reminding each other that whereas it’s ok If I cut you up, you must certainly cannot do the same to me.
Finally we arrived at the North bus station, I now needed a taxi. No sooner had I descended onto the gleaming tarmac than I was encircled by a throng of taxi drivers, all coming at me arms first:
‘Where you go?’, said the drivers in union,
‘I go University,’ I said,
‘Ah, speak Arabic?’ ventured one, slightly quicker than the rest.
‘No it’s how we speak English where I’m from,’
‘Ok 10 dinars to University’
‘Tempting,’ I replied, ‘how about putting the meter on?’
Any mention of the meter during rush hour inevitably provokes a mix of, at first, denial of the existence of a meter, and then when this is subsequently disproved, outrage and confusion that anyone should desire to travel at this time at all.
I was eventually saved by the only taxi driver who hadn’t flung himself at me. He had been standing, carefully observing the increasingly agitated exchange of arms, words and saliva. He didn’t speak one word to me, just dropped me off at the University, nodded when I paid and thanked him, then off he went, hopefully to save more unfortunate souls.
By now it was 7pm, Ali was nowhere to be seen. I sat on my bag for twenty minutes eyeballing everyone who passed daring them to suddenly turn into Ali.
With my phone still not connecting to signal I resorted to an old haunt of mine, Indoor Cafe, just across the road. Now wifi-ied up I managed to get hold of Ali, who said he would be along after evening prayer with the Sheikh to pick me up.
We reunited with a conservative handshake and then a ‘come-on-mate’ hug. The Sheikh then very kindly dropped us off at the flat, a mere five minutes away.
I had been expecting to return to the same unfurnished flat I had been living in last year and was dismayed to find this place covered in carpets, chairs, sofas, beds and even a fridge and washing machine. It will have to do I suppose.
There are seven of us in the flat, mostly students and about half of them I knew already and so we exchanged many joyful fist pumps and numerous cheek kisses.
To take a new friend at random, Abu-Rabah (father of profit), a name any innocent tourist with a strong history of being ripped off should be wary of. But he seems nice and is training to be a nurse. Despite knowing that I lived in Jordan last year, he has a phenomenal trait of asking me pointless questions.
Like when eating he will point to hummus and ask if I know what it is. When I say no he looks astounded and points at the tea and asks if I know what that is. Again I shake my head (wondering how much more of this I can get away with).
Of all the breakfasts, I think cold KFC chicken wings and hummus ranks in the top five bizarre morning experiences of my life. Though surprisingly delicious, especially when washed down with sugar (topped off with a splash of tea).
I have several days to spare before Ramadan and my language course begins, so I intend to revisit some old places and engage in some good old nostalgia.
Who knows I might learn what a falafel is.