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Hauling our Asses to Jordan
Day 3, June 16 1998, Jerusalem, Amman

Writing on the bus to Amman. It's 17.48. This morning we were woken at 6.00 in the morning by our brand-new purple alarm clock. And that wasn't nearly all. Due to the surprisingly high volume that the little clock produced, pretty soon everybody on our (west) side of the roof was awake and not very grateful.

Time to haul our asses to Jordan. We checked out and had David's breakfast at the hostel (egg and melon). We left the Old City, and went into the New City to buy overpriced water and catch the bus to the Central Bus Station.

Dennis asked the friendly girl at the information window how to get to Bet She'an, where we could cross the border.

Dennis: "Hello. Which bus is leaving for Bet She'an?"
Girl:"Bus 963, platform 2. Leaves at 11.00."
Dennis:"Does it pass through occupied territory?"
Girl:"Eleven o'clock."
Dennis:"Yes, but does it go around or through occupied territory? Here, …" (takes out map of Israel and Jordan and shows it to the girl, who, by the way, is becoming less friendly.)
Girl:"Bus 9-6-3. Platform 2."
Dennis:"Yes, but which route does the bus take?"
Girl:(pointing at Bet She'an) "963. Platform 2." (points firmly but still friendly in the direction of the platform.)
Dennis:"Duh… ok."

The bus did indeed pass through occupied territory. Apart from some seemingly abandoned artillery and a tank being transported (quite possibly for double parking), we saw nothing noteworthy. However, we did discover that sandwiches in the middle of the desert are quite expensive.

At Bet She'an we were unkindly told that the bus for the border would not be leaving for at least another two hours, so we drank some rather expensive filter coffee. To make sure we got our money's worth we stayed for the full two hours (until our trusty purple alarm clock discretely informed us we had to go) sitting in the shade of some trees that I reckon were probably a lot older than me. Still, I got to sit in their shade instead of they in mine. That's samsara for you.

After the filter coffee had spend its time in the purgatory of my digestive system, I decided to return it to the restaurant. I was kindly redirected to a rest room without a discernible light switch. This forced me to urinate by sound, and sound alone. A very thrilling experience.

We returned to the bus station, where many people turned out to be curious as to our destination, especially the taxi drivers.

At the Israel-Jordan border, we first had to pay to get out of Israel. Then we had to take the bus, taking us a cool two hundred meters to the Jordan checkpoint, where we could get the visa for Jordan. We had just bought back our freedom and met a Jordanian couple, when we heard the ding-dong sound of a shopping centre announcement over the intercom. What followed was not a discount announcement, even though we had this impression for the first few seconds. From every nook and cranny of the desert structure, ladies suddenly appeared with feverish looks in their eyes. Instead of removing cheap quality products from store racks, these lovely drafted women removed us from the bench on which we were waiting. "Come with us, please" was their kind but urgent request. In lieu of alternatives we agreed. A number of other ladies rushed to the counter. Accompanied by the Jordanian couple and a few other border crossers, we were allowed to take a seat on a different bench. When I inquired as to the nature of this sudden emergency, the lady in charge told me that she was unfortunately not allowed to tell me anything, so we never found out. After about 20 minutes we were allowed to return and board the bus.

So now we are unquietly en route to Amman, in a bus with lilliputian chairs and a driver with a horn, usage of which he is certainly not afraid of.

Most drivers in Amman do not use their mirrors. 'Filtering in' is also a technique unknown to them. 'Cutting in' and 'squeezing in' is right up their alley, however. If a conflict arises between two drivers (this may vary from cutting in to glancing in an inappropriate way at another driver's car), the car horn is used as a diplomatic device to settle the matter, so that both the allegedly offending party as well as the other car drivers can take notice of this injustice.

22:55. Lying in a relaxed manner in our room at the youth hostel in the pervasive smell of paint, I continue to write this diary. We have been ripped off by a taxi driver, but even our low degree of assertive behaviour could save us from a worse fate: the driver-recommended hostel with commission. BTW the taxi driver was a great fan of Saddam Hussein (at least he kept a picture of the man on his dashboard.)

At a fruit mixer's (shops that specialize in fruit drinks) we met a guy named Sophey. He was from Egypt, and wanted to make some money in Jordan so he could go home and get married. (In the days to come, we often visited him, whereupon he would greet us with a big smile and a heartily "Hello my friends!" He also taught us a little Arabic, but - regretfully - I've forgotten most of it.

Dinner (falafel and Coke) was both good and cheap at 850 fils ($ 1.10) for the both of us. Now, sleep.


c   l   i   c   k


 Crossing the border

 Amman by Night

hotel room
 Enjoying a Coke

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