Five countries in three days – I think that’s a new record for me. Nepal, Oman, UAE, Qatar and Jordan. Granted, Oman and Qatar were layovers, which means I’d never count them as countries I had legitimately visited, but that doesn’t make them any less confusing. When we finally arrived at the Passport Control desk in Jordan, I was turned around.
Usually I’m completely on top of immigration and customs paperwork for every country we visit. I always know what kind of visa we need, how much it will cost, and what information to put in what box on the form. I’m the queen of organization when it comes to these matters – I like to be prepared. But somewhere during our fourth flight my brain clouded over.
As we sauntered up to the Passport Control counter upon arrival in Amman airport, the official started asking me questions. (There is no paperwork when you arrive in Jordan, so they do everything verbally, which is new for me.) He asked me how long we were staying in Jordan. I knew that one – 10 days. Then he asked for $20 for the visa. I handed him US$20 (every country in Asia required US dollars for visa fees, even over their own currency, so I’d gotten used to paying in US bills.) He frowned at me, and sent John to change our money into local currency while I stayed at the counter to answer his questions. Where are you going, he asked. Um, Jordan, my foggy mind said. But that seemed like the wrong answer, so I just kept staring at him. Again, he asked, Where are you going? Um, let me think, Amman, Petra… No, where are you staying? With a friend (we were Couchsurfing.) Where does your friend live? Amman. No, where in Amman. The address. I don’t have it written down. (I was told by the Couchsurfing people to not give their info at the desk lest they get bothered later.) Do you have a telephone number in Jordan? No. Does your friend have a phone number? No. The guy blinked at me, shook his head and handed my paperwork to the guy next to him, who then tried asking me the same questions, and got the same answers. They chatted to one another in Arabic for a moment, looking at me with confusion. By this time, John had returned with the cash, and the line behind me had grown quite long. No doubt wanting to get rid of me as quickly as possible, they took our money, stamped our passports and waived us through with an exasperated sigh.
Afterwards, John and I laughed at how blase I was about the whole procedure. Shouldn’t I have been nervously answering the questions with as much information as possible, rather than looking at them blankly in confusion? Perhaps that’s what happens when you’ve been traveling for this long – crossing into another country becomes so passe you stop paying attention and forget to be respectful in front of the immigration officials. Regardless, they let us into the country. I guess I don’t need to be so fastidious with my paperwork in the future – it seems that even grinning idiots can pass through immigration counters.
Once they let us into the country, we had an adventure trying to find our Couchsurfing hosts. Even though I did actually have an address and phone number for them, we still had a hell of a time getting there because of our lack of skills in Arabic. After being left on the side of the highway by the bus, driven in the complete wrong direction by a confused taxi driver, stopping at a cafe to call for help, taking another taxi to the proper meeting point (where John had to bum a cell phone off of some teenagers who didn’t speak English by pantomiming so that we could call our hosts to come find us), we finally connected with the lovely couple that was hosting us for the night. They taught us some basic Arabic phrases, I taught them some yoga, and we all enjoyed some delicious Jordanian fare together. Unfortunately, we could only stay with them for one night (our sensitive lungs had a much stronger than anticipated reaction to their indoor smoking habits), and we chose to move to a hotel in the city the next day.
The photos above are views from the hotel’s rooftop of the Roman Amphitheater and into downtown Amman. The buildings in this city are completely monochromatic, allowing them to blend into the desert landscape. Amman is a bustling city, but most of what Jordan has to offer lies outside the city limits. There is so much to see here, we’re still trying to sort out what we’ll have time to cover during our stay. I guess I should just be thankful they decided to let us into the country so that we can see anything at all :)