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You Can't Eat on the Street

7:01 am

Queen Alia Airport

Amman, Jordan

My journey back to Amman was rather uneventful, which is not necessarily a bad thing. I listened to an audiobook, glanced over my Italian flashcards, and occasionally listened to the conversation of the elderly couple to my left. I gathered the man was from Ukraine and his partner from the UK. I wondered how they met. What a unique pair, I thought.

I peeked out the window, taking inventory of the barrenness all around. I felt less guilty that I dosed off taking comfort in the thought I likely hadn’t miss any notable rivers, peaks, or rare sightings along the way. I thought back on my four journeys across the United States with my best friends en route to Syracuse when I was still in college. Driving for hours on end could sometimes be monotonous, but at least we had each other. Our twenty-year old temperaments were amused enough by the signs for the “30-foot cow” and “5-legged horse,” we’d see in places like Kansas. I wonder what it’d be like to take such a trip today; how the tone of conversation would be different or our feelings about the past and what was still in store for each of us.

I returned to a much “cooler” Amman. “Cooler” is relative in this case, but I was grateful for the relief. It was like bartering an Egyptian summer for the lazy months of D.C., or Philly. It may not sound like much but I’ll take 95 over 110 any day.

I walked the streets the same way I had a week before trying to remind myself of my good fortune to be in such a place. It’s a greater challenge than one may think at first. The more you live the higher the likelihood you are to take things, even wonderful things, in passing. The trick is to stay in the pocket of hope, of possibility, of thankfulness. I tried to behave as if I’d just arrived.

I walked past an art gallery I’d noticed when I first arrived, but this time it was open. I walked in and was greeted by a young and pretty Jordanian woman in her mid to late 20’s. She asked if she could help me find anything to which I told her I was just looking. I inquired if any of the photographs or acrylic works were hers. “No,” she said. “I’m a law student.” Much better idea, I nearly said to her.

I slowly moseyed on back to my hotel before stopping off at one of the few restaurants open. I’d been trying my hardest to eat healthy in this country, but found it a challenge. Still, I suppose the fresh squeezed orange and carrot juice and lack of eating in general left me at about even. I ordered two chicken sandwiches and made my way back to the Bonita Inn.

When I got to within 100 yards of my hotel I was stopped by two police officers. “Do you speak Arabic?” they asked. That’s a first, I thought. “No,” I said. They asked for my ID making some grumblings about my New York City address. “You can’t eat on the street. It is Ramadan,” one told me. The other then proceeded to get out of the car and stand beside me. He made a point to brush my shoulder, which gave way to a small shove. “Hide it in your bag,” he said before letting me go. I waived him off conveying I understood. I could now add Jordan to list of countries where I’d peaked the interest of the authorities along with Italy, Israel, and New Zealand.

Perhaps I just thought they could have handled the situation slightly better, though I’m not sure how exactly. Of course I believe in the importance of exercising profound kindness in life’s daily interactions. But where my patience starts to wane is when bullying takes shape or form. If someone is being picked on my wires cross, my poise is threatened, and I gradually shift into a slightly altered version of myself.

I respect the customs and culture of this country. I am, whether I like it or not, a sort of ambassador, representative of my country, so it’s important I carry myself with respect and dignity. I guess I just thought these were two kids looking for something to do. Their message could have been just as poignant without the “good cop, bad cop routine.” Or at least I thought.

But that was yesterday and today was a new day. I hopped in a cab at 6:00 am. Mahmoud was the name of the gentlemen who drove me. He was probably about 70 years old. He was kind and insisted I sit in the front. We didn’t say much during the 25-minute drive, but I felt comfortable in his presence. The impeccably clean Toyota Camry with leather seats and remnants of cigarette smoke took me back to sitting in the back of my uncle’s car during summer visits to Korea. Mahmoud too might have been an uncle from another life.

We passed security after I was asked where I was from. “New York,” I said. “Oh!” he beamed. And waved me through. I’ll miss using that phrase as I make the move back to my native California in just a few short months. Something tells me it won’t inspire the same questions, or open as many doors, or gates for that matter.

I’m off to Tel Aviv this morning. I’m very excited to see my friend Rony. We haven’t seen each other for nearly 5 years. It’ll be great to laugh together yet again. As I sat contemplating the next few days I felt a surge of exhilaration in knowing I hadn’t booked a ticket anywhere after Israel. I have literally no clue as to where I’m going after his wedding and don't much care to.

I received a text message from a brilliant actor I know back home. Yusef, late 30’s, originally from Houston, Texas told me, “Don’t stop. It’s the one I use most frequently these days.”

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