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Windsbird: Footprints around the world

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madaba

Rounding off Day 2: Handful of yellow beans, a rejected shwarma and the self conscious white pudding.

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It is nearly 6 pm when I come back to Madaba after visiting Bethany Beyond Jordan. A young man from the Peace souvenir shop had offered to take me back to Amman in his car when I was having lunch there earlier on, but I ask the taxi driver to drive me to the bus station directly. I’m not sure whether his invitation was out of friendliness or hoping for something more, but either way I didn’t want to get into a car with someone I have known for 30 minutes.

The sun sets as the bus makes its way from Madaba to Amman’s North Bus station. In my fatigue, everything seems to be slowly moving through an invisible jelly – the bus, the traffic, people getting on the bus….. Half awake, half dozing off, I watch the sky turn from grey blue to jet black, and how city lights grow brighter and busier as we approach Amman.

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Madaba bus station

It’s late in the evening, so the North Bus station is empty when we finally arrive. When I am about to call a taxi to take me back to the hostel, four or five men surround me. ‘Where are you going? No taxi, no taxi. Bus. Free. Come! Bus!’ They put me back in the bus I just got off.

As the bus drives away, the men ask me a few questions in broken English, give me a handful of sour tasting yellow beans (I think) to eat, and just as quickly as I was whisked onto the bus at the station, they drop me off in the middle of a busy roundabout and drive off. I have no idea where I am.

Assuming they dropped me off somewhere closer to the Amman downtown, I get a taxi from there. The driver is an old man, who finds it very amusing that I am travelling by myself without a male company. ‘Do you want to eat dinner with me? I pay for you. You like shwarma?’ On and on he keeps asking.

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Bus to Amman

 

After quick dinner at my hostel, I take a walk to the street food shop that the Crazy Girl recommended. The small square shop is tiled everywhere, and has nothing in it apart from a stainless steel table, giving it a very cold clinical look under the bright fluorescent light.  It is outside the shop that they have set up a counter to sell two things: white drink and white pudding. A kid at the counter scoop up a big ladle of the white stuff into a glass bowl, sprinkle some honey and dessicated coconut on top and hands it to me. I wanted it in a paper cup to take back to hostel, but now I’m stuck with this on the busiest street in Amman with nowhere to sit.  So I just stand there and eat.

A group of teenagers stop by the shop and order a couple of bowls as well. They stand a few steps away from me and stare at me with curiosity peppered with occasional giggles. People in the car peer out the window and some even honk their horn. Another group of men appear and keeps calling out ‘Hey, China!’.  None of the stares are nothing close to an unpleasant leer – just pure curiosity.  Nonetheless I become intensely self conscious and the T-shirt and over-the-knee skirt I am wearing feels way too skimpy. Forget savouring the exotic Jordanian street food. I gulp down the whole lot and rush back to the familiarity of my hostel.

 

DAY 2: Thursday, 19 Sept 2013

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Conversations in Madaba: “If I was much younger, I do you”

Today’s plan was rather an ambitious one, covering Madaba, Mt. Nebo and Bethany-Beyond-Jordan, all of which an hour’s distance away from each other. The public transport only operates between Amman and Madaba, so I was expecting to spend a hefty amount of my budget on taxis.

The first stop was Madaba, famous for it’s Byzantine mosaics. It felt a bit too small to be called a city, but still had the energy and vibrancy that I much preferred than the hectic Amman. The town of Madaba was once a Moabite border city, mentioned in the Bible in Numbers 21:30 and Joshua 13:9. It also has the largest Christian community in Jordan, and I could see many women walking on the streets without wearing a headscarf.

I decided to follow the walking tour of the town suggested in my Lonely Planet travel book which should last about  3 hours, which would give me plenty of time to visit other biblical sites near Madaba.

 

After making a brief stop to watch a sand bottle being made, I started walking along what is known as the Tourist Street, filled with souvenir shops for tourists. Every single shop I pass by, the shop keepers tried to lure me into their shops, all of which I politely refused and walked on…until I reached a spacious shop called ‘Peace’ which seemed to deal with more high-end products. A man came out and greeted me with a big friendly smile, and to my surprise, a couple of young men nearby greeted me in Korean! He invited me for Bedouin tea and I could not refuse it.

His name was Menwer, and he used to work at the airport in catering. The shop he was working now was owned by his nephew.

It must have been a low-season for Madaba at this time of the year, as there were hardly any tourists in the town, which meant I could ask him as many questions about Jordan as I liked without having to worry about me disrupting his business.

Menwer at the 'Peace' shop

Conversing with someone from different culture and language can be an amusing experience, with interesting metaphors and unusual figures of speech.

“Are you married?”, he asks me.

“No.”

“Do you have a boyfriend?”

“No.”

“Oh! Why not marry?? If I was much, much younger, I do you!”

 

I ask him around what age Jordanian girls get married, and he answers that it’s around 20 to 23.

“It seems so young!” I say.

“Women are like apples. When they are young, when ripe, they are nice and delicious. When the time goes, not so good. You have to have them when they are good”, and he makes a ‘yuck’ face.

I scream at him jokingly and we both laugh, and do a high five.

 

Spending time with Menwer set me back against my schedule, so I hurried through my walking tour. All key sites were very small and not very time consuming, but I got lost a few times with my pretty much non-existent navigating skills.

There were many taxis on the main street of Madaba but I decided to go back to Menwer to arrange a taxi for me. I felt I could get a more trustworthy taxi fare if it was through him.  Next stop, Mt. Nebo.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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