Windsbird: Footprints around the world

Hong Kong edition



‘Where the hell am I?’ Panic kicks in as soon as the bus from As-Salt drops me off at this unfamiliar place. I have asked for the North Bus Station but they tell me to get off here. “Tababour? (North Bus Station?)” I ask again helplessly but they point to the left and drive off. Presumably the bus station is towards the left, but I didn’t want to risk crossing the wide road and try to reach there on foot. How do I know  how far I would end up walking?

I get a taxi and ask for Tababour, and it turns out it’s only 3 minutes away from where I was originally dropped. So I  show the driver a piece of paper with my hostel  details, including it’s address in Arabic and a map. The hostel is near the Roman Amphitheatre which is one of the major tourist attractions in Amman, but surprisingly he isn’t the first driver who gives a puzzled look at the hostel’s whereabouts. After examining the map for sometime, he gets out his mobile phone and calls the hostel for directions.

On my journey back to hostel in the taxi I ask him how much the fare would be, with the knowledge that it should be around 3JD or below. “5 JD”, he says, and as I protest, he talks in Arabic and points to his phone. I insist on 3 JD but he’s adamant, and continues to point to his phone. I think he’s trying to charge me for the phone call he made earlier. “5 JD FOR A PHONE CALL!! I’m not paying that much! Drop me here and I’ll get another cab!” I quickly flare up and raise my voice. Apparently the fiery temper of Jordanians has already rubbed off on me. I’ve just surprised myself at this burst of uncharacteristic temper, but it is liberating to give an immediate external response to my feelings rather than suppressing it in my usual way.

The driver drives on, as if he hasn’t heard my shouts at all. It confuses me a little and makes me wonder if I had misunderstood him in any way. And I feel a little silly for getting fired up. When we reach the hostel, the meter on the taxi says the journey costs 4 JD. I hand him over a 5 JD note and hold out my palm for a change, but he pulls a ‘baby face’ with his lips pouting and holds up his index finger – ‘It’s only 1JD. Please let me keep it’, he seems to say. It is as if a child is pleading for one more piece of candy, and I get out of the taxi 1 JD poorer but laughing heartily.

DAY 4: 21 September 2013, On the way back from As-Salt

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


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.

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.

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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