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Fake Turks

Our second day in Aqaba, we woke up, grabbed our bathing suites, a bottle of sunscreen, and the ukulele, climbed on the bikes and, tired of the usual Aqaba restaurants, headed out in a new direction. Claudia’s tire patch job appeared to be holding well as we pedaled toward the bus terminal, a neighborhood in which we thought we might find a good value on breakfast. I am quite pleased to report that we did. We sat down at a small local shop and ordered a delightfully affordable and quite succulent feast of fried eggplant and cauliflower, an array of pastes, and a pile of flatbread.

It was basically the standard AsiaWheeling Middle East edition meal, which we did not seem to grow tired of. It did take a while to arrive, however, so we spent the time working on better figuring out a number of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros tunes that we had been working on arranging for the ukulele.

There was plenty of good strong coffee and sticky sweet tea for Claudia. The owners of the shop also seemed quite thrilled to have us as customers: Claudia with her blond hair and formidable Arabic skills, me clowning around on the ukulele, and Scott with his ever more awe-inspiring facial hair.

From there we wheeled down to the public beach where we spent the next few hours, hanging out in the sun, singing songs on the uke, and taking turns watching our collective belongings while the others headed out to the sea to wade. The water here, though not as terrible as yesterday’s beach, was quite filthy. You would never know, though, unless you ventured in, for even at a relatively close distance, it looked a pristine sapphire blue.

We were soon joined by some very drunk Jordanian guys who were just full of lies, among which was that they were Turkish. They hung around for quite a while, smoking our hookah and singing along with us. It was a strange experience, strung up somewhere between a pleasant social interaction and being ridiculed. Needless to say, we were glad to see them stumble off.

We climbed back on the cycles from there, and thinking of our dear friend Mr. Jackson Fu, we began to hatch a plan in his honor. You see, dear reader, our whole time in the Gulf, the illustrious Mr. Fu had been talking about how much he wanted to fry an egg on the hood of the car. Fearing that it might damage the rental Previa’s paint, we had voted against it. But here in Aqaba it was startlingly hot and sunny, and we thought we might be able to fry on egg on the pavement, or perhaps a manhole cover.

So we headed down the street, and stopped at a restaurant to ask the proprietor for a raw egg. The owner turned out to be a very good English speaker, educated somewhere in the midwest, and more than happy to provide us with a complimentary egg.

In high spirits, we headed off in search of a place to fry the egg.

As you can see, dear reader, the “frying” produced not a sunny side up egg, but a lone yoke estranged from its once comfortable home of a shell.

Well, with that done, we headed out to buy some strange sports drinks. We found a little spot, and haggled for some 15 minutes over the price before sitting down triumphantly, diluting the drinks with water, and salting them. From there we headed back to the hotel, where we indulged in a quick jaunt around the corner to an Internet café.

Scott purchased a half hour’s worth of connection, and used Internet sharing to broadcast it via wifi to our computers. Claudia and I then logged on and we all spent a little while scanning our overflowing in-boxes for fires that needed putting out.

We slammed closed our Macs, and headed back to the hotel, where our bags were waiting for us. We strapped everything onto the bikes, and headed for the bus station.

Halfway there, Claudia got another flat tire, this time in her front wheel. The Knog bike porn patch was still holding well. That was good, but my faith in the D7’s tires’ ability to put up with the savage hazard-strewn roads of Jordan was quickly waning. Rather than fix it right there and then, we just rolled it the last couple of blocks to the station, and began to await our bus.

It arrived in no time, and we promptly loaded our things on. I then sat down on the pavement to watch our carry-on stuff and wait for the ticket taker to begin admitting passengers, while Claudia ran over to the same restaurant at which we’d eaten breakfast to purchase some food for the bus ride. I had just taken out the ukulele and begun to entertain myself when we noticed the bus pulling away.

No ticket taker had ever appeared. And now it was not only about the time our bus was scheduled to leave, but it was also actually leaving… with all our stuff on board. Scott sprinted off after the thing. Meanwhile Claudia and I waited back, talking with the other people around trying ascertain whether they were our fellow passengers or not, trying to stay calm.

Scott reappeared some minutes later, explaining that the bus driver had just left to refuel. The bus was just leaving late, and all was well. Soon our food was done, the bus returned, and the ticket taker showed up. He was a burly and stern man, who explained to us that food was not allowed on the bus, so we ran around the back of the bus and hid it in Claudia’s bag to sneak it on. There was certainly no way we could make it back to Amman on empty stomachs.

We headed straight to the back of the bus, where we could be secretive. As soon as the lumbering vehicle pulled out of the station, we opened up the bag to find that the food had exploded from its packaging to soak many of Claudia’s belongings. She seemed unfazed, pointing to some previous similar experiences that had occurred with chocolate, and we began to salvage the remaining food and feast.

The bus stopped at an interesting border zone, presumably between Jordanian provinces (though the exciting thought did cross our minds that we might have, in fact, boarded an incorrect bus, bound for Saudi Arabia). At the crossing, everyone was asked to get off the bus and unload their stuff, to be screened and ID-checked by a group of officers. That is, everyone except us. We were told by the driver to just stand by the vehicle and wait. So we did.

Soon everyone emerged, loaded their things back aboard, and sat back in their seats. Strange.

We began chatting with the fellow in front of us on the bus, who turned out to be in the bicycle business. He spoke very little English, but was thrilled to learn about AsiaWheeling. He twice called a friend and put Scott on the phone with him. Each time this friend welcomed Scott and AsiaWheeling warmly to Jordon, and offered to help us in any way we required. Scott was quite courteous and thanked him each time.

When we finally arrived back in Amman, we unloaded our stuff only to remember that Claudia’s tire was still flat. Seeing this, our new bike-related friend sprang into action, changing the tire with a kind of speed, precision and agility that we had not seen since China. It seemed no more than five minutes and we were back in action. He was particularly impressed by the in-seat pump on the Speed TRs. The pump on Claudia’s D7 never quite worked right.

With bikes fixed and fully loaded, we prepared to head back toward the Asia Hotel, where our ex-U.S.-military-translator friend would no doubt have a place for us to lay our heads. Just then, a young and excitable fellow came out of the night, and began chatting with us. We asked him about catching a bus to Syria, and he explained that we were in luck, he owned a hotel just next to the bus station, which, we were also in luck, was right here, and which could provide a room for all three of us for only $4.00 a night.

It’s tough to beat that, so we followed him back to the “seafront” hotel. While Scott and Claudia checked out the rooms, I waited outside and endured a bunch of harassment from tiny children. Finally I capitulated, removed the bags from my bike and Claudia’s, and allowed them to take the Dahons out for a spin. While the kids disappeared on our cycles, I looked up at the glaring yellow sign of our place. Seaside…  Amman was nowhere near the sea, and the hotel was one of the shabbiest and filthiest of the whole trip. But the price was right, and soon we locked up the bikes underneath the staircase, and headed upstairs. I had to sleep on the floor that night, where tiny beetles mostly left me alone. But man oh man was it cheap.


  1. laura | September 27th, 2010 | 11:36 pm

    i LOVE that first picture! that’s the cover of your book! 🙂

  2. JACKSON | September 28th, 2010 | 8:26 pm

    Now I know!

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