Matt Kauffman in Jordan

Dazed and Confused

with one comment

Logan International Airport. Gate E6. Thursday 5 P.M. There was only about an hour until we boarded our flight over to London. Only then did the excitement/anxiety of completely immersing myself in a foreign land start to sink in.

It was probably the caffeine I was jacked up on, but my hands gave off slight tremors, as if I’d gone too long without eating. They seemed to bely a bit of the nonchalance I had tried to put off in words.

Earlier in the day, I’d stuffed my dad’s super old (and super unsupportive) red Kelty backpack with what I thought would be the bare essentials: pants, chacos (much to the chagrin of some of my fellow travelers), airy shirts, laptop, DSLR, loads of sunscreen and enough hand sanitizer to keep a SoCal teen loaded for at least a month’s worth of weekends.

Sadly, I couldn’t quite find space for that Irish tenor banjo. Next time!

Fast forward to Friday, 6 P.M. Our British Midlands International touched down at Queen Alia International Airport outside Amman. As the ‘fasten seatbelt’ sign pinged off, I was welcomed to the Middle East with the crashing opening chords of Led Zeppelin’s “Dazed and Confused” — both fitting (four hours of sleep pre-departure and zero rest while in transit) and strangely absurd (where’s the traditional zajal songs or at least some Jordanian pop?)

After tromping through customs, I finally stepped out into the Middle East. Out of habit I tried to suck in a deep breath of my new surroundings. Diesel fuel. Maybe I should have saved that practice til we were safely out of the airport terminal.

Jumping on the bus and taking the 30 minute ride into downtown Amman, I was reminded of my first bit of experience abroad in Rome. I was 20 and embarking on a course studying religious pilgrimages and ascetics in Italy. Just like yesterday, I boarded a bus and headed towards the city center.

Both rides were a simultaneous experience of so many of the things I expected to see and a rude awakening to the fact that things are hardly as they seem in your mind. The waning sun pitched a slowly dimming light onto the expansive, and starkly beautiful desert (expected) as we made our way into town, passing immense villas (unexpected) one second and ramshackle shanties the next. Minarets pierced the clear night sky (expected) but were illuminated in a neon green that made them look to me as if they’d been repurposed into Islamic themed nightclubs (for some reason I’m still deeply troubled by the green light. Why not a nice, pure white?)

In just that first half hour, the duplicitous nature of Amman that Benjamin Orbach mentions in his book Live From Jordan — of the haves and have nots — seemed all too clear: Middle Eastern businessmen zoomed by solo in Mercedes-Benzes, whilst whole families packed into dust-caked, run down Hyundais.

Sitting here in the Imperial Palace Hotel lobby Saturday morning, there’s so much more to say about the short, but fascinating (at least my ideas of it banging around in my head) arrival. However, apparently we’re supposed to start pitching stories now (in fact, a couple hours ago), so I’ll leave you with this picture from the hotel window. Cheers!

– Matt


Written by kauffmant

12/05/2012 at 7:49 am

Posted in Uncategorized

One Response

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  1. My aunt and uncle were there this winter, will be cool to read about your travels. Timbers are sucking right now, btwm

    joey leonetti

    12/05/2012 at 9:38 pm

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