The first day I slept in, and when I say I slept in I really mean it. I think I woke up around 3:00 pm Jordanian time. Did I mention that I was sleeping on the living room couch with a teak screen as a "room divider?" Yep. The apartment has three bedrooms and they will slowly empty out over the next month. I will actually move into the third bedroom on Monday after Rebecca leaves. Anyway, so I woke up on the couch around 3:00 pm and Devin (the third roommate) was just coming home from her first job very excited because her second job was cancelled for the day. As a result she was more than ready to take advantage of the time off and she graciously offered to host me around for the day.
To my delight we headed out, grabbed a cab, and started the afternoon by going to a gym called Fitness First Platinum
. Devin had inherited a membership from someone she knew who recently left Amman and she is allowed to bring a guest which is how I ended up spending a couple hours at what I later learned is the most expensive gym in Amman. It was definitely an experience. They have squash courts, a cafe, personal trainers, and free internet. Devin is a swimmer so she stayed in the Olympic-sized pool most of the time. I wandered between floors and generally stayed to the treadmill, elliptical, and what I thought was a stepper until I got on it and started sloshing around like a drunken Blue Footed Booby. I also power walked (yes, power walked) this sweet track that is suspended in the air and extends outside the building. The walls of the track are glass so there is an awesome view and, as one might expect if you know my penchant for cuttlefish and animals that waddle, I was thrilled to see a group of goats being herded through the city right across the street. After about an hour of running, skiing, and sloshing while watching Arabic music videos I met Devin in the locker room and we proceeded to sit in the steamer and then dip in the Jacuzzi before showering and heading out. A few interesting observations include (1) the people who belong to Fitness First are swanky dank and quite liberal in terms of women and gym dress (many were wearing make up and jewelry even), (2) apparently much of the service work that includes cleaning buildings like gyms, as well as people's personal homes, are women from the Philippines, and (3) although it was not dark enough to confuse a white string for a black string by the time we left it was clear to me that it was time to break fast because a platter of dates met us on the way out and people were already gorging themselves at the cafe.
After the gym we headed to get food at a well-known Arabic joint called Hashem. Delicious
. Felafel, hummos, fuul, fresh pita, and mint tea for about 1.5 JD which is like a little over two dollars. They actually sat us with two other young women because the entire place was full (note back to the fact that is Ramadan). It turns out these women were from the US and although they leave soon they have a roommate who is staying and in need of someone like me perhaps! Happy day! As soon as I get a cell phone I am going to call her and check up on where she lives and all that jazz. They were so sad to be leaving soon but they both planned on coming back in a few months to Syria because apparently it is gorgeous and the men are not as aggressive as they are here.
Then we headed to a DVD/CD store across from Hashem called Hamudeh. Apparently this tiny place with every movie you could ever imagine (1 JD each) is super well-known for quality bootlegging. Devin is a frequent flyer there so the shop keeper gave me a free Arabic pop CD of Amr Diab Waiah
. Then across the street from there is an awesome tea shop called Jafar where we had tea and split a peach nargileh. It was really evident to me that the restaurants and tea shops were coming to life since the fast had been broken (aka if-tar). Tons of men and women, young and old, local and foreign were at Jafar, women in skirts and women in hijab. A very cool place. It sort of felt like a place Frida Kahlo would hang at, minus the oud player
Finally we got home around midnight, but not before our cab complete with black light interior, broke down in the middle of an intersection and motioned us out after several failed attempts at starting the engine. Of course I am all screwed up and I could not get to sleep. I checked my email, went on facebook, finished my Davis Sedaris book, and so on until 4:00 am when I was finally sleepy.
Apparently all my body could handle was 4:00-8:00 am…..yes, four hours of sleep. I went on a super long and failed walk to this English language school that pays native speakers to run courses. Up this hill, down that hill, around that corner, for over an hour before I just headed back home. It was good to see some of the neighborhood, we are right by a Ramada Inn and the Libyan Embassy (two good places to tell cab drivers since no one here knows addresses). I did notice on my walk that the presence of Pilipino housekeepers is really quite obvious as every house is being swept out or having its windows cleaned by one of these women.
I returned sweaty and dehydrated (no food, drink, gum, or cigarettes in public during Ramadan until sundown), downed my water bottle, and was just in time to head out with Rebecca, Ali, and Ali's boyfriend Casey
. We went to a mall that was kind of like a giant k-mart and then Casey, who has a car, dropped us off at Rebecca’s gym. I worked out about thirty minutes before I decided that there was no way I had enough water to sustain a workout, at which point I headed to the locker room to drink in private. All in all, I ran and lifted weights which I hear is a mostly male thing so when Ali and I started using free weights I started to feel like a centripetal force surrounded us compelling the men at the gym to also lift free weights and to lift them as close to us as possible, haha. But actually at the gyms they are very subtle. Women wear normal work out clothes, although at this gym some still wore the hijab, and it isn’t a big deal. Interestingly, Rebecca’s gym is not nearly as swanky as Fitness First, but right outside is a fairly expensive pool that looks like as oasis, complete with palm trees and bikini clad women. Sweet side note, Rebecca works out for three hours three times a week and although she hasn’t lost weight per say, she went from about 48.5% body fat to 32ish in about three months. Amazing!
Casey and his American-Russian-Jordanian friend Tony picked us up after our work out. We all headed to eat because we really hadn’t eaten all day. Technically none of us are fasting but unless you are in your own home it is hard to eat anything so you kind of fast by default
. Rebecca only has a few nights left so she wanted to treat us to her choice of restaurant and you won’t believe what it was…Chili’s. Yes, I want my baby back, baby back, baby back, Chili’s baby back ribs Chili’s! Haha. And even funnier was the fact that they turned us away! That would never happen in the states but technically it is because of Ramadan because everyone there literally began eating at 7:30 so there isn’t like a staggering out of patrons like there would be normally. The alternative? You guessed it, Tony Roma’s! It is really funny to me but she was treating us all and this is what she wanted so I gladly order a loaded baked potato with pan-seared sesame encrusted salmon (food really does taste better when you’re fasting). PS Baked potato with yogurt instead of sour cream equals surprisingly delectable. Not to be outdone, Casey treated us all to ice cream at a trendy well-known ice cream parlor. Ramadan plus Thursday night equals crazy busy because Thursday night is their Friday night here. Friday and Saturday are the weekend and Sunday is the Monday.
As you can see my anxiety is fading a bit (although ebbing and flowing is probably more accurate). It was really great to be able to tag along to all these places and an added bonus that some of it was paid for. I guess they made more plans for tomorrow and Saturday before I have to start heading in to FoEME on Sunday. Can’t wait!
My second day is currently coming to a close so I thought I should mention what the heck I have been doing since my anxiety attack at arrival.