Travel to Amman
This is my third trip to Amman and, as with all of my international travels bar none, it came with complications.
I flew from Madison to Chicago, where I had to wait 4 hours to get the flight to Frankfurt, Germany. The flights were uneventful. The time in the Frankfurt airport was ridiculous. First, of all, I had two very heavy carry on bags with me that I had to schlep up and down steps. The airport is absolutely enormous- so you walk and walk and walk and walk, up and down escalators, until you climb up some stairs- and there is a tram. When you walk and walk some more until you get to the security point, where you have to put everything on the conveyer to be scanned. However, in Frankfurt, this meant that the agent took about every blessed connector, cable, etc. from my bags. I couldn’t believe it! It took me forever to put everything back once I got through the scanner.
The electric signage for flight departure times and gates continually changes, but when Amman appeared, there was no gate. The terminal rep had told me it was gate 54, and the flight to where ever that was posted immediately above Amman said Gate 54, but Amman only said “Gate.”
For the flight to Amman, a huge crowd of us piled into an accordion bus (you know, where the back swings back and forth when you turn), nose to nose, for the longest airport bus trip I have ever experienced. I really thought that we were going to drive to Amman.
Then, it was raining and instead of putting out both stairways up to the plane (front and back), they only put out one. A steep one. My shoulder hurts just thinking about the strain of dragging/carrying the two bags up the stairs and through the plane to the very back.
Then, when we were settled, another busload came (for whom they did put in the rear stairway). Unfortunately, almost everyone carries many bags and suitcases, so there was great difficulty finding places for them. One man took his suitcase into his window seat, which was narrower than his suitcase. So that certainly didn’t work! Then there were two young women who made a big fuss about sitting together. They tied up most of the busload of passengers trying to board, complaining, one sitting in the middle seat next to me then ordering me up and down, standing in the aisle. Yikes!! One man finally gave in and moved- and he was a lovely guy. I had fun talking with him. He also showed me his prized possession: a large watch that has a compass, shows the altitude and humidity, and also tells time. Wow!
I thought I had been so clever on this flight by ordering a special meal. Let me tell you- NEVER order a gluten free meal on United-Lufthansa. It was gross and completely inedible. Luckily, I had packed some edamame.
My experience at the Amman airport was a nightmare. Again, down steep stairs to crowd nose to nose in a bus to take us to the terminal. Lots of walking. Then into a line to exchanged USD for JOD, because a visa costs 40 JOD. I gave them 80 dollars and got back 51 JOD! Then into another line to purchase a visa and go through customs. When I got to the counter, the young man spent five minutes counting money or something, never acknowledging me even when he looked up and saw me.
When I finally got through, I couldn’t find my luggage. Luckily, they have pushcarts so my two heavy bags were much easier to maneuver. After wandering around for a while, getting more and more nervous about the delays because I knew someone had come to pick me up, I saw one of my suitcases. But the other one wasn’t there.
I imagined conducting training the next day wearing the informal change of clothes I had packed in my carry on. On to another line, to tell an agent about my lost luggage. When I asked when the suitcase would be delivered, he said the same time tomorrow (which would have been 6:30 p.m.) I teared up.
Then, as I was leaving their office, one of their staff asked me which bag was missing and he located it in Security. What a short-lived relief! So I followed him to Security, where I could see my bag but they wouldn’t let me get it. After about 30 minutes, a young woman arrived and they let me in, to be patted down by the woman. Next, they opened up the bag and began to take everything out, opening all the bags into which I had placed the materials for each of the 10 days of training. I was beside myself by now.
I started to cry, because I’d been there for an hour and a half, I still had a long drive to the hotel, had to set up the training room, iron my clothing, have lunch (at 11:30 p.m.), take a shower, etc. Since I wasn’t able to sleep on the flights, despite taking a melatonin that made me moderately sleepy, I was exhausted and also needed a bathroom!!! In my defense…
When they released me, I had to go through the last hurdle, where I had to pick up my bags (my suitcases were 50 and 55 lbs. respectively) to put them on a conveyer belt to be scanned. And then THEY insisted on going through my bags again. I told them I had just come from Security, but either they didn’t understand or they didn’t care.
A man named Jamal was outside with a Mercy Corps sign, so I stopped to ask him if he was there to pick me up. He didn’t think so, but I did and he scrolled through his phone and found my name. He had to do some fancy packing because only one of my suitcases would fit in his trunk.
The drive to the hotel must have been 25 minutes. I didn’t see any snow, although they had some last week, with icy roads that created over 95 accidents. Somehow the palm trees soldier on, despite the cold.
I checked in, got up to my very small room and unpacked everything I would need for tomorrow. Then Zaid, my contact, came with his wife to help me set up, which was very sweet of them both. He is great for my ego, because he told me that, after taking my train the trainer program three years ago in Amman, he can’t bear to sit through training because it is so bad. That’s why he wanted me to come to Amman to train his staff. It is lovely to be so appreciated!
The room was very workable, with lots of walls and the tables and chairs set up as I had requested. Apparently, Zaid oversaw the set up process. The only possible glitch thing is that there is an LCD projector on the ceiling but nothing to connect with it… Zaid arranged for a hotel IT person to meet with us around 6 a.m. to set up whatever is needed. Let’s hope he can because I don’t want to act out my PowerPoint!
We finished about 10:30 p.m., at which point Zaid said that he had hoped to take me out to dinner. Would I like to go now? I thanked him for the gracious offer and asked for a rain check, citing all of the things I had yet to do.
Including this email.
Well, it is now 2 a.m. and my hair is almost dry. Everything is laid out for tomorrow (clothing, shoes, jewelry, makeup, files and computer). I’ve ironed, eaten, showered, charged my computer, Nook and phone; figured out how to set the phone alarm to Jordan time. Set two other wake up calls- one on the phone and one on the TV. I hope at least one of them works, because they are all set for 6 a.m.
Tomorrow, I’ll begin facilitating a two-day Interest-Based Negotiation training program for 25 staff and community members. Wish me sufficient energy, endurance, good humor and effectiveness! Obviously, I’ll be training in my sleep….