Thursday, December 29, 2011

Update: And Then That Happened.

Hadi from Turkish Airlines finally called me around 12:45 this afternoon, just as I was beginning to tip into panic mode again.

They had my bag. Green-gray, not black. It had somehow appeared on the baggage carousel about ten minutes after we'd frantically run to catch our Delta flight. I have no idea why one piece of baggage would be pushed out of the aircraft a good hour and a half after everything else, and, quite frankly, I don't want to know.

Hadi was ready to ship my bag to Baltimore, but I explained that I was scheduled to leave early tomorrow morning to come back to New York. New Kid, who we are going to stay with this weekend, generously offered to act as guardian of my wandering suitcase, and Hadi said it was no problem to have the delivery service drop the bag off at her office in midtown Manhattan. At 2:30, I got a text from her saying that the delivery service had called to confirm the bag was on its way. Subsequently, I received an email from Hadi saying that the bag had been shipped out, and should be to New Kid before 6pm.

Relief doesn't even begin to describe it. To celebrate the fact that I would not have to purchase an entirely new wardrobe, at least at the moment, I went out and bought a pair of killer glitter stillettoes to wear with the little black dress I have for New Years. ON SALE. FROM MARSHALLS. LIVIN' THA LIFE, BITCHES. 

Around 7:30, I received a text from New Kid stating that she was still hanging around at work waiting for my bag, did I have any idea when it might be arriving, and that this hanging around was leading to unproductive behavior such as perusing oil tiki paintings online and should she buy one? I responded "No idea, and yes, of course you should."

A call to JFK's baggage claim delivery person (is there some sort of term for this area of work? Perhaps "Disorganizer?") revealed that there were 16 airlines with bags on board a van that was working its way through New York City, and if my bag hadn't arrived by 9pm to call them.

I felt guilty, as though I'd somehow foisted my bad Turkish Airlines juju off on my innocent, helpful friend. I also didn't want her waiting around at work until 9:30 for my bag, which by now should have its own hashtag. 




Pick whichever one you like. They're all up for grabs, I believe.

So I bit the bullet and called the baggage claim delivery person (hereinafter referred to as "The Disorganizer") and explained the situation, asking if the address for the destination of the bag could be changed to New Kid's home address. Realizing that this could be a completely disastrous error, given that they lost the bag between the belly of TK0001 and the baggage carousel. Giving them too many directives didn't seem a wise idea at this point, but I couldn't have New Kid sitting around her office until 9pm.

It's a good thing I chose this course of action, because when New Kid called the dispatcher to confirm the change of address from one area of Manhattan (mid) to another (lower), they informed her that it should arrive "sometime before midnight."

How many bags, I ask you, are on a van that results in a ten hour tour of New York City?

Nevermind, I don't want to know.

So it's 9:30pm, we are scheduled to leave here at 7am. I am hingeing all my bets and bringing with me only my new shooo-ess, my black New Years dress, and a few pairs of clean underwear and socks. If I err in the wrong and my bag does not make it to New Kid's tonight, and somehow disappears again, I will be spending the weekend in one pair of jeans and inappropriate shoes for daytime. 

My internal clock is all whack and thinks it's time to go to bed ("IT'S 4:30AM!" it says), but I am trying to coax it into staying awake until at least ten, so that I can sleep past 3am. So far, the jet lag actually hasn't been too bad. My formula for heading off severe jet lag shall be revealed later. In tableau form. Be excited.

When I get my camera cord, that is. Out of the suitcase that, by now, must smell like a high school locker room with all of my dirty, dusty, sweaty clothes lumped into it for going on four days. 

Fingers crossed that thing is circling lower Manhattan as we speak, and that it's safely in New Kid's hands before I arrive tomorrow morning....

9:42pm - text from New Kid
"I have the suitcase."

You can all breathe now.

And Then That Happened.

Glitteratis, I have so very much to share with you.

Our trip to the Middle East was, quite possibly, one of the best things I have ever done. I learned, saw, ate, imbibed, swam in, and rode (yes, rode - as in a camel AND a donkey) so many things that, sorry to be cliche here but I'm completely exhausted, blew my mind.

The trip itself was a gem, a high high, and complete magic. I can't wait to show you pictures. Which I would do now, except I don't have a cord for my camera. And I'm exhausted, and still sitting in the same clothes I've been wearing for the last three days.

I want to get this post out of the way first, mostly because I am still embroiled in it and also because after this, I will post pictures and tell you all of the amazing tales of the trip, and this post will get pushed to the bottom of the pile underneath all of the good. 

This post is not good. This post is about the hellish last 72 hours we've had to endure.

I also want to point out before I launch into this that I have never been to a friendlier country than Jordan. Everyone - from cab drivers to servers, pharmacy owners to hotel staff, even little children running around in the streets - called, "Welcome! Welcome!" and showered us with questions about what we liked most about Jordon. (The food. Islamic art. The food. The haunting calls to prayer five times a day. The food. The music. The food. The intelligence and worldliness of a deeply religious people. The food. The hospitality. The food.)

So please do not let this post lead you to believe that I am over-generalizing, or dousing the trip in negativity, or dwelling on the bad. It is only because I am sitting in dirty clothes and currently having a massive panic attack that I'm about to launch into a description of the worst travel experience I have ever had. After that, nothing but magic!

We were scheduled to leave Amman on Tuesday morning at 6:30am, fly to Istanbul, have a two hour layover, and then fly from Istanbul to New York, arriving in the states around 3pm EST. The last leg was a flight scheduled on Tuesday from New York to Baltimore at 6:30pm. 

And so, we were up at 3:15am on Tuesday to finish packing, and grab our scheduled car to the airport by 3:45 (they insist upon 2 hours prior to check-in, and cabs in Amman can take either five minutes or forty five minutes to get you somewhere depending on the driver, time of day, condition of car, and alignment of stars in the sky. We weren't taking any chances.)

I should have known that things were amiss during that cab ride. It is winter in Amman, meaning it actually gets pretty chilly (lower 40's), and actually rains. The combination of the altitude of the mountains and valleys plus moisture in the air leads to the worst fog I have ever seen. You can't see six feet in front of you while walking, let alone driving. Our driver expertly propelled us through the ground clouds (and then politely demanded a 4 dinar tip) and got us to the airport on time, but not after we witnessed a car wrapped around a light pole, and another car going the wrong way on the highway, so discombobulating was the fog.

We arrived at the airport and dutifully went through passport control and security (where they discovered our purchase of antique knives, which went through some scrutiny but were eventually passed through in checked luggage), and found our way to our gate. We got there by 5am for a delightful hour and a half wait until the flight. I curled up on the plastic chairs and dozed off while The Gentleman watched "Archer" on his laptop. 

I must have been more exhausted than I thought, because I woke up in a panic at 8am. Had we missed our flight? No. Delayed due to fog. I curled right back up on the most uncomfortable chairs, and fell right back asleep.

I woke up again at 9:30am to a coup. Everyone had been locked up in the gate area since before 6am with no food, no water, and no open cafes. The airline staff was trying to assure people that as soon as the fog lifted, the flight would be on its way. They passed out bottles of water, and brown paper bags with white bread cheese-and-mystery-meat sandwiches. People were enraged. It was a mad house.

At this point, we realized we were going to miss our connecting flight to JFK, which was leaving in two hours. It was easily a two hour flight from Amman to Istanbul. The math added up to nothing good.

I asked one of the airline staff about this situation, and was gruffly told, "Yes. You are being put on the flight to New York for tomorrow. When you get to the airport in Istanbul, they will take you to a hotel for the night."

At this point, I wasn't panicking. We had a couple of days before we needed to be anywhere, so being delayed a day wasn't so bad. And it could be much worse than having to spend a night in Istanbul. In fact, I was downright cheery about the extra day of vacation until I realized this meant that we would subsequently be missing our Delta flight from JFK to BWI, scheduled a mere 14 hours away. 

Suddenly, the fog lifted, and there was a mass stampede out of the gate onto the plane despite the pitiful efforts of airline staff to retain order. The Gentleman reasoned that we could call Delta once we got to Istanbul and figured out the plans.

The flight from Amman to Istanbul was calm, and everyone settled down once they had their requisite quiche and sweet bread. (The food on even the shortest of flights is just so much better around the world than in America.)

We arrived in Istanbul, and this was the end of the peace. The Gentleman and I were shoved, along with everyone else, into a highly disorganized line in front of a counter staffed by four or five completely overwhelmed airline staff who, it seemed, were all on their first day of the job.

The Germans and the Brits have queuing down to a science. They could form perfect lines in a hurricane. The Turks, Italians, French, and Jordanians thrust into close quarters after everyone has missed a connecting flight was utter chaos.

I now think that some of the lowest points of humanity can be glimpsed in a throng of stressed, hot, tired people forced to stand in a line for hours with no sign of relief. I saw a grown man push a little girl out of the way, and I saw an irate Italian mother scream what I can only assume are obscenities at airport security staff. The Gentleman and I stood there, overwhelmed and perplexed, and tried to queue like good little Americans as if that would earn us points. It wasn't long before we were throwing elbows too, after three or four families and individuals cut in front of us in line.

We finally reached the counter after about an hour and a half of queuing, and the staffer there seemed completely mystified as to why we were there, as if she hadn't just spent the better part of her morning dealing with the passengers of a very late flight. She finally checked our passports, issued us new boarding passes for tomorrow, and reminded us that we needed to purchase visas to leave the airport in Turkey. This point was the site of my first meltdown, and in retrospect, it was a teensy, tiny little blurp in the scheme of things. It happened because I was hot, hungry, exhausted from standing in line, tired of being shoved around by irate foreign men and women who acted as though I wasn't even there, and I happened to glance down at our new boarding passes to discover that the Gentleman and I were no longer sitting together. On an 11 hour flight, we would be on opposite ends of the cabin. A few tears leaked out, and I looked at him in panic.

"Is there any way you can change our seats? It's a long flight, and we are travelling together," he said, politely, to the woman behind the counter who looked as though she wanted to kill herself, all of us, or possibly both. I couldn't blame her for rolling her eyes, but to her credit, she started pressing things on her keyboard and, a few minutes later, ripped up our passes and printed us new ones with seats together.

We took our new boarding passes, went through passport control (we had purchased visiting visas the week prior, which are good for 90 days, so we didn't have to fork over $20 apiece again to enter the country), and wandered the terminal looking for a "hotel desk." But not before a pit stop at the ticket counter to inquire about our luggage. 

"It will go on tomorrow's flight to New York," the staffer assured us. "It is already checked, you do not need to do anything." Which also meant this: we were going to spend the night in Istanbul with only the clothes we were wearing, and our carry-ons filled with entertainment and Jordanian dates. Still, it was one less thing to worry about, and we reasoned we could find a pharmacy and purchase whatever toiletries we needed.

We pushed our way through the terminal to wait in another line at the hotel desk. At this point, it was 3pm, and we'd been up since 3:15am with only one meal in our systems. The airport was stiflingly hot, everyone was pushing one another again, and I was experiencing a newfound caffeine withdrawal, born of a week of thrice-daily Turkish and Arabic coffees. My level of frustration was peaking again, and I was not being my Best Self. At all.

After waiting another thirty minutes in line, we were told to step aside and wait (again) for the shuttle that would take us to the hotel for the night. We managed to scarf down some sort of vegetable sandwich from the Starbucks next to the hotel counter (IT WAS THE ONLY THING AROUND.)

I had always envisioned being laid-over in a foreign country and being put up in a hotel as a remarkably glamorous happy accident. A free night in Istanbul with the Gentleman! How perfect!

It's not.

At all.

For one thing, the shuttle will take you to a depressingly un-glamorous Turkish Marriott Courtyard located five minutes from the airport and an hour from anything in the city of Istanbul. You will be grouped with a family of six who is being forced to share a single hotel room, a man who has some family member ill in a hospital in London who has missed his flight and has decided to rail against anyone and everyone in his path, and a handful of perplexed Iraqis and Palestinians who have just gone through a passport control that would destroy any American. (The legality of Iraqis and Palestinian travel to be discussed in another post.)

By the time we had checked into our room, dealt with spotty wireless trying to contact Orbitz and Delta to change our flight, finally made a $25 call to America to Delta to be told that it would "only" cost $200 each to change our $160 flights, it was 5pm. We had eaten a meal and a half, had been awake and standing in line for 15 hours, and were so completely exhausted, frustrated, and stressed that all we could muster was to toddle downstairs for the free dinner provided by the airline (chicken breast, white rice, and french fries - OH MY.), and then back upstairs were I finally succumbed to exhaustion and the overpowering want for my own bed and clean clothes, and had myself a nice little fit.

The reactions of The Gentleman during this day and the following two days are a testament to his character in that he didn't leave me in another country, try to smother me with a pillow, or sell me. He was kind, patient, caring, and endlessly positive. Also during this time, we shared a tooth brush. Gross, but true and somehow oddly romantic. Sort of.

The Gentleman also had the good sense to purchase two bottles of duty free chianti before leaving the Istanbul airport, and he popped one open, turned on some German reality television (Anka's husband, Rolf, is cheating with 15-year-old Annika) and we debated what to do. We were in Istanbul for the night, we should go out. But we hadn't changed any money over, so had no cash for a cab, and both of us were wearing sweatpants which we'd thought would be so clever for the long flight home. It was only 7pm, and for the first time on the entire trip, we opted for conservatism. Even television in another language was failing to hold our attention, and so we made a nest of blankets on the floor, drank 15 Euro wine out of Marriott coffee cups, and watched "30 Rock" on his laptop. Not a bad night.

The next morning, we hit up the free breakfast buffet (which was magical - breakfast buffets having been a highlight of our trip - more on this later) and got to the airport early to check on two things: our luggage, and the possibility of upgrading to business class. The luggage, they assured us, was going to New York with us on the flight. All was ok. We didn't need to do anything. The upgrade was "only:" $2,500 apiece. We declined. We went shopping at a bookstore in the airport, where we happily stumbled upon British-released novels by authors we both liked that hadn't been released in the US, and where I stocked up on British Glamour and Cosmo (so much more entertaining than US smut). With a few hours still to go before the flight to New York, we settled at a cafe with coffee and tea, and read our newfound treasures.

After going through four passport checks and two more rounds of security (Turkey does not eff around with international travel), we finally boarded our flight to New York and discovered the only delightful silver lining of the situation: we couldn't buy our way into business class, but we had the next best thing, which was two seats in front of the emergency exit. If you have to be on an 11-hour flight, this is the place to be. You can stretch your legs out into oblivion, you're right next to the bathroom, and no one in front of you is adjusting his or her seat while you're trying to eat dinner off a tray attached to the back of it. Emergency exit seating is clutch. The Gentleman, who is a mere 6'4", was visibly relieved. Being folded into an airline seat for anything more than  a few hours requires him to pop ibuprofen like candy to keep from total pain. 

The flight from Istanbul to JFK was peaceful. I watched a few movies, drank a dew glasses of wine, ate the not-too-bad airline food, and dreamed about getting home, doing laundry, taking a shower, and curling up in my bed with the cats.

The glow of feeling better-rested and calm now that we were on our way was short-lived.

We got to JFK, pushed our way through customs again, and went to baggage claim. Everything was running on time, but it had taken longer than anticipated for us to get through passport control, and we had a mere hour and a half before our flight to Baltimore. We stood at the baggage carousel and waited. And waited. And waited.

The Gentleman and I checked three suitcases between us: his, mine, and one small one that we filled with all the stuff we bought. We reasoned that ours was probably first on the plane that morning, so would be last to come out. Sure enough, the last luggage to roll down the belt was The Gentleman's suitcase, our mini gift-suitcase, and someone's bright red Ferrari duffel bag. Not mine.

Panicked, we searched the belt again. Nothing. We were running out of time, and still needed to go through the second round of customs where they would search our checked luggage. We still needed to check in for our Delta flight, and check our bags. An attendant standing near the belt told us to go immediately to Lost and Found, located just on the other side of customs. We breezed through customs, and stood in another line of angry, irate people who have now been bumped, missed flights, and have lost luggage. It was not a good place for any human being to be. 

At this point, any shred of calm I had left in me completely and totally disappeared. We had an hour to get on our next flight, which included checking in and checking our bags. Finally, it was our turn. 

Here is what should have happened: the attendant would take down my contact information, fill out a reference report, copy my passport, and give me a reference number and tell us to be on our way, that they would track the bag and have it Fed Ex'd to us when it was found.

Here is what actually happened: the attendant looked quizzically at us and remarked that it seemed odd that two of the pieces of luggage would make it, but not the third. He asked us again and again if we had checked the tags of every piece of luggage on the belt. Of course we hadn't - I hadn't seen my suitcase, so it's not like I went through and looked at all of the serial numbers on all of the bags.

"Wait here, I will go look and see," he said. And here is where I made another crucial mistake:

"Your bag is black, correct?" he asked. "Black, upright, wheels, handle?"

"Yes," I said. I was exhausted and overwhelmed, I was stressed and anxious, and I was so far gone in my mind that I forgot that my bag, which my parents gave me right before I left, was not black. It's green-gray.

He returned ten minutes later. "We have your bag. But no ID tag on it. But we have it. It must go through customs and be checked by TSA before we can bring it to you. So please just wait over there. Ten minutes, please."

Relieved, we made our way over to the side. At this point, we had ten minutes left to check in for our Delta flight. By some act of God, the ticket counter was right next to the Turkish Airlines lost and found counter. I sent The Gentleman over with my passport to check us in, check the two bags we had, and explain the circumstances.

We waited for forty five minutes. The Lost and Found attendant went to check on our bag again.

"Sorry. TSA is on their allotted break. Your bag cannot be checked until they return."

I'm sorry, what? Are you fucking kidding me? TSA is on a BREAK? Yes, yes, union and all that or whatever, but COME THE HELL ON.

"You should go and catch your flight. I will have the bag Fed Ex'd to you tonight. Please call Turkish Airlines as soon as you get to Baltimore, and explain the situation."

At this point, I dissolved into a fresh round of exhausted, child-like crying. I did NOT want to leave JFK without a visual on my bag. Something in me knew that if I left the situation, I'd never see it again. I  should have paid attention to this instinct. Instead, I allowed the attendant to convince us that all was fine, I would get my bag, we should hurry to not miss our Delta flight.

The Gentleman bought me a turkey sandwich and a water, and hurried me to the Delta gate. I could not stop crying. He kept reassuring me, kept trying to tell me that everything was fine. I was at the end of my rope. It had been 48 hours of travel, I was exhausted and disgusting, and I had no luggage.

Compounding this: we are scheduled to take a train back to New York City tomorrow for a glamorous weekend of New Years Festivities with friends I cannot wait to see. Knowing that I was leaving my bag in the bowels of JFK meant I would have no clean clothes, no nice shoes, no party dresses, no accessories, nothing. I had overpacked for Jordan, filled my suitcase with brand new clothes I'd just bought, and I had almost nothing back in Baltimore suitable for a weekend in New York. Nothing.

I cried like someone had run over my cat. I cried as they checked my boarding pass and passport, I cried as I boarded the tiny commuter plane, I cried while we waited on the tarmac, and I cried during take-off. Less then three minutes in the air, I suddenly recalled why I felt so icky about the situation:

"My suitcase. It isn't black. It's GRAY," I wailed to The Gentleman, who is a total and complete saint exuding nothing but patience.

I cried for the next ten minutes, fell asleep in a headachey, stuffy position, and woke up just before landing to start crying again.

While The Gentleman waited for our two pieces of luggage at the carousel, I called Turkish Airlines.

"What is your reference number?" the employee asked me.

"I don't have one, I-"

"You did not file a reference report at JFK?"
"No, the attendant said that he would send us the bag-"

"Without a reference number, we have no tracking and no responsibility. You must go back to JFK with your passport and boarding pass and fill out a reference report."

"I have to get my bag?"

"Yes, we can do nothing over the phone."

At this point, it was 9pm EST, and so 4am to our bodies. And I did what any person who has been traveling for 48 hours, shoved and pushed, kept away from my home and my bed, my cats and clean clothes. I hung up on the attendant and sobbed.

The Gentleman's friend came to pick us up and take us home. I cried all the way. I cried until the  moment I laid down on my bed, passed out for five hours, and woke up dead awake at 5am and cried some more.

I fell back asleep and woke up around 8:30. I didn't have anything left in me to cry anymore. I walked to Whole Foods where The Gentleman bought me a coffee, some oatmeal, and some Calming Tea.

My morning has been spent calling every Turkish Airlines ticket counter, Lost and Found, and Cargo Service in JFK. No one apparently showed up to work today. I'm still wearing the same clothes I was wearing when I left the hotel in Amman at 3am Tuesday morning. 

We are due to leave for New York tomorrow on an Amtrack train at 8am. It seems now that we will not be meeting up with our friends as scheduled, but going straight to JFK to try and hunt down my luggage. I am not crying anymore, but that is only because I am so drained, I have no tears left.

As I said, this too shall pass. We got back safely, everything lost is just things. I am home, with my cats, and I am about to take an epic shower and put on clean clothes. I just had the best trip of my life. This lost baggage, even if it is permanently lost, is an inconvenience. The important things are this:

1. We are home safe.
2. I could not have gone through this experience with anyone but The Gentleman, further pointing me to believe that he is the best person on this earth.
3. I crossed about 17 things off of my bucket list in the last week.
4. The Gentleman has lost baggage protection on his credit card, which was used to book the flights. If my baggage is well and truly lost, I will take whatever money I can get and buy a whole new wardrobe.
5. I am from a country that is recognized around the world as an actual country, and have a valid passport. I will never take those two things for granted again.

Just breathe.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011


يسافر - travel

I'm sitting on my bed drinking my Whole Foods coffee, eating a bagel with lox, and watching Tori and Dean while totally judging them for having the most boring lives ever.

Even if this wasn't the day we leave for vacation, it would still be a pretty decent day off of work, so far.

Last night was the last trivia of 2011, which was fantastic. All of my regular teams showed up, prizes were given out, and a couple of the teams decided to send me off on vacation with shots of Jack Daniels Honey, which is equal parts kind of delicious yet totally disgusting. 

Everything has been moving so fast, I can't believe that we're leaving in just a few hours. I have packed and repacked my suitcase about seventeen times, each time forgetting/remembering something crucial. 

(Scarves! I need more scarves!)

(Layers! More layers!)

(Note to self: this is not a good time to flick through a news website and read the article on that plane crash in Texas.)

I digress.

Today is going to be an incredibly long day. We'll be landing in Istanbul at what will feel like 2:30am, and then tour the city until 10am (EST). Really, we are landing at 9:30am Eastern European Time, and heading back to Ataturk International around four in the afternoon tomorrow to fly to Amman. But unless I can get some sleep on the plane (which is unlikely as The Gentleman collected a list of movies I've been wanting to see on his tablet), it's gonna be 24 hours of exhausting travel.

Not that I am complaining. I have very little to complain about these days.

Part of what I'm most looking forward to on this trip is that mind-blowing experience of going somewhere totally and completely outside of your comfort zone. It happened to me when I went to New Orleans, it's happened every time I've been to another country, and it happens often with my job where I am exposed to inner-city Baltimore families and neighborhoods I'd never normally traverse on my own. 

Going to Jordan will be an experience in and of itself, but it's also a great opportunity to have exposure to things that sort of get drowned out in the American media. Jordan is the eye of a lot of hurricanes, and Amman supports a lot of different people in its borders. I will hear about Palestine and Syria without the lens of the American media. I will see divides of wealth that are virtually unheard of in the US. I will see a place where women have gained independence far more recently. And I will see women who adhere to more traditional values that might feel conflicting to me.

Stepping outside of your world offers new perspectives that you take home with you and turn over in your mind, and they change you, however subtly or overtly, forever. I value these experiences and consider them vital to my existence. I have always been curious about the world, always wanting to learn more, always wanted to sate my itching traveling foot.

And then there's the aesthetics. Beautiful ruins, breathtaking views. Tastes, smells, textures, stories, and all of the things that make travel amazing.

And I get to do all of this with The Gentleman. That's pretty freaking awesome, and possibly the best part. He is my most favorite travel partner.

I could not be more psyched for this trip.

I need to go repack my suitcase again.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

48 Hours to Jordan...

Well, really more like...72. 48 hours until we leave, and then a solid 24 hours of traveling from Tuesday to Wednesday.

The itinerary has us flying to New York on Tuesday afternoon, and then from New York to Istanbul. We have a decent layover in Istanbul that leaves us with about 5-6 hours free (after arrival/customs/re-check in) with which to explore the city. From there, we fly to Amman, arriving Wednesday night (Amman time - Wednesday afternoon EST).

I've dealt with jeg lag before, and the biggest time frame I've had to combat is +6 hours when I went to Italy. Turkey and Jordan are both only +7 hours, but the killer here is the travel times - leaving Tuesday afternoon and arriving in Istanbul at what will feel like about 2:30 in the morning, having to spend the next 7-8 hours awake as we tour Istanbul, check back into the airport, and then fly to Amman. The plus side is that we'll get to Amman in the evening on Wednesday and hopefully just want to pass out at the hotel, giving us a fresh start on Thursday.

The other clincher here is that we're only gone for a week, so I have a feeling that as soon as we adjust to the time change, it'll be time to come back.

And these are the biggest problems I have to ponder at this moment. That, and wondering what to wear. Currently my room looks as though there were forty people standing in it during a Rapture. There are full outfits draped over every available space, and mapped out on the floor. Because when you travel, you have to take the entire outfit into consideration.


I digress. The most important items, however are packed:

Passport? Check.

International Driver's license? Check.

Journal? Check.

Tina Fey? Check.

Good to go.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

First Little Italy Christmas

In all of the crazed preparation for spending Christmas in the Middle East, I managed to take some time out to decorate New House (which is less "New" now and more just "House," or even "Home") with the roommates.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Because We're Only In Jordan Until the 27th....

...have to have New Years plans!

We get back from Jordan on December 27th, have two days at home (which will probably be spent sleeping off some epic jet lag), and promptly leave at 8am on the 30th to head to NYC for the weekend to stay with New Kid, go back to the best steakhouse I've ever experienced, and meet up with The Gentleman's friends who are flying in from Cali for the weekend.

Naturally, because it's New Years, in New York, we made reservations. Tickets are booked for Ars Nova's New Years' Eve Spectacular. I am beyond psyched.

5th annual Book Club Christmas party tonight. Booze, potluck, White Elephant exchange that always turns more than a little bit competitive, and a discussion of "Matched." Why is Young Adult literature so awesome these days?

Other things I've read recently that I highly recommend (and all passed on to me courtesy of Stupid, who has great taste in literature):

One week from now, we'll be on a plane to Istanbul. Where did December go?

Friday, December 9, 2011


So, we are less than two weeks out from the Big Trip, and I'm starting to get that frazzled, frantic feeling that comes before any vacation. Especially one to, oh you know, the Middle East.

After having done some due diligence and asking around of friends who are well-traveled, I feel that I have a pretty good set of expectations for this trip. For one thing, we're going to Istanbul and Amman; not to, say, Saudi Arabia. I'm allowed to drive a car, walk around with my head uncovered, and exercise a host of other freedoms not available to women in certain countries of the world. Amman is pretty Westernized and full of expats. They are used to tourists and, should I choose, I could pretty much wear/do whatever I wanted.

That being said, I like to think of myself as a considerate traveler. I wouldn't dream of walking around baring cleavage in Amman any more than I would wear hot pants to church. No one's going to arrest me, but it's just common courtesy. And failure to comply with good manners earns you stares, whispers, and sometimes flat-out rudeness from the locals. All of which I'd like to avoid.

I'll also fully admit that I am glad to be traveling with The Gentleman. My first sojourn into the Middle East, and I would not like to be traveling as a solo female. Secondly, The Gentleman's brother speaks fluent Arabic, which is a major asset for us. I intend to coax him into going shopping with me so that I can have a third-party haggler for goods.

But all of this wanting to be polite and not stand out has led to a sartorial crisis for me. What the hell does one wear in Jordan? While I know it's not a fashion show, I'm a girl who likes Styles and Things, and it's just as important to me that I'm fashionable while remaining conservative.

I posed this question to one of my aunts, and she supplied this incredible helpful blog entry (ask Google and ye shall receive!), which has now become a sort of blueprint for the kinds of things I should pack.

Layers, layers, and more layers. The weather there looks to be fluctuating between 40F at night and upper 50s during the day, which is perfect layering weather. But then, you also have to be fashionable whilst dune buggying, ruins-climbing, Turkish coffee-sipping, market-browsing, and Christmas-dinner-in-Amman-eating. Good thing my parents gave me an absolutely gigantic suitcase to take with me, and good thing The Gentleman comes equipped with nice muscley arms. Because I certainly can't carry the thing myself. I'm busy being fashionable and aware of local customs.

Along with ripping apart my closet and probably making several emergency trips to TJ Maxx (Oh, how I love thee....), there's a bevy of other To Do items that need to be taken care of. But it will all get done. So I tell myself.

Side note: tonight is Lee and Hot Curry's Final Goodbye. They are climbing into the car tomorrow to head westward for Salt Lake City for the next 4 years. I won't cry. So I tell myself.

Mostly, though, I'm so incredibly excited. Two weeks from today, I'll be in Jordan! Oh wait...crap...TWO WEEKS FROM TODAY, I'LL BE IN JORDAN. I have things to do! Chop, chop!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Receipt

I think only when you truly respect and care about someone can you drive them to the utter edges of insanity...and find it entertaining.

The Gentleman and I were in CVS, waiting for our digital photos to be processed. We needed two of the standard-issue passport photos to obtain our international driving permits so that we can rent a car in Amman. It was a Saturday, and we'd just come from brunch where, naturally, there were...ahem...beverages consumed.

In that effortlessly-charming-and-endlessly-annoying way, he casually crumpled up the receipt for the photos and leaned forward, slyly stuffing the trash into my sweatshirt pocket. And thought himself a genius, no doubt, for not only depositing of this detritus but also now complicating my life. All while smiling so dazzlingly at me. What a nice thing to do.

I decided that throughout this day of running errands and completing chores, what might liven things up a bit is if I declared this receipt the thing that would ultimately send The Gentleman over the edge of sanity. And so I just smiled, removed the crumpled ball of paper from my pocket, and slipped it into the pocket of my jeans, unbeknownst to him.

A few minutes later, I made a very touching gesture of slipping my arm around his shoulders, my hand dangling right next to his ear. And I began squeezing and crumpling the receipt at a rapid pace. Which isn't, naturally, anything heart-stopping. Unless you're not expecting it. The grotesque facial expression that snapped out of his features was so satisfying, I was instantly both pleased and proud of myself for thinking of this game.

Later, we were in the car, heading to Triple A to pick up the licenses. I leaned over as if to whisper a secret and crumpled the receipt next to his ear, making sure to brush the paper just inside the ear so as to elicit the maximum response.




"Don't worry about it."

I did it again, and again, and again. Always when he had his guard down, when he was looking away. Over the course of the afternoon, the receipt lost its crinkly-ness and became worn. Instead of snapping and crackling in his ear, it began to whisper the sweet hush of demonic, tortured gargoyles crying up from the gates of hell. Each time, his face contorted a little further until I began to gleefully imagine it getting stuck that way.

Serve him right for putting trash in my pocket.

He cracked that night. After the millionth time of me crumpling the receipt in very close proximity to his ear, he turned on me, and I spied the green rubber band that had been residing on his wrist had now migrated to the cocked and loaded position between thumb and forefinger. The very stance that boys used to torture me in years past: the rubber band finger gun.

Paper might cover rock, but it's powerless against scissors and completely useless against the rubber band finger gun. That is the end-all to all annoying behavior conversations; the trump card of mischievous activity. One cannot compete.

Game over, I sadly tossed the now-shredded receipt into the trash and declared my surrender against the rubber band finger gun. I will admit when I'm beat.

However, I've been to Whole Foods twice since that day, and have started stockpiling those green rubber bands.

Because the only thing that beats the rubber band finger gun is dual draws on both hands.