Monday, July 31, 2006

Accidental bus ride

Transportation in Jordan can sometimes be a hassle...well, it's always a hassle. The main mode of public transportation is the ubiquitous minibus, which are privately owned and go pretty much anywhere. They usually follow a set route, but are sometimes negotiable, like the one we took to Wadi Mujib and the Dead Sea. You always risk not getting on the right bus.

Since I take the bus to and from school everyday, getting a wrong bus is a semi-common occurence for me, but is easily fixed, since the bus driver usually changes his route for me (weird stuff...)

We had a similar problem going to Jerash. When we got to the Abdali bus station, I started looking around for the line of Jerash minibusses. The destination is always written on the side of the bus, and I had seen Jerash busses before, so I knew that they existed. I soon found our lucky bus. On the side was written "Amman to Jerash Camp" and in my momentary ignorance, I figured that meant a military camp or a tourist campground. I asked the driver if it went by the main Jerash ruins and he replied affirmatively. So off we went...

It didn't take me long to figure out what the Jerash Camp really was. The bus was full of Palestinian refugees heading home to their ghetto refugee camp. Hmmm...that's kind of dangerous for Americans to go to, since they place direct blame for their situation on us and Israel. But we were already underway, so we decided to ride it out.

An old guy next to me asked me why we were on that bus - he already knew we were Americans. He then drilled me on America's policies with Israel and started getting angry with me. He used an analogy 3 different ways to explain his anger at Israel - "What if someone came and kicked you out of your house at night? Would you try to get it back?", "What if I stole your bag and drank all your water? Would you want your water back?" and "What if this was your bus and I stole it from you? Would you want it back? Would you fight for it?"

I just kept telling him that I didn't support Israel and didn't support America's policies towards them and that I was against the war in Lebanon and Palestine. He couldn't believe that an American would say such things.

It didn't help that he spoke to me exclusively in broken English - it made the others on the bus very wary. I responded to him in Arabic the whole time, and it was pretty funny when he asked me halfway through the conversation if I spoke Arabic.

Anyway, during his heated conversation, some guy got on the bus and sat in front of me. He heard that we were talking and turned around and yelled at the old guy "Do you know what you're talking to!? Do you know where he's from? He's a Zionist supporter from America!!". The old guy just said "Yeah, I know. It's okay - he likes Hizballah - he hates the Jews." That wasn't completely true - I definitely don't hate Jews (since I'm 1/4th-ish Jewsih), and I'm not completely against Hizballah - but I wasn't about to negate my "redeeming qualities" in front of the angry guy. He angrily turned around back in his seat and was mostly silent during the rest of the trip.

He only spoke up in response to the BBC news that was on the radio. Every time America, Bush, Condoleeza Rice, or Israel mentioned, he and half the bus would mumble something. Once, after Rice was mentioned in one news report, he turned to me and said "That's your stupid foreign minister coming here. What are you going to do about it?!" I just ignored him and remained silent for the rest of the trip.

It was a huge relief to get off that bus at Jerash. Fun experience, yes. Something I want to do again, not really. At least, not during an Israeli war.

The way home was easier and much more peaceful. We found a busy intersection where tons of people were waiting around for something. I asked if they were waiting for a bus to go to Amman, but one girl responded by telling me that there were no busses to Amman and that we had to find a ride. Some guy overheard our conversation and came to offer us a ride for 6 JD for all of us. Since we paid 40 piasters each coming up, that was way too expensive, so we declined his offer. I asked other bystanders, and they all agreed - there was no bus to Amman. We decided that there had to be a bus to Amman, so we walked down the main road to find the city bus station. After 10 minutes of walking, a large bus for Amman pulled over and we got in.

Our bus drove up to the intersection where everyone was waiting, and everyone got on - even the girl who denied the existence of such a bus. Unfortunately she didn't see us on the bus...I had so wanted to call her bluff!


Anonymous said...

The way I remember it you walked right by the bus and I asked "Where are you going, this bus goes to Jerash" and you said, "Oh, it does? I thought it might, but I wasn't sure because it said something else." Or something to that effect.

Anonymous said...

Well, we read that it said Jerash...but it said Jerash CAMP and not just Jerash so we proceeded to look for another bus since we've seen other normally painted buses (with the stripes) that go to Jerash. Apparently the ugly grey buses are just for refugees.

So, we weren't sure that it went to Jerash-Jerash, which is entirely different than Jerash...

Crys said...

To those of you like my sister (Angi) who read this blog to check up on me because you don't think I'm being entirely honest about our security situation I would just like to say I find things ten times more exciting when Andrew writes them then they actually were when they happened. I haven't been on a single bus in this country where someone hasn't yelled about something. True this was American related but lots of Jordanians are easily excitable (Don't take offense guys. I'm latin and goodness knows I've made more threats over the Jason's love of the illiniloyalty blog then are really warranted so I'm with you.). This means that a full out fight may break out over a near death experience or a bus driver that is taking to long to get started. Go figure! I guess what all this boils down to is ANGI I'M FINE!