: 12.07.2010




  Airports, football and queues: Journey to Amman    

The afternoon of the world cup final Holland vs. Spain. Trams have stopped, trains are unreliable. Victoria took me to Schiphol by car. There was a long queue to check in at the economy class Lufthansa desk. I was beginning to worry about being late when a stewardess called for Frankfurt passengers to jump the queue, which I did, be it a little self-consciously. The flight to Frankfurt was unremarkable. Frankfurt airport is gigantic and I had to pass through all sorts of subterranean passages in order to get to B22 where my flight to Amman would take off. I forgot to draw money, I had 10 euro’s in my pocket; this would later turn out to be a bad mistake. In the waiting area two televisions were preparing to show the world cup final to start. Arab men and a very small contingent of women were gathering around the television sets. I was able to watch the kick off and the first few minutes which did not give me a good feeling. I wondered what the children would be feeling. Anyway, we had to leave and we all reluctantly turned our backs to the television screens to join a queue to board the plane. In the plane I sat next to a finely chiselled older Jordanian lady who now lives in Dallas. Just across from us a Jordanian family was moving about to arrange the family as conveniently as possible. They all wanted to sit together. An Arab man arrived in Shorts and an American cap. The father gently asked if it would be alright if his little girl could sit at the window. The man in a broad American Accent got upset because he had especially requested a window seat but because he knew he was being ungenerous, he slightly overreacted with a cross “No I especially booked this seat” and knew it himself. Upset, he roughly heaved his heavy rotund body past the two bodies in his way and sat down, determinedly looking out of his little round window which his large head and thick neck filled completely. The little girl was not going to be able to see much. Later, when the airplane was in the air and the row on the other side of the aisle turned out to be empty, everything sorted itself and the large man moved over and apologized in a gruff sort of way. The lady next to me and I were lucky the seat between us was left empty and so we fell into a light and short conversation. She recommended a few places for me to go to in Amman. The pilot tried to give us the latest football news but spoke so quietly I was not able to hear a thing. We all tried to sleep a little. It didn’t work for me.

On landing we first joined a long queue for the exchange kiosk. Those of us not privileged to be Jordanian needed 10 Dinar for a visa. I was given 8 Dinar by a sharp faced and tired looking man for my paltry 10 euro’s and he would not take coins. Knowing this was going to cause an interesting situation I joined the long queue for the first part of this two part procedure in acquiring a stamp in my passport. When finally arriving at the soldier in charge of his desk, I gave him my passport and he looked at it and asked for the money. I gave him what I had and told him I did not have enough. At this time I about 3.30 AM I was so tired that I forgot to be worried about things. I thought, well, we’ll just see what happens. I was told to go to the departure lounge across the hall and through a corridor where I could get some money from an ATM. I walked towards the corridor, and a man sat at a table blocking it and was not going to let me through. The two men signed each other with well-practised gestures and then I was. I joined a queue for people taking out money from the ATM and when it was my turn, inserted my MasterCard which it refused. It only took Visa, even though Master Card was clearly marked as an option. I returned to the Visa issuing area and went straight to the exchange kiosk and told the tired man I only needed two Jordanian Dinar. He looked at me with his tired, sharp face, his thick dirty curly hair and his bloodshot black eyes and said ….OK three euro’s, which was exactly what I had in coins! I again joined the first queue for the two-part visa queue, now full of ladies in full burca with large tired families, and when it was my turn I handed over the money proudly and was passed through to the second queue with a brief nod; there I eventually received an impressive number of stamps from a surly looking young soldier whose expression was obviously part of his professional technology, as it never changed. So I arrived in the arrivals hall and was approached by a fat man in dirty black suit trousers and a yellowish shirt hanging out of them with his tummy protruding sharply over the belt who asked if I wanted a taxi. Yes I said. Please. 90 Dinar, he said as he handed me over to a taxi driver waiting backstage. He looked at me with a smile. Haha, 90 is ridiculous! He said, Pay me thirrrty. I said: I heard nineteen. Ok, pay me twenty five. There were two of us in the Taxi. A huge fat man whom I had earlier spotted struggling with badly packed suitcases and taped boxes. He sat in the back and I sat next to the driver. Where you from? From Holland. OOOOhhhh! Ah, I thought, so we had lost. I pictured the faces of my children. We chatted football and dropped the Very Fat Man, who had been glued to his mobile almost all the way, near the Israeli Embassy. The fact that this man lived near the Israeli embassy seemed to give rise to much hilarity on the part of the taxi-driver. When the he got back into the taxi to drive me to my hotel, he said in a conspiratorial tone: He is not a Jordanian; he is Iraqi, many Iraqi in Jordan. We drove on, through a city without lines on the roads, just shiny, oily tarmac where drivers hooted gentle little hoots to warn those ahead to move over or to warn them not to swerve. After getting used to it, I found it an argument against the over regulation of traffic that we suffer from in Holland. People here are more aware of each other and their immediate situation and they do not put their trust in systems that merely require even more of their attention to be redirected from the actual problem to be dealt with: other road users. Moreover, there appears to be no road-rage whatever. It is similar to my train back in Holland. I get upset with people talking when in a silent carriage and do not get upset with people talking in a normal carriage. I now prefer to sit quietly in a normal carriage.

Looking though the window the endless self-contained apartment buildings seemed all to be settled on the sand earth with that same lack of geometrical rigor that defined the organisation of traffic. They were, in a literal sense, loosely organised. Organised, but loosely organised. That does not denote a lack of organisation; it denotes a kind of organisation. There is an important difference. We arrived at the hotel. A friendly receptionist gave me my stuff and I got to bed. 5 AM.

Got up again at 8.30. I think I slept. The conference was pretty dreadful from the start. Nothing new. Badly prepared speakers, much of it completely incomprehensible, and this included presentations from England, The States and elsewhere in the Western world. The campus of the university lies to the North of Amman and runs parallel to the Northern Highway. It is arranged around a delightful street closely lined with conifers conferring shade to small groups of young men and chatty young women either with or without headscarf and an occasional one in full burca. I could spot a few mixed couples but not many. Women with women, men with men. That would become a theme. The department of architecture seems a forlorn place. A lot of space and building with very little place. A few drawings of classical Italian buildings stuck indifferently on the wall, here and there piles building materials which can no longer hide that they have been there for a long time. The students, at least I am assuming that it was the students, were allowed to design and build little seating coves, which now that they are beginning to disintegrate through lazy use and neglect, are also beginning to show up their design for what it is: poor and badly thought through. The lockers along a corridor leading to two classrooms have been abandoned as a system of storage and are slowly filling with litter. One of the classrooms had been long ago abandoned; the other was full of bustling students. It is lovely to see students walking around with slide rulers and set squares, even though it says something about funding.

A special lunch was set up for all of us: lukewarm food, I knew myself warned and should have taken heed: spent the whole night going up and down to the loo in my vast hotel room. Mind you, as a food-posing goes it wasn’t at all bad, the one in Copenhagen in January was a lot worse. The conference dinner on Monday was fun; met up with an American who lived in Denmark, a Spanish girl who naturally was ecstatic about Spain winning and an Englishman called Allen with whom I would spend Wednesday in Jerash. Cyrille presented our paper and did very well. We had a good discussion afterwards led by a melancholic American Woody Allen figure filled with a limitless capacity for despair and pessimism. I saw him a number of times since then, every time one of us would say hello, wave in a jolly sort of way before giving some excuse that we were in a rush. I think we were avoiding each other.

On my way from the hotel to the university
20 paces further on
This is big but you can't see that...
Notice Board in the school of architecture: summer holidays
The stair-well
The stairwell
The stariwell with David
The Stairwell with the St Peter
The stariwel looking down
Clear enough
Proud: enjoy the taste of nature. School of Architecture Canteen
University Campus
Tea shop near the university
School of architecture


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