Notes from Amman, Jordan with a Surprise Knock on the Door

This time, Nobuko is in Amman/Jordan and has this to say.

My flight from Alexandria arrived in Amman at 5pm. Air Arabia is a nice airline – I liked the friendly service, food, and the punctuality. The price was good at $110! I got myself a Jordanian SIM card, and then took a 45-minute ride on a  bus into the city. But Amman is a challenging city to navigate – it’s big (of course, it’s the capital!) with wide multi-lane avenues. I should have had a good map or a 3G ready device with map function in my hand.

I had contacted a host via couch surfing. She told me the neighborhood where she lives, so the bus driver dropped me off at the nearest stop to that area. At that time, I did not know this, but it’s quite far from the city center.

When I called my couch-surfing (CS) host, she instructed me to call her again after catching a cab, that she would give the address to the driver. Well, cab drivers in Amman are not so kind with tourists. If you don’t cough up big bucks, they simply drive away. I tried several cabs and each time I had to call my CS host again. I asked her to text me her address to avoid using up my phone credit, but she claimed that she had no credit herself and was unable to send outgoing calls or texts… and she also refused to tell me verbally, since she didn’t believe that I would be able to say it correctly (I do not speak Arabic).

I never found a cab who agreed on the fare. Soon I ran out of credit. The SIM card I had bought came with only 15 minutes worth of credit, and there was no store nearby where I could buy more. One hour had passed by this time, me on the curb side hustling for a cab. And I was carrying my bag weighing 15kg in total. So I decided to ditch the cab and my unhelpful CS host, and walked to look for a bus stand to go to city center instead.

However, since I was in an area that resembled U.S. suburbs with hardly any pedestrians, I could not find people to ask for directions. I wandered around for 30 minutes, and found a bus going by and tried to flag it down. But here in Amman, a modern and organized city, it seems that buses don’t stop unless you are at a stop. OK.I found a food joint and asked there “Salaam alecom, bus?” You can imagine how successful this interaction went. I really cursed myself for not knowing Arabic. I saw and flagged down a mini van (collective taxi) and said “City center?”. The driver nodded yes, so I hopped on. But a fellow passenger, who spoke English informed me, that the bus is NOT going to city center. So I got off after two stops.

I was fine to hunt for the right bus, but I was tired of carrying my bags. I saw a hotel-like building nearby, and walked there in hope of getting someone to help me. It was not a hotel, but there was a travel agency! The manager, Mr. Ali, who spoke fluent English, tried all that I requested, but in the end, said its far easier if he just dropped me off himself at a hotel in the city center. He served me coffee and sweets in a luxurious waiting room with a nice sofa – he even let me use the computer for internet – while I waited for him to close the office.

Then he drove me to a hotel (Palace Hotel). His parents are from Palestine and he was born and raised in Saudi Arabia. He recently took a trip to New York and found it boring to be there alone. I can understand that. Being in a mega modern city alone is not fun. I checked in and had two beers, Skyped with my friend Maria in Germany (the host blogger) and went to sleep.

The next day, I walked to the Citadel. It was a 30-minute walk uphill, but a pleasant one since there were hardly any cars driving by. The view it commands is amazing. You can see the city at 360 degrees around. From there, I walked down to the Roman Theatre, which casually sits by a busy road. Some locals approached me during my walk, but Jordanians – or more accurately, Amman residents – seemed less extroverted compared to Egyptians. I stopped at a food joint and had a big meal for 3 JD ( 1 JD = $0.73), so this is not so cheap. But the owner gave me free refills on salads and beans for which I was very happy!

The points of interests are spread out in Amman. So if you try to walk it, or do it cheaper by bus, you need a lot of of time. I gave up the idea of visiting mosques on the opposite hill from the Citadel and instead walked around the market near the hotel. Out of all, honey stores and shops that sell naughty lingerie stood out because I love honey and I find it charmingly interesting that predominantly Muslim countries (Egypt likewise) openly sell fantasy triggering night wear.

Every time I see one of these lingerie store I want to go in and look what else they have inside, but unfortunately the shop keepers are always men and I assume that me going in alone may not end in a harassment-free interaction. But why are the shop keepers selling women’s lingerie  men? Do only men go to these places to buy skimpy underwear for their wives and girlfriends? Don’t women go there themselves? I actually have never seen any customer inside – neither women nor men. So I don’t know what the make up of the clientele is.

That same night, I also received a surprise from a hotel worker. At 10pm, there was a knock on my door. I was stupid to open it, but I did. In India, I would have NEVER done that. There stood this guy who works as a cleaner. He asked me if everything was OK, and if I needed anything. I said no. Then he zipped down and pulled out his not so impressing wee wee….. I was speechless for a few seconds, due to the caliber of stupidity of this, but came back to myself and got really pissed off. I pushed him away (and he hit the wall and almost fell – with his ding dong hanging out, which is a funny scene to recall) and I locked the door.

Immediately, he started to bang on my door begging for my forgiveness. What an idiot! I called the front desk using my cell phone and asked the attendant to come to my room. He came, and that idiot was still standing there, half crying. Anyway, we settled the matter by the idiot paying for my hotel fee. Had he touched me even with one finger, I would have pressed charges against him. But this is all funny now. Ladies, be smart and don’t open the door, even if the knock comes from a worker.

Well, I raved about how I had never been subjected to sexual harassment in Egypt. But this guy was Egyptian. Just like anywhere, there are always stupid people as well as gentlemen. The male friends I made in Egypt were mortified and ashamed when I told them the story.

Women’s Safety Issues and Precautions in India

Nobuko is back in India and reporting about the general situation in regards to women, safety (or lack of it), and men’s attitudes. This is what she had to say:

Safety in India cannot be generalized. Certain areas are more challenging for women travellers, most notably Delhi which got a notorious reputation as the rape capital, and central and north-western states like Rajasthan, part of Punjab, Utter Pradesh, Bihar, and central Maharashtra.

I can speak for Mumbai (capital of Maharashtra) since I lived in a suburb called Santa Cruz, one hour north of the center, for three months last year. In Mumbai, I could go out till well past midnight and catch a auto rickshaw back to my place alone with no problem. No cat- calling, whistles, or groping. But I have met some European women accompanied by men being groped on streets or in trains, which are so packed!

Perhaps I got no hustle in Mumbai, because I am Asian and can appear as Nepali or someone from the northeastern states of India. Having said that, a young professional woman was raped and killed in her apartment last September in a suburb of Mumbai. The killer/rapist was the security guard of the building where she lived. And, to strengthen the stereotype, the stereotypes are from the Delhi area.

South India is like a different country, where people are civilized and many more people are educated and see women as people, not as meat. Well, even this cannot be generalized as I have heard from so many Caucasian women that in the city of Mysore, boys around age 8-9 spit out slurs like “Hey, you want f*@k?” and grope adult women! Clearly they are learning this type of behavior from older males around them.

I also have been to Sikkim state and have gone through Darjeeling in West Bengal state. There it feels very safe. I noticed a bigger Tibetan and Nepalese population. and I don’t want to come across as being racist against central and northern Indians, but I could not help guessing that perhaps Tibetans and Nepalis have a different upbringing, which gave me the impression that they are more liberal in terms of how they relate to women. Perhaps they have more self control, or getting more sex with consenting partners that they don’t feel the need to go out and rape fellow human beings.

Unfortunately, the Swiss rape victim a few weeks ago was camping (!!). I would NEVER dream of camping where she was – Madhy Pradesh, in central India, no matter if accompanied by a man or alone. If she had stayed in a guest house, I am sure nothing would have happened to her. I feel very bad for her, but here in India, visitors need to realize that they cannot do things that they are used to doing back home – including enjoying the freedom and safety to be able to camp.

Men in those areas I mentioned above are raised, in my opinion, in sick societies where respect towards women is probably unheard of. Even police and officials make public statements that justify such uncontrolled acts of men releasing their sexual compulsion by saying “Well, but she was walking / travelling alone after dark without the company of a male family member” or “She was drinking and smoking alone” or “She was improperly dressed, therefore provoking it”. This problem of violence and disrespect against women is more than skin deep as you can see.

If people in power think like this, why are we so puzzled when men raised with this type of norm go out and do whatever they want using women as their game?  They think of not only raping a helpless woman, but also hurt her by sticking a metal rod inside of her to the point where irreversible and fatal physical damages are caused?

Women in certain areas are not able to enjoy the same freedom as men do,  like going to a football game, drinking in a bar, going to visit friends after dark, or even travel to the next village alone. If she does, it’s her fault when men selfishly use her as an object to satisfy their pitiful sexual needs. Have any of these lower-than-animals thought of masturbating instead of raping? Masturbation is humane, hygienic, and convenient.

More and more I am learning that rape happens so much that people are desensitized. It’s like “Oh, yeah, my neighbor was raped last week.” “Ah, my cousin was raped last month”. But these normally happen to poor girls who are in the lower caste. And rapists are often sons of equally dick heads who hold power in politics or commerce.  So the cases go unreported.

In December, a case in Delhi made headlines, because it involved a middle class Indian woman, whose father was somewhat involved in local politics. That is why it became such a big news world wide.

And the Swiss woman was a foreigner, so there again, this made it to the news. But if the rape victim is of the lowest caste, there is no such luck, because caste society does not give a shit about those people – actually they are not considered human. Just another animal that does the jobs the others don’t want to do.

All this may result in my losing opportunities to interact with the locals, but the more time I spend (again, in certain places) in India, the more I feel it is not worth the risk of being harassed.

I’m iron-hard and cold towards Indian men. I give them dirty looks when they stare at me and am not afraid to make a scene by yelling at them to catch other people’s attention. when those scum bags approach me with distasteful, to say the least, behavior and comments.

Thanks, Nobuko, for sharing your insights here with us.

Sitting Next to Family on U.S. Flights

Yesterday’s New York Times edition listed the following article in its section International Traveler:

Quoting: Want to sit next to your family? You might have to pay extra

If you are flying in the United States this summer, be prepared to kiss your family goodbye at the gate. Even if they are on the same plane.

U.S. airlines are reserving more window and aisle seats for passengers who are willing to pay extra. That helps to increase revenue but makes it harder for friends and family members who do not pay the fee to sit next to each other. At the peak of the summer travel season, it might be nearly impossible.

Buying tickets two or more months in advance may help. But passengers are increasingly finding that the only way to sit next to a spouse, child or friend is to pay US$ 25 or more, each way.

———————–

Yes, there are more and more ways to charge passengers extra to cover the rising cost of fuel. But I wonder about the airlines’ safety policy of a parent having to sit next to a child during take-off and landing.

Back in 2006, on our flight to the U.S., my husband and I took the liberty to sit together with both kids sitting together in front of us. We were advised this was not possible as it went against safety regulations. Each parent had to sit with one child.

How will this fit in with the above charges? On one hand, I have to sit with my child and on the other, I have to pay extra. This would be ludicrous. Imagine a possible scuffle… just before take-off and landing.

Safety Code for Hotel Key Cards

A simple reminder for travelers:

Always take a small magnet on your holiday, they come in handy at the end. Just in case, you never thought about key cards containing anything other than an access code for your room

Hotel Key Card

What is on your magnetic key card?

Answer:
a.  Customer’s name
b.  Customer’s partial home address
c.  Hotel room number
d..  Check-in date and out dates
e. Customer’s credit card number and expiration date!

When  you turn them in to the front desk, your personal information is there for any employee to access by simply scanning the card in the hotel scanner. An  employee can take a hand full of cards home and by using a scanning device,  he/she can access the information onto a laptop computer and go shopping at your  expense.

Simply put, hotels do not erase the information on these cards until an employee reissues the card to the next hotel guest. At that time, the new guest’s information is electronically ‘overwritten’ on the card and the previous guest’s information is erased in the overwriting  process.

But until the card is rewritten for the next guest, it usually is kept in a drawer at the front desk with YOUR INFORMATION ON IT.

The bottom line is: Keep the cards, take them home with you as a souvenir, or destroy them. Never leave them behind in the room or room wastebasket, and do not turn them into the front desk when you check out of a room. They will not charge you  for the card (it’s illegal) and you’ll be sure, you are not leaving a lot of valuable personal information on it that could be easily lifted off with any simple scanning device card reader.

For the same reason, if you arrive at the airport and discover you still have the card key in your pocket, do not toss it in an airport trash basket. Take it home and destroy it by cutting it up, especially through the electronic information strip.

If you have a small magnet, pass it across the magnetic strip several times. Then try it out on the door, it will not work. A magnet erases everything on the card.

Information courtesy of:  Metropolitan Police Service.

Southwest Airlines Flight Attendant’s Rap

Having a welcome rap on board like this would definitely put me more at ease before take-off.

The flight attendant David has only been with Southwest Airlines for seven months, but he thought of a more innovative way to make the otherwise boring sounding mandatory announcements.

[youtube cGs_oV4q7Z4]

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