Transportation in Amman is, to say the least, well… different than in America. My roommate Meighan and I have taken up the near impossible, by traveling by bus to and from school each day. Each morning we wake up at 6 am. Since we are in the midst of Ramadan, we must drink and eat everything necessary before we leave the house. By 7 am, we head out to the Eighth Circle, with our host brother, Shareef.
This is when things become difficult. Think, “Chevy Chases’ European Vacation,” traffic circles. We have to cross in front the morning traffic, to get to the other side, where the hoard of ‘coaster’ busses is located. Amman has a private bus system, made up small 15 passenger van/bus things. 15 passengers, however, is just merely a suggestion. 20 can easily be crammed onto the small, smelly things.
If we make it to the “bus stop” (again, merely a suggested bus stop), before 7:13, we are able to catch a bus directly to the university. If not, we may have to bargain with the bus drivers, or just give in and take two busses.
The bus system works like this: there is a bus driver and a money collection man (no official title, to my knowledge). The money collection boy/man also works as a digital sign or a map of the bus routes in the US. He yells out the names of the destination (often contradictory to what is written on the side of the bus) and his yelling is comparable to that of an auctioneer. “Sweleh,Sweleh,Sweleh,” is repeated over and over again, similar to an auctioneer yelling, “DoIhear$500,$500,$500 forthisbeautifuldiamondring?”
After getting on the bus (on which we are always the minority as women and Americans), we usually make it to our destination. However, there have been a handful of times, which we have not quite reached our destination. We decided to take the Madaba bus, which we had been told would drop us off on Airport Road, the highway near our house. However, it seems that there are two ways to get to the airport, and we chose wrong! The bus driver stopped the bus and told us that this was as close as we were going to get to the Eighth Circle. We got off and we standing on the edge of a busy highway (comparable to I-5, but much less organized). However, since we are in Amman, we were able to hail a taxi in approximately 6.8 seconds and make it home in 4.5 minutes.
The busses have no schedule and leave whenever they are full. They also, apparently, wait for their drivers to do their mid-day prayer. Meighan and I were sitting on a Sweleh bus to get to the Eighth Circle, when we noticed our driver take his rug out, set it down on the street, and begin his prayer. This is the point at which you remember that you are not in America, but in a country where religion is everything, and bus schedules are just a joke.
P.S. Apologies for the lack of picture evidence to support the Amman bus phenomenon. Taking my camera out would not be using any common sense.
P.P.S. Apologies for the delay between posts. My excuse? Ramadan. Nothing gets done.