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Wednesday, June 7, 2023

Travel mishaps: How the worst second of my journey to Jordan turned the spotlight

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The worst second of an incredible trip got here on a sunny afternoon in rural Jordan. It was the noon lull of Ramadan in early April, and the winding highway away from Petra was abandoned as we drove south. All apart from the younger man strolling provocatively into the lane 100 yards forward, a lone determine quickly joined by two others.

I slowed and received shut sufficient to see not younger males however boys, 10 or 12 years outdated, strolling the place they should not be. It did not really feel proper. I fished rigorously between them, however, as I gave it some gasoline, they slapped the edges of the automobile, arduous. Then:


The complete again window exploded in a bathe of shards. I hadn’t seen the rock one in every of them had on the prepared.

We have been 4: my sister-in-law Tyrie within the passenger seat, my spouse, Ann, and 16-year-old son, Harry, within the again, wide-eyed and coated in glowing shards. In the side-view mirror, I might see the boys operating in the wrong way.

“Follow them,” Ann shouted.

I reversed, whipped the wheel round and was closing the hole when the boys cut up up: two down a steep highway into the village, one into some timber and out of sight.

It’s humorous how folks react in another way to journey catastrophes. I used to be already deep into the annoyed-but-resigned part. Would we’ve to overlook our subsequent cease on the itinerary, an evening in a desert camp two hours south? Maybe I might tape baggage over the again window?

But Ann had been a Peace Corps instructor in rural Botswana and spent her profession as a global improvement advisor in distant villages all over the world. She was not giving up.

“Let’s find a house,” she mentioned. “Someone will know who they are.”

I sped down the highway to a one-story home, silent and closed. Most households hunker down through the lengthy daylight fasts of Ramadan. As I knocked, I turned and noticed Ann, Tyrie and Harry operating flat out, in three totally different instructions, into the village. One of the boys had reappeared and was simply seen a pair hundred yards away.

“Wait,” I mentioned feebly to nobody.

The door was opened by a school-age woman, trying well mannered however cautious as I defined, in a mixture of English, pantomime and traveller’s Arabic, that we had been attacked: Please, auto, police, shukran, shukran, shukran (thanks).

Moments later, her older brother got here out, adopted by three girls fixing their hijabs in place. I pointed on the ruined again window and on the boy nonetheless simply seen with Harry properly behind him. “Do you know him?”

They peered on the determine earlier than he rounded a nook and one lady mentioned a reputation. She pulled out her cellphone.

In the village, the hunt was on – form of. Harry had overlooked the one boy, so he stopped to eat the vegetable wrap that had been in his hand since earlier than the glass broke.

But Ann was enlisting the assistance of native mums. Tyrie had noticed one boy getting into a yard. Ann knocked on the door, which was opened by a teenage woman flanked by a passel of astonished youngsters, then their mom. The mom nodded and pointed to a home throughout the road.

There, one other mom within the facet yard invited Ann in for tea, however simply then a 3rd lady subsequent door referred to as over. Word was spreading.

“He went there,” the lady mentioned, pointing. “Try there.”

There was no reply at that door. The path was chilly.

We thought.

Ann, Tyrie and Harry all made their means again up the hill, the place the gang across the automobile had grown. More than a dozen neighbours tsk-tsked over our pile of glass. One stocky man named Abdullah, who had discovered the English of a Marriott lodge kitchen, took cost.

“You are all safe,” he mentioned. “A broken window is nothing.”

He supplied to make us tea and lunch, although not even water would cross his lips till sunset, nonetheless seven hours away.

I requested the teenage boy of the home if he would name the police. Abdullah pulled me to at least one facet as he dialled. “Maybe we don’t need police,” he mentioned. “We can help you.”

I reached the Avis workplace in Amman, the place the supervisor was involved and reassuring. He promised to dispatch one other automobile instantly, regardless of the roughly four-hour drive from the capital.

But he was clear about the price. “You will have to give us 200 dinar for the glass,” he mentioned, about $395. “Cash or credit card.”

Suddenly, three boys, ages 10 or 12, have been pushed to the entrance of the onlookers. Abdullah fired questions at them. Their Arabic was defiant. Two started yelling at one another.

Abdullah turned to us. “Are these the boys?”

It appeared so. They had modified garments, however the faces appeared like people who had loomed from the roadway. And but, how might we make sure? We 4 consulted one another wordlessly.

“It was boys like this, this age,” Ann mentioned. “But we can’t be positive.”

Abdullah thought-about, then mentioned: “It was them. They have said so.”

Things started to resolve with out our assist. Two males pulled the remaining glass from the window. Another measured plastic sheeting and tape, and a fourth vacuumed shards from the again seat.

The three girls invited Ann and Tyrie into the home for some shade and a tour. One referred to as her English-speaking sister in Amman to interpret by FaceTime. They supplied espresso, tea and, come sundown, a part of the iftar feast being ready within the kitchen.

Outside, Abdullah gestured for a nervous mustached man along with the gang to come back over.

“This is the father of one of the boys,” Abdullah mentioned. “What do you want to do?”

It can be the daddy, Abdullah had mentioned, who may go to jail.

“What is fair?” I requested, spreading my fingers. “That was very dangerous. My family is very upset.”

They nodded.

“You must pay us for the glass. And the boys must apologise to my wife,” I mentioned. “If so, we will not file a complaint.”

The father nodded, trying relieved, and received on his cellphone. Abdullah shepherded the boys to the place Ann was sitting with the ladies. They spoke in Arabic, and Abdullah mentioned, “They are telling you that they are sorry.”

Ann allow them to have it, for creating such worry, for taking such dangers. They clearly did not get all of the phrases, however the indignant outrage of a former instructor and a mom of three wanted no translation. The three Jordanian girls nodded alongside.

At that second, a patrol automobile pulled up. Abdullah briefed one of many officers, who got here to me, apologised for our misfortune and confirmed that I used to be not making an official criticism.

“That is your choice,” he mentioned. But we’d nonetheless want to come back to the station, 10 minutes away, to make a report.

Twenty minutes later, I used to be in a convention room with 5 officers and all three fathers. They wrote an in depth account of the encounter, smiled knowingly after I described Ann enlisting the village girls and apologised, once more, for our troubles. One of the officers referred to as Avis to substantiate the price of changing the glass, which all of them thought-about shockingly excessive.

But all of us signed the doc, and the fathers pooled their cash and handed me 4 50-dinar payments. We shook fingers solemnly. But the primary smiles appeared.

We headed south to Wadi Rum, the place we received a brand new automobile and immediately resumed the pleasures – the meals, surroundings and heat welcomes – of touring the Middle East.

The worst second of an incredible trip had turn out to be one in every of its greatest.

The Washington Post

See additionally: The 10 folks that may flip your vacation right into a nightmare

See additionally: No airplane, take a bus: My nightmare journey again from Europe

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