The Perks of Global Internships: Travel!

During our time in Jordan we have had some fun weekend getaways and day trips to various historical sites. While the sometimes easiest thing to do is pay way too much for a taxi or hire a tour group to show you around, we are very independent travellers and preferred to navigate the local buses. While they may be confusing and intimidating, with enough research and asking around we were able to take them seamlessly to almost every destination. Since we have already done the research and given these methods a test-run, we thought we would share.

Madaba

Getting to Madaba can run you up to 20 JD by taxi, that is a pretty steep price for only a 30 km drive out of Amman. We found the best way to get there was to take a bus from 7th Circle in Amman (Duar Seb’ah) and it takes less than an hour. If you stand on the west corner eventually a bus will come by for 700 fils (or .7 JD), now that’s a steal! It will drop you off at a bus station in the center of Madaba and all of the major sites are a short walk from there - with plenty of signs to help you along the way. Just come back to that same station no later than 4 or 5 pm to catch the last bus home.

Jerash

A taxi to Jerash can usually cost about 35 JD if you hire a driver to take you there, wait for 3 hours, and then come back - or about 10 JD each way. However, if you go to Tabarbour Bus Station (also called Mujam'a Shamaly) then you can follow the shouts of different bus drivers until you hear someone calling for “Jerash.” This bus will take just over one hour and it costs 800 fills (or .8 JD). Again, just be sure to meet it back where you were dropped off before 4 or 5 pm. Also, if you get the chance then go eat at the Green Valley Restaurant after exploring Jerash. It was one of the best meals we have had in Jordan, no regrets there! (It is quite a walk from the entrance to the site, we recommend planning enough time to walk or catching a short taxi)

Petra, Wadi Rum & Aqaba

For these trips there are several options. Since these sites are several hours south of Amman, a hired taxi will be (outrageously) expensive. Here is how we did it: First, we went to Petra by catching the JETT bus near Abdali station. This bus cost 9 JD and left at 6:30 am, we arrived to our hotel in Petra by 10:30 am or so. There is also a bus that returns to Amman at 4 pm if you want to just make a day of it (or catch it the next day).

After spending a day in Petra we made our arrangements for Wadi Rum with some friends through a local travel agency. We were able to get a much better deal for a camp than others that may be booked online. We each paid 60 JD which included the taxi from Petra (1.5 hours), 5 hours of jeeping through Wadi Rum, one nights stay in a Bedouin Camp, dinner, breakfast and a ride back to the Bedouin village the next morning. For only 5 JD more you could ride a camel outside the village the next morning (this was a half hour, and you really don't need much more than that).

Our Bedouin guides arranged a taxi to Aqaba for us and it was 25 JD (there were rumours about one bus that left at 6 am, but that wasn't our cup of tea). It is possible to get one for cheaper if you arrange in advance with the travel agency.

Then from Aqaba there was another JETT bus station near the Movenpick that had regular departures to Amman as late as 6 pm for only 8.5 JD. Just the same as in Petra there are JETT buses that go both directions, just check out the time schedules on their website, here

Dead Sea

Ignore all of the naysayers who claim there is no bus to the Dead Sea. While there may not be a direct line, we found one that took us within a 10 minute taxi ride to our hotel. We spent 1 JD each and took a bus from Muhajrin Station. It lasted just over an hour (due to random detours and special stops for other passengers), when it was time to get off the driver got out and came to our window. He led us to a taxi and we were on our way again, dropped off at the front of our hotel for 6 JD! We took that driver’s business card and called him the next day when we were ready to find the bus again. The last bus leaves around 4 pm for Amman. 

Good luck and safe travels!

One of The Seven

This weekend we visited Petra, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, it was truly an experience to remember. Since pictures are worth 1,000 words, and the scenery made for some awesome shots, I will spare you my words and share pictures to highlight this trip instead.

There were incredible rock formations while walking the Siq entrance to Petra:

Catching a first glimpse of the Treasury:

Donkeys... for 5 straight hours: We paid for the first ride, but then made friends with our Bedouin guides who let us continue the rest of the day.

We saw breathtaking views...

We had the unique experience of drinking Bedouin tea in a cave with our friends: This is the cave where our friend, Othman, actually sleeps.

Then finally, basking in the sinking sun while admiring the Monastery: Also showing a little school pride!

Breakfast in Jordan

There are many things we have come to love about living in Jordan. One of which is breakfast. Every morning we get this delicious spread of goodies:

image.jpg

What you are seeing here is a few of the things we see on the table each morning. There is cheese, tomato, cucumber, butter & jam, labneh, canned meat (this is the one thing we always skip), olive oil and salt. We eat all of these things with our hands and pita bread, unless we get fried eggs that day (then we get forks). Now this may not sound like your "cup of tea" but we always savor each bite then follow up with delicious sweet tea and mint. Mmmmm!

The Law of the Land

Me and Lexi in front of the downtown Roman Amphitheater at night.

There are few interesting things which make Jordan a unique experience for me and Lexi; beyond the fact that we are living halfway around the world. The state religion of the country is Islam along with all of the other countries in the region. In America we pride ourselves on our rights to freedom, religion included. However, this leads to a lot of problems when it affects how we view other countries and cultures. For this reason I want to dispel some misconceptions that anyone may have about this region, and specifically Jordan, and share my personal experience. I do want to make a disclaimer that I am certainly not an expert and that this is just my experience.

Freedom to Practice

Although the majority of the population here is Muslim and it is the state religion, those who practice other religious beliefs are still allowed to do so freely. However, those who are Jewish may be a little more scrutinized than perhaps a Christian might be. Most of the time when people ask what is our religion we may respond “lil kihtab” which means “of the book” in Arabic. Many understand and respect anyone who believes in God, or “Allah.” In fact, those who know of Utah will excitedly ask us if we are Mormon because they believe it’s values to be very similar to their own.

To veil or not to veil?

Prior to coming here many asked me if I would have to wear the hijab. While some Arab states emphasize the hijab for women, it is not actually a requirement. In the U.S. it is seen by many as a tool for oppression of women. While there are definitely some differences in the rights of women here, I think it is important for people in Western culture to not jump to conclusions about Arab women or their religion for their decision to modestly cover their hair. A friend told Lexi and I that she went to a conference in the United Kingdom one time and was the only person there wearing a veil. She said that people shied away from her, afraid of someone who looked different from themselves. Of course Lexi and I choose to dress modestly still out of respect for the culture and to fit in (no shorts or tank tops for us!) but we let our hair do its thing.

This is a picture of the street we live on, I took this while walking home from the market one evening. You can see the mosque prominently against the skyline. Right behind it is actually a Christian church.

The Importance of Prayer

Have you ever seen something so profoundly beautiful as another person giving their whole body to God? In Islam, prayer is one of the Five Pillars of worship and it is called “Salat.” Muslims perform this prayer five times daily. Along with this physical act of prayer - including bowing with hands on knees, standing, prostrating and sitting in a special position - the prayer is called out over loudspeakers fixed to mosques all across the country. Therefore, even if someone is unable to come to the mosque to pray they are able to listen. Most public offices and buildings have special rooms where individuals may go to pray, however, it may be done anywhere.

Kindness and Hospitality

The tea is traditionally served with lots of sugar and mint. A man sitting across from us in the cafe bought it for us. He wanted us to know that it was the way of his religion, Islam.

“Love thy neighbor.” This is a phrase that is familiar to all Christians but the Qur’an also teaches this Golden Rule. Many people we meet wish to share with us their religion and its meaning, taxi drivers will play the Qur’an over their radio for us, strangers have paid for our tea in a cafe, people will welcome us into their homes for a meal all so that we may know that they believe in the same kindness and warmth regardless of their not-so-different religious beliefs.

 

 

The Question

Any time that we have a conversation with someone who we meet here they are sure to ask us the same thing each time, “how do you find the people here?” This question means more to them than what lies on the surface. More specifically they want to know whether we see them as they really are, or if we see them in the way that the American mainstream media portrays them. They wish to know if we will go home with a changed perspective and share it with others in our lives. It is this question and its implications that I want everyone to consider.

Many of my posts have been about this topic of kindness that we have been shown thus far. I continue to focus on this because it is something I want to instill in everyone who reads this blog. To any future interns looking to come to Amman, it could not come more highly recommended. To anyone looking for an amazing place to go on vacation, you will not be disappointed. If anything you will come back enlightened. To anyone who sees a Muslim person at work or on the street, reach out and say hello, you may just make a new close friend. At the very least think about the ways in which you are the same rather than different because that list will actually be much longer.

Nahla - Chief the Poet

This is a really great video that I found since my time in Jordan. It is really thought provoking and powerful. I recommend it for another perspective and to continue thinking about this topic.

One of the many beautiful mosques in Amman.

A Special Encounter

Before coming to Jordan we heard many stories about the “Jordanian Hospitality” here. Let me begin by saying that the stories hardly do any justice when compared with actually experiencing it. Since we have been here we have been treated so kindly and warmly, in ways that have been unforgettable. For example, when we were still fresh off the airplane the guy we sat next to brought his mother over to us while we were attempting to catch a taxi. He wanted to introduce us and she greeted us with such sincerity then, sensing our shock and , gave us her phone number and told us to call her if we needed anything. This was the first of many similar experiences.

The Warmest Welcome

While we were in Madaba for my birthday we had a particularly special interaction with a couple of brothers who were running a souvenir shop inside of the town. We were initially drawn in by the colorful, unique ceramic bowls that filled the window display and adorned the walls. However, what kept us there was the great company and conversation. As we casually scanned the displays and admired the pieces the man running the store, named Michael, asked us where we came from. We answered “Salt Lake City, Utah” expecting the blank stare and questioning expression that we received from every other inquisitor. Instead Michael exclaimed and laughed excitedly, it turns out at that very moment his brother, the owner of the shop, was in Utah for work. Michael explained that his brother, Osama (“not Bin Laden,” he explained), was very talented with mosaics and he had been commissioned by the LDS Church to install a large glass “Tree of Life” mosaic inside of the LDS Conference Center! (Here is a photo of the actual piece)

Malik explains mosaic making to Florence while his apprentice focuses in the background.

From then on we had a connection with Michael, and later his other brother Malik; they treated us as if we were family. They sat us down for tea and showed off the many beautiful things their brother had made. They led us across the street to their mosaic workshop and taught us about the process and showed us some works in progress. Both brothers were gleaming to be sharing such an integral part of their identity with us. They were very proud of their skill and the accomplishments of their brother Osama. He had done mosaics for diplomats from the United States Embassy, made friends with some high ranking officers in the U.S. Marines, and countless others. Currently they were working on a large mosaic as a gift to the United States Marine Corp; it was a beautifully detailed reproduction of the USMC emblem, “Semper Fi!”

As were were about to make a few purchases and leave, Malik asked what brought us to Madaba and we told him it was my birthday. He got very excited and called some of his cousins into the shop from the street. He invited us all to join them at Mount Nebo that night for a campfire and music. He told us that his cousins were excellent singers and, after a little coaxing, they performed for us. Words cannot describe how beautiful it was for them to share their voices with us. Luckily for you all, Lexi caught it on film.

Of course, we politely declined their offer but not before they offered me any small ceramic bowl in the shop for free as a gift, as well as one beautiful Pashmina scarf for each of us three girls. Then Malik gave us a business card and urged us to call if we ever needed anything in the future, and he genuinely meant it too! As we set out for the bus station to head back to Amman, we were all feeling very moved by the kindness we had been shown and very satisfied by an evening well spent. I feel as if those moments in the shop will forever be imprinted in my memory.

This real ostrich egg is decorated with crushed up mosaic tile dust, a small mosaic of epic proportions. It can be yours for only 250 JD! Here Lexi models it Vanna White style.

Only in Jordan...

Because I know everyone loves a little laugh at the expense of others, here is a taste of what we did with our weekend night.

We spent almost an hour pushing the full inch of water into our kitchen floor drain. Why, you ask? Well, that would be my fault as I forgot to put the washer drain hose into the floor drain. Ironically, I was washing all of the towels we own here so they weren't any help.

Weekend Warriors

So far we have had a somewhat slow time getting started with our internships, therefore we have had plenty of free time to get settled in and to go see some sights. See? There is always a positive side. Over the last several weekends we have had the chance to see some pretty incredible things. From accidentally stumbling across the Amman Citadel to visiting the Ancient Roman Theater and wandering inside the Shrine of John the Baptist’s Beheading. The history of Jordan is marked by many important periods in human civilization as it was ruled by both the Roman and Ottoman Empires and is the site of many significant stories from the Bible. It is hard not to feel the immense history and importance of this place, especially while exploring the ancient ruins scattered throughout the country.

The Citadel

Our first view as we reached the top of the hillside.

Our first major site was found on accident. Lexi and I had spent most of the day roaming the different neighborhoods of Amman; we would spend hours in one area and as we became bored we would wave down a taxi and ride until we saw an area that was appealing to us. We had just spent a several hours trying to work our way into the city center and following a mixture of signs in both English and Arabic but we found ourselves high up on a hill nowhere near the bustling downtown that we had heard of. Finally we came across a coffee shop that promoted itself as having a "special view," there was a billboard depicting the Citadel I had read about in my guidebooks.

We kept walking, both feeling sure that it was just a tourist trap of some kind, especially as the street was deserted. A little ways down the road a group of young boys were sitting on some steps enjoying the afternoon sun; as we rounded the corner one of them jumped up, speaking Arabic, and gesturing towards the stone wall and grassy hill to our left. Lexi and I were exhausted and defeated, having not reached the city center which we had been promised was “at the end of this road,” we tried to shake him off. However he insisted on helping us - do what? We weren't sure. He followed us a little ways, as we politely tried to say no thanks “La Shukran,” until a set of stairs leading up to several homes emerged. He insisted we follow him up (sounds a bit questionable right?) but Lexi and I decided to follow him. We soon reached the top of the steps and Lexi and I were breathless, not just because of the huge climb, but because of what was right in front of us - literally in these Jordanians “backyard.” The boy, with a huge grin on his face, said “Welcome to Jordan” and ran back down the steps.

We spent the last hour of daylight here, reading the plaques, climbing over the stones, and celebrating our accidental find. It is really interesting how different it is to visit a museum or any sort of ruins here. There are no velvet ropes forbidding you to get close, nor are there any lines or massive crowds of people. At this time, on this particular evening, there was one small American family following a tour guide, a group of boys practicing parkour, a Muslim woman with her lunch sack enjoying an apple, and a few scattered others walking the park engrossed in conversation. It was truly peaceful and relaxing, complete with panoramic views of Amman.

Meeting Yousuf — A Cultural Lesson

We soon received notice that the park was closing (most of the sites here close around 4 pm) and made our way towards the exit. As we were walking two men stopped us for a little conversation. We talked about the museums around the city, the Wadi’s (deserts) scattered around the country, and about our reasons for being in Amman. The Bedoiun man named Yousef eventually invited us to have tea. I quickly declined for the both of us, saying that we had plans for dinner and needed to head home soon. Quite frankly, the idea of following a complete stranger and drinking his tea sounded like everything I had been raised not to do. 

He was very kind and said that he understood but he wanted to explain something to us about the difference between our two cultures. He said that in America an offer like his would be uncommon and perhaps it would be right to worry. However, he explained, in Jordan it is merely a polite offer for tea and conversation in a public place and that we would receive many more like it. He advised that in the future, whether we accept or reject, we do it in a more thoughtful way. Though he was not offended by my rejection he explained that as a raised my hands and quickly jumped to firmly saying “no” could be seen as an insult to others. In this culture, Yousef said, you must take every offer into fair consideration in order to show a true appreciation for the gesture. When someone here makes such an invitation it comes from a genuine place, to quickly refuse would be in complete disregard of that. Yousef wanted us to know about these manners so that we could avoid offending anybody and so that we could be "good ambassadors to our country," a place which is not viewed by all Arab people in a good light. By representing ourselves well and respecting the culture, we also represent the American people. Likewise, if we act brash or cause insult to those being hospitable, we make ourselves and our country look bad.

Being a good Ambassador is not just for dignitaries,
but for tourists, students, and interns alike.
It means to recognize that every interaction is valuable.
Both good and bad impressions can last a lifetime.

We both learned a valuable lesson in the Arab culture. Politeness in our Western culture does not always translate across international borders. This lesson has proven useful in every interaction that we have had since then. We are both more open to kind offers for tea or a home-cooked meal but also more grateful for the hospitality that they symbolize.

And then Lexi tried Mansaf...

As-Salaam-Alaikum

There is something inherently beautiful about this place. The culture, the people, the food, the language... The more time that Lexi and I spend here getting acquainted with our surroundings the more we find each day that we are truly blessed to have this experience. Leaving our flat, a task which at first felt overwhelming and frightening, is now a breath of fresh air and a welcome escape. We have been able to challenge our culture shock by discussing things that we love about Amman.

Personally I am infatuated with Arabic, it is one of the most beautiful languages that I have ever heard in my life (I may also add that the written form is also elegant and it is read from left to right). Not only does spoken Arabic have an appealing sound but there is a deeply profound meaning behind many of the common phrases. For example, the title of this post "As-Salaam-Alaikum" is one of the ways to say "Hello" in Arabic. It literally means "peace be with you," I cannot think of a more lovely way to greet someone. Though there are other ways to say hello, such as "Marhaba," we have heard that greeting Jordanians with "As-Salaam-Alaikum" is the best way to win their hearts. So far we have found this to be true.

السلام عليكم

"May the peace of God be upon you"

Similarly, to say "Goodbye" we say "Ma'a Salama" and it means "Go with Peace." In America there are many biases and misunderstandings of the Islamic faith and Muslim culture but the best way to challenge it is to immerse yourself, either by surrounding yourself with those who practice Islam or by taking the time to learn about their religious beliefs. It is easy to see why people assume that Christianity versus Islam are two very different things because of outward differences (such as mode of prayer, religious texts, clothing styles, etc). However, when greeting someone by wishing them peace and later wishing them peace as you say farewell, it reminds me of going to my protestant church as a little girl. During the beginning of each service there was a specific time for "Passing of the Peace" where members of the congregation all rise and greet each other with a handshake or a hug and saying the same words in English "Peace be with you" to which another responds "And also with you." It is these similarities between our two cultures that deserve better attention and understanding.

Just tonight our flatmates asked Lexi and I about our first impressions of Jordan, since we have been here for 10 days now. In the way that I am completely enchanted by Arabic, Lexi confessed that she is equally enthralled with the pride that Jordanians have for their country. Nearly every taxi driver will tell us "Welcome to Jordan," a consistent phrase in English known by many Jordanians, and which they are proud to share with us. We are especially appreciative of this gesture which invites us to enjoy Jordan as they do. I was very thankful for Lexi's perspective on this, while it is something that I agree with, I had not thought of it in such a way until now.

Today we are grateful for the experiences that we have had so far and look forward to the adventures waiting to be unlocked by the start of a new day. This is a pretty famous quote which I particularly identify with this week and I hope it resonates with the other interns reading this:

Happiness is not a state to arrive at,
But a manner of traveling.
— Margaret Lee Runbeck

Living it up in Amman

We have been in Amman for a couple of days now. We have been adjusting to the different culture.

I wanted to post some pictures of our flat. Most buildings in Amman are cement and do not have insulation. So far, it has been colder in our apartment than it is outside. Taylor and I have been layering up. Our first night here we were so cold we decided to use this sketchy gas heater. After a while we started to feel light headed and turned it off. Also, we were a little frightened that the gas heater might blow us up. Our flat is very spacious. Taylor and I technically each have our own room, but both of our rooms have two twin beds in them so we have been sharing a room. The thought of sleeping in our own rooms seems lonely. We might be a little homesick...

Laundry

Today we decided to be productive and do laundry. The washing machine is basically a plastic roll-a-bout with a wash basin and a spinner. Laundry is quite the process here. We had to hook up a hose to the kitchen sink then fill up the basin enough to cover our clothes with water and add soap. There is timer that starts the cycle of "swishing" the clothes around. Once the timer was up we set it to drain by putting another hose into a hole in the kitchen floor and wrung out our clothes. They were then put in a spinner (on the right side of the machine) and dried a little more. We then filled the basin and put our clothes back in to rinse on the timer (this time without soap). Once this timer was up we wrung the clothes out again, and used the spinner to get rid of excess water. Finally, we hung them out to dry on the balcony. The whole process takes about 35 minutes or so. Lets just say I will probably do laundry as little as possible. I will justify this by telling myself I am "roughing it".

Good Eats(?)

My favorite part of our flat is that there is a falafel shop just around the corner. Taylor and I went here our first night in Amman and we have been back a few times since. We made friends with the workers, even though they do not speak English and we definitely do not speak Arabic. Some people say the international language is love, but I  like to think the international language is food! I am a little obsessed with this place. When Taylor and I walk by the shop on our way to run errands we make sure to say hello to our friends in the falafel shop. Not only do they have good falafels, but they have amazing hummus. For those who do not know me I am obsessed with hummus. There was a time when I was 18 and first moved away from home that I basically lived off of hummus and bread. I found an article the other day on BuzzFeed that pretty much describes my hummus obsession. I linked the article here. Needless to say Jordan has been very good to me so far.

Goodbye Paris, Hello Amman!

Phew! What an extremely long 48 hours. We have arrived in Amman and to be completely honest, I am not quite sure exactly what time it is right now... my computer says 11:30 p.m. but my phone says 1:30 a.m. Apparently a recent time change has not been registered on the internet yet, which leaves us somewhere in between.

I promise that one day I will write a post actually describing Lexi and myself and what we are all about, but for now I am going to give a full run down of the last two days.

Paris in One Day

This was some serious marathon tourist-ing (is that a word?) after a simple breakfast in the apartment where we stayed, Lexi and I set out on foot to track down some of the major tourist sites across the city. Overall, we were very efficient in exploring much of the city with a little help from our buddy, Rick Steves, whom Lexi referred to as "Rick James" most of the day (in her best Dave Chapelle impression, of course). In case anyone isn't sure who Rick James is, this should jog your memory.

How to be a "Good Tourist"

1. Be yourself and dress comfortably

2. Have a detailed map, look for one with landmarks to help you identify where you are.

3. Try to explore on foot, you get to see more that way (though Metros can be faster and save you time).

4. Enough of those "serious-and-trying-to-blend-in" photos. Have fun! Be touristy (remember you ARE, in fact, a tourist).

5. To get photos with your whole group, look for other tourists with their cameras out. Then suggest a swap (photo for photo).

It's just that simple!

Here is our friend, Jeremy, who we stayed with in Paris (From left to right: Taylor, Lexi, Jeremy).

Here is our friend, Jeremy, who we stayed with in Paris (From left to right: Taylor, Lexi, Jeremy).

Getting to Amman

This time around we were determined not to spend excess money on the heavy baggage fees at the airport so we spent our last evening in Paris repacking. Even though we weren't really sure how heavy they were in kilograms, all of the effort paid off when the baggage attendant took our bags without any fees! Hurray!

When we landed in Amman we had made friends with a really nice guy, named, Karam, who helped us find our way to a taxi and gave us his contact information in case we ever needed anything. He is from Toronto and is in Jordan to visit his parents. From the terminal we came out to customs, where we did a passport check and purchased a visa for 30 days which cost 20 JD (we are able to extend it later on). "JD" is the short term for the Jordanian Dinar, here is some more information about it!

Getting Ripped Off

As we made our way to the baggage claim several men in blue coveralls approached us asking where we just came from and began following us to the baggage carousel and asking which bags were ours. One especially persistent man began taking our carry-on and purses to put them on a push cart for us. He watched as we spotted our suitcases and aggressively grabbed them from the belt to put them on the cart (we were trying to be discrete to keep him from helping). Our friend Karam came up to us giggling and told us we had fallen for a trap and that the man would insist we pay him, we figured this was the case but it was frustrating and difficult to get him to stop.

Once he had collected all of our bags, the man pushed our cart to the front curb where several taxi drivers were waiting for fares. He spoke to them all, trying to find one who knew English, but to no avail. We located Karam again and he helped us to call one of the roommates who could explain to the taxi drivers where to take us. *In Amman, addresses are not really relevant and it is more useful to tell your driver where to go using landmarks and turn-by-turn directions. 

We finally got all of our suitcases into the cab and climbed in relieved that the chaos was (assumed to be) over but the man in the blue coveralls insisted that we pay him 20 JD... which is an OUTRAGEOUS amount for something we didn't want help with. We ended up giving him 5 JD to let us close the taxi door and leave.

Finally, we were on our way! Here is just a taste of what the taxi ride was like, since there are few words to describe it:

Since we didn't have a cell phone set up yet, when the driver said we had arrived we asked him to call the local phone number for one of the roommates to let them know we were here. We also had no idea which apartment to go to or even if we were really in the right place. Once he got off the phone we got out, assured we had come to the right place, grabbed our bags and stepped onto the curb. Then the cab driver sped off and we were alone. Once we got inside Lexi realized that she didn't have her phone anymore. We began to panic.

Victoria, one of our new roommates quickly set off to call the cab driver and to tell him to return right away, since we made him call to announce our arrival we had his phone number. He returned so that we could search his car but her [white iPhone] was nowhere to be found. However, once Victoria started to write down the taxi license plates to report him to police, the driver "magically" found it on the floor where we had been searching. We were so grateful that Lexi was able to get her phone back, since it was purely good luck, that we could hardly be angry with the driver until later in the evening.

Oh Falafel

After the excitement had passed our confidence as capable travelers was shaken and we were left feeling vulnerable and silly. However we were also starving so we gathered our courage to face the streets to find a falafel shop that we had passed by earlier in the taxi. It didn't take us long to find a small shop and point to the picture of the food that we wanted. On the way home we came across a convenience store that had Lays potato chips and Twix bars (oh, the comforts of home!) so we snagged some and went home. Alas, it was time for bed with our stomachs full and feeling completely exhausted.

Layover in Paris

Lexi and I just arrived in Paris, and we are so exhausted/loopy that we can think of little else to do besides start up our blogging adventures. It has been 4 hours since our flight landed and boy! Has it been fun...? (Seriously, that is a question) After we struggled with wheeling our four large suitcases across the airport, metro, and cobbled streets of Paris we are ready for some rest. As we let our bags guide us in every direction (because try as we might, we certainly couldn't steer the darn things!) we came up with several tips to packing and travel.

Here are some of the things that we wish we had done (or that we learned):

1. Check the wheels on your luggage to ensure their "ability to perform."

2. Put the heavier items in the carry-on to avoid that [lovely] $100 overweight bag fee. No, they do not care if you are only four pounds over the limit. (Side note: We were able to split the difference in weight by moving heavy items all to one bag, rather than each paying separate fees.)

3. While packing be conscious of how the weight is distributed. (Otherwise, you must continually hold your bags upright. To make things really interesting try keeping 4 bags from falling over between two petite girls!)

4. Have a game plan for pushing/wheeling/carrying/stacking your luggage, then put it to the test! (Practice makes perfect... or nearly perfect.)

5. Have a game plan to get to wherever from the airport. In our case, we arrived with just a street address and no french skills besides "Bonjour,"  but whatever happens just remember to keep your cool! You can never be too sure whether it will be smooth sailing in another country.

6. Even if you're a starving college student who is pinching pennies, consider splurging on a taxi. Pushing your belongings through the overcrowded metro stations is not only stressful but exhausting.

7. In case you do decide to attempt the metro, just know that you don't actually have to fit yourself plus two suitcases through the automated turnstile. (There are actually gates with a luggage symbol on them generally off to the side, thank you kind stranger.)

8. In general, when booking a flight remember that if you will have four months of packed suitcases it may not be ideal to "pop over" into another destination on the way. (Don't get me wrong, we are thrilled to be in Paris!)

9. This one is silly but seriously underrated. Book your airfare early enough to have at least one aisle seat when flying in excess of five hours. (Especially if you're too shy to ask the others to let you out in the middle of the night.)

10. When booking a hotel, hostel, or other accommodations please research just how many flights of stairs you will be carrying 200+ pounds of luggage in either direction. 

For your viewing pleasure: Here is the only picture I own of myself and Lexi together at work (No, we did not bake this adorable cake while on the clock!)

For your viewing pleasure: Here is the only picture I own of myself and Lexi together at work (No, we did not bake this adorable cake while on the clock!)

For now we are spending our next two nights in Paris to celebrate the adventures ahead, because why not have an adventure to celebrate an adventure? Also, "treat yo self!"

We may have chosen this picture because we are starving.