The BMI Index

Aqaba, Jordan

My archaeologist friend Chris likes to say that Jordan runs on the BMI Index: Bukra (tomorrow), Mumkin (maybe), Inshallah (God willing). I’ve been here long enough to recognize it when I see it. In fact, a colleague was just commenting Thursday on how naturally and with such conviction I replied “Inshallah” to the latest news on plans for Aqaba. But nothing makes a bad day worse like the BMI Index.

This is the height of hay fever season in Jordan. I’m allergic to jasmine, lavender, olive pollen and ragweed, all of which are now in full bloom, in Aqaba most of all. Add that to my ever-present dust allergies and the stress and pressure of this project in Aqaba, and I was already set to have a bad day.

I was up at 5am to pack the last of my clean laundry, shower and get some coffee before the 4 hour drive to Aqaba. I didn’t manage to sleep in the car as I’d hoped. By the time we arrived in Aqaba, despite being drugged to the gills on allergy remedies, my sinuses were packed full and aching from the swift drop in altitude of the last 100 miles. I stepped out of the car in Aqaba to a wall of stifling heat and humidity, half deaf and off balance from ears congested by allergies, to discover that the accountant had not actually made firm appointments to see any apartments.

We spent hours wandering around Aqaba, calling phone numbers spray-painted on walls, and looking at squalid little studio apartments above “Chinese massage parlors” (blatant code for something seedier). None of them had washing machines, and the accountant conceded that this was a necessity for a 5 week stay. We did look at one that would have been acceptable, except it was 50% over our budget, and the landlord wouldn’t be bargained with. We’d been in Aqaba for almost 4 hours when we finally met up with the real estate agent who supposedly had some apartments to show us in our price range … but who had only one apartment to show us, which was twice our stated budget.

Eventually we found an apartment that was in our price range. The kitchen counters and walls are coated in a layer of aged cooking oil, the cabinets full of mildew, and the kitchen lacking any kind of dishes or cookware (which was the point of having an apartment and not a hotel room). But I was informed that it’s all the company could afford, and I didn’t have a say in the matter.

Also, we were unable to arrange for any Internet access.

I sure hope the teaching goes well, because it’s gonna be a long five weeks in that apartment! The German word “ekelhaft” comes to mind, somehow so much more evocative and appropriate than “disgusting”….

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