For the third time now, I’ve said goodbye to my friends and family back in America and returned to Jordan. I kept myself busy in my last few days in the country, attending (and helping host) Ty’s New Year’s Eve From The Future bash (where I dressed in a dishdash, because in the future all people wear robes, anyway) and then Ty’s Lords of the Trident metal concert in Madison. The band is great – they were recently featured in The Onion AV Club – and here’s a video that my cousin took at the concert.

Ty drove me to the Memorial Union bus stop in the early afternoon on Monday and saw me off. I had already said farewell to my parents a few days ago; this actually marked the first time that they hadn’t been able to take me themselves. At the airport, I was worried that because of the aforementioned CrotchBomberMan that security might be different in the airport, but nothing seemed out of the ordinary. They did tell us to take all electronics out of our carry-on bags instead of just laptops (which meant I had to dig out my iPod, Game Boy, and external hard drive) but maybe that’s unrelated.

I spent the three hours waiting in the terminal watching “2010: The Year We Make Contact,” the lesser-known sequel to “2001: A Space Odyssey.” We had meant to watch it during our futuristic new year’s party, but had been too tired after the ball drop to do anything except fall asleep on Ty’s couches. Getting old, I guess. 23 and 24 year olds aren’t as young as they used to be.

Our airplane was named Prince Hashem bin Abdullah, after one of King Abdullah’s sons. I was directed to my requested window seat, which was exactly halfway along the plane. I even had a wall to my back so I looked forward to not getting pummeled in the spine for the next 14 hours. My seatmate was an unassuming Arab man who looked to be in his mid thirties. He didn’t speak English beyond a few words and sentences and seemed quite shy until we were in the air and I introduced myself in Arabic. He warmed up to me then and we chatted about Jordan, America, and our families.

As I knew that he would, he gave me his phone number and invited me to visit him and his family. I gave him mine as well, and as he slid the piece of paper into his wallet, I noticed his Jordanian driver’s license and commented on the military-issue cap he was wearing in the photograph. He was quiet for a moment, looked around at our sleeping co-fliers and told me that he was actually working with the military now, on security assignment to Royal Jordanian as one of the air marshals for the flight. He told me he’d been doing flight security for a couple years now, but as he showed me the photographs of his two young children on the digital camera he’d purchased in America, he told me with a smile that he was looking forward to being at the end of his tour and leaving the military so he could spend time with his family. Maybe I’ll become a farmer, he mused.

Throughout the rest of the flight, a few times I woke up suddenly and found that his seat was empty, or more oddly, inhabited by another man wearing a pinstriped suit who I groggily determined must be the other air marshal. However, my friend was sitting next to me as we started to come in for our landing in Amman. He calmly gazed past me out the window at the roaring dusty clouds and murmured “Bismillah” a few times – “In the name of God,” a common prayer. He noticed me looking at him and grinned, tapped his heart, pointed upwards and told me that God would keep us all safe. I told him that between him and God, I felt pretty safe indeed! He laughed at this, slapped me on the back, and got up to take his security seat at the front of the plane.

Jordanian men like to pose while shaking hands for some reason

Jordanian men like to pose while shaking hands for some reason

Jeff picked me up from the airport and drove me back to Amman. We discussed all that’s been going on in Jordan in the past month – some pretty big stuff. Not only did King Abdullah dissolve the Parliament a few weeks ago, there’s now been heavy scrutiny put on the Mukhabarat, the Jordanian secret service, after a Jordanian suicide bomber detonated himself inside a C.I.A. outpost in Afghanistan. The bomber had been vouched and passed through security by an official in the Mukhabarat, and analysts think there’s probably going to be a little bit of a throwdown in the next few weeks here in Jordan over this.

The next day, I got right back to work at Whitman, feeling fresh as a daisy at 4:30 in the morning and filled with energy. Unfortunately, I crashed right about as I started teaching my second class at 2:30 in the afternoon, and unfortunately I think I’ve probably thrown off my entire schedule. After I got back from school, I almost instantly dropped off to sleep and awoke at about midnight. Since then, I’ve been puttering about in my room, enjoying uncommon stillness of this wonderful city (one of the few periods when the air isn’t punctuated by impatient car honking) and the ethereal Call to Prayer echoing through the silence.

Now it’s 5 AM, and I’m probably going to regret having given into my slumber yesterday afternoon when I teach again today. Ah well; looks like it’s going to be one of those coffee-powered days!