Crossing borders
My travel paths have been serpentine this last year. The fundamental reason for this is Ryan Air. They fly cheap, real cheap. But they don't connect you between multiple points. So if they fly from point A -> B and B -> C and you want to go from A -> C you can buy both tickets but the planes might travel on different days. Or if there is a tight connection, it isn't their problem if you miss it. This combined with my job being done mostly on my hours and remotely meant that I could fly from A -> B one weekend, and then B -> C the next weekend. For instance, recently I had a vacation with friends where we met and cycled in Germany. From Amman I first spent a week in Malta. Then onward to Luxembourg, which was close enough to our meeting point in Germany. Then on the way back I returned to Amman via Budapest, because Berlin -> Budapest is well connected by Ryan Air and so is Budapest -> Amman. These plane tickets are cheaper than train tickets. Cheaper than a nice meal. On one occasion I spent more on cab fare to the hotel than I did on airfare to the country. Like so many things these days, I don't know how it works.
I took a job in Berlin recently. I got the call in Budapest, accepted the offer, and then to deal with related chores I returned to Germany via the night train. The train left in the evening as a full moon rose. I had my own sleeper cabin and what remained of the bottle of Unicum that had been keeping K and I healthy in Budapest. I watched out the window as the moon continued its arc through the sky and we followed our metal rails out of Hungary, past Slovakia, through the Austrian night, and finally into Germany. The bright light of the moon illuminated farmland, lakes, and church after church after church. It's no secret that I am in love with Europe. So watching it go by, drunk on Unicum (It's healthy!), and knowing that I would soon live here myself, you'll forgive me if I came down with an epic case of sentimentality.
Like a damn teenager.
The work visa application asked me to list any previous dates that I was in Germany. It gave me three spots. I had entered the country three distinct times just in the current month. I'd need pages to enter all the dates! Well, what was the date of your most recent visit to Germany? I was asleep when we crossed the Austrian border at Salzburg, so either the 18th or 19th? The form seemed to describe a different world than I inhabited. I'm not sure every European institution has gotten used to the free travel of the Schengen zone yet.
They definitely know when you come and go from Jordan. Stamps and stickers everywhere. I returned for my last month of remote work and to say my proper goodbyes. It became clear that I did not have enough room in my passport for more stamps. This is a practical problem and no laughing matter. They turn you away if there is no room left for their particular mark. For the Eid holiday we might have gone to Lithuania, but my lack of passport space kept us home. We went to Aqaba instead. The trip (within Jordan, 4 hour drive) took longer and cost more than a vacation in Lithuania would have. This Ryan Air thing is so disruptive!
I got a new passport at the US Embassy in Amman. It's a good thing too, the German work visa takes 2 whole pages and I had room for two postage stamps. No joke, this would have been a big problem. It's easy to forget how primitive the world of paper can be.
When I lost friends some years ago it shocked me how their loss made my memories of them more vibrant. And made everyone who was still living more vibrant to me as well. Leaving for good is like a miniature death. Of course no one suffers and there is no loss, but an experience is going away and that makes it suddenly more precious. I listened to each call to prayer more intently. I ate Mansaf pretty much every day, sometimes twice. My pictures from this last trip are some of my favorite from Jordan.
I'm going to miss Jordan. I think Berlin wants to make the transition easier on me, because it's 38 freaking degrees in Germany today.