Grand Ole Nashville

Hello Dear Readers!

I’m currently located in sunny California, taking my longest break from traveling yet this year (over a week!). I’ve been hanging out with family, shopping judiciously at Target, and getting back into a workout schedule.

In short, it’s been great.

However! Before I got here, I had to move all my things cross country- from Washington D.C. to Yucaipa, CA. Since I’m a huge weenie and was also driving alone, I planned my trip across a five day span, including a couple nights spent with family in Branson, Missouri. I figured if I had to be driving, I should at least make it as un-awful as possible.

Which is how I found myself detouring an hour out of the way to stop in Nashville. I’ve been meaning to come here for years, but never managed to find the time.

Nashville is…well…I have never been to a city that was so proudly country.

I know, I know, that should be obvious, but look:

Everything is loud and musical and packed with good old American honky tonk folk. Coming as a visitor, it was really cool and also a bit absurd. I mean, do you really need that boot?

Anyway, I had planned on doing the whole tour of Nashville with the Grand Ole Opry and whatnot (no, I didn’t manage), so to that end I found myself eating at a place called The Stillery right in the middle of downtown. This place is “best-rated” in Nashville, and it deserves its title. Good food, good music, and excellent cocktails.

Afterwards, I popped back into my hotel for a bit before heading back downtown. My hotel was close enough that I could walk, so I did.

As I made my way down the road, one of the many musicians littering the streets of the city struck up a conversation with me. He introduced himself as Mike, was on his way to work, and was totally impressed at my being a travel blogger. (I’m famous!)

“You can write about my band! I’ll give you the musician’s tour of Nashville!”

This seemed really cool, so I readily agreed.

Our first stop was at the most famous bar in Nashville, called Legends Corner, where he high fived the doorman and proceeded to take me up to the empty VIP section.

Super cool, right?

I was there for about two minutes before the bartender came and informed us that the VIP wasn’t available for us and we had to leave. *facepalm*

It was a great start to the night.

The tour of downtown then turned into a nighttime search for coffee so he could play his set without falling asleep. Then, having failed at that, he settled for ice cream, and we headed back to his bar to wait for his band to start.

Busy even on a Sunday

The conversation went downhill from there. I learned many *interesting* facts about him, until there were more red flags waving at me than at a communist rally. (I won’t elaborate here, as most things he said are decidedly less than PC).

At that point, luckily, he had to go start playing and I settled myself down to listen in safety. (What was he gonna do, jump off the stage at me?)

He’s the one on the left

First, though, I grabbed myself a beer. As expected, I was carded, but this I didn’t mind.

I then returned to my seat and began drinking it. Scarcely two minutes later, the bar’s enormous bouncer beelined straight for me.

And me only.

“I’m going to need to see some I.D.,” he told me. I tried and failed to look agreeable while handing him my license. I think I even accidentally rolled my eyes.

He squinted at it suspiciously, ran his fingers across the top as if to verify its legitimacy, and handed it back, returning to his corner with the satisfaction of a job well done.

At this point I was fairly irritated with my night in Nashville, having met a crazy musician and then been bullied by the bouncer, so I resolved to finish my drink and head back to my hotel.

Enter Shannon.

This woman came blitzing out of nowhere, loud and giggly, and asked me “are you here alone?”

Of course I replied that I was, and she gestured frantically back at her friend, (also named Mike), so they could come up and sit at my table. Wingman skills on point, amirite?

Anyway, we ended up having an awesome time. Shannon, who had already had a few drinks at this point, bought us each a round, which I enjoyed and Mike immediately dropped onto his pants. We then listened to the music and hung out, until Shannon, stumbling slightly, declared that she was ready to go home.

We cleaned up and I Uber’d back, because let’s be real I’m the laziest person alive.

Next up, Branson!

-Carissa “Honky Tonk” Rawson

Helpless and Afraid

Hello Dear Readers!

Today I want to talk about a bit of a conflict I had while in Jordan. You all know I like to keep the blog pretty upbeat, and I think I do a decent job of that. However, sometimes bad things happen and we don’t know how to address them.

And I’d like some help on that. Are you ready?

You all know that I frequently extoll the virtues of Airbnb. It’s been my go-to for a long time, and has saved me tons of money. I booked an Airbnb for the first two weeks of my stay in Jordan, at a place that was pet-friendly (since Nala was originally supposed to be with me), and was relatively new. It had just a couple reviews, but they were all very positive.

The apartment itself wasn’t bad. It was a basement, and cold, but the location was good and it had all the necessities. As you know, David was there for the first few weeks, but he ended up leaving and I was staying alone in the Airbnb. Now, obviously the owners were living above us, a pharmacist and a doctor, and they seemed pretty nice. The husband (the pharmacist) even invited us in for lemonade and dropped us off for the minibus ride to the Dead Sea, which was generous of him.

I had two days alone in the Airbnb in Jordan. Now, I enjoy traveling alone, and I’m generally pretty brave, but I’m not stupid. I’m not about to venture around alone in Amman by myself. So I decided to just stay in the apartment until it was time to head to the Dead Sea. I had already arranged for Alaa to come pick me up and drop me off, so I had no worries there.

However, on the day I was due to leave, Alaa was running an hour late. I had already told the owner that I was leaving at 2pm, but then needed to ask for an additional hour to stay. So, I headed upstairs, knocked on the door, and asked him if it was ok. He agreed, then offered me some lemonade.

I hesitated, since I was by myself, but didn’t want to be rude. So I said ok. Keep in mind here that I hadn’t planned on staying upstairs at all, so I was mid-conversation with David and had even left my internet hotspot downstairs. I sat down on his couch, just like David and I had a few days before, before he casually asked if I was alone.

Yes, I was, I said, but only for a few days before I went home to the States. He then informed me that his wife was out of town too. I knew this already, since I had talked to her a few days before. However, he told me with such purpose that I immediately began to feel uncomfortable.

It then dawned on me that I was in a house, alone, in a strange country, with a man I hardly knew. A man who had just informed me that we were quite isolated together. And I had an entire hour before Alaa was going to be there to pick me up.

But I kept casually chatting, bringing up his wife and kids and work- anything- to keep the conversation going. He made some lemonade, then asked me if I was hungry. Obviously, I told him no.

“Ok, I’ll make you some food,” he said. (This is a cultural thing).

So I stood, awkwardly, in his kitchen, while he heated up some Arab food.

Then, he said, “I’ll bring you arroz, ok?”

And, I mean, I like rice. Doesn’t everyone?

He then left the kitchen, and I started reading some Arabic text on the wall, waiting for him to get back and trying to figure out how to politely leave.

He returned a minute later, with a freshly cut red rose in his hand, which he handed to me while swiftly wrapping his arm around me.

A rose. Not arroz.

I moved away from him and put the table between us, laughing nervously and setting the rose down.

Then, he asked, “so why did your partner leave? Did you guys fight?”

“No,” I said, “he had a family emergency.”

He smiled knowingly at this, and shrugged, obviously not believing me. “Don’t worry, I’ll fight with you,” he told me, while I glanced at the world’s slowest toaster oven, which was still heating up the Arab food.

I figured I could make my exit immediately after eating.

What does ‘fighting’ with someone even mean?

I was trying desperately to give him the benefit of the doubt here, you guys. I really was.

Then, since the conversation died again, he offered to show me around his house. I figured that was a pretty safe topic, so I agreed, and he began walking me through.

“This,” he said, opening a door with a flourish, “is a guest room. We can fight in here.” He gestured at the bed.

Then he led me upstairs, showing me two more bedrooms where we could fight together, before finally getting to the master bedroom and bathroom.

“The bathroom has a jacuzzi tub, it’s really nice.” He pointed to the tub. “You can take a bath in here after we fight.”

Is this making you guys uncomfortable? I feel uncomfortable just writing this. Walking back through it, I see a thousand ways I could have run out, but in the moment I was too afraid to do anything. I mean, all my stuff was downstairs, still in his house, and Alaa wasn’t due to arrive for another 30 minutes.

Then he turned on the tv upstairs, sitting down and gesturing for me to sit with him. I told him I’d rather be downstairs, so down we went, to the sitting room.

I perched on the edge of the couch, ready to run at any second. He noticed, as he sank down beside me, and said, “don’t worry, this is nothing to be ashamed of. You can sit back and relax.”

How do you respond to that?

I should also mention that he tried to get me to cancel my hotel at the Dead Sea, insisting that I should stay with him for the rest of my time in the country. When I continued to decline, he then tried to get me to cancel my ride, offering his car instead. He even offered me money for my time in Jordan, telling me that he could take care of me. Again, I declined, several times. Finally, he shrugged, giving up, and said, smiling, “See? We’re already fighting.”

Then he told me he liked that I had spirit, because his own wife was too quiet and passive.

In desperation, I asked him about his work. He told me that he imported different creams and such, and stood up, returning with a small tub of cream in his hand. He then took the liberty of opening it, putting a dollop on my hand, and rubbing it in.

Can you feel the panic yet?

I stood up quickly, saying that I thought the food was probably ready. It was lukewarm at best, but I let him pile my plate and vacuumed it down, making sure my chair was nowhere near his.

He smiled indulgently at my appetite, then asked me if I wanted dessert. I declined, to which he replied:

“Ok, I’ll make you some.” (Seriously cultural)

He then rummaged around in his fridge while I went to go wash my hands, checking the clock as I went. Forty minutes had passed, and I only had twenty left before my ride was due to arrive. I ran into him as he came out of the kitchen with a box of sweets, which I hurriedly shoved in my mouth before leaving to wash my hands again.

I then very obviously and very pointedly looked at the clock, before telling him I had to go finish packing.

He was clearly extremely disappointed, and asked me again if I would stay. I told him no, but then, cheering up, he remembered that I was due to return to Amman in a few days.

“You’ll stay with me, won’t you?” He asked hopefully, handing me the rose as I strode quickly to the front door.

“Yeah, sure, of course. I’ll message you.” I told him, literally closing the door in his face as I rushed to get out.

I made it back downstairs, locked the doors, drew the curtains, and video called David, so there would be a witness in case anything happened.

He could tell I was upset, and was obviously very angry. But what do you do? I couldn’t just leave the apartment, and I absolutely wasn’t going to walk outside without Alaa already there waiting in case the guy tried anything.

In the end, Alaa showed up, and the guy hung outside his door, calling to me as I went, “I’ll be here waiting for you!”

I threw my stuff into Alaa’s car, climbed into his front seat, and let out a breath I didn’t know I was holding.

So.

I don’t know what to do about this. I haven’t reported it yet, because some part of me thinks he wasn’t trying to be the world’s most sleazy and awful person, and instead was simply trying to find himself another wife.

Which is very likely.

On the other hand, his actions were completely inappropriate and I wouldn’t want him to pull this shit on anyone else. I made it out ok, but if I hadn’t already had a ride scheduled and an obstinate desire to stick to my plans, I think he would have tried a lot harder to fight with me, right then and there.

I’m conflicted on this. What would you guys do?

-Carissa

Murphy’s Law of Jordan

Hello All!

I still have tons to write about for my whole European adventure, but today I’m interrupting your regularly scheduled programming to write to you about Jordan. Because…guys…I’m pretty sure this country hates me. Let’s get on with it!

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My only photo of Jordan

Ok! So I arrived to Jordan after a long day of travel (Naples -> Rome -> Athens -> Amman) on March 29th. Now, most of you probably know this, but I lived in Jordan last year, so I’m familiar-ish with how to get around. Jordan doesn’t have much (any) public transportation, so, since my flight landed at 01:30am, I made sure to book myself a private transfer to my hotel. David was coming to join me the next day, but, as I’m sure you guys understand, you don’t want to be a lonely girl in the middle of the Middle East, no matter how much you like its people. Thus, I also booked a nice hotel (ok, the best), and was supposed to be dropped off there at around 02:30am, once I got through customs, etc.

Note how I said supposed to?

Yeah.

I finished up with my luggage and customs and walked out to the lobby, where my driver was *guaranteed* to be standing around waiting for me. Except he…just didn’t show up? I wandered back and forth for a few minutes, wondering if I had missed the sign, before concluding that, yes, my private driver had indeed abandoned me in the middle of the airport at 2am. In Jordan. I finally managed to get ahold of a very sleepy man (using the company’s *emergency* number), who seemed shocked to learn that he had a customer waiting, and asked if he could call me back.

While waiting for his return call, I learned that Uber is a thing in Jordan! And dear God thankyousomuch for Uber, because it saved my ass. I called a car (which took twenty minutes to get to me, since there was apparently only one driver in all of Amman) and politely told the missing transfer driver to eat it.

So, I gratefully climbed into the Uber and headed off to my hotel, arriving at around 3:30am, where I greeted the hotel receptionist in Arabic and told him I wanted to check into my room.

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Look! Nala!

Now pause here for a moment. Half the reason I booked this hotel, and not any others, is because it participates in the American Express Fine Hotels and Resorts program. That means you receive a room upgrade, 12pm check-in, 4pm check-out, free daily breakfast for two, and a $100 food/beverage credit for the length of your stay. Since I didn’t want to be wandering the city alone, I figured the massive quantities of free food would work out for me while I waited to David to arrive. I also meant to luxuriate in the heated pools and maybe even work out (lol no).

Ok, back to check-in. There I was, standing exhaustedly after my car debacle and just wanting to head to my room, when the receptionist (who was very kind), told me that my reservation was set for 28-30 April, not March. I was thus one month early.

Well. Shit.

It also turned out that the hotel was fully booked for the next few days. Seeing the look of panic on my face, the receptionist offered me water and tea and asked me to sit down while he figured something out. Promising that he’d be back in 15 minutes, he disappeared for the next hour.

Finally, he returned, saying something about possibly a room that they may have but it might be really expensive and also I might have to leave at noon? At this point, I didn’t care, and simply nodded.

Another hour later, the actual night manager returned, who told me they had found a room, which I guess was somehow previously unbookable? They had cleaned it and set it up for me, and I would be able to stay for the two full nights with all the amenities from American Express. Silently expressing my joy, I followed the manager up to the room and fell over into the bed, finally falling asleep at 5:15am.

So, a pretty iffy start to Jordan, right? But at least I was in the best hotel in Amman, right?

Yeah, true. But then I woke up with food poisoning. (Or, at least that’s what I thought it was). Let me tell you guys, there is nothing so pathetic as me lumbering around a hotel room by myself, whining and watching 10 episodes straight of RuPaul’s Drag Race. David finally arrived at around 11pm that night and proceeded to shove pepto bismol and pedialyte down my face, which was a far cry from the $100 steak I had been envisioning eating, but I was grateful for nonetheless.

Now, it’s three days later and I’m almost better!

But, David has gotten sick now. And let me tell you guys, there is nothing so pathetic as David lumbering around our Airbnb, whining about his tummy while watching 10 episodes straight of Spartacus. Men are babies. (I’m conveniently forgetting how pathetic I was, ok?)

I guess…it can only get better from here?

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Enjoy this unrelated photo!

-Carissa “Murphy’s Law” Rawson