In a nutshell: They don’t get it here. (The point of sidewalks, that is.)
If a sidewalk happens to exist—and that is rare—it will be so un-walkable that its true purpose is truly a mystery. Here’s a sampling of what I’m talking about:
- Overgrown trees planted in the middle
- Steep, unannounced, cliff-like drop offs
- Recessed sewage drains cut into the middle with no cover (the drains are covered, but not the recess)
- Random narrowing to impassable widths
- And my favorite: a homeowner who decides to delineate his own walkway by building a brick/block mini-wall right in the middle of an otherwise good stretch of sidewalk!
I have pondered quite a bit how Jordanians might view sidewalks, to no real avail…my only ideas to date are that sidewalks somehow serve as barriers between the houses and road, and secondarily as a planter for their decorative trees. They are definitely not built for walking.
So, the kids and I attempted what I knew would be a challenging walk yesterday: We went to the store to get essentials, like milk and diapers. The store, I am guessing, is about a 2-mile trek one-way (thus 4 miles round trip); and, no joke, it is uphill both ways—and a STEEP uphill at that! (I emphasize, I am not exaggerating.) The walk is a challenge on its own, then add to it 46 pounds of kids, 10 pounds of stroller, 30 pounds of groceries, an out-of-shape mother, and what feels like infinite gravity resistance…Going downhill adds difficulties of its own!
|This is how we roll.|
In addition, sidewalks are spotty, and where they exist they are impassible with a stroller (as discussed above), pushing us into the busy street. A typical 2-lane road here is about equivalent to 1 ½ lanes in the States, but then you must factor in the not-uncommon happenstance of cars parking in the drivable street. The ultimate challenge, however, must have been this feat: crossing a 4-lane (a.k.a. 6-8 lane, depending on the flow of traffic) divided highway of endless traffic driving Amman-style, with a one-child stroller laden with 2 children, and (as mentioned above) on our return, bags and bags of groceries & supplies filling the stroller’s lower cavity. I stood for a long time at the edge of this raging river of traffic, trying to form a plan, trying to muster the nerve…Turning around was not an option after what we’d been through to get there. And I realized: In Jordan, walking is a bit like driving—if you want to get anywhere, you just have to start going and hope that the cars adapt around you. It’s just that, when driving, there is a large bit of metal to protect you in case that they don’t—it’s a little more daunting with only the air as a shield. But that’s what we did: we just started walking, slowly, using the turning cars as a pathway; we hopped the divider (with stroller) as gracefully as possible, crossed the other side in a likewise manner, and…SURVIVED. Have I mentioned that this country is not stroller-friendly? At some point during this excursion, two of the other ACOR fellows drove by in a car, honked & stopped long enough to say, “Enjoy your walk!” I chuckled to myself—this is not the sort of walk one enjoys; it is the sort of walk one endures. Kids crying. Cars zooming. Mommy puffing. We may not be making that trip by foot again anytime soon.