Friday, September 18, 2009

A Smoking Hot Good Time....or Not

You know the old saying, "You never really appreciate what you have until it's gone?" Well, I've found this to be more true than ever when a fire erupted on the ground floor of my apartment complex and there was NO smoke detector and NO fire alarm. I sometimes even considered them to be a nuisance when they would go off because of steam from a shower or a baking catastrophe in the kitchen. Now that seems like a minor inconvenience. Let me explain.

On Tuesday, I was home alone sitting in front of my computer when the electricity went off. No big deal, I thought, it should come back on in a couple of hours. I only had one candle and my phone screen was the only source of other light but hey, no big deal. Suddenly I smelled something burning. Burning plastic.....I rushed to the kitchen to see if I left the stove on but everything was ok. I opened the door to the apartment and was hit in the face by a wave of smoke and an even stronger burning odor. At this point my brain turned off....

In this moment of panic, it seemed like a good idea to jump off my balcony, but after looking over the ledge, I figured that a third story jump was not a good idea. Crap, I'd have to run down the stairs. It was pitch black and smoky as hell. In another lucid moment, I ran out of the apartment in my tank top, using my phone as a light to guide my way down the stairs and using my other hand to hold onto the railing. It honestly didn't even cross my mind to cover my mouth or put on a sweatshirt.

I'm pretty sure I was one of the last, if not the last, people out of the apartment. The fire trucks were already there and there were tons of people in the street. I didn't even hear the fire trucks (did they even have their sirens on?) there was no smoke detector to warn me and I didn't hear anyone scream 'fire' or anything else to warn me. The system seems to be as follows: Inshallah you won't be sleeping, or if you are, the smoke or burning flames will awake you from your slumber. If you are awake, Inshallah you will realize very quickly that there is a fire and get the hell out before you are either burned or suffer from smoke inhalation. Inshallah, your brain will still work and you won't even think of jumping off your third floor balcony (2nd floor here in Jordan) and you will have the presence of mind to cover yourself up with something before running through a ton of smoke.

The good news is that the fire department arrived within three minutes and nobody was hurt. The family who was living in the apartment over the summer had just moved back to Bahrain the same day so nobody's belongings were destroyed either. Best case scenario for a fire really. Unfortunately all that smoke seemed to expedite the cough that was already starting. By the end of the night, I was really hacking up a lung and couldn't sleep. Gretchen says it sounds like I have emphesema when I cough. This isn't helped by the fact that I didn't shut the door when I left the apartment so our apartment was filled with smoke and a nice layer of soot settled on everything. Ironically, my room had the most smoke of all.

Before going to bed, I told Gretchen, "Hey, things can't get any worse!"

I spoke too soon, I really should have kept my mouth shut because a couple hours I spilled some tea on my laptop. Tea with honey. Sticky wetness on my laptop sent me into panic mode once again. Luckily there wasn't a lot and I cleaned it up pretty quick. My computer is still working although the mouse pad is busted. Thankfully my friend Ahmad picked up an external USB mouse and now everything is in working order. When I get paid in 2 weeks and can stop subsisting on rice and beans, I'll try and get the mouse pad fixed.

The next morning I went to see a doctor and on the way into the hospital, my favorite sandals busted. At this point I just started laughing. What else can you do at this point? So I walked in with my right sandal in my hand. After being diagnosed with a throat infection and having four medications prescribed to me, I just walked out with both sandals in my hand. What's the point of wearing one sandal, really?

The icing on the cake was when I went to school to get my visa extended. I was taking the day off due to feeling like crap and hacking up a lung. I was told it was a good idea to get my visa extended that day because it would be nearly impossible to get it done over Eid. So I showered and went to school, where I was going to get a ride to the police station and be accompanied by the HR person of the school who could take care of the details. When the guy looked at my passport and visa, he said that we couldn't just go to the police station to renew my visa since I had already been here three months. He would have to go through the Ministry of Interior to get my extenstion. And of course, this would have to wait until after Eid. My visa is currently expired but luckily I wasn't planning on leaving Jordan for the holiday anyway and the school will pay the '1 JD per day for every day my visa is expired' fee.

In the end, I can laugh at it all. It's all one big adventure. I have survived so far.

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