Monday, May 08, 2006

In Search of Suitable Transportation

One of the most significant challenges El 3atal and I have faced since arriving in Jordan has been our transportation challenges. For the first 4 days, we never went anywhere in one car. Both his Mom and Dad's vehicles had to be pressed into service in order to fit the family. Why is this, you may ask? Well, we are sadly, sadly American. Very American, in fact. We insist on providing our children with the same level of safety that we do in the US. Yes, that's right, altogether now, CAR SEATS! We have 3 very large car seats that don't fit across the back of anything smaller than a 1980s Cadillac. And, being that the Cadillac would leave us one seat short for our household assistant, it isn't a practical option either. After the first few days, the multiple vehicle arrangement grew unbearably tiresome. So, we rented a wagon of sorts. While it has just enough seats, it has no trunk. Now, for those of you familiar with American style vehicles, you may wonder what I mean. Here's what I mean, our diaper bag is too big to fit in the "trunk". Proportionally you could liken this trunk to the crawl space of a house. It is amazing how big an impact this can have on your movements. For instance, I can't take the kids to the mall. Why, again you may ask? Well, I can't fit the stroller anywhere in the car. Literally. Maybe we could bungee strap it to the roof, but I'm thinking given the cost of the stroller that we won't be taking that option.

So, needless to say, we've been seeking alternate permanent arrangements. However, the range of vechiles in Jordan with three rows is more limited than one would imagine. And, many share the issue of no trunk space. Those that have a bit more trunk seem to have no space between the rows. It appears that youc an either carry your gear and have only people under 3' tall in the back or have adults in the back and no gear. A difficult conundrum that definitely left me longing for my Toyota Sienna :(. Sniff, sniff. We won't talk about the factory installed DVD system, integrated sun shades, the list goes on. We just won't talk about those things. So, El 3atal and I started on our journey to new transportation.

We've looked at most cars in Jordan with three rows. And let me tell you, car shopping here is an interesting experience. For those of you who have never car shopped in the US, let me tell you a little about it. First, dealerships in the US don't have holidays that I've ever seen. A day that people aren't working is a day that they have time to look at cars. On regular days, dealerships are open for browsing and instant, on-the-spot test drives from 9 am to 9pm. Really. I promise I'm not making this up. Since we've been in Jordan, we've encountered dealerships closed for holidays multiple times. I keep thinking, in the US this holiday would mean extended hours and non-stop commercials about their 5th day of June SALE. It's almost as if, if you work, merchants think you aren't needy enough. Kind of like the stores that believe if you have to ask how much it costs,you can't afford it. At any rate, I'm astonished how car buying is done (or rather not done). So, now, many moons later, we're still in the process. We finally found a minivan that, while it doesn't compare in fit and finish (the Lexus feel inside the Toyota is hard to match), is suitable and truly a nice car. But, get this American readers, you can't pick options you'd like. They take a WYSIWIG approach to car buying here. If it's on the lot, it's the option package you get. Now in the US, I honestly believe you could ask them to have the factory install a sink and they'd do it. Oh, you want a garbage disposal in the back of your minivan, sure. Seriously though, if you want a color inside or outside that the American dealership doesn't have, they can order it for you. if want leather seats, they'll order it. If you want side curtain airbags, installed DVD, etc. they order it. So, it's been an eye-opening experience to see how people in other places buy cars. And, it explains some of the hmmm... unique... colors you see on the road. it was what they had on the lot. I'm just a little surprised you don't see more scary looking cars. I can imagine a close-out mentality where American dealerships would sell cars to Jordanian importers anything that doesn't sell. After all, it'd sell here because if you wanted something you'd have to take what they got, teehee.

My hope for us is that some day we'll have a car of our very own that fits us, our gear, and one extra adult. And, as for the car seat thing, we'll continue. After all, I don't want you to see me driving down the road with a twins hanging out of the back of each window as I imagine they would do if given the chance. Far be it from me to have one of my kids part of the statistic that Jordan has 140+ car accidents EVERY DAY and has on average 2 fatalities. So, in some ways I'll continue to be very American. When you see the little blond lady driving down the road with three car seats, just shake your head and mumble under your breath about those silly Americans, I don't mind. I'll smile and wave, I'm not embarassed. Better my children's safety than looking like a local...

Once again, Sanity.


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