Sunday, September 6, 2009

Welcome to Jordan! How can I make your stay more complicated?

Last Sunday, I went to the maktab a'shurta, or police station (actually police office, but they got the idea) to get my visa renewed. With my usual impeccable timing, I arrived at 1:10 p.m., ten minutes after they closed for Ramadan. The harassed civilian I commandeered to help me talk to the unpleasant guard at the gate translated the guard's curt responses as "Welcome to Jordan. The station is open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday through Thursday. You are too late, you ignorant foreigner, you." Actually I made that last bit up.

Regardless, I was now faced with a problem. My visa was expiring on Friday. I was working from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. every day that week. So the soonest I could get back to the police station was today, a week later and three days past my expiration date. The harassed citizen told me it would be one dinar for every day I went over my visa. Three dinars. No big deal, right? HAHA!

This morning, I cheerfully rolled out of bed and was on the road toward the police station by 11 a.m. (well, 11:30 at the latest. Promise) I arrived, sweaty and exhausted after my hike uphill to the police station, held out my passport like a shield in front of me and was ushered by some stern-looking officers into a back room. I waved my passport at the official behind the desk and said "new visa." He waved me into a chair and took my passport. After looking at my visa for a minute, he said I had to go to an address he wrote on a piece of paper, then come back to the police station. "But what do I do at the address," I asked. He looked confused. He gestured to the women in the desk next to him to take me to another part of the building. "You are welcome in Jordan," he called as I left the room.

The woman took me into another official-looking office, where the officer there said I was over my expiration date and had therefore begun to rot. I needed to go to the Department of Something or Rather to pay my three dinars because the station could not possibly do it. Then I had to come back to the station to get my renewed visa. "We close at one," he reminded me with a smile. He had one of his guards take me down to get me a taxi. "Welcome to Jordan!" he said cheerfully as I exited his office trying to quell my urge to bean him and his officers with my purse for making me run around so much.

I got in my taxi and we drove to the Department of Whatever. It was now noon. I asked some more unpleasant guards where exactly the department was, and they pointed me to a building with roughly a million people standing around waiting. Joy. The guard stationed there reluctantly helped me find the correct form to fill out, then pointed me toward booth 2. "Welcome in Jordan," he mumbled grumpily. I stood in line at booth two, handed my paper to the attendant there, was discussed hurriedly behind the counter, then was pointed to the cashier's booth. I handed my paper to the women there and was asked to sit down. After a couple minutes, I heard her call, "American!" Although this isn't my usual name, I responded and paid my three dinars. "Welcome to Jordan," she said in lieu of a goodbye.

Rushing out of the building at about 12:30 p.m., I summoned the first taxi I saw and headed back to the original police station. I headed straight into the back room and got them to stamp my passport in no time. I walked out of the police station at ten minutes to one with my head held high.

“You are welcome in Jordan,” the guard called out as I wandered back by his kiosk.

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