I finally got the DVD from last year’s Christmas concert, a full eleven months later. Apparently the YWCA had been holding onto it pretty tightly; I had to call four different people in order to secure a copy, and only on the grounds that I would only have it for an hour – long enough to make a copy of it. The woman who gave it to me literally made me promise to return it to no one else’s hands but hers and she bemoaned how much effort it had taken from her to secure a copy from the Jordanian TV station that had originally aired it. In any case, I had it back to her in 40 minutes or so – long enough for me to run home in 5 minutes, make the dupe, and then run back.

In other news, I had my first government-required blood test. Apparently this is a thing that they roll out every few years or so. My mother mentioned it to me even before I first arrived in Jordan, but no one ever asked me to get one before dutifully stamping my paperwork. This time, however, it was different. Maybe because of H1N1 or something, but they’re being much more strict about doing things in the official manner. I went to the good ol’ 8th Circle police station again (probably the sixth time I’ve been there) and the officer in charge of foreigner relations immediately told me to bring a sheet of paper with a blood test results from the Ministry of Health, a 20 minute taxi ride away.

By this point, nothing surprises me about the Jordanian bureaucracy anymore, so I merely got into the taxi and went; no point in arguing. I paid my JD20 for the blood test, and went upstairs to the top floor. There, two maternal muhijabeh (covered with scarves) women fussed over me, asked me about my Arabic and about my children (surprised that I didn’t have any; they assume most foreigners here are married, apparently). Same as in America, I winced when they jabbed me, but it was over in a half second and they patted me on the head. I picked up the results this morning (I had passed, somehow; even without studying) and returned to the 8th Circle.

The same officer of foreign relations chuckled when he saw me enter. He accepted my paperwork, commenting that he figured it was probably the same as last time. He looked up my passport file in the government database (I love having files in government databases) and frowned to his colleague, sitting in the couch on the other side of his office. He asked me why I had been coming in and out of the country so much and why I didn’t just get a permanent residency card. I didn’t really have an answer for him, so he winked and pointed over at the police officer on the couch. “Are you married?” he asked me. It’s a pretty common question here. When I told him no, he nodded to the other officer and told me, “That man over there has a pretty sister, what do you think?” Once again, I found myself strangely unable to form a response to a man’s question. There’s something about discussing someone’s sister, while both parties are wearing automatic handguns strapped to their chests, that just makes me quieter than usual.

The man on the couch rolled his eyes. “He’s my younger brother, so my sister is his sister as well,” he grunted. I took a gamble and replied, “If that’s what it takes to get a permanent residency card and be a real Jordanian, sounds good to me – where do I sign?” The two of them crowed with laughter, slapped me on the back, and had me sit down for coffee. I learned that the main officer’s name was Aadel, which means “Justice” in Arabic, and commented it was convenient for his line of work. He told me that he remembered me from the first time he’d ever seen me, and sure enough – it was the same man that I had originally referred to as “Tony Soprano” back in September of last year. His brother dryly told me that I might as well be married into the family because of how often they saw me. As we talked, he occasionally paused to do his job, which seemed mostly to tell wealthy Jordanians that they’d need to have their Filipino housemaids tested at the Ministry of Health before he could approve their residency. After a large group of Filipinos, herded by a stern looking older woman, had left the office, I asked him if that was who he normally saw during his work day. He assented, telling me that it got pretty boring. The three of us chatted for a few moments about traveling around the area and police work in the country as we sipped our cardamom-filled coffee. I tried to get a picture with Aadel, but he told me it was prohibited and pointed to the camera above his door, staring down at him. He shook my hand warmly as I left, and I called him “nijma bil samooaht,” (A star among the heavens) which I felt was slightly more acceptable than the first thing I said to him a year ago (if you don’t remember the horribly embarrassing thing I told him last year, read the article linked above).

Strange to think of how much my opinion of the police here have changed in the past year; I imagine that’s come with my grasp of the language so I can understand what they’re saying about me. Really, because of the emphasis on family, connections, hospitality, and honor here in the Arab world, it seems even easier to socialize with your average police officer here than it does in America (ironically, that could be because they will gladly stop and chat with you and get coffee while they should be guarding a street; I never said they were the most professional).

There’s less than three weeks now before I return to America for a long vacation. I can’t wait to see how the country has changed in the year since I’ve last seen it. I can’t believe when I left before, Obama hadn’t even become president yet! It’ll be great to see how much everything has “change”d since he’s taken office…oh, wait.