Since yesterday marked an official month in Jordan, I was lucky to be able to punch through the Jordanian bureaucracy and wrestle my way into a police station to get my official stamp of faux-citizenry. I mean those verbs figuratively, of course, but it took me far less than a month to realize that nothing official ever comes easy in Jordan. When Wajih told me last week that I could go register the day before my month was up, I hemmed and hawwed, reminding him that my first day in the country was when I began my saga of eight or nine different visits to Orange to do something as simple as sign up for internet service (which actually finally just came today – after a month of trying! This is my first post from my own house!)

It was lucky that I wanted to go early, as it ended up taking no less than four separate visits to the 8th Circle Police Station (or whatever its official name may be) before I got that seal of approval from the authorities that would allow me to stay in the country legally. Each trip, taken from our office in Shemeisani, took about 45 minutes total and the first two were utterly useless.

I can’t even compare this lowly scenario to what Hispanic immigrants must go through to get into America, but after being told for the dozenth time to “go to the other building please” by bored-looking Arabs in bland uniforms, I was beginning to feel like a hassled, harried, and unwanted reject of the system. Thankfully, I always had either Kahlil or Tayseer, two other Entity Green employees with me when I went to act as translator and to drive me, and they were similarly astounded that it was this troublesome for a process they had assumed would be simple – for an American, at least. I felt really bad for Tayseer in particular – he’s a tiny, wizened older fellow whose health isn’t very good, and the two buildings of the police station were stupidly designed to not even be connected to each other. In order to get from one to the other, you have to walk through this field of rocks, swirling hot sand, and broken bottles. I tried to repeatedly tell him that he could just wait in the building closest to the car and I could take care of it, but he stubbornly assured me that it was no problem, no problem (mishmushkalay). I tried to help him over the boulder-like stones as best as I could. I really like Tayseer – with his gentle smile and quiet disposition, he reminds me of my grandfather.

The third time, which was last Thursday, we finally seemed to get somewhere. As Tayseer and I approached Building 2, the same young policeman that had questioned Kahlil and I the previous two times grinned broadly at me. He always struck me as a little odd – his face and scrawny body seemed more fit for a 13-year-old, but as he sat in the guard booth and patted the smooth-worn barrel of the AK-47 machine gun in his lap, I decided I wouldn’t be the one to tell him that. Inside, I followed my elderly friend into an office, occupied by a burly, stony-faced, uniformed man who looked uncomfortably like Tony Soprano. He barked something sharply in response to Tayseer’s tentative question, which was followed by 15 minutes of trudging back and forth across 50 feet of burning sand to different offices in the two buildings.

Eventually, through what was most likely a stroke of luck more than anything, we found a tiny office with an even tinier black table. A young woman in hijab sat behind a nearby desk, and what she said caused even the gentle and mild Tayseer to raise his voice. He turned back to me – “She says that the man who does the fingerprinting work just didn’t show up today, and he probably won’t be back until Sunday. No one else is allowed to fingerprint but him.” We were about to take our grudging leave of the place, but then the woman seemed to change her mind, and I was motioned to approach the little table, which I then realized wasn’t actually black, but just coated with layers of black ink. The woman put up rubber gloves and gingerly took my hand, rubbing it into the ink coating the table, and then pressing each one of my fingers to an official-looking piece of paper. I had to gently prevent her from taking my other hand and giving it the same awkward treatment; I figured I was perfectly capable of taking care of this under my own power.

However, the fun of residency wasn’t over yet! We still needed to come back 3 days later and get my passport stamped with some arabic dates and numbers (one of the few things I’m actually good at reading now is Arabic numbers) that would keep me from getting massive fines when I eventually leave the country. Tayseer and walked back into Tony Soprano’s office. “Anna Jeet!” I proclaimed proudly to the police chief, who cocked his head, raised his eyebrow, and looked at me like I was an idiot. However, the end of the torment was near (for both of us, me trying to speak Arabic to authority figures and them having to listen to me) and he quickly one-two, stamped my passport twice, and that was that. I was official, and officially done.

Of course, this is only a two month extension. At the end of November, my time in Jordan will run out, and I’ll need to either do an entirely new kind of run-around through embassies and Head Offices of the Royal Authority or something like that. Or I can just leave the country, travel to Egypt or Syria or something for a couple weeks, and then come back and start over again. At least this time I’ll know what I’m getting in to, and know exactly what to bring. The less “surprises” I have when I try to get official business done, the better.

NOTE: This evening, I told Philip about the surly Mafia-faced police chief, and saying “Anna Jeet” to him, which I thought meant “I’m back!” Philip laughed and said, “You didn’t really say that to the police chief, did you? “Jeet” means “came” and it’s slang here, too. If that’s all you said without any other words, you just told the guy you had an orgasm.”

The experience of learning Arabic is pretty exhilarating at times like these.

I think I need a cigarette and a cold shower.