11 September 2006


Today I went with Verina to the airport to pick her stuff up from customs. It was amazing. She learned her fist word in Arabic: Shaheen. It means “cargo”.

We headed down to the airport with a driver she hired to take us. Upon arriving at the airport, we were told that the road which goes directly to the warehouse was closed. This was despite the fact that the guard who insisted this continuously allowed ALL the other traffic through while we sat there, our driver arguing with him. Alas, we were told that we needed to travel on an alternate route, which would take us about 15 kilometers out of the way. The guard had asked where we are from, and the driver told him that we’re both American. As we drove away, Verina told him that she’s German, and he said, “It’s OK, American, German, it’s all the same here.” We drove down the road to the airport and walked up to some offices where many men smoked and stamped things. While we were waiting, a door opened, and a cigarette butt was tossed out. The door closed again. The smoker we were talking to would not stamp Verina’s papers. We left, and attempted to find the alternate route. Apparently, driving onto the airport is serous business here. We stopped at a gate and we gave the smoker there our passports, and drivers licenses. There was much argument about how to spell Verina’s name in the book of stamped things, and eventually they settled on spelling it “Ferena” instead of borrowing the “V” from Persian. I guess. We were issued illegible plastic cards, and we continued on. We came to another check point, and the smoker there looked all through the SUV we were in, and in our bags. We eventually continued to a series of buildings, one of which said CARGO on it.

We went into an office in this building, and met a man who explained to Verina that an individual cannot simply show up and claim her things, that she needed an intermediary, and he said that the nice man who appeared out of thin air would be her representative for 50 JD. Fifty! She told him that she’d already paid for her things, and would not pay any more. He kept saying that there was no other way, but she raised her voice and demanded her things. We continued on while 50 JD-guy kept following us from window to window trying to get ahead of her and explain things. We went to about a dozen different offices and windows and people asked us the same questions, and kept stamping her paper work, and writing little notes on it. We finally ended up heading down into a warehouse, where we passed through a metal detector unbothered. We waited and waited. And waited. Many different people approached us and told us to move, and then said that for 5 JD they could track her stuff down quickly. It just went on and on. It was so hot in there, and everyone was smoking. Boxes were being opened, and the contents disbursed to people. At one point I realized that where I was standing must represent the U.S. government’s worst nightmare: hundreds of Arabs, each with his own box cutter. One box of blue jeans caused great shouting, and then the guys there descended on it, and each walked away with a pair of jeans. Another box had about a zillion copies of the TV show “24” DVDs. Those were also handed out. Hummmm. Her boxes appeared after the driver yelled at 80 different people. They needed to be opened. The presence of books sent everyone into a yelling frenzy. Evidently, one cannot bring book to Jordan unless enrolled at the University. Since we won’t register until later today, we currently have no proof of student status. Back up stairs to many, many windows. Two more offices, three more windows, 50 JD-guy showed up again, and told “Ferena” that she would have to pay a massive fee based on the insurance slip which estimated the cash value of her stuff at 700 British Pounds. She said, “I don’t need to show the guy behind the window the packing slip, and he won’t need to charge me.” Further, the guy asked her if there were books in her stuff. Then, he smiled and said to her, “You don’t have books in there, right?” Right. It was awesome! She had to pay a 2 JD fee when it was all said and done. We headed back down to the warehouse, and were told to go into a room just past the metal detector so a guy could search through our bags. Before we were done being searched, a person we’d not seen before appeared and informed her that her luggage was outside. The driver pulled the SUV up to the dock, and a man put the boxes in the vehicle. The boxes were actually quite small, after all that. They were a bit bigger than a VCR, but when she only tipped the man who moved the boxes a few feet 2 JD, he complained to the driver that he needed 5 JD. She looked at him, and said “Thanks very much, lets go!” Our driver said that he hoped she wasn't too upset, that "this is how business is done here."

So, back to the place with all of our identification, and back to Amman. Amazing. For four small boxes, it took several hours. Our driver was amazing, and she gave him a commensurate tip.


Blogger K said...

WELCOME TO JORDAN! I forgot how tiring it gets with everyone hounding you for money at the airport. 2JD is too generous for the porter, I would have given him 1/2 JD (and he wanted 5!). I can't believe someone wanted to be a 50JD intermediary!!! That's outragous. I wonder if most Westerners just pay, and so they know its profitable to hound like that? -K

8:00 PM  
Blogger weeping sore said...

My theory here is that two young, attractive, unescorted foreign women probably send off some kind of radar that attracts the kind of unwanted smoking male attention, and offers for overpriced assistance. I remember tipping a young man US$5 in the Amman airport for finding my bags upon the chaos of arrival. In hindsight, he probably had them stashed behind a trash can and was waiting for me to be suitably panicked before coming to my rescue. No matter; I considered it a form of foreign aid, up close and personal.

8:31 PM  
Blogger Miss Carousel said...

all you white people look alike.

10:14 PM  

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