Every month, the Jordanian government takes a percentage of my pay for my ‘Social Security’ (I really wanted to call it Superannuation, but no-one knew what I meant.); nothing unusual there. I had been told that if you are a foreigner who has finished working in Jordan, the government is happy to give you back the money before your departure, rather than make you come back once you reach retirement age.
Everything was looking good…until we arrived at the Social Security department. Turns out that as my contract technically finishes in August of this year (not June when I’m leaving), I can’t receive the payment until September. But all was not lost. Apparently, I could give someone permission to collect the money once my contract is up. To get all the official paper work done would mean a trip to court.
Which I found very exciting.
For two years I had gone past Jordan’s ‘High Court’ on the way home from West Amman, and I was always wanted to explore it. The building is designed to be imposing – much like the Australian High Court, though not quite to same degree – with gigantic wooden doors and high arched ceilings. The iron fence along the street line and sandstone masonry further lend to the feeling you’re entering some sort of castle or fort.
I usually head past the court after 2pm when everything is shut up for the day (it’s a government building, after all), but when I arrived today (along with my guide from the school, and the friend I would give permission to pick up the social security) it was abuzz with activity. I’m not sure what you need to go to court to get done here, but it seems that it is a lot of things. There were plenty of everyday citizens and a good mix of lawyers as well (you could tell the lawyers apart as they hastily threw on their robes as they run up the front stairs.).
Our first stop was the old gentlemen sitting out the front by a small, rickety wooden table under the shade of an umbrella. I wasn’t sure why we were speaking to him at first, until I realised he was the one who filled out the official court documents. We needed it in duplicate, so he pulled out his trusty carbon paper to wedge between two copies of the same form. After much arguing about how to write my name in Arabic – which I mostly disagreed with, but kept quiet – we could head inside.
I assume the courtrooms were on the further side of the large foyer, but once through the front doors, we made a sharp left into a room full of practical but unimpressive cubicles. After a couple of minutes we were called up.
The office worker (or was she some sort of paralegal? I couldn’t’ figure it out.) took the form and started entering the details into the computer. It looked like she had done this many times before.
She turned to the friend next to me, ‘Does he speak Arabic?’ (in Arabic)
‘A little,’ I interrupted.
‘Why do you want this form signed, in Arabic.’ She now addressed me directly.
I explained in general how I was leaving and how I wanted him to pick up my social security.
‘What do you want it for, exactly.’ She asked.
By this stage I was well aware that my request was being verified orally (important for both the foreign and illiterate), and painfully aware that I had no idea what ‘social security’ is in Arabic.
I looked to my friend. He gave the ‘Fraid I can’t help ya, bud’ shrug.
After a few minutes of further futility, my new friend, the officer worker/paralegal, had reached the end of her patience. She decided it was best to speak out the term and have me repeat after her (once she said it, it made sense to me).
Having spoken the magical words, I was free to go.