The End of a Work Permit

Today, as part of the long, arduous, harrowing journey to collect my Social Security payment, I had to go the Ministry of Labour to have my work permit cancelled.

In order to do so, the worker there had to collect my work permit card (easy enough) and write into my passport – above the work permit ‘stamp’ – that it was no longer valid. Then came out a second stamp. She lifted it – I swear – a couple of meters in the air and then slammed it down with a thump onto my poor, unsuspecting passport. I looked down to see the damage.
Over the old work permit stamp, written in bold Arabic font: CANCELLED.

I’m sure she had to hit it hard to get the stamp to come out clear, but I couldn’t help back take her vigour a little personally :).

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment


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.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

10 days to go…

Wait. 10 days? When did that happen?!

When we wake up tomorrow, we’ll be into single digits, which is both exciting and terrifying.

Today, I spent most of the day at work running around having the storeroom lady sign that I have returned all my textbooks, the librarian that I have no outstanding loans, the department head to say my marking is done, the secretary for proof my grades are uploaded, the account for…well, I don’t know why I need his signature, and last – but not least – the principal to tie it all up in a neat little bow. It’s becoming official.

(I quite enjoyed the experience. It appealed to the list-writer/organiser in me. It felt like running through the Royal Adelaide Show, getting all the stamps required for the yellow brick road.)

Up till today, I’ve largely ignored that we’re leaving Jordan, but now it is really sinking in. I thought the “goodbyes” were frequent before, but now they really are coming thick and fast. Sadly, we’re at a point where we end most of our conversations with ‘have a good life’, because if we’re not going to see someone again in the next 240 hours, chances are we never will.

I know that’s a little morbid, but in a sense, I think that’s ok. We’ve been incredibly blessed by our time in Jordan, and it is good to mourn it. We’ll have plenty of time to be thankful about all we are getting by returning to Adelaide; now is the right time be thankful for Jordan and sad to leave it.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Birthday Candles

Arab birthday candles are the coolest.


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Temple Mount

The Western Wall plaza in the old city of Jerusalem is a hectic place.
The wall itself – the closest point to the original location of the Holy of Holies on the Temple Mount above – is the place of Jewish pilgrimage. Every day sees thousands of tourists, children celebrating their Bath or Bar Mitzvah and faithful mourners making their way through the plaza. The Israel Defense Force patrol with arms bared (often in more ways than one), and thick, steel gates with metal detectors and X-ray scanners mark each entry and exit.
Busy, energetic and surprisingly modern and western.

Make you way through the almost hidden foreigner’s gate, through one last X-ray scanner, up the wooden ramp and onto the Temple Mount itself, and you enter a different world.

Yes, the I.D.F. still mark the entrance, but this world is definitely Arab. Old men in Middle Eastern dress sit in circles talking, and no one is in any hurry at all. There is far more space and many more trees than you’d expect (It’s like stepping into the Tardis; from the outside, it doesn’t look like all this space should exist.). The language is different and the so is the architecture. Standing infront of the Al-Aqsa mosque at the south end of the mount, surrounded by Arabic, I could be back in Amman (not to pick at faults, but the half discarded construction material doesn’t hurt either 😉 ).

When we were there, we figured this relaxing locale was the perfect spot for lunch. We found a seat on the steps leading up to the Dome of the Rock and ate our olives, hummus and bread overlooking the Mount of Olives. After that, we walked back down off temple mount and forward about 400 years.


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Trade Embargo

Thanks to Iran’s tenuous relationship with the international community and trade embargos, you don’t come across this everyday:

iran_glove_1Produced in I.R.I, the Islamic Republic of Iran.

I saw these on our recent trip to Dubai. My only question: why is there so much English on the packaging?


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

the last ten-dollar-runaways-style hair cut for a while

Going to the hairdressers here is always an experience. I almost always have some story to come home with, and today was no exception.

First, I should probably mention that after living for two and half years in the Middle East, I feel like I am qualified to say that Arab women can be quite blunt when they want to be. I’m not saying this is a bad thing at all, it can just come as a shock to Westerners who grow up with certain politeness rules in place, and any violation of those rules usually results in one being offended. It’s something I quickly got over in the first few months living here.

Today I showed up to my local hairdresser, asking for a cut. She’s a rough woman, my hairdresser. She grabs and pulls and pokes; gentleness is not her forte.

Her first question was ‘Where is the baby?’
I laugh and reply, ‘Ma fii bebe lissa, inshallah.’ I don’t have kids yet, as God wills it.
How many years have you been married?’ she asks.
‘Almost three,’ I say.
There is lots of tutting and exchanging of glances with the other two women in the room.
‘Inshallah, God will give you babies. Enough, three years is enough to be a bride!’

In the middle of cutting my hair, she grabs my eyebrows and says, ‘You want your eyebrows done?’
Now, she’s done my eyebrows before, and it was not the most pleasant experience I’ve ever had, her lacking gentleness and all, so I quickly declined. She turns to her friend, and says, ‘But she needs it! It’s too messy! And her arms! She needs sukar (sugar wax)!’ all the while shaking her head and tutting. I don’t think she quite knows how much Arabic I understand, so I sit there trying not to laugh. But goodness, don’t go to a salon here unless you’re up for some severe scrutiny of your physical features.

I have to confess, while I was there, I was planning on writing a blog post about how this would be my last $10 cut and blow dry for a while. But then my hairdresser started lamenting loudly about how much her electricity bill was this month – 58JD! For a woman who probably only earns 250-300JD a month, that is pretty steep, and it’s an indication of how tough things are for the average Jordanian. Obviously it’s not as bad as places like Egypt, but times are tough. I’m not sure if the conversation I overheard was a deliberate ploy to soften me up for when my bill came, but if it was, it worked, because suddenly the price of a cut and blow dry went from 8JD to 14JD.

Nevertheless, I’m going to miss my shrewd, slightly grumpy, little bit nosy hairdresser. Maybe not the Joan Jett-Cherie Curry style hair cut, though 😉

Photo on 2013-06-13 at 19.25

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Summer Holidays

Yesterday was the last day of exams and – at least for students – the first of summer holidays. A few students invited me out to the inaugural celebrations. (Goes to show how generous they are!)

The day turned into a tour of Amman’s Christian clubs. We started out at the YMCA…not the YMCA I’m used to; this one had a pool and 5JD meals. In a city with no public pools, sports courts or rec halls, it makes sense that many old Christian families have a membership at a club like this (for me it was 12JD). I’d forgotten – or maybe I never knew? – how relaxing it is to go for a swim and read a book by a pool. We also played some pool.
It was the first time in a long time I had done both.

Next we went to the Orthodox Club, which you could be forgiven for thinking is the first floor of some 5 star hotel. This place is full on with entertainment: pools, tennis, basketball, a gym, a disco and a restaurant. Of course, the students I was with had other interests in mind: video games. The set-up surprised me in its scope. At a glance there were 20 state of the art gaming PCs and at least 10, large LCD TVs with PS3 playing the local favourites, Call of Duty, FIFA and some sort of wrestling thing.

I would love to know the history of these clubs. When and why were they founded? What do they say about Jordanian culture?

Not that the students I was with were worried about these questions. They were they to have fun, and we certainly did!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment


Given that it only costs 2JD to have your beard shaved or trimmed, I wasn’t too disappointed when my electric trimmer broke. It also isn’t a problem to find a barber; there are probably 12 within a 15 minute walk of our house. In fact, if anything, their numbers has caused a little problem.

Literarily 50 metres down the road, two barbers face opposite each other. I first went to the one on the left, then the following week – when he was away – I went to the one on the right. Yesterday, I stood in the middle of the road, and they both leant out the window looking at me.

What was I meant to do? What would I do in Australia? Would their ever be 2 barbers directly occurs the road in Australia, neither of which did much business?

It’s just a little thing, but it is yet another that reminds me I am very much a foreigner. I had – and still have – no I idea what the ‘normal’ thing to do is.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Football. Football. Football.

Tensions are rising in the office. I’ve already had one co-worker say he is planning to hold me hostage for the next 3 days.

It all started when Australia and Jordan were placed in the same World Cup qualifying group. After the round-robins competition, two teams automatically make it through to Brazil next year. Thanks to that last minute draw against Australia last week, Japan is already through to 2014. Two of the countries left vying for the final position are – you guessed it – Jordan and Australia.

The Asian qualifying group B is broken down as follows: Oman in 2nd with seven matches played and 9 points, followed by Australia and Jordan with six matches played and 7 points each. When it comes down to goals for and against, Australia is ahead (thanks largely to the shalacking Japan handed Jordan a year ago.), having scored as many goals as they’ve conceded.

Which brings us to this Tuesday: Australia vs. Jordan in Melbourne.  Traditionally, pundits would say that it should be an easy win for Australia. However, that’s what they said before Australia lost 2-1 here in Amman (which I am still being mocked about). This is even more unusual given that it is Australia’s only loss for the entire tournament.
You also would think that the home ground advantage would give Australia a massive boost, but that’s what we all thought before Australia drew with Oman in Sydney a couple of months ago.
It seems that can only pull out our best football against the best in our group!

So the game is well and truly in the balance. But what are the stakes?
Well, if Australia wins, Jordan would have to beat Oman the following week by 7 or more goals to make it through. Basically, Jordan would be out.
If Jordan wins…well, the math is a bit complex, but Australia is out.
A draw keeps things interesting, but still very tough for both countries. 3rd place in the group means they are through to further qualifiers, but nothing is guaranteed.

So, if it’s a draw, I should be fine. If Australia wins, or if Australia looses, you might not hear from me for a while.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment