Friday, January 27, 2012


This guy tried to cheat me into paying 40 dinars to get from Amman to the Allenby bridge. I made him turn around and take me to the taxi station, and because it was rush hour traffic and I felt sorry for him, I ended up paying him 5 JD. The shared taxi from Amman to Allenby also cost me 5 JD.

I was in the Jordanian exit terminal, standing around, waiting for me to get my passport stamped, when I saw a girl who looked about my age. I couldn't tell if she was foreign, or Arabic, or Jewish. She could've been a combination of all three. All I knew was, she didn't look phased. I wondered what she was crossing for. It was my first time crossing after dark. We both ended up sitting in the waiting area while our passports were being processed. I was eating donuts, she was eating McDonalds. Stress food?

The passport guy told us to get on the bus. She told me, "ok, let's go" and we found the bus to take us to Allenby. After I was seated and got my passport handed back to me, she asked me where I was going.
"Really? I'm driving to Ramallah, I have a car. You can ride with me if you want."
Her name was Aisha. She was half-German, half-Palestinian, and her father was from Ramallah. She was studying at Birzeit University. I asked her if it was better to cross at night. I had this theory that it would work better because it was harder to deny someone entry when they had no way of getting back to Amman. She told me it didn't make a difference to her, because they usually kept her waiting until the terminal closed. I'd probably end up waiting for her, but I didn't mind.

As soon as we got into the Israeli terminal, I handed my passport over to the first desk. I wasn't familiar with this terminal, it was throwing me off. The guy asked me, "You were born in Taiwan?" I said yeah. He shook his head and marked my security threat level and handed my passport back. After I got through the metal detector, I heard a soldier asking Aisha if she had another passport other than German. She said no. They asked her to wait over there. Her name was Arabic.

I went ahead to the kiosks and waited for my turn. I was mentally prepared for the old terminal, where were we? And it was night, and the place was full. This was weird. My turn came, and I went up to the official. There were two in the kiosks, both wearing kippahs. I handed over my passport and he flipped through it. I dug around my backpack and retrieved my letter from Haj Sami and my pictures with the kids in Al Aqaba. Before he could ask my anything I passed them under the glass. He said, "those aren't for us" and continued typing. I tried to see that as a good thing.

He asked me what I did. I said I was an English teacher in a village called Al Aqaba. He asked me how much time I wanted. I said three months. He raised his eyebrows and said, "well, I don't think we can give you three months..." I said, "but I need three months to finish the course!"
Of course, this was a lie, I finished teaching a month ago, but my situation was much more loosey-goosey now and I needed a stronger reason to stay. The guest house work wasn't strong enough. The man asked me for all of my contacts and their numbers. My new phone only had three numbers in it, so I gave him three. Usually they didn't call them. I spent most of this time studying the difference between one kippah and the other. One was neatly stitched, and the other looked very old and torn. I wondered what that meant.

He told me to go sit down "over there." I was going to get some more questions. I sat down in a waiting section with a bunch of Palestinians. One of the guys asked me, "Where are you from?"
"They only put Palestinians here. Not Americans."
"I know...."

Aisha had gotten up to the kiosks and had been standing there for some time. We seemed to be at the same stage. I was still hoping to go to Ramallah with her. I wasn't confident about the Service schedule and it was nice to have a new friend from Ramallah.

We both ended up in another waiting room, with the group of Palestinian men from before. One of them was talking on his phone in an American accent, "No, don't leave yet, I haven't gotten my passport yet so I'll call you when I know..."
Aisha sat next to me with all her stuff. "What did they ask you?"
I couldn't think of anything out of the ordinary. What was I doing, how long was I staying....I wasn't ordinary, but I didn't really get any trouble.

They'd pulled Aisha aside and asked her, "why do you study in Ramallah?"
"Because my father is from Ramallah."
"But there are so many better universities in Germany and Europe you could go to."
"Yes, but my family is in Ramallah..."
"Why are you angry?"
"Because you're asking me these stupid questions, I don't need your visa. Just give me one week and I'll go to the Ministry of the Interior and get it myself."
"What if we don't give you entry?"
"You're not allowed to not let me in. My family is there."

I stared at her in disbelief. What a complete asshole. I really did get VIP treatment.

I was pulled aside and a young women asked me the same questions over again. I said Al Aqaba, she said what? I said it was near Tubas. Tubas? Umm, between Nablus and Jenin. Ok, she wrote Jenin. How long are you staying in Jenin? Nooo, no, no, I'm not living in Jenin. I told her to write Tubas. Jenin wasn't going to help me here. I was staying in Tubas for 2 and a half months. She wrote, "3 months." She went back to the office, and a few minutes later, brought me back my passport. It had a 3-month stamp in it.

I went through one last kiosk, and then out the door. I decided to wait for Aisha, they couldn't keep her for that long, with all these terminal changes. I decided to call Haj Sami, to ask if the kiosk guys had called him. They had. They'd called him twice, and asked them if I worked there. He said yes, help Morgan!" He had to give them his ID number. It was bad enough that I'd given his name. I felt hot again. I apologized, but he seemed happy that I had the new visa, and I was coming to Al Aqaba in a few days.

I waited 5 more minutes, and Aisha was out. We rode the bus to the Palestinian Authority terminal, then found her car in the parking lot, and drove to Ramallah. She was getting calls left and right from her mother and her friends talking about relationship drama.
"If you stay a little longer, you'll know how fast talk spreads around here."
30 minutes later...
"Habibi, stop, there is this girl here I've known for one hour and she already knows all of my shit! Hele an tizi!"
I understood that as "Leave my ass!"

We went bar-hopping that night. I found myself in a bar with all this crazy stuff stuck to the walls, and Aisha requested "We Found Love" by Rihanna. I thought of all the people on Bourbon Street back in New Orleans, dancing to the same exact song.