Nov 14(CST) 4:22 PM - PASSPORT THOUGHTS AT 1 AM TUES
Had to go to sleep for a few hours but I'm back on track, 12:53 p.m. in Amman and
4:53 p.m. in Austin.
I have to admit their passport was a problem. Existentially it is fine, there are three
human beings and they are accurately represented, but from a bean counters perspective
the thing lacks functionality, an American bean counter that is.
The usual culture clash over the importance of the form the name takes and how that is compounded
by translating from one language that has a radically different form from the other. Chinese must
be even more difficult. So here we are moving from Arabic language and culture to Western European/American
language and culture. The human beings remain the same only the pigeon holes change shape.
Being an existential guy I could not care less about pigeon holes but I realize the functional
necessity of figuring out how to make the pigeon holes interface. See, I'm awake now and can talk this
I made it through the day by maintaining my objective distance within this comedy of errors. Another
learning experience, oh my, it was. So now I must contact Dan Goodspeed at the embassy to see if there
are any remaining problems with their physical passport so that when we go in for the interview on
Thursday we can walk out with the medical visa, otherwise we lose another three days.
Nothing moves Friday through Sunday, it seems. One day off for each monotheism, one supposes.
The cultural name deal reminds me of Sweden where the child takes the fathers first
name as the last name so there gets to be a lot of John Johnson's. In Arabic countries
the child has a first name and then the middle name is the fathers name and the
last name is the grandfathers. This is why even married women have "last"
names that differ from the husband's. I think I finally have it down. Makes prefect
sense within the culture. Americans, being the ethnocentric lot they are, think
that if something is different then there is something wrong with it. This "one
way street" demand for cultural uniformity doesn't make us any friends.
Onward to the U.S. embassy web site!
Nov 14, 9:44 AM(CST) - AT THE EMBASSY ROUND ONE
I am too tired for colorful detail so here is the schedule of todays events. We
went to the U.S. embassy before 9a.m.. We were told we couldn't do anything until
$100 was deposited in the Amman Cairo Bank for each person seeking a medical visa.
We went to the Amman Cairo Bank and the teller said he couldn't accept the money
because Zaynab's name was not completely spelled out but only signed Zaynab M.A.
in English on her part of the passport.
We went to the Iraqi embassy and spent an
hour getting someone to change the name to Zaynab Mohammed Assi.
We went back to
the Amman Cairo Bank and the teller said he did not notice that Alaa also didn't
have her name completely spelled out .
We went back to the Iraqi embassy and had
her name spelled out on the passport.
We went back to the U.S. embassy and waited
in a long line for an hour. I almost gave up but we perservered and obtained some
forms to fill out and an interview date of November 17th. I will call Daniel Goodspeed
tomorrow morning and see if we can speed things up. The 17th is Thursday so we have
to know that we will actually get the visa then because the embassy has a permanent
three day weekend, I am told, so no business transacted until the following Monday.
I don't want any more surprises if they can be avoided. We can't book a return
flight until we have some idea when we are leaving. In Kuwait the U.S. embassy took
the cash right there and we filled out the forms on the premises. The previous Iraqi
administration in Basra did a better job of producing a passport.
Nov 13, 2005 5:31 PM TO THE EMBASSY, 9 AM
Khalid, Zaynab, and Alaa' have new passport pictures for their medical visas.
We went around the corner to Waleem's Kodak Studio for some state of the art digital
photos since I don't have a way to print the ones I took. Zaynab didn't like showing
her ears for the photograph but she did. Alaa was coy for awhile but warmed up to
the camera eye. Khalid was straight forward as usual, a handsome young man.
They are eager to get medical attention for their child and afraid of being lost in the
huge country of America. Through an Arabic journalist I was able to assure them
that they would never be alone in America. Some member of our group would be there
for them at all times. The doctor in Orlando is Arabic. The Ronald McDonald House
is a nice hotel for children with medical problems, I explained.
The weather will be like Amman, cool but not bitter cold. There will be no snow in
Houston or Orlando, I assured them. I warned them that there are huge lines for immigration in Houston
that take four hours to get through. What I didn't say is that it took Cole and
me five weeks to get Asraa and her dad the medical visas in Kuwait. Here we have
every document in hand. Communication is quick. Nothing but having been burned in
Kuwait is a cause for worry. Amman is not Kuwait City, there should not be any difficulty
here. In Kuwait City we has five layers of bureaucracy to deal with but here we
only have the American embassy.
Inshallah, God willing, we will walk in at 9 a.m. and walk out with our medical
visas by noon or at least the assurance that the visas are only a day or two away.
I'm ready to book the return flights.
Nov 12, 2005 6:37 PM THE STREETS OF AMMAN, EARLY MORNING
Time wise I'm 8 hours ahead rotating on the axis so it is 1:04 a.m. rather than
5:05 p.m. in Austin (CST.)
I walked down several dark streets
to find a falafel and swarma (roasted chicken on a spit for sandwiches) restaurant.
I never thought for a moment anyone would do more than wave to me. Jordanians are
very friendly. There is no street crime to speak of. As bad as they were, the hotel
explosions were very isolated events. This kind of takes away the intrepid reporter
in danger romance but only the truth has documentary value. I have a keen dangermeter
and I'll report if the needle moves. My only fear is of a bureaucratic obstacle
course and I hope that is unfounded.
Nov 12, 2005 12:05 PM ABDALI PLAZA