Friday, October 2, 2009

Border misadventures

So I was supposed to go to Syria to watch the Lebanon UNRWA soccer team triumph over the Syrian team. Yassmin and I were going to leave work at midday and get ourselves there, and stay till Saturday. Problem #1, my stupid residency permit arrived at the Beirut office yesterday and it was supposed to be easily put in the pouch and sent up today, arriving at around 10am. Well, the pouch got delayed and delayed and finally arrived at around 2:30pm. By the time we got home, packed our bags and got to the bus area it was around 3:30pm.

Problem #2. The mini van we were taking to get a bit further north of Tripoli side swiped another car, and of course a massive argument ensued. We got out of that van, jumped in another and were on our way. We found a cab driver who would take us to the border and things were looking up.

We had a few minor inconveniences at the Lebanese border, with a bit of confusion over how my original entry stamp was in my old passport, and the fact that I'd overstayed my 2 month visa, even though the guy was holding my brand spanking new residence permit in his hand. Anyway, he finally stamped it, and we jumped back in the cab to take us the kilometre or so to the Syrian entrance. We bade the driver farewell, feeling that finally, luck was on our side.

The entrance area was somewhat ordered, and we filled out our forms and handed them over. A lot of Arabic was exchanged and then Yassmin walked around behind the counter to talk to the dudes. Because she's travelling on an American passport they had to get special permission for her to enter. We knew this, and knew that it would take a while. But that's when they sprung the doozy on us. The visa for Australians is $100!! (That's about US$90). Single entry. I was shocked. Not just at the high price (Americans pay US$16), but because a year ago I paid $27 to get into Syria. It was just too much for 2 days away. We tried to convince them to at least give me a multiple entry visa, but they wouldn't budge.

So we left. We started walking back to the Lebanese border. Many cabs drove past but we really didn't need one. A lot of cars also drove past with people calling out to us. We were happy to walk. But then a guy in a small truck pulled over and told us he'd take us to the border. It was very nice of him. We got back to the border and this is where problem #3 arose.

There were a billion sweaty men crowded around the windows. I really wish the Brits had colonised here, at least then there'd be a queuing system. We went to the window that said "foreign arrivals." The guy very rudely told us to go and stand in the other more crowded area. So we push our way to the front there and they told us to go back to the other window. Well, it was all getting a bit ridiculous. The stench of body odour was quite overwhelming. This went on and on, back and forth. Finally we were taken back through to the departures area, where a very suspicious man kept flicking through our passports (not that there was anything except the exit stamp I'd gotten less than an hour before in mine!) and asking questions. Ridiculous.

Finally, we got our entry stamps and all that was left was to jump in a cab to reverse our journey. Problem #5, there were no friggin cabs!! Well, there was one guy, who wanted 10,000 off each of us, which is absolutley ridiculous. He then sabotaged the next few people who pulled up near us, telling them we were foreigners (ok, yes, it's obvious that I'm a foreigner, but in the words of Mr T. "mama didn't raise no fool").

We were both getting pretty frustrated, standing around for quite some time, when a car with two men and two adorable little kids pulled up and offered us a lift. We accepted and they kindly took us back to the centre of town. All I wanted to do was get home and open the bottle of wine that's been in the fridge for ages.

Problem #6 - the corkscrew has gone missing!

Gah!!! What an afternoon!!!


  1. Perhaps you were being charged extra cause Angelina & Brad were also in the country... Just saying. julz xoxox

  2. Don't tell me you don't know how to open a bottle of wine with any item of metal cutlery and a tea towel? Have I taught you nothing, girl?! (notice how I focus on the important part of the story)

  3. Tehehe, I just remembered last night how you opened that very special bottle of red on Christmas eve in Dhaka with a fork. Good times, good times.

    Update on the story: the bottle remains unopened in the fridge, mocking me..