January 18, 2014

Too Good to Be True

This Saturday morning I am at the Amn el Aam, to have my Lebanese passport renewed.
I have all my paperwork in order. My old passport, my ID, a new kraishelait, because my ID picture and my current face don’t quite match anymore after some 20 years in country, passport pictures and about a million copies of each document, as you know how it goes in this place.
It all seems to go so smooth.
I walk in, and am pleasantly surprised at the fact that they now have introduced a number system, so no more queuing like cows, I get my line ticket, and I have only two people in front of me. So smooth and quickly.
I am getting suspicious. When things go so well in this bureaucratic system, you know what will happen. Of course you know, you have been through this yourself dozens of times. If not more.
It is my turn. Today is not ‘dress as you wish’, I can see. All employees are in their military uniforms. And so I present my papers. He studies them. He studies them again, and again.
And then it comes: “Fie shie ralet.”
Fie shie ralet. That means: “There is something wrong.”
Of course there is. How could there not be. It never ever goes smoothly in this place.  So what is it this time?
Your name. It isn’t spelled right.”

Spot the differences

I have a difficult name. None of my names are even remotely familiar to Arab names. My father’s names (yes, they need to be on this document as well) are even more unknown. As such, every government employee spells it as it sounds to them. Sometimes they copy it from other documents, but that is equally difficult (apparently).
And so there I stood. Three documents (passport, ID and kraishelait), with three different names.
I have here three different people here. I cannot do it this way. I need at least on document that states that this is the same person as the other,” says the man.
Oh, I have my family ID with me as well,“ I pipe, because I know that when I come to a government office, there is always something I do not have with me, so I take my entire administration with me.
Good,” he says, as he goes over my family ID paper.
He studies it. He studies it again, and then looks at the other 3 documents.
Fie shie ralet.”
My heart sinks into my shoes.
What is wrong now?”
I now have four different people.”
There are days I can laugh about this. Not today. Back to square one.


Tarek Joseph Chemaly said...

I know it's not nice of me... But I am laughing... Fi shie ralet (in me I guess). Sorry for tall of this.

Anonymous said...

He is right, at least four different persons! Be happy you're in Lebanon: here in NL we would have kicked you out. Ask Hirsi Ali. Y.

Anonymous said...

maybe you have the worst problem here between all lebanese, having unfamiliar names all in one place.
the problem goes back to the usage of handwriting.
in my home town new family names merged from mistakes such as this one.

Fadi said...

Sietske your spelling of arabic words always makes me laugh.. "kraishelait" I think is my favorite so far :)