February 09, 2015


We're waiting for another storm, but in the mean time the almond trees in the mountains are already blossoming

Visits to official government institutions in Lebanon in order to get paperwork done are always good for an elevation in your blood pressure. Monty Pyton-esque scenarios will unfold right under your eyes.  It still is a surprise to me that people do not go postal here. It must be the olive oil. Or maybe the understanding that nothing will change, no matter how much you rant and rage.

But one of these government institutions however, the famed Amn el Aam, where you renew passports and residency permit, has it all organized. They have a web site that shows exactly when they are open, what paperwork you need to bring with you and how many copies, they have a number line system, so the pushing and shoving in the mob (you could never really speak of a line to begin with) is eliminated, and they even allow you to send it all through the mail. Someone has figured out how to organize things.
3 weeks ago, this was all covered in snow.
That was until a couple of months ago. I should have smelled a rat when I was told I could no longer use LibanPost to do all this work for me; I had to do it in person. “Change in policy,” I was told.

And indeed, when I showed up last Saturday, they were back to square one. Apparently it worked so well, that a change was needed, because we can’t have that; well-organized government establishments. The first thing is that they changed buildings. I did not know that, because the English website is no longer operating. Correction: it is working, but all the necessary information can no longer be found.

 They also changed the number line system; it was back to mob style. For an hour and a half in a mob, with fiercely pushing elderly ladies and smelly hairy men. Woody Allen could have made a movie out of it. You are packed so tightly that instant bonding takes place; by the end of the day, you’re like neighbors. I had a good time, because the gentleman behind me had a good sense of humor, and the man two places ahead of me was dry as ever. I also met acquaintances some seven people further in the mob whom I hadn’t seen in ages, and so we conducted our conversations over the mob. And there we pushed and shoved up to an hour and a half before we even made it to the front desk. Had someone in the middle died, we wouldn’t have noticed it until he’d been pushed all the way to the front desk, which was manned by sometimes one, and sometimes two officers.

A Sunday morning hike at 8:30
At the desk, they would see if the paperwork you were going to submit was in order. Some very sad people found out that they had been in the wrong mob all along. “You want to pick up your residency permit? That’s in another room!” yelled the officer.
Ya haram,” moaned the entire mob in unison, as we watched the poor little lady wiggle her way out of the mob, and into the mob in the other room. At the very end, of course.
Many others were sent out because of having only one copy, instead of two, or because they’d forgotten to make a photo copy of the entry stamp in their passport. “Ya haram,” would the mob groan again in unison, as yet another victim was directed to the copy room, one floor down. Where there was a line as well. Of course.


Once your paperwork was approved, you’d get a number. But the number system did not quite work and so an officer would now and then yell out a series of numbers, upon which you would have to get into a new line, because what if 185 would go before you (184)? Then to the cashier, who would not take dollars, nor a debit card, just cash. Back into a new line, the one in front of the ATM machine.

It took me a total of 4 hours to just submit the papers. And I had (almost) all my paperwork in order.
The kids are trying out H's new bicycle

Back to square one. What a pity. It worked so well.

1 comment:

Tanya Dernaika said...

Hilarious account. Loved the contrasting photos of serene nature.