How not to behave at customs (some tips from Nicole) vs. How to behave at customs (tips from Jade and for Nicole)
Salam Habibi, first things first: we are happy to say that we arrived at the beautiful city of Beirut! Although the journey for Jade went smoothly, Nicole faced some challenges. But hey, just follow Jade’s tips and don’t think you get away with a nice smile and some jokes.
A smooth journey: Since there are no direct flights from Amsterdam to Beirut, I (Jade) had a ten hour stopover in Barcelona. As I was able to get of the airport I had my fingers crossed to hope that my suite case followed me on my journey. After spending the day with a friend in Barcelona at 30 degrees, I returned to the airport and changed my shorts for some uncomfortable jeans. I think my biggest struggle before going was to pack my suite case, even after searching the web I had no clue about the clothing in Beirut.
At 7pm I got to check in. I loved that moment, to just sit down and observe the diverse people that get on the plane. The diversity of people getting on the plane surprised me in a positive way, and I loved to hear the Arab language around me. The airplane from Barcelona to Beirut was almost empty and I finally got to read the lonely planet and fell more in love with the country. Then the scary moment of customs, wondering if you will pass easily or if something will happen.. Surprisingly, it took me 20 minutes from the moment I arrived at the country till I got picked up so here is what to do: fill in the visa form, walk through customs, show all the stamps in your passport and don’t lie if you have been somewhere because as you will read later, they will know. And then: you will be personally welcomed by the agent “Ahlan Wa Sahlan”. By the time you get through customs your luggage will be happily waiting for you. And if you bring a backpack, you won’t miss it among all other suite cases!! At this time, my buddy Yehya was already waiting for me at the exit and introduced me to the Lebanese culture: Shoarma for Jade.
How not to behave:
Unfortunately, my journey didn’t run as smoothly as Jade’s. Even though I’m a person who doesn’t get annoyed that easily, during this flight there were just too many things happening not to freak out.. Firstly my flight got delayed by one and a half hour in the Netherlands. I was lucky to sit next to a Greek with a very interesting smell for 4,5 hours instead of 3 hours, since we were already sitting in the plane when we got informed about another delay. He probably didn’t sleep that well last night, since lying on my shoulder wasn’t an issue for him. Luckily my flight from Athens to Beirut went perfect, until the moment I saw the line in front of the Visa customs… Then the chaos started. After waiting for 1,5 hours in line and showing my passport to the good looking Lebanese guy behind the desk, I had to go to a sketchy office because the computer (I assume) showed I had been to Tel Aviv lately. Of course I checked my passport for stamps before departure, but I thought my visit was no where to be found and was just a secret that I could keep to myself. After waiting in this room and wondering about how these officers were doing their work since there were passports and papers laying around everywhere, the somewhat aggressive questionnaire from an unfriendly looking agent started. “Have you been to Israel?” -‘Shall I lie, or be honest..’ was I asking myself. Since it was 02:30am and I became a little bit scared about his tone of voice, I decided to be honest. “Yes, I have…” “When?” He rolled his eyes. I’m not sure if I have ever answered so many questions from a stranger. ‘Why were you there?’” “Who is your friend who lives there?” “Is she Israeli?” And then, when I thought it was finally over I made another big mistake. “What kind of work are you going to do at the NGO?” ‘I’m going to be a journalist.” I said it with pride, but at the same time I realized I just applied for jail. The guy became furious, but also a bit annoyed since he probably couldn’t really do anything since I was still a student and trying to look very innocent. When he asked about my studies, I was just like; well, whatever, I already screwed it up so I answered again with pride ’Political Communications, and I want to become a journalist.’ I could resist saying that I wanted to work for CNN and become the best news reporter in the world and tell the world about this ridiculous situation, but I was smart this time. I tried to smile as beautiful as I could, and the officer all of a sudden changed into a friendly guy, and let me pass. It was a miracle I found my suitcase and most important: my race bike, because all the luggage from our flight was already taken off the belt. When I finally met my buddy Ali, I felt relieved and he as well: he called all his friends and the AIESEC head quarter because he had no clue what was going on with me.