OMG, I just caught myself singing, Wooo hooo, I’m an alien, I’m a legal alien, I’m a Norwegian in Beiruuuuut, which makes me completely embarrassed of myself (trust me, it doesn’t even sound cute). And to be honest I’m neither an alien nor am I in Beirut, though I have been spending most of my time there since 2009 – without a valid stamp in my passport.
Four years in Lebanon
Due to factors such as raging wars in the neighboring country, as well as the general tension that leads to sporadic clashes in Lebanon every once in a while, not many people have chosen Beirut as their holiday destination for the summer of 2013. Us expats living here, or at least us that used to live there until recently, have been exposed to warnings about how “dangerous” Lebanon is for years, without having ever felt in danger ourselves.
True, things have changed since I moved here four years ago. Things felt more “innocent” back then. Or, that’s at least what I thought, being a self-appointed Mid East expert who was completely oblivious to the subtle dynamic between people on the streets. It might also have been that Lebanon was still struggling to rebuild the tourism lost after the 2006 war, meaning that every foreign face was an optimistic symbol of a country normalizing after times of destruction.
But even if there has been a general feeling of lawlessness, uncertainty, and stress on top of the Lebanese society lately, there is not a place more lively, more beautiful and more fun than Lebanon, so if you’re here to stay, this is how to do it.
How to get your way around the visa problem
At the airport you are automatically given a one month visa free of charge, and here comes the first secret: it’s actually a two month visa! Yeah! Seriously! They stamp your passport with a date, and then they write “one month” by hand on EVERY SINGLE entry stamp they issue at the border. They write “one month” but what they actually mean is “two months minus one day”. Everybody knows this, and back in the days, when people used to live in harmony side by side without shooting each other in the face all the time, it was relatively normal that the expats of Lebanon took a weekend in Syria every two months to get their visas renewed. Traveling to Syria in wartime is something that, well, only the hard-core tourists do. Therefore traveling by air every two months is an option preferred by most of the Beirut expats, and it’s a brilliant excuse to party it up in Istanbul, or to hang out with your ex co-worker in Dubai.
But I don’t have fuck-you money to fly all the time, so I had to look for the loopholes in the system. That’s when I discovered that I could officially become a legally illegal alien! That’s right! All you have to do if you overstay your two months minus a day date on you passport is make your way to General Security (the police headquarters in Beirut), and apply for an exit visa. To make this process run smoothly you need to show up prepared. Be there in the morning within a week before you depart (but not more than a week before you leave!). You need to bring your exit ticket, and you need two passport-sized pictures of yourself. You also need to know the real address where you’ve been living. (I know that this sounds a bit weird for anyone that lives outside of Lebanon, but even if no one knows about it, and there is no functioning mailing system in Beirut, the city is actually organized into a street name / house number grid – that no one is using.) Also, you need to bring a tad of cash with you. No dollars accepted. Only local currency.
• If you’ve overstayed less than six months, and you’re not American, it will cost you 50.000 l.l. (about $33). (Americans go for free).
• If you’ve overstayed up to a year the price tag is 200.000 l.l. (about $33 x 4).
• If you’ve stayed more than a year you’ll need to work out a plan B.
General Security is a massive Kafka-like bureaucratic institution that doesn’t believe in electronic file handling and can qualify as a tourist attraction on its own. Being there feels like being inside of a massive non-digital hard drive with stacks and stacks of papers from floor to ceiling.
They’re actually so afraid of electronic devices at GS that they won’t let you bring anything that runs on batteries with you inside the building, and since it might take a few hours before they let you go, you might as well bring a book to keep yourself entertained.
However, if you really fuck it up and just show up at the airport without a legal exit visa on your passport you should have a really dramatic story ready. We at 2famous.TV’s had a 50% success / fail rate on this, and our conclusion is that it’s just not worth trying to bribe your way through security at the airport. You’re just going to embarrass yourself, and possibly lose the money you paid for your ticket, if you don’t get a Go! from the first guy.
If you’re Lebanese and want to go to my country you either have to be a millionaire, marry a Norwegian, or be on death row for no particular reason.
Is Iceland the REAL threat to Europe?
We’re obsessed with putting our eyes on islamofacists, islafists, salafists, and, well, you know, just muslims, but is this where the real threat is coming from?
Everybody: PANIC!Just a few weeks ago our national security was at risk, as someone thought that someone potential... [more]
Being down with the kids
When the 2famous.TV crew rolled up in our red Mercedes at this beautiful island in the south of Norway, we pretty much felt like stars. I mean, festivals are usually the place where we can show (and prove to ourselves) that we still got it; that we’re still down with the kids, despite the fact that most of our crew is twice the age of the average populat... [more]
– No work visa required
If you live in a shithole, you should come to Norway and join the shitfest!
There is a loophole in the strict Norwegian job market, and that loophole can be found right between a grizzlys genitals and it’s tale (also known as its butthole).
Thanks to the low population and the large oil reserves Norway may be the richest country in the world, but if you’re not from... [more]
Here I sit overlooking the rooftops of Oslo while it’s pouring down from the gray sky. It’s that time of the year where all you want to do is to sit inside and drink red wine while being melancholic. I daydream about Lebanon, though Beirut somehow feels like an oriental dream in the distance. It’s so different from where I am right now. It’s almost surreal. But I guess ... [more]
It’s election on Monday, and no one is talking about how much the “Peace Nation” Norway sucks for everyone that’s not in Norway.
I wish I could have talked about something that had something to do with the real world, but I have been living in an isolated bubble for the past week. It’s not my lack of access to the internet that has cut me off, nor is it that I’ve been occupied with setting up the 2famous.TV HQ in Oslo with Knut and Liza. True, I’ve been stressing around decorating my new room so that i... [more]