Aug 10, 2010

Chapter One: Dude where's my car... & passport?

I like to think of myself as a girl that can handle herself when traveling. Not the first time i travel by land, but might as well be the last time I do so. Paying extra money to be treated in a better & a more human & civilized way by plane sounds more than appealing. The past 3 days made me re-evaluate my priorities in many aspects of traveling. Went to Lebanon for the weekend, me and my friends, some flew in from Dubai, unfortunately we took a car from Amman/Jordan.
Here's a simplified chronicle recap -
Let's start, booking a car through a travel agent, when u call them it sounds like it's a market place, first come first serve place, when you head down to 'Abdali' everyone who has an empty hand rushes to pick up your bag then proceed to ask you where you're going while walking away WITH your bags. Or the more expensive alternative is booking a car & request a pick up, after agreeing on a time,place & price you sit & wait.
I was picked up first, the driver looked like a great mesh between an Italian gangster and a chimney – only in a white shirt& brown pants – as a smoker naturally I ENJOY a ciggie every now and then, this guy was not only chain smoking, he at some point had one lit cig in the car and one in his mouth as he was standing outside.  We were 3 girls & we made sure to dress in the most culturally appropriate manner , so we were 'decent', after getting some breakfast on the way. We all live relatively in the same district – picking us up needed 10mins.
The Jordanian borders seemed like something out of 'independence Day' or the 'Day before tomorrow'. Unbelievable traffic; trucks, cars from all nationalities, buses - all wanting to go through the same lane, as the other 3 are closed (could've been cuz it's to early - note sarcasm) . A lane for small private cars, buses, taxis & one for trucks is reasonable correct? apparently not. This is what it looked like (see pic).  Also our driver turned off the car, the AC and said to open the windows n doors for air!!! uhh..ok Fine - natural is better right? (roll eyes kthx)
I will never for the life of me understand the "exit tax" obviously I'm coming back, & I don't pay 'entry tax'..!!  Now the whole male line/ female line thing is not a bad idea since u want as minimal contact with people as possible. But some women are VICIOUS RAWR…clawing their way – so b*tch fights were a show not to be missed.
At the Syrian borders:
It seemed my passport had either STDs or Anthrax because the way it was thrown around and handled was a 'lil bit - strange – for lack of other 'politically correct terms. But throwing it in my face like I'm some inferior being was a bit too much too swallow. I let it go.
Onto the Lebanese borders, it was simply confusing, who stands where?! All I could tell is there was a line for Syrians & one for Lebanese & the rest get to pick & choose?!
We finally made it, the taxi driver of course couldn't possibly be any ruder, yelled at me for not tipping him or paying for gas!!!! Umm did I not rent the entire car? Did I not ask to be picked up from home? Did we not agree? Why am I obliged to pay you extra? Walk away from me.
The weekend:
Somehow while in Beirut the electricity kept going out, the humidity was brain damaging & the ppl were just angry. Angry driving, angry serving, angry talking, angry angry angry.
How is that my fault?! Apparently I'm too smiley..whatever moving along to the usual, dinner & clubbing nothing strange there – bartenders & waiters were amazing explaining currency to me..but why do they still have 2? Why don't you unite them? keep the Lebanese lira. Politics again..meh.
The next day we decide to go to the beach. I had no idea it was that far, or that the traffic was THAT bad. It took us 3 hours to get there. It was over priced & you had to pay to enter, pay for a chair, pay for a towel, pay for breathing & probably for sweating. Reallyyyyyy not worth it. Again clubbing that night was a great experience cheers OM – Mark Shakedown & Gabbi.
The next day started off GREAT, good sleep, good food at downtown, Lebanese food is superb. We decided to leave early to avoid being late as we all had work the next day, we ask for a taxi at 3:30 we left at 4pm after hugs & goodbyes.

A Syrian taxi that looked like snoop dogs' couch all pimped out in maroon velvet..& I mean EVERYTHING was maroon velvet even the curtains..!!! the guy was too talkative, cussing out everyone & everything..Headphones on listen to music..Ignoring the obnoxious music & reckless driving. All of a sudden we park by a money exchange office 'GIVE ME THE MONEY' pardon? 'oh well I need to exchange it to Syrian ladies, & then pay the taxi that will take you from Syria to Jordan' the what?! Why are u not driving us all the way. I started getting anxious at this point. Frowns on our faces we give him the money & we go along. More traffic, more reckless driving – we were growing angrier & at the borders while waiting for our visas to get stamped I made sure everyone knew to stop staring because I will have something to say & for no one to even consider cutting in line because I WILL make a scene.
Again with the passport throwing at the Syrian border, I finally said something:  'can you stop throwing it at the glass keep bouncing back..logic!?!?' the women giggled. The Syrians didn't – oh well I could care less.
Got in the car, drove a while & he parked at what seemed to be a garage. We all looked at each other, 'why did we stop?' we asked. 'to change cars, my car won't go to Jordan'.  
to be continued..