A Diamond’s Eye View of the World

a multi-faceted look at the middle east, and the middle west

With love from Lebanese customs

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on May 31, 2008

Its that time of year already: the weather has turned, and I’m feeling sticky already, at 8:00 am. I’m still trying to hold onto spring – I have the window open, rather than the air conditioning on – but I’m also making plans for summer.

And since we’re moving back to the US, making plans involves two activities I dread: packing and shipping. The packing isn’t so bad – its a good occasion to weed through the debris I’ve collected over my two and a half years here – but the shipping is not something I look forward to with any joy.

I remember helping M sort out her shipping three years ago, when she headed home from Damascus. Many men, many illustrations of different shipping options scratched onto different sheets of paper, and in the end … all the price quotes were remarkably similar. Go figure.

My own experiences with Lebanese shipping have been as a recipient, not as a sender, but that hasn’t made them any better. In February, my parents sent me a “care package” for Valentine’s Day.

It included a sweet hanging heart ornament:


(“Who gave you that?” asked H suspiciously the other day, in a wonderful moment of “see it again for the very first time”. “My mother“, I told him. “Oh”, he said – and totally lost interest.)

And it included a package of Brach’s candy hearts from my father, his traditional Valentine’s Day gift to Sporty D and I since we were very little girls:


The gifts were lovely, but the process of getting them was not. First, the numerous attempted deliveries. DHL would call me and we would agree on a time and place for their delivery-person to bring the package. He would then arrive several hours earlier or later, when I was no longer or not yet at my office/home.

He would leave a delivery notice, and I would call the head office to vent my irritation and arrange another delivery time.

Finally, I got the package – using the simple tactic of being in my office when I had said I would be away. Bingo: DHL arrived then.

But getting the package wasn’t the end of it. For the privilege of enjoying the $10 “thinking of you with love” package from my parents, I paid $26 in customs:


Well, my father said cheerfully when I told him about it, that’s a third of what I paid to send those gifts to you – and I considered it a bargain.

Argh – he has a much more generous nature than I do. I’m hoping that his spirit has rubbed off on me – I think I’ll need it when I get the shipping bill!


5 Responses to “With love from Lebanese customs”

  1. moose said

    With you and Tantalus leaving, who’re we gonna read now?

  2. Lofter said

    I suppose there is some consolation in knowing that the shipping companies are going through some significant changes that will have a definite impact on their customers…

    …unfortunately, it all has to do with price increases, and the impact will all be detrimental to your pocketbook!

    Nice post! 😀

  3. intlxpatr said

    (”Who gave you that?” asked H suspiciously the other day, in a wonderful moment of “see it again for the very first time”. “My mother“, I told him. “Oh”, he said – and totally lost interest.)

    Hahahahahahahahahahahhhhhaaaaa @ H!

    Just think of the whole packing and moving thing as God’s grace, giving you an opportunity to refine and simplify your life, to share with others all those things you can’t or won’t take, and to treasure that which you will! Moving and packing saves us from our packrat tendencies.

  4. Moose, thanks for the compliment! Tantalus is in a different league! I’ll still be writing (and as far as I know, so will he), but about Lebanese New York :).

    Lofter, welcome! Honestly, I don’t mind paying for needed price increases – if costs go up and companies don’t raise their prices, they go out of business, which hurts us all in the long run. Its more the irritation of dealing with what I see as a totally irrational customs system. The package I received hadn’t been opened – so no labor was involved in its customs processing.

    I don’t mind paying for services, but I mind being ripped off – particularly by a state. Particularly by a dysfunctional state 🙂

    Khalti, I know 🙂 🙂 🙂 H hasn’t read this post yet, but I bet he’ll have some comments when he does! And you are so right about the saving graces of packing – I appreciate them, but getting through the experience is a bit of a slog.

  5. LetUsTalk said

    As your days grow shorter in Beirut, and we look forward to you being so much closer and easier to visit – I chuckle as the packages begin to arrive in anticipation of your arrival in the States!! Love the rhythm of your travels!

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