We have to renew our residency permits every year. The list of requirements is always changing – letter from our church here, paper with official stamps saying we will take financial responsibility for our children, signed paper saying we will not marry a Lebanese, and on and on. But one thing we’ve needed consistently is three passport pictures.
So our kids are pretty good at standing on the wall and taking their picture. It’s actually like a rite of passage that they go through every year after their birthday. Get their hair fixed, stand in front of the wall, look happy but not smiling, click click, and we’re done.
In the past, our permits are basically a laminated card with the picture we provided and all our information filled in by hand. But in the past year, general security has moved to an electronic system. We found out when we went to renew Isla’s visa and apply for Luka’s a few months ago. Now each applicant is fingerprinted electronically (yes, including our newborn) and the picture is taken at the counter and put straight into the system.
We thought getting a 2 month old to look at a camera with both eyes open and to put four fingers on the electronic pad while applying the exact same amount of pressure for each finger was a challenge. But that’s because we hadn’t attempted to renew our three year old’s visa yet.
Let’s just say that Ruby is in a very, ahem, strong willed, independent phase. She’s perfectly capable of putting on her shoes, eating her sandwich, looking me in the eye, smiling at the camera…. but perfectly capable means nothing to a stubborn toddler who has decided she absolutely will not have her picture taken.
We encouraged, we bribed, we threatened, we reminded her that we can’t argue with soldiers and that they would not let her stay in Lebanon if she didn’t have a new visa. The guys behind the counter were snapping and clicking their tongues at her trying to get her attention, but she was absolutely refusing. I was seriously starting to sweat… forget the child who throws a fit in the grocery store because she doesn’t get the bag of goldfish she wanted, my child has decided to be ornery in the one place that could literally kick us out the country with a minute’s notice.
Finally the soldier told us meshilhal, literally “the situation is walking.” Didn’t have a clue if they actually had taken a picture, but we headed to the next office to get a signature, then the next for another and then to the desk to pay.
Three weeks later, I found out what he meant by meshilhal. General Security: 1, Ruby: 0.