Friday, January 26, 2007

The Patriot.... Syrian style... and what really happened to Lebanon's CEDARS

Yup troops another update from the fraternal council of all things rainy…
The beloved author’s luck has once again turned to mud!
Leading our intrepid wordsmith on…
Another one of these fruitless missions in Lebanon.

My passport in all her wonderful and faithfulness, decided to go on a trip…
WITHOUT ME!!!

Losing a passport is pretty serious business..
Losing one in Lebanon…
Is tantamount to tying bricks to your feet and jumping in the ocean for a dip
during a hurricane.

Yes that day I discovered what happened to Lebanon’s cedar…

It wasn’t burned in recent protests, as some may suggest

It was used to collate my one police report concerning the passport.

Of course with bureaucracy came the loop d loop tour of offices…

Just to spice things up the decided to have all of the English speaking bureaucrats on vacation indefinitely leaving only the francophones…

God help me…

So after being dropped off at the Brand new pretty General Security building near the museum (which in my two years here I have never gone inside)..

beeping through the metal detector…

In the Middle East they are supposed to beep to let you know they are working…
No!
Of course you don’t go BACK through the machine!
Only foreigners do that!
Little do those poor saps know that the beeping and alarms are merely for show.
Of course there won’t be a strip search!
They might get a bit curious about your purse and what brand of lipstick and perfume you use but other than comparing it to their nearest of kin’s there won’t be much hassle.

Your next destination is information just to the left of the metal beepy thingy where two wonderfully friendly fellows will attempt to muddle the situation as best as they possibly can.
This is their chance to practice English and their Sherlock skills in order to give you what looks like a green worm wrestling mat with the scrawl of an epileptic telling everyone who sees it that you were the idiot that lost your passport.

Recently instituted is the new method of enforcing the no cell phone policy.
I think it has something to do with the fact that Saddam’s Hanging and police torture in Egypt were both made public embarrassments by cell phone cameras.

Now truth be told cell phones haven’t been permitted in the General security for ages but that didn’t mean that you did anything but walk in with it as if it were pasted to your pocket.
Recently you have to check them in… Meaning they write a number on the back of your worm wrestling paper and then toss your phone in their desk.
I ran up the stairs to the second floor looking for the lost passport section where I was redirected 4 times until finally reaching a 10m X 20m office of 5 guys trading dirty jokes.
They then informed me that I needed to visit the General security near the ADL… meaning the ministry of Justice.

So after skirting down the road destruction to get to the OTHER older General security building I was informed to go to the other guard shack at the other end of the building.
At this point I have just covered 17 discussions of exactly the same ilk…

Yes…
No…
Nooo…
I LOST my passport.
I was told to come here to…
But they told me it was here….
So where am I supposed to go….
(repeat back the directions)
(have the directions corrected)
(the guy sitting next to the directions guy disagrees)
(have the directions corrected)
(have a discussion on how the directions were corrected)
(unanimous decision reached)
(directions agreed upon)
(repeat back the directions)
And that is where I can get what I need to give to the US Embassy?
I hope to God too…
Ok thanks…

So now I head to the Ministry of Justice… sprint right up the imposing imperial stairs only to be told that I need to go to the guard shack around the corner… it’s only a couple hundred meters away…

Why is it always THE OTHER guard shack?

I get subjected to another metal detector.. But this time it gets interesting…
I take off my wallet and they go to pass it on..
Today the guard station is manned by a fan of the TV show 24…
He tears apart my wallet and pulls off the chain…
Impatiently insisting on victimizing my cell phone next

I then get snagged by a bespectacled brunette who offers translation services
She spotted her customer after hearing me ask the metal detecting maniac where do I go to report my passport lost.

She directs me to the snack counter behind the curtain where I get a statement saying: that I lost my passport; that I am of sound mind and body; that I live in an apartment; that the apartment is in a neighborhood in Beirut; that my mum is from England and has an English name; and that I am a sucker enough to pay for the translation of something so simple and the 2 stamps that go with it.
I have never seen stamps used for mail in Lebanon they always go on official documents.

Next I go up to the office upstairs and deal with the various bureaucrats there and after a quick set of Otter ping pong they hand me off to go back to the General Security near the ministry of Justice.

Now note each participant in Otter ping pong adds a minimum of one blue soaked inky stamp one scrawled signature and one extra page to the packet of stuff I am carrying.

I head to the guard shack and of course get told to go to the OTHER GUARD SHACK…

Back at the General Security I WAS SUPPOSED to drop the packet off and call back a week or two later…

OH HECK NO!!!

I sat with the papers telling them I wasn’t sure when I was going to fly it could be in the next couple days. I would have come Tuesday but hell broke loose in Lebanon and the black tire stains are still on the streets.

This little embarrassing episode that they all wanted to forget seemed to grease the wheels.
I was sent; from one big mucky muck, to another… People were sent to find out if things were possible in the SAME DAY…
WOW!
Hot diggity!
Things are getting done…
Up a couple floors and a funny conversation concerning my first name and it’s origin..
I later find myself in front of a highly decorated WOMAN?!?!?
Wow I was deeply moved and impressed.
SHE HAD A STAR AND EVERYTHING!
There was no conversation just a signature but that encounter…
It hit pretty hard… I smiled
It’s wonderful on those rare occasions your expectations get exceeded…
I was proud to be a feminist!

I was then sat in an empty office were I waited for some young hot shot...
He must be headed places because he had a nice watch.
After explaining I used to dive with one of the Generals of the General Security and swapping stories about the USA
I was got myself “fast tracked”
Which meant I got to have an escort …
This Napoleonic statured employee was supposed to walk through the offices and get things done. We only visited one office…
I was then led out of the building round the corner and to this stairway in the foundation of a bridge…

WEIRD…
It looked like the entrance to an underground subway station or a secret hideout of the Italian mob…

It was… A police station complete with ping pong table, wooden benches, felons and detectives…
I was to have the pleasure of sitting there waiting for my police report to be written in Arabic for the next 5 hours…
I covered all sorts of discussion with the local police who were very intent on knowing what I was studying… how much I could hope to earn… and how long I would have to keep going to school…
I took this opportunity to test my Blood sugar… same rules applying here as everywhere else in Lebanon… it was high… I injected
The officer sitting in the corner had pretended not to notice… so as I sat back after injecting and hiding my supplies away…
he couldn’t resist…
For me it’s part of the usual routine….
How long had I been diabetic?... How did I get it?... What did I do that was different to everyone else?....Did he have diabetes?....

Then, came the next event of the day…
An Accused man’s wife had been crying….
She wanted to see her husband and had to be gone by 3:00 because of the kids…
What conversation followed was HILARIOUS to say the least.
I pitied the woman but couldn’t help laughing…
“So madam what is the trouble with your husband?”
“I dunno!”
“Whaja mean you dunno? You have two kids by this man and you don’t know what his problem is? I can’t help you if you can’t tell me what’s up.”
She sits there sobbing in the corner…
“I donno what he was doing in the middle of that mushkil(incident/ trouble)”
After an hour of her sniffling they seem bored
The lead her out…
In come a couple agents to discuss what the deal is…
They then lead in the man in handcuffs. He’s a mountain of human flesh with a beard, a warm jacket, a big gut that seems like it’s trying to burst through the bottom of his grey
t- shirt,“So tell me what’s up with you”
“Well, I can’t go back to Syria”
“What’s that on your hand?”
“I was inked in prison”
“Prison?”
“Yeah”
“Why?”
“Well I got in trouble with the Syrian Secret police (mukhabarat=intelligence). They kept coming to my house looking for my brother who is in Germany. They came and tossed the house 4 times and I didn’t say anything. The last time they came for me…
There were 4 in the car… I got a hold of one of their AK’s and shot three of them. I would have shot the forth but they shot me in the gut and that is why I need my medication. I can’t lie down on the floor and there are only Sudanese in there”
“They won’t give you a spot to lie down?”
“No they are all Sudanese”
In comes the local prison doctor… He’s a young guy with slicked back hair…
“Yeah he’s got something wrong with his stomach as you’ve heard.” With a nod the doctor confirms it. The man is lead out and the wife thanks the detective profusely.
I sit there silently waiting it’s about 4:40 and the fifth time they ask me if I want to eat. “No thanks I can’t it’s the diabetes”
They call the judge and get the signal to make out the report. I had to wait until 5:05 for the judge because apparently it’s nap time for those guys.
After the call and conformation I have in my possession a written police report concerning my passport. I head to the faculty and then home…
I know it’s supposed to be translated in English and officially stamped but that will have to wait for Thursday.

1 Comments:

Anonymous thodin said...

Had nearly same story after NY :)
Russian passport, General Security and bla-bla-bla :)

1:25 PM, January 27, 2007  

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