Friday, January 26, 2007

tires blaze and the university students clash (decide to have a stone throwing contest)

Thursday arrives and I have to get my passport photos and police report translated.
Another session of Otter ping pong ensues only this time it’s trying to find someone who is an officially sworn translator to translate officially.
The day and the time during which the embassy deals with such issues BURNS…
I finally get around to the translator after dealing with the photo issue at noon a FULL HOUR AFTER THE EMBASSY IN AWKAR is done with business for the WEEK.
The papers will be ready Friday.

Then after heading to AUB I find out that 4 are dead and over a hundred are wounded in a clash at local universities…
I’m told LAU, Hawaii, and the state university BAU (Beirut Arab University) are involved…

Not to worry troops!
It’ll be a grim day when the embassy (bastion of USAID) here at AUB faces any such trouble…

Especially during finals…
The phone lines are clogged…
I’m trying to help those people in Lebanon who I care about the most but things aren’t working out so well.
Panic ensues… It’s usual for this customer…
I send an SMS to their relative with a receipt.
“Contact your sister. If you need help getting out I’ll meet you. The car might not be an option.”

There is a parking lot of traffic everywhere and things are deathly quiet.
Having gotten no SMS or call from the student
and with it being around 6:00 pm
I head out. Hamra is shutting down and the streets feel hollow once again. I call up the gym to check on the situation…
“Do I have class?”
“We’re wanting to close”
To me it sounds like the guys are trying to empty the club and feed into the panic.
They did it during the war without thinking of the devastation to the club’s reputation. I head home and pack the gym bag.
The walk back to the club is deafeningly quiet.
I make it past a long search by one overly interested police officer with a big honking M-16 and trudge up to the gym…

It’s quiet
and empty…

My phone beeps to let me know there’s a message…

It’s the fitness manager’s SMS and her particular ring letting me know that classes have been canceled!
Great timing!
I call her back...
No answer…
Ok, so I’m worried…

I grab a cab above the StarCo building and the brusk A$$ up front is screaming at the driver not to give me a ride.

Out steps the young police boy in white and brown fatigues as I slide my stuff in. The guy up front is swearing at Lebanon.. Cursing it and spitting. We swing up the road and the passenger up front is rattling through conversation.
“I’m headed to Karakas”
“It’s a Druze neighborhood right?” asks the jerk up front.
“Where are you headed?" asks the driver.
I repeat myself and he makes sure to confirm this is a “taxi ride.”
We swing up past the burj il mur… The Mur tower ( a scarred building where snipers used to hide in the war. Its’ towering stories gutted and its’ walls pocked with craters stand silent in the night)

The cab revs over the bridge and swinging back to the intersection above the Mur tower dumps the jerk! The guy up front squeaks himself through the door steps out cursing again. I catch the glimmer of his pistol in the back of his pants… He’s obviously mukhabarat… Ignorant, vile, and haughty…

The driver is panicked, lurching, and leaning the car as he whips around for directions. “taxi right?” He's nervous scared and driving like a maniac

“Sure none of the other guys paid, I know the car doesn’t run on water, someone’s gotta pay for gas might as well be me (and my sorry looking forgein ass)”

I keep telling him “its ok Just head to the end of Hamra” But he keeps stopping at military hajiz (checkpoints) asking for directions.

I finally give up on the Hamra route and relate directions that take him along the Corniche and he coasts along changing the tape from one of what sounds like the Ouwat rally songs (Samir Geagea faction of Lebanese forces/ Maronites/ Christians/ Vicious/ Proud/ half of what bled the people dry in the civil war) to something else. In pops some silly over produced Arabic woman singing some tinkley song. I get dropped of in front of my apartment building and I had over the 5 thou… “No it’s on my account”
“No! Seriously that is rude,
I’m paying!
Take your money, the money that I owe you and God be with you”
Another night in Lebanon draws to a close
But it’s not over yet…
Not until after a gut wrenching phone call that is bittersweet in all senses of the word and my past existence…


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