April 02, 2010

Dinosaur Tracks

Look, a dinosaur passed by,” says my daughter, when I pick her up from a birthday celebration. Indeed. It does look like something heavy stepped on the pavement.

But there’s an army check point on the next corner; A heavy tank, covered partially with camouflage netting with a zitty soldier sitting on top, M-16 on his lap, chewing sunflower seeds, and spitting out the casings. My guess is the tank driver had some problems parking, and ran over the sidewalk. That’ll do it for your pavement.

After so many years in Beirut, I’m used to the military aspect in this city. In Holland, the passing by of an army jeep was an unusual event. We rarely ever saw soldiers in uniform. Or guns. And we lived near a major military base. Yet these guys would go in as civilians, and out as civilians.
The only guns were the revolvers that the city police would carry in their holsters.
Here, just about every 1 in 5 people wears a uniform, it seems at times. You’ll see soldiers driving their families around town while wearing camouflage, at the baker shopping for bread or by the side of the road, waiting for the bus.

The other day, I had to ask one soldier if he could please point his gun the other way. I was stuck in traffic, and next to me a jeep was parked with a soldier and his machine gun on his lap. The barrel was aimed at me, right at the height of my head. I don’t know much about guns, so I don’t know if they can be triggered very easily or whether it requires some effort. He was drinking tea (holding the glass very carefully, with that little right pinky up in the air). I’m telling you, if it would have gone off by accident, my brains would have been splattered all over the place.
Sure,” he said, and turned it around. Now the barrel was aimed right at the crotch of the soldier behind the steering wheel. “Tfaddale,” he motioned to me, a gesture that he invited me to share a cup of tea with him. “No, thank you, hon,” I was thinking.

Hubbie is working on a project with some foreigners, and they find all this uniforms and gun business a bit disconcerting. Soldiers on the street, in between civilians, signals danger to them. An army patrol through downtown caused great excitement. “Did you see those soldiers, all walking in line, with guns?” they asked. “There must have been something going on.”
Nah, just keeping them busy,” hubbie replied.

1 comment:

Delirious said...

Reminds me when I met a young Palestinian from Jerusalem a few months back. He was here for a workshop, and when I asked him about his first impressions of Beirut, he replied: "What struck me at first was the large number of soldiers, tanks, and checkpoints you have here."
I found it remarkable at the time that someone coming from Jerusalem would say such a thing about Beirut :)