October 08, 2011

I See I See What You Don’t See

I had to take care of some paperwork on Saturday at the Amn el-Aam, the Office of Internal Security.

They have done some re-organization, and these days it works like a long assembly-line. You go in and a man writes you a paper on what business you are allowed to enter the building. You drop this paper off at another desk, who keeps track of who comes in, and he will call out your name when it is your turn to go to man #3, who will fill in the paperwork, and who directs you to man #4, who writes you a receipt for paperwork done, which needs to be signed by man #5, and then you go on to man #6, who takes your paperwork and out the door you are. Takes about 30 minutes, which is not half bad.
These pictures were not recently taken, but have appeared on my blog before. This is my mom's bodyguard squad (mom on right)

Now during the week, all these men wear uniforms. Most of them are in full-fledges camouflage battle fatigues, ready for Desert Storm or the likes. No matter that this ‘Chairborne’ Army will most likely never engage in any combat other than dealing with irate civilians such as me.

And there is something about men in uniform. No matter how unlikely the appeal of a man may be, any man; stick him in a uniform, and he looks handsome.
A journalist friend of mine, a man, once remarked on this habit of mine of ogling soldiers in public. “You (I think he meant it as in ‘all foreign women’, or at least I hope so) are just so shallow. Stick a guy in a uniform and you’re gone.”

These pictures were not recently taken, but have appeared on my blog before. Soldiers near Nahr el-Bared

But I grew up in a country where you hardly ever see a soldier in public. The only men in uniform are what you see on the big screen, where they invariable play the handsome hero. And so for me, ‘uniform’ equals ‘handsome hero’. Stick a Lebanese head above it, with slick hair, dark eyes, long lashes, a lovely smile and olive colored skin, and voila, the package is complete.
A Dutch friend of mine here, also a man, but on ‘my’ side of the game, loved ogling soldiers with me. We’d be driving the car and suddenly it would be “Oh my, did you see that one! Wow, that was a good one!”

My Lebanese friends laugh over this issue. So used to uniforms, they can see right through the long lashes.
My inability to distinguish between a high-ranking officer and a regular grunt never seizes to amaze them. “Why did you talk to that dumb soldier for,” they’ll ask me, “Go talk to the colonel standing next to him.” Colonel? What colonel?

They can pick out background, financial status, level of education and religion in a matter of seconds; all the soldier needs to do is open his mouth. “Oh god no, this guy’s from the sticks, how can you even consider him handsome, he’s a peasant,” my friend will tell me as I pass by a check point and remark what a particularly handsome soldier was standing guard.

I don’t see what they see, and they clearly do not see what I see.

These pictures were not recently taken, but have appeared on my blog before. More Nahr el-Bared (sorry, there just wasn't much else to photgraph)

Except on Saturday at the Amn el-Aam.

On Saturday, it apparently is ‘Come Casual’ Day for the employees at the Amn el-Aam. And all this military personal can come ‘as they are’. And boy, I’ve never seen so many oddly-dressed Lebanese men together in one place. It’s Fashion Alert all over the place. Bizarre silk pants, oddly colored shirts in a tissue that looks plastic, strange cuts, crumpled and ill-fitting suits, jackets with strass stone spiders stitched on the back, belts with studs, pink T-shirts 3 sizes too tight, sweaters obviously geared for women (?), it’s a strange lot.

Men in Lebanon in general dress well. Whether it’s business attire or casual, they do a heck of a better job than Dutch men (in general). Given that they do not have access to the same funds, that’s pretty awesome. I’d say they look good.

These pictures were not recently taken, but have appeared on my blog before. Some sodiers at the Beirut Marathon

But the ones at the Amn el-Aam, well, that’s a sight to see. There must be a reason why they decided to sign up for the job, and I’d say the main reason is their lack of . . . , I’m not quite sure what lack it is. And suddenly I see what my friends see; a man out of his uniform.

So for any foreigner who has difficulty looking through the uniform, go to the Amn el-Aam on a Saturday. That should cure it.


Miss Footloose | Life in the Expat Lane said...

I so enjoyed this post and it gave me the chuckles. I know where you are coming from, literally and figuratively speaking, and I've been there too. Prachtig ;)

Anonymous said...

Amn el-Aam is not Internal Security, you can call them General Security ( or better to say Immigration).

Pat said...

"how can you even consider him handsome, he’s a peasant"

Because obviously peasants can't be handsome :-p

Anonymous said...

Hilarious!! Can follow you in every line!

Raffi said...

If the government only had kept the 1 year obligatory military service of the 18+, you would have seen more.

When I used to walk down the street, to go to my service place, everyone would have a "wow" look and expression.

Sietske said...

Yeah Raffi!! It's good to hear it from a guy's point of view. So it doesn't only look good, it feels good too. Way to go.
@Pat; well, I think they mean 'peasant' not as in someone who works the fields, but as someone illetarate, but I agree with you that this is not really connected to outward beauty.

Life with Subtitles said...

Oh man that post made me smile :)

Honestly I never quite understood the whole fixation on uniforms (guess I filed it under "strange western habits") until I saw some Swedish female police officers. There's something about putting a skinny little blonde girl in a padded uniform that just makes you want to go to her and say:

"Arrest me, I've been bad" :P

Cheers !

Danielle said...

I know what you are talking about all to well! I've been to General Security numerous times on a Saturday..and what gets me all the time is the fact that it seems like all of their clothes are way way wayyyy too small! If they only lift their arms, all of their mid drift will be exposed! UGHHH! They should definitely wear their uniforms all of the time. Even the women look hot in them! :D

samrx said...

Interesting photo I have to say that sometimes to a see a the army squad like that is really common, I think the woman in there was more awareness than the army squad.

pharmacy reviews said...

Oh good, the first photo was so awesome! do you have more ?

Buy Brand Viagra said...

Yeah Raffi!! It's good to hear it from a guy's point of view. So it doesn't only look good, it feels good too. Way to go.