March 01, 2015

On Chaos and Order

We’re standing at the entrance to the Lebanese Navy Seal Head Quarters in Amchiit, Aregu’s trainer and I. We’re waiting for Aregu, and her fellow team mates, to begin the race.
Entrance to the Navy Seal Barracks in Amchiit

It is the annual Army Day Run (CISM), a 5K race between the coastal towns of Amchiit and Jbeil (Byblos), organized by the armed forces, and civilians can participate. The military has already taken off, and now the civilians are waiting for the field to clear, so they can take up their positions. But there are still some soldiers hanging around on the track, the road hasn’t been closed off yet and the lead car is not back yet. We’re waiting.
The military contingent taking off
The soldiers at the gate, supposedly navy seals as well, do not look like they could run the race themselves. Pot-bellied and cigarette in their hand; a far cry from the navy seals I know from the movies. The overall ‘relaxed’ atmosphere indicates the runners won’t be leaving any time soon.
What do you want, it’s the military. They can never organize anything on time,” says the trainer.
I indicate that I kind of like this chaos.
How can you like this chaos? I’d love to be able to exchange for the order and law of Holland. Give me Holland anytime, everything is so well organized there,” he replies, “Look at this ‘fauda’.”
Now it's the turn of the civilians; Aregu on her way out
Her trainer is from Lebanon, grew up in chaos and disorder, and longs for law and order. I on the other hand, grew up in law and order, and know that the predictability of life kills all creativity and sense of living; I thrive on chaos.
The lead Jeep has finally made it back into the barracks, the race is about to start, and we need to make our way to the finish line.
And she clears the finish line at 18:29 she's taking her time (although her trainer doubts the accuracy of this board)
At the finish line, I am just in time to see Aregu cross the finish line as the first woman of the civilians. She doesn’t get a medal, but rather a card with the number 1 on it, indicating she’s going to get a podium position. And podium position winners get a cup.
Bit by bit everyone comes in, and the army is organizing the prizes. All the big army generals come out and have their pictures taken with winners, in front of winners, on the podium, in front of the podium, next to the podium, and it is a regular picture-taking-fiesta.
They all want to be in the picture. None of them do any serious running anymore, is my guess.
But the cups on the prize table are rapidly disappearing, one after the other gets called to the podium, but not Aregu. When the generals all gather for their final picture, shake each other’s hand and say ‘bye  bye’ to one another, we understand that there has been some kind of mix-up; they forgot about Aregu.
And indeed, the change of her number at the start line, does not seem to have been communicated to the finish line. Nobody’s fault, just an unfortunate incident. According to their records, she never ran the race, so how can she win it.  
And there she stands, looking rather confused, with the number 1 tag around her neck, as everybody clears the area.
A lovely colonel quickly stops a soldier, strips him of his medal, and says to Aregu, “Come on, we’re going to the podium.” And while she stands, alone, on the first place, he hangs the medal around her neck.
So. Happy now? You got your chaos,” says her trainer.
Well, I did get story to write. What would I write about without chaos?

1 comment:

Elie Touma said...

Wow! Great story typical of "organisation" in Lebanon, but with a nice and human ending. Beautiful pictures as usual. Keep up the good work. I look forward to Monday morning to see what goodies you have prepared for us during the weekend. Thanks.