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"Top blog/Renato Obeid's World/Today's pick: This rambling weblog is worth reading not so much for its satirical posts but more for its insight into the minutiae of life in Lebanon, including the etiquette of road accidents and how to hire a taxi.”
-Jane Perrone, The Guardian
Thursday, January 29, 2004
5PM THURSDAY 29TH JANUARY 2004
SEARCHING FOR SANDY
To:The International Court of Justice
Left home at 10.20AM this morning, took a service down to Jounieh and then another service to Sarba where I replaced the battery in my camera and got the film that had been in there for five years processed (nine pictures were salvaged from this time capsule),got some new film (I'd planned to take photos of Sandy) and took yet another service to Dog River.
En route I negotiated with the same service driver to take me off route into the hinterland along the river – we agreed upon 5000 lira.
About once a week for the past month or so I have been visiting Herod (renatoobeidsworld passim) to inquire about the exact location of Sandy.
Unfortunately the policeman who had deported her allegedly had a fever but yesterday I was finally able to get a location and rough directions to where she was.
Today an international humanitarian delegation (comprised of myself - Jimmy Carter was unavailable) set out to find, visit and check on her.
Some five kilometers (according to my approximation) inland we came to the monastery where, according to the instructions I had, Sandy's location was next to.
As if on cue the taxi promptly broke down.
The driver couldn’t restart it.
I had already decided that I was going to jettison him there – he was just deadwood dragging me down – and that I would proceed on foot on my own as I had figured that it would be easier to find her on foot rather than in a decrepit unreliable taxi with a whingeing taxi driver.
But, being the kind and decent person that I am, I wasn’t going to just leave him then and there and wanted to help him get going on his way.
He asked me if I could push the car but I politely declined telling him that I had a bad back – which isn’t a lie, although a doctor has never told me "Renato, you have a bad back" I don't think I'll win this year (or any other years) Best Back Award.
We agreed that I'd do the "driving".
I neglected to tell him that, for all intents and purposes, I can't drive – didn’t think it was important.
I obtained my drivers license in the Year of Our Lord Nineteen Hundred and Eighty Nine after months of practicing with a driving instructor.
It wasn’t the most legitimate drivers' license ever issued.
At the end of the actual driving part of the test I was down to the minimum seventy points required to pass - having lost thirty points throughout the drive for various mistakes, transgressions, whatever.
Thankfully, the test was more or less over and we had arrived back at the Roads Authority building and all I had to do was park the car.
I proceeded to park in a no-parking zone outside the Roads Authority building!
That cost me ten points, I was down to sixty - I had failed my test.
My Yugoslav driving instructor told the Vietnamese tester that I was a family friend (read "a retarded family friend" – the tone of his voice sounded like that)
He was obviously on good terms with her and maybe she couldn't tell if we were really family (we all look the same) so she overlooked my transgression and awarded me my license.
I did a little bit of driving in Australia, I came to Lebanon in 1991, hit a Lebanese army checkpoint on my maiden voyage (they were very good about it but took the precaution of stopping traffic for me on my way back) and that was more or less the extent of my driving career.
My drivers' license expired five years after it was issued.
I got into the drivers seat of the taxi and the driver pushed it backwards – our aim was to push it up a sloping intersecting road so it could be pushed back down, achieve momentum, and hopefully start.
I steered as we went backwards.
I also had achieved my life's ambition – driving a service!
I don’t care that pedants might say that technically I wasn’t driving as there was no combustion involved.
The fact is that it was moving (albeit backwards) and I was in the drivers' seat - in control and steering!
If that isn’t driving I don’t know what is!
In all modesty I reckon I did all right – until he told me to brake.
"Which ones the brake?" I asked as it began to roll back down the slope towards him.
He rather excitedly told me "the middle one" and I promptly braked – unable to fulfill my other life's ambition of killing a service driver.
Cest la vie, one out of two isn’t bad.
He got into the drivers seat and said that I'd be able to push him now because we'd be going down the slope – i.e. it's all down hill from her – and that he'd achieve some momentum and ignition and keep on driving.
It didn’t bloody feel like downhill to me (lying down recording this piece, my backs killing me…kinda killing me…maybe killing me)!
Pushed him, he achieved ignition* and he was back in business – telling me to hop back in and we'll continue along our merry way.
I declined, saying that he'd done enough.
I asked at a restaurant across the road from the monastery about Mahsaret el Zeitoun (the Olive Press) which was the very utilitarian proper name of the place where Sandy purportedly was.
Herod had written it down for me in Arabic (which I can't read) on a piece of paper so I could recognize when the writing on the sign corresponded with the writing on the piece of paper.
Which had sounded very feasible to me until I realized that they all look the bloody same – that all Arabic looks the same to somebody who can't read it!
At the restaurant they told me that it was "a little bit up the road" so I went a little bit up the road and asked somebody else who said it was "a little bit up the road" so I went a little bit up the road and asked somebody else and they said it was "a little bit up the road" and this time it turned out that it was a little bit up the road but all those "little bits up the road" had added up to about three kilometers.
It was just off the "main road" that winds along the Dog River – up a cobblestone lane.
Easy enough, but that lane had turned into a stream – with all the run-off water from last weeks storms still running down the mountain and into the river.
I waded through the shin deep water and came across a cowherd, a thirty something year old swarthy looking foreigner, and asked him whether I had the right place.
He confirmed that I indeed had.
I asked him if the proprietor was there – he wasn’t – so I asked him if he knew of Sandy, describing her to him.
He seemed to recognize that description and to know of her and said that she wasn’t there now – that she more or less lives in the bush and comes down at night or thereabouts.
I asked him for the name and telephone number of the proprietor.
He furnished a name but was unable to furnish a number so I asked him whether he knew anyone who did have a number.
He directed me to a bloke called Abdullah who was, surprise,surprise, "a little bit up the road"
I walked a little bit up the road but his cows were blocking the lane/stream so I asked him whether the cows were dangerous to strange passers by and he said that they weren’t.
I wasn’t too convinced – I had visions of Pamplona in my mind.
Most of the cows politely moved out of my way but then I came across some rebel subversive cows that just stood there.
I didn’t know what to do so I said to them "move cows, move cows" and THEY DID!
Who would have thought that cowboying was as easy as that!
I found Abdullah in his van – an elderly village type.
I introduced my self and explained my purpose to him.
He recognized and knew Sandy but told me that he'd only seen her once, soon after she'd, arrived (he'd wanted one of the pups she was expecting because he thought she was a nice looking dog) but had shooed her away because dogs and chickens don’t go together and hadn’t seen her since.
I asked him if the owner of the press and ostensibly Sandy's new owner was around and he told me that he wasn’t and hadn’t been there since late December and he hadn’t seen Sandy since then either.
So Sandy was effectively dumped.
I had agreed to her being relocated to what I was led to believe was a caring decent home or else I would of taken her to a caring decent home I had found for her – the estate of a Saudi sheik in the North.
A couple of months ago at the height of Sandy's persecution by her last batch of tormentors (who had since abandoned their pogrom and become friends of Sandy) I brokered a Saudi solution to the Sandy problem (a la the Taif Accord).
PUTTING SANDY WITH AN ABSENTEE OWNER IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE AMONGST A BUNCH OF LIVESTOCK AND PEASANTS IS TANTAMOUNT TO DUMPING HER!
I asked Abdullah how I could contact her "owner" and it turned out that he was from the same village so he said he'd give me his number but told me that he'd be no use because he hadn’t been there for a month.
He gave me a number but I didn’t have a pen on me (I hadn’t thought of that) and neither did he so he told me that the was going up the road to his village and that I could come with him and that we'd find a pen along the way.
I hopped into his van and was able to deduct that judging by his stated concern for chickens and the smell in the van that Abdullah was a chicken farmer.
If finding Sandy was hard finding a pen in this bucolic locale was even harder – we drove up the mountain for about two kilometers looking for a pen and finally found one at a mechanics shop.
He wrote down the name and phone number for me and proceeded up the road to his village which was God knows where.
As their was no public transport there I hitched a ride with a student down to civilization – the Beirut to Damascus Highway (but not until I'd walked down to round about where I'd started off from with Abdullah).
The whole thing had taken about an hour and a half.
That is the whole sad story about how I became Indiana Jones for an hour and a half (okay, it felt like an Indiana Jonesesque odyssey to me) and how Sandy was dumped by c—ts!
11.30PM THURSDAY 29TH JANUARY 2004
At around 7.30PM this evening I telephoned the man whom my investigations had led me to believe was Sandy's new owner.
I said something like "hello is this Mr. So and So?", he confirmed that it was, I identified myself and stated the purpose of my call (that is to check on the wellbeing of Sandy) and he promptly said that I had the wrong number.
I asked him "but isn’t this Mr. So and So?" which he had just moments before admitted to being and he said it wasn’t.
I thanked him and said goodbye.
I obviously wasn’t going to leave it at that – I referred the matter back to Herod whom I visited asking him to confirm that name and number with the policeman who transported Sandy (who is an associate of Sandy's new owner) and to convey to that moron my intentions.
I also told Herod that it appears that Sandy had been dumped.
He replied that that wasn’t the case and that the Sandy's transfer had been afforded the same respect and preparation that today's Hezbollah/Israel prisoner and body exchange had been afforded.
He said the he'll talk to the policeman and that he'll have word for me within the standard two days.
He also offered, as he has previously, to get the policeman to take me to visit her.
It obviously means what it means and nothing more than that but I don’t want to give them any opportunities just in case he is talking euphemistically (which he isn’t).
Seriously though, I wanted them to just stick to confirming the name and number (which already seems too hard for them to do) and I would do the rest.
*Readers will have to excuse my ignorance of cars or anything technical – I know "achieving ignition" is not the proper technical term.
After Two weeks of visiting Herod he was finally able to confirm that I did indeed have the right name and number but that he was unable to get a hold of the man having come up against the same denial that I got (albeit from a woman who has since taken to answering the phone).
For the record and to "name and shame", this morons name is Naaman Achi and his number is 03 928 309.
A friend of mine also called him and got the same stonewalling and denial.
I am considering my next move.
Just out of interest I asked a middle-aged Indian friend I made on the net who claims to have physic powers (channeled to her via her spiritual guide, her dead husband) about Sandy.
She was very useful – she said that Sandy was not a dog but a middle-aged woman.
When I managed to convince her and her guide that Sandy was indeed a DOG she said that the man (Achi) had sold her to a lady named Martha who lives across the road from the local church.
When I pressed her for more information she told me "I will get you (a) dog".
Not surprisingly, I'm considering other options to find Sandy.