Boys will be boys in Beirut
Keeping the Peace
By Tom Lessard
The time came to get out of the desert, so a two-week leave in Beirut, Lebanon was set up for us.
We trucked to Gaza City to catch a Greek yacht for our journey. I seem to recall that there were 20 of us on the boat. We set out to sea in the Mediterranean at about 10 a.m. on a bright sunny day. Around noon, we were served lunch. Grouper floated in olive oil and a huge garden salad with a beer to wash it all down. The meal didn’t sit too well with me, so I went to the head. It consisted of a stall with a hole in the floor and two railings to hang onto. The rolling motion of the boat made it quite a humourous event.
By 3 p.m., we were pulling into Beirut harbour, and after passing through customs we spotted a store that sold liquor. A bottle of C.C. could be had for $1.50, so two buddies and I purchased a case, which should have lasted the duration of our stay.
A bus took us through Beirut up the mountains (5000’) to a resort hotel called the Beit Mery. It was a wonderful restful accommodation for us. The air that high up was cool compared to the city.
We stored our gear in our rooms, got cleaned up and then went to the front desk, where we left most of our money in a safe. Lebanon was a very inexpensive country coompared to a lot of the places I had visited. Being Canadians with the United Nations, we were treated very well. Some of the people in Beirut didn’t think much of the American military (following the 1958 Lebanon crisis).
Beirut at the time was the financial capital of the Middle East, and was a beautiful city. Fantastic clubs and restaurants abounded. We tried to go to all of them but unfortunately there were too man for the short time we were alloted.
One day, I walked on my own into a market full of shops and people. Big mistake, going alone. I was swarmed by about 20 kids. Some kept me busy while others picked my pockets. The cops had to rescue me. I was given a dressing down and turned over to the United Nations after spending more than three hours in protective custody.
Another time, we were sitting in a bar having a drink and a look around, when out of nowhere appears a gang of Brazilian soldiers. As they walked by our table, one of them reached out and grabbed my buddy’s beret. We took off after them and ended up on the street in a brawl. Along came the cops again. Another visit to the local lock-up and another recovery by the U.N. We never did get the beret back.
At the end of our holiday, we were getting ready to leave and we were told to hurry up as there was trouble at the airport; it seems the Americans were involved in some kind of skirmish. We hurried and left behind a beautiful country with some wonderful memories, all courtesy the Canadian people and the United Nations.
Happy belated birthday to Brittany & Joan!