Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category
Posted on June 14th, 2011 by admin. Filed under Uncategorized.
I worked with the critically injured in Haiti, but that was natural disaster, not war. The past few days I’ve had the honor of visiting with Libyan freedom fighters who were injured in battle in Misrata. It’s impossible not to question, how on earth is it possible that another human being could do such horrific things to another human being — even to women and children. It’s a cliche, but it truly is senseless.
Most everyone has lost at least one family member. Many have lost half of their friends. Yet they go on. One patient showed me video of the men praying before battle. He told me that they hardly sleep; all they do is fight and pray, never forgetting to laugh & enjoy their life and friends on the front line, no matter how surreal it may seem.
Many times I think I travel like this because life back home is on an even dull keel. We think we are invincible and that we can control life. We read about ways to try to escape cancer and wrinkles, talk about TV cast members as if they are our actual friends, buy so many things that the things own us, and do colonics to ‘detox’ while obsessing about what the inside of our intestines look like. We must be mind-numbingly bored to do this shit. Something is very much missing. We are denying reality. Reality can be scary, but it is also liberating because it’s aknowledging truth. What I’ve seen in these Libyan men is that they are very much alive. Maybe they are more alive in one day than I am in an entire year.
Every man i spoke to, young and old alike — even with shrapnel still in their bodies, limbs broken and fresh amputation said the same thing: I can’t wait to get out of this hospital. I want to be in Misrata, fighting for Libya They tell me they are happy to die for the cause. That it is okay that their brothers and fathers and uncles and friends have died — because they died with smiles on their faces and their death is paving a way to a better future for future generations.
Many told me they never spoke about politics out of fear, until now. Now that the barrier of fear and isolation has been broken, there’s no going back.
So much more to say, but that’s it for today (it’s 1AM & I have the flu!). Tomorrow I’ll tell you about some of the women and children I’ve met.
Posted on April 9th, 2011 by admin. Filed under Uncategorized.
Before the violence early saturday morning, there was an all day protest in Tahrir which drew large crowds of all walks of life. The energy was positive & festive. The past two protests I have been warmly welcomed & well taken care of, even when wandering around on my own. People are rightfully proud of the New Egypt & are curious as to what I think, my country thinks & the world thinks of their revolution. I’ve had too many awesome experiences to list here, but the following images may help convey the great feeling at April 8th’s protest.
Posted on April 14th, 2010 by admin. Filed under Uncategorized.
Ok, Ok.. so we’re not supposed to have “favorites” but we all do… My favorite baby in the age 0-2 category *this* rotation (not 1st or 2nd- those awards are aready spoken for ; ) is this sweet little twin. She was badly burned in a cooking accident, but still managed a jubilant disposition. She loved to head-butt, dance, and pretend walk. Here she is the only time i ever saw her get cranky:
I have to say, Babies in Haiti cry & trantrum alot less than their American counterparts… I think we can all guess why.
Here is her twin- also very cute…
Posted on April 10th, 2010 by admin. Filed under Uncategorized.
One of the things I do in my “down time” at the hospital this rotation is “skin to skin” with the preemies. While doing this, I bonded with a 1 week old orphan named “Emily” pictured here..
I love this little lady…. hard to fathom that she is parent-less…
Incredible to hold and cuddle such a tiny little girl… I hope that we find her a good parent & that she does not get lost in the shuffle of bureaucracy… time will tell.. I’ll keep you posted…
Happy end of Ramadan to all my friends who are Muslim, and Happy Rosh Hashanah to all my Jewish pals. I hope you have ALL had amazing holidays. I started Ramadan out in Egypt- on a foluca on the Nile River (above). At the time i could not fathom how any individual- moreless a whole society (& in reality, many societies around the world) all go through a month of fasting together. It would be great to try something like that in America- the whole of society participating in it. No matter, I truly commend you for what you have done. I know many of my friends look forward to Ramadan as a time of reflection & getting back to basics of what is important in life. In a way i have had to have my own mini version of that coming back to the US. It was a rocky return but in all i now feel focused, positive & ready for all the work & good deeds to come. Happy New Year & Eid Mubarek my pretties!
Posted on August 29th, 2009 by admin. Filed under Uncategorized.
& the best Hommos i have ever had in my LIFE (found in Amman, Jordan):
Posted on July 30th, 2009 by admin. Filed under Uncategorized.
Posted on July 20th, 2009 by admin. Filed under Uncategorized.
I decided to hire a taxi to go from the site of Palmyra- in the south part of Syria- to the Northern lake of Al-Assaad. A private taxi made it so I could stop by a few hard to reach ruins in the middle of the desert in Bedouin territory. On the way i saw many herds of camels which looked like tiny ants on the distant dunes. Surpisingly we met one herd near the main road, inbetween Jebel Abu Rujmain and Jebel el-Bishri. Having your own taxi lets you say “Stop please” unlike when on a public bus. For about 20 minutes we got to leisurely watch hundreds camels crossing the (barren) desert and lone main road. Above are a few photos- also please note the hunky Bedouin camel herder. He motioned for me to get on his camel- don’t tempt me mista! It was nice to really forget about everything and just feel the presence of life being lived while watching those camels… usually I have more of that on my travels- which is why I travel…. this bit of travel that’s been delayed, but now that I’ve gotten a taste i hope for more of it- am just getting started afterall. XO, Love, Michelle
Posted on July 20th, 2009 by admin. Filed under Uncategorized.
Friends warned me – long before my latest visit in Iran- to take great care with who I speak to & what I say while in Syria. I’ve been told that the secret police and paid informants are *everywhere* in Syria- have been for quite sometime. Traveler friends who had been in Syria also let me know that the government there closely tracks what net sites people visit & read the blogs of travelers currently in the country. A friend of mine had an incident where she wrote about a conversation she had with a Syrian bar owner on her blog- something pretty benign in fact- yet the police took this bar owner into custody & beat him up for a few days- even after my friend was out of the country. Suffice it to say that after Iran I really wanted to skirt across Syria with no major incidents or “interesting” conversations with strangers. Yet here are a few examples (details changed so to protect anyone from being identified) of times where even the most well traveled of us, could get really paranoid:
One day during tea with a jewelry shop owner, he broke into a spontaneous Hebrew lesson, and talked at length about how many Jewish friends he has. Hey Mister, I do not doubt it but I also have a hunch you could be possibly a paid informant, trying to bust me for supposedly having gone to Israel (It is not allowed in Syria- and besides, I have not been to Israel). I gave him blank stares hoping he would stop. I tried not to accidentally nod. I tried to change the subject. He relented- I told him I had to go- that I was late to meet a friend.
Waiting at an office a man who spoke perfect English asked if he could sit next to me. Sure. He then whispered that he is a Kurd. When I ask him to repeat himself because I could not hear him he looked panicked and said “don’t say that out loud-I can be arrested just for speaking to you about it.” When I told him, with hesitation (after Iran) that I had been to Kurdistan, Iran- He again plead with me while whispering “Oh god! Don’t tell them that- you can get in so much trouble.” It was awkward to say the least. I asked him to kindly stop talking to me about it if it was so risky. Before he left he grabbed my hand “Do not tell anyone, I beg you- they will put me in prison.” Something tells me that he was genuine. He truly seemed scared but also dying to talk to someone. Conversations I have had with other travelers since then, suggest that some Syrians see us foreigners as “safe” people to talk to. They keep it all in for so long so they see us, if they speak English, they go right in for the punch.
Will write a longer story about this one, but I was talking to a girl for a few minutes- she then asked me to buy alcohol for her. I explained that I am paranoid in Syria, so no. We then went for a walk & casually walked iinto a store- she then bought alcohol-as a covered Muslim woman… which I think is legally okay (hey, It is not Iran). However, she led the shop owner to believe it was for me and kept saying “Very good” when pointing to bottles. I made an ‘X” sign with my hand and said “la, la, la” meaning no, no, no. I hope he got it. Afterwards the girl and I went for falafel. She talked about nonstop about sex while chain smoking. Strange, or maybe she is typical & I am wrong to assume that these discussions do not go on in such societies. Or maybe she thought that was what us westerners want to talk about? I don’t know. I guess what caught me off guard most was the speed into which all of the above conversations were launched. Never experienced it with locals before while traveling. Then again, many Americans do go into this stuff right away- for very different reasons- obviously.
Posted on July 19th, 2009 by admin. Filed under Uncategorized.
Moving onto Syria from Lebanon took a bit of cajones. Normally I do not fret about places that my government labels a rogue state, but because of what happened in Iran, the thought of entering Syria did cause several more knots in my stomach than normal. When my Lebanese friend I was staying with in Beirut dropped me to catch a bus half way to the border, her parting words were uncharacteristically harsh “If someone kidnaps you it is because America essentially bombs our country and is responsible for killing thousands of women and children.” She was talking about a long line of US approved Israeli bombings in Lebanon, of course- and I hear her on that, 1000%. As her and I had already discussed this, I thought she understood that just because I am a citizen of the US does not mean that I approve of or agree with what my government does (like any place). In fact, I can object to and completely disagree with what they do. However, she did not let up, making me feel like she was blaming me personally. Fair enough- I understand it is a very sensitive issue and she has had to live it 1st hand… but why was she going into this so harshly- now- and saying things that she knows will scare me given what I went through in Iran? I did not want to show any disrespect for her hospitality the past few days so I did not debate, and instead simply nodded. “So don’t tell anyone you are American- tell them you are Irish.” Her words felt aggressive and displaced. I also knew I have been very sensitive to everything since Iran- so as is common on this trip I walked away not really knowing what to say or think or do.
As I boarded the bus several keffiya -clad men made space for me, and helped me with my bags. Seating was tight so I had to share a seat with an old man. He pointed at himself and said “Syria- you?” “Irlandi” I said, feeling unconvincing. As we rolled through the hills of Mount Lebanon and into the Bekka Valley, people on the bus offered me cigarettes (very common) and nuts. Their smiles said something different than my friends parting last words. My head began to feel more clear the further we got from Beirut.
in an hour we entered Bekka Valley- where I had been with my friend in her village the weekend before. I had to get a share taxi to take me across the border and then to Damascus, Syria- only about 90 minutes away. A few taxi touts argued over me, and made a scuffle, trying to take my bag from the other- in the end I went with an old Lebanese man in an old lime green Mercedes Benz, with a backstea so saggy and worn that I could feel the coils of the springs below. I sat in back with two Syrian men who smoked nonstop; in the front with the driver were two sisters from the Bekka valley- clad in black abayas, they smiled at me and spoke perfect English. They smoked skinny girly cigarettes, and made small talk with our driver who also lived in the Bekka Valley. I had to level with them that I was American as we were going to go through immigration together. “I am very sorry for what my country has done to yours” I said. “Why do you say you are sorry- we know that governments are very different than the people! We love American people- please do not worry.” Their response was something I had heard many times in Iran. Was there just a difference here between the more kind country folk and the western-like city folk? I decided to assume the best. Their kindness and genuine care seemed real. One of the girls turned to me “Our own people cause death and destruction for us. Our government and groups in Lebanon do not do anything good for us, so please do not worry about anything your country may do.”
Immigration and customs were uneventful. Because I was a foreign woman going through immigration by myself they opened a special line for me. My passport was stamped within a minute. The Lebanese girls were held up longer- Syrian officials drilled them with questions about their health- apparently concerned about swine flu.
Once in Syria we stopped at a highway underpass in the middle of tan colored desolate hills. One of the girl’s husbands, who is Syrian, was in a car parked under the overpass- waiting to pick the sisters up. They gave me their number and insisted I come back to Bekka to be their guest at Christmastime. The driver and the girls argued over whether or not he would let them pay for their ride- they wanted to pay- he kindly refused. Finally he accepted their far, of four dollars. I then moved to the front seat where I attempted to put on the rusty lap safety belt. Maybe this was the first time the belt was used in a decade? “Why did you say that you were sorry about your country?’ the driver asked as he helped me force the seat belt buckle in the rusted slot. he appeared concerned that maybe someone made trouble with me. “We know Americans are good people- even Hezbollah say that- Americans are good people but sometimes their government is bad. Obama is very good- but Bush, he was very bad!” I relaxed.
Lebanese taxis are not allowed to drive in central Damascus so I had to be dropped off on the outskirts of the city- my driver negotiated a good price for me with a regular Syrian taxi. As we began to pull out a man in a suit waved us down and got in the car. In perfect English he struck up conversation with me. He asked where I was going and what I was doing in Syria. He said he was just in town for a conference at the University. Suspicious Michelle thought- hmmm—is he the secret police? I kept my conversation with him clean- something I became very good at the next 10 days in Syria.
- Some photos from Misrata… stories to follow.
- The Boat to Misrata (Libya): Men’s quarters vs. Women’s quarters
- Why I had to visit Misrata (Libya).
- Greetings from Benghazi, Libya
- Just another day in Cairo…