Tuesday, October 07, 2003

Eva finally called.

At approximately 3:30pm, Eva called me at work on my cell phone. The first call I didn't recognize the number but answered. No one replied, I waited, nothing, so I hung up. A minute later another call from the same number. This time, a man in a foreign language said something, I said hello again, he repeated himself, then Eva came on the line. I had a feeling it was her!

She told me she was safe and sound in Iraq with Meran's Uncle and his family. She then shared her tale about the journey...

She left late on Thursday, October 2nd, flying from Nashville to NYC. They then took an overnight flight to Amman, Jordan where they connected to Damascus, Syria. Once in Syria, they took a taxi across country (for 10 hours) to Qamishli near the Syrian/Iraqi border. They were to come back the next day to the Party office to see about crossing the border. They stayed overnight in a hotel (politely-applied - more a hostel, with holes in the ground for 'toilets'...)

By this time, if my calculations are right, it is Saturday. They go to the border to be processed. Everything is in order and everyone is approved except...Eva. She has an American name, they say...It is quite likely not a great time to be an American travelling through Syria and asking for favors with our support of Israel, etc. The strange thing is, Iraq is OK with her entering, it's the Syrians that are not OK with her leaving Syria. For whatever reason, they make things difficult. The boys can go, but not their mother. The other members of the party travelling with Eva - two women and an 18-year-old young man - decide to go without Eva since once you are offered to cross, you must take it or lose your chance.

Eva is able to call Meran, and he suggests trying to cross through Turkey.

Eva takes the boys and they head back from the border and up into Turkey; here, the Syrians have no problem allowing her to leave Syria. This sounds typical from what I have read...Things are very arbitrary and subjective, you find your own way. Heading into Syria, then up to the Turkish border, Eva finds that despite what she was told about Turkey not requiring a Visa is wrong - they say they do; she has one, and presents it. That is not the 'kind' they require. To make a long story shorter, she has to 'buy' (read 'bribe') the right kind for $400 US. One of her $100 bills is rejected because it is not the new 'large' kind (larger heads on the bills). Luckily she has another one. Once over into Tyurkey, it was checkpoint after checkpoint where each time you had to re-tell your story, Eva said, and your papers were scrutinized, and your luggaged inspected.

Finally reaching the Turkish/Iraqi border, she and the boys were becoming exhausted. As they approached the border crossing, they noticed long lines of trucks waiting to cross. She was told it can take days for them to get across. Fortunately for her, they had no problem crossing; but the final stretch was a long dirt road with barbed wire on both sides that reminded Eva of "...a concentration camp." Waiting at the end of this long journey was Meran...He had only so many hours leave, and due to Eva's delay about 4 hours of it was wasted. Fortunately he was able to obtain 4 more. By the time Eva called, he has left to return to his duty station. The reunion although happy, was brief, for now. That was earlier today.

Eva said she was not impressed with Jordan and Syria as she travelled through it, but Turkey and northern Iraq, where she is staying (and where Meran and his family is from) is beautiful she said. When they reminensed about their home country, they weren't exaggerating, she continued. It is hilly and green.

She said Meran's uncle and his family are the final holdouts in the area that they live in called Giribisi. All the other homes have been bought out by the UN for their personnel and they're getting pressured to do the same. They do not want to, however. They have had enough upheaval and turmoil in their lives and it is their home. I don't blame them...

Eva promises to call when she can. She sounded truly excited. She also thinks she will definitely not be bored there! She has many plans to document this trip. That and taking care of the boys will keep her plenty busy.

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