Saturday, December 20, 2003

I just spoke with Eva on the phone. She is home in Nashville! She arrived late Thursday evening, and spent yesterday arranging for her house utilities to be turned on. She hopes to be in her home tomorrow.

She said she ended up being in Damascus for almost a week, having to rearrange flights due to schedule limitations. While in Damascus, she was in the hotel most of the time, but towards the end, a local Kurdish taxi driver took them for a drive around town, including to what Eva called 'little Kurdistan', a neighborhood in Damascus of Kurdish immigrants.

This past Thursday, they made immediate connections once in Amman to fly out to Chicago, so she never had any time to look around there. In Chicago, there were multiple delays for the connection to Nashville due to weather. Eva joked she was about to rent a car and drive home!

Eva found out that she and the boys could have avoided having jaundice if they had had a Hepatitis Type A vaccination before leaving. She had trusted her physician to know all the shots she'd need, but that one was overlooked. She'll know better next time.

I asked her if Meran likes his job, if he's glad he went. She said yes, he likes his job very much. He's in a unique position due to his life experience, having been in refugee camps and having time to study in his native language for four straight years before coming to America, then learning English well. He knows both languages fluently and that makes him a good asset to the US military.

He has translated, for instance, for training of Pershmergas being trained as police officers by US military. He has also been with operations on the border where they were investigating smuggling operations. I asked Eva about what we've been hearing about the intelligence raids going wrong due to bad information, or despite good information the translators getting addresses wrong and innocent people being harassed, threatened, and scared out of their it's making people turn against the US military. Eva said that in Meran's experience, there has been negative situations. He has known some soldiers that have bad attitudes towards all Iraqis, no matter who they are. He has coworkers, other translators, that have said, "Yes, the money is good, but it's not worth the harassment", and have resigned their jobs and returned to the US. Due to this concern, while Meran was in the hospital recovering from his surgery, he contacted the commanding officer for the area and spoke to him about this concern. From what Eva understood, the situation improved because of this; what that means, I don't know. Maybe upper command wasn't aware of it and due to Meran's intercession, down the chain of command, word was sent to be more respectful and it has helped. We can only hope...

Eva is very proud of Meran. He's very level-headed, and hard-working, and due to that, he's well-respected by the people he works with there. But as always, she misses him!

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