Monday, July 17, 2006

'Living in the moment has taken on new meaning, as I can't live out of the moment.'

The following letter was written by Jay Saxon '05, who was studying Arabic in Beirut this summer, to his friends and family the evening of July 17. Saxon is currently north of Beirut awaiting evacuation from Lebanon.

Hi everyone,

Night three here, and nothing has changed. Well, nothing significant, and at least not for the better.

All is quiet now. About two hours ago, the building was literally vibrating. I was on the phone being interviewed by the anchor of Birmingham's ABC station.I was literally 10 seconds from getting off the call when the first bomb hit. I stopped mid-sentence, they recorded it... I don't know if it will be on air or not, but we'll see. It was the first bombing we've heard since we got up north, so it must be bad. Israel just bombed the living hell out of something in Beirut, which is 40 km from here, and we still felt it. Whatever they hit, it was big. We didn't even feel the bombs when we were in Beirut, so this one was massive.

I also saw anti-aircraft artillery (apparently the military lingo is "AAA") in the sky for the first time tonight. We're in the mountains, so we have a clear line of sight towards Beirut. AAA is strange -- imagine a large red dot that hops around in the sky like a firefly, crossed with those fizzly fireworks that leave long fuzzy tails in their wake. That's basically exactly what it looks like. It's not so scary when you know it's far away, but as we watched it started moving closer to us, which pretty much made me want to piss myself. Then it fizzled out.

Right after that an Israeli jet, way, WAY up high, circled overhead and disappeared. Since then, silence.

A number of people actually got through to me today on the phone, which is surprising, considering our phones and internet have now started to go intermittently. I'm ok as long as I have an outlet to the world, so if those go, I will not be a happy camper. If you try to call and can't get through, that's why.

Today was incredibly boring. I know that sounds strange, but you have to understand what I mean by boredom. This isn't lazy-Sunday boredom, when you're twelve and get into trouble, like when I used to run around Forest Park and throw glass bottles of caffeinated beverages at concrete walls just to see if they made a noise. This is boredom born of a mind that can focus on only one thing, but that is so so sick of that thing that it lists aimlessly around but settles on nothing, knowing only that time is passing and that escape is beyond reach. We have nothing to do here, we can't go anywhere, we can't leave, and we just wait. Some people have actually gone to class, because they believe the program director when she says things are fine and staying in the country to finish the program is a good idea (more on this at some other time, but yes, she has actually said that). I can't focus on anything that isn't the here and now, so class does no good for me. Last night was the first night in five days that my conversation has revolved around anything but this situation. Living in the moment has taken on new meaning, as I can't live out of the moment.

People in the program have been actively nasty towards those of us who are able to call home (if you ever go abroad, have as smart a mother as I do who decides to add international calling to your cell phone plan) or who have been in touch directly with the State Department. I can think of no other motive but jealousy, but it is sad to see these people we thought were our new friends resenting us for simply trying to get all of us home safe. It's made the experience all the more depressing, as these situations make a person's true character shine through. Sometimes that shine is pretty dull.

We are also in a prison state. I mentioned this before, but it has gotten worse. Today, the guards locked two iron gates blocking the only stairwell exit to the 2nd floor here, where the women are staying. They have no fire escape. Their only means of escape in the event of a fire (or, more realistically, a bomb) is the elevator. I forgot to mention that there are rolling blackouts throughout the country, and we lost power five times today In the event of a power outage, their only means of escape is to jump out their second story window. Problem is, they fall pretty far, as their window opens onto a cliff. We complained to the director of the program, and she didn't care. She said "if something happens, the guard will let you out." Right.

I can't make that up. It's ridiculous. Tonight, I had to give State Dept. evacuation forms to my friend, and she had to come down to my floor on the elevator, where we opened the door the one inch it would open (the elevator is locked on our floor, so we can't be naughty in there) and hand the forms through the iron bars. I literally feel like I'm in prison. We are adults (not just adults in the I'm-over-18 sense; there are people in our program who are married with children, in their forties and fifties), and we can't make our own decisions. I'm not trusted to even be allowed to knock on the door of a woman. It's truly morality police; it's a tiny glimpse into the problems that are endemic to this entire society, and I hate it.

That reminds me that I've had no interesting political conversations (I'm living too much politics right now), but Michael has. For those who don't know, Michael was my flat mate in Budapest; he's from Seattle, decided to come here, and convinced me to come as well. Hi, Michael! You can all blame him (please, no hate mail though) for my being here. Obviously, I jest. Anyway, Michael was speaking with a couple of LAU students (I believe they were Lebanese) about the situation; one actually told him that she was glad that Israeli civilians are dying, that they deserved it. I have many shifting opinions about this conflict and its players, as I've expressed privately to a number of people, but I know one thing for certain: the massacre of innocents is abominable no matter who does it, when, or where. Both sides are guilty in this, and both have blood on their hands. As for any further political observations, forgive me, but I will not make them. This is neither the time nor place, and my perspective is not balanced. Regardless, I couldn't believe this girl could feel this way. I can conceptualize anger, frustration, guilt, sorrow, retribution, and vengeance as ideals. I can't, and have never, been able to conceptualize malice. I used to think that vitriol was only bad when you actually experienced it, but I am coming to learn that the mere existence of people in this world with such despicable hatred in their hearts diminishes me; I think I am beginning to understand why I feel so small.

Josh, a guy in my program from California, has a blog which I just found out about. His observations are fairly interesting, particularly as you can trace how he's felt from when he first got here until now, and I hope you will look at it if you're curious. He also has some interesting pictures (I can't email pictures, the server can't handle it)I believe this is one of his first trips abroad, as he like me is (was) in the beginners' Arabic class. Welcome to the world.

More than anything, I want to get the hell out of here, yesterday. Tensions grow, we feel worse, stress levels spike, the food gets worse (there is a total blockade, so restaurants are starting to hurt. We ate at Subway yesterday and the bread was two days old and stale), and we grow weary. We now know for certain we will be evacuated, but we don't know when. It could be tomorrow, but will likely be Wednesday. It could even be Thursday. The news is reporting that a cruise liner has been rented so that the most people at once can be evacuated; one of my friends went exploring on Google, and found this link. Apparently, that's the ship we may be on. Notice the large landing pad in the back; that may be how we get there.

I notice I say "we" a lot, and nobody knows who I'm talking about. It's weird, these people I know so well but who didn't exist to me six weeks ago. I am living with a guy named Nick, from Michigan, who goes to Rhodes and runs marathons basically every month when he's not in a war zone; Michael, mentioned above (hi, Michael! Thanks for bringing me!) is down the hall; Lindsay is from outside D.C., went to UGA, and is starting a Master's in Middle Eastern studies in the fall; and Rachel goes to Berkeley and lives on a small island near Seattle. My other friends Mike and Nadia stayed in Beirut, and somehow got to Cyprus. We don't know how, but I'm glad they're safe. Harry was the last one, and he left early, back when the rest of us thought it was silly. He's currently on his way from Amman back to Florida, so I guess we were wrong.

I don't think I have more to say now. Boredom, fatigue, and weariness now overtake us; in some ways, they have replaced the fear, as fear can only remain for so long before being replaced by complacency. Again, I want to end on a humorous note, but one thing I must say; no matter what the media tells you, this is war. This is not a conflict, a disagreement, a tit-for-tat; it is war.

To close, I want to reassure you that we did manage to find a bit of amusement today. We made two decisions: one being to make a playlist for the experience (songs include Outkast's "Bombs Over Baghdad," R.E.M.'s "End of the W'orld as We Know It," and Eagle Eye Cherrys "Save Tonight." I promise if you listen to the lyrics of the last one, it will make sense.) and the other being to make t-shirts that we can wear when we get home.I don't know how we'll do this, but I promise, it will be a hot item next season. Yes, I know that both of these things are strange activities, but what else are we supposed to do?

That is all. Our internet may be gone for good soon, so if you don't hear from me, I am sorry, and wish us the best. Again, please forward this to anyone I left off (I tried to add people, but I know I failed in part), and please keep us in your hearts and minds. Thank you to everyone who has emailed and called; my spirit is lifted greatly by your kind compassion. To adapt something Cornel West used to say: religious people, please pray for us; agnostics, wonder if it will help; and atheists, just send some good vibes this way.


Personal Thoughts From A Besieged Country

The following was written by Efstratios Sourlagas, a third year graduate student in the anthropology department, on July 16. Sourlagas was in Lebanon to start his fieldwork on Greek Orthodox identity and intercommunal relations in the country. The piece was first published by the Electronic Intifada, which provides commentary from a Palestinian perspective, and is reprinted with permission.

It is a little bit past 11:00 pm and I am sitting alone in front of my computer at the third floor of my hosts' house in the village of Rejmeh in Mt. Lebanon. It is the fourth straight day now that Israel is pounding Lebanon and the country is almost under complete siege from land, sea and air. The electricity was on and off during the whole day in the village and now everyone in the house has gone to sleep turning off the generator that provided us with electricity for the last hour or so. I have a candle and the glow from my laptop screen as I am trying to gather my thoughts and impressions from these last days, chain-smoking. I am usually a night person and instead of struggling to sleep, now surrounded by myriad of disconnected thoughts, I feel that trying to write these personal notes would somehow alleviate my sense of confusion and bewilderment at the events I have been experiencing the last four days. I can not see my keyboard very well and I feel a sense of personal urgency to finish this before the battery of the laptop runs out.

Since I have started studying anthropology I have read numerous accounts in ethnographies of how anthropologists try to cope with the cultural shock and the sense of confusion and helplessness that usually accompanies the beginning of fieldwork in a different society and culture from one's own. I came to Lebanon two weeks ago to start my own fieldwork, slightly optimistic that having being before in the region and country several times, feeling as a Greek more at home here with the way of life than in the US where I spent the last three years, possessing a knowledge of Arabic (admittedly poor as it is), and especially my girlfriend being Lebanese, I would not face such problems. Is it not true that so many people (including myself) reiterate how the Lebanese way of life is in numerous respects similar to the Greek one? However, I find myself now feeling helpless and questioning the purpose and the feasibility of my research here one day after the first Greek nationals have been evacuated from Lebanon via Damascus.

Of course these are not "normal" times. The country's infrastructure is wrecked (airports, ports, roads, bridges, power plants, telecommunication systems etc.) but what leaves one feeling much more helpless and angry is that mainly civilians have to bear the onslaught of the Israeli army (many times with their own lives) as it ushers in its familiar tactic of collective punishment as a response to the capture of two of its soldiers by Hezbollah. But when was Lebanon a 'normal' country? And is it not this feature, namely that in a sense this tiny country seems to encapsulate all the wondrous and fascinating but at the same time absurd and tragic qualities of the Middle East that drew me here? So why am I complaining or questioning myself? Still, though, "war has come to Lebanon again" and I do not feel at all sure of how I, a Greek citizen who has just experienced the last thirty years of peace and prosperity in my country, can or should relate with the pain and suffering of the Lebanese people seeing their country being systematically destroyed once more. These are difficult questions to give definitive answers, especially as I hear now in the distance beneath the mountains the familiar by now sound of war planes and bombardment. What could be the target now? I have no way of knowing until the morning.

I came to Rejmeh, a small village about 25km east of Beirut, close to the main Beirut- Damascus highway, this morning to spend the weekend with my girlfriend and her family who have been up here since the attacks started. The village is predominantly Greek Orthodox and was completely destroyed during the Civil War but people in the last few years have started coming back and rebuilding their houses. I had been in Beirut since the start of the attacks and I felt I needed a break apart from wanting to see my girlfriend. The day passed very calmly and peacefully, a peace though that I felt was much more akin to the countryside setting than to the eerie silence that covered most of Beirut on Thursday and Friday with many people staying in their homes or leaving the city and most shops being closed.

As Israeli warships and planes intensified their attacks on Lebanon throughout Thursday and Friday, causing widespread anxiety with people queuing up for gas and stocking up on bread and other food supplies preparing for the worse, I had tried to brace myself not to be intimidated by the situation and continue my life in Beirut like everything was normal. On Thursday night I went to a friend's house where mainly American and Lebanese journalists and students were gathered discussing the latest news sipping beer and wine. But when around 10:00 of us, all slightly tipsy by then, decided to go to the usually bustling Gemayzeh neighborhood to continue our conversation and drinking at around 11:00 pm we found only one place open there and empty streets. "Have Beirutis lost their edge?" asked one American student while another Lebanese in our company remarked that he has never seen Beirut so quiet. How this scene of eerie quietness contrasted with the noises of thousands of Lebanese taking to the streets of downtown Beirut honking in their cars and waving Italian (and Brazilian!) flags in celebration after the World Cup Final just a few days ago! "People here are frustrated. They need any excuse to cheer and celebrate", remarked a Lebanese acquaintance when I expressed to her my bemusement at the wild scenes of jubilation. Could people have anticipated in a weird sense the difficult times ahead and felt that Italy's victory would be their last chance to celebrate for a long time? Strange thoughts in strange circumstances ...

Hearing the horrible sounds of warplanes bombarding Dahieh, a southern suburb of Beirut where the Hezbollah headquarters are situated, between 3 and 5:00 Friday morning from my apartment in Hamra near the American University of Beirut, was a great shock and an unprecedented experience for me. I was visibly shaken during the bombing and afterwards and could not sleep until late in the morning thinking also about the repeated pleas of my mother to leave Lebanon by any means and return home in Athens. What was I doing in Lebanon? Did I have a real purpose of staying amid these extraordinary circumstances?

Having barely slept a couple of hours, I ventured on Friday afternoon with two American friends around the city centre to get something to eat. As we went by place after place being closed and witnessed the empty streets, it seemed that our effort was more a sign of recklessness than any form of defiance. We finally left downtown and the nearby neighborhoods by taxi making our way to Raouche, the famous pigeon rocks of Beirut up from the Corniche where tourist restaurants are lined up gazing at the Mediterranean. On our way there we could see the smoke from the latest bombardment of the airport. We finally found a place in Raouche open and sat there to have lunch and smoke nargileh. The only other people in the restaurant were a couple of locals glued to the TV screen.

Throughout Friday we had only about two hours of electricity in the evening and listening to my girlfriends' pleas to leave Beirut and come up to the mountain I made it to Rejmeh on Saturday morning. As I mentioned, the day seemed peaceful up there and the mood during lunchtime, when the whole family was gathered, was cheerful and playful. "Don't worry", my hosts said, "here in the mountain we are safe from any trouble". It seemed, thus, that for a bit we could forget the terrible things happening in the country. Not for long, though! As my girlfriend and I were visiting in the afternoon the garden of her uncles' house and playing with the five puppies of their dogs we heard in the distance the sound of planes and bombing once again. Watching the evening news was a completely depressing experience. Images of wrecked villages, roads and people fleeing from the south of the country were accompanied by news that the ports of Tripoli, Jounieh and Beirut were hit. The manara or lighthouse of Beirut in the Corniche was also hit. "Oh my God," I exclaimed to the others watching besides me, "this is only a five to ten minute walk from where I live and I was walking past it yesterday afternoon as I was returning from Raouche to my house in Hamra."

As I am writing these last lines its Sunday morning. I was never a fast writer and the battery of my laptop run out last night before I could finish my thoughts. Apparently the bombings I heard last night were coming again from Dahieh, which is severely damaged by now by the continuous attacks. I went to the Orthodox Mass in the church of the village this morning and I took the Holy Communion, a powerfully symbolic act in Orthodoxy, with the other people of the village. Could this have created a sort of communitas between us or are these just self-indulging thoughts? One of the things that have stuck most in my mind during these days was the image of the Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora last night making a desperate plea for help from the international community to stop this madness and the systematic destruction of his country. At the end of his speech, obviously shaken, his voice broken and overwhelmed by emotion Siniora repeated three times the phrase Sayabka Lubnan ("Lebanon will stay" or "Lebanon is here to stay"). Perhaps I should reflect more on why I was affected so much by these last words to understand more my purpose and determination to "stay" too in Lebanon under these circumstances.

'I don't want to eat, I don't want to socialize; I want to leave'

The following letter was written by Jay Saxon '05, who was studying Arabic in Beirut this summer, to his friends and family on July 16.

Hello everyone,

A giant, massive, enormous heart-felt thank you to everyone. I have received emails from people I had forgotten existed, and despite frequent musings of "I don't know what to say but I hope you're ok," opening my email to 67 messages today makes me feel much, much, much, much better. Emails, even if you think they say nothing, are spiritual nourishment.

For those trying to call, you probably won't get through, as cell phones have started to go. I can still talk to my parents, but that's about it. T-Mobile charges $3 a minute for international roaming, so maybe this is a blessing in disguise, as our phone bill will be in the thousands. That said, if you have a free minute, I'm using my U.S. cell permanently now [], so if you call and get me, I will say hi for a minute and appreciate the gesture.

I am safe. That is the most important thing. We have been transferred to a small town north of Beirut. It's a long story why, but suffice it to say, we're almost all here now (a few have stayed in an apartment in Beirut, we can't get a hold of them but we hope they're ok). For now, we wait.

For those who are interested, in addition to the Birmingham News piece, Birmingham's NPR station interviewed me via cell phone last night. The questions are easily anticipated, but it may be of interest. The interview is online at. I can't beleive that's my voice, which sounds like I'm fine, because that's not how I feel. I have no emotions left. I wrote in my last email that we lived in this strange bubble of air conditioning and electricity, internet and phone, in the middle of a war zone. I feel like I should be in a bomb shelter quaking in my boots, when in reality I'm sitting in a fairly comfortable dorm room hoping I'll soon be able to sleep. I'm totally numb. I don't really know how to describe how we feel; we're "safe," but that's not enough. There's something about knowing that I can't leave this place no matter how much I want to that is terrifying. My roommate here has a father who is a former Naval intelligence officer; his old friends who are still in the service have told him they view this situation (and I quote his words directly) as "a shitstorm waiting to explode." That's quite unsettling.

There were bombings 10 minutes south of […] today, of the port at Juneiah where Israel believes Hizballah fired the drone plane that struck the Israeli ship yesterday. Other than that, this region is more quiet. The roads north have already been bombed, east goes to the Bakaa Valley, which is Hizballah country and therefore off limits, and south is Beirut and then no roads. Way South is where the fighting is, and it's no man's land.

Getting to Syria, as I mentioned in the last email, is now virtually impossible. All major and principal secondary roads have been destroyed, and all that remain are farm roads which are of questionable safety. One friend was able to get to Amman on these roads three days ago, but now they may be impassable. Israel bombed the road between the Lebanon and Syrian border crossing (it's about a 5 mile stretch through mountains, technically in Lebanon), so our previous evac. plan to Damascus is shot (pun intended). Moreover, Syria isn't exactly paradise, and there are so many Americans now that there is worry it will become a target, so it's probably best to stay away.

To those of you who called Senators/Congressman/whoever you know, it has worked. They have finally gotten on the ball, and put plans in motion. I don't know who out there knows who, but I now have (and this applies to nobody else here in our program, so I don't know how I got lucky) a Legislative Affairs Liaison from the State Department calling me every 6-10 hours, either with updates or just to ask how I am. It gives good piece of mind, and he assures me they're working to get us out of here.

Our hope for evacuation is now to be taken by boat (somewhat unlikely, given the destruction of major ports) or by marine helicopter to Cyprus. See this article for more details. We have been assured we will be taken out of here; the question is when, and how. Once we get to Cyprus, we are safe. We may be stuck there for several days, as all countries that don't evacuate directly are going there, so irony of ironies, I may be forced to rent a hotel and sit on the beach (Cyprus is mostly a summer resort island this time of year) for several days until I can get a flight out. I guess there are worse places to end up, but honestly, between beach and home, I want to get home.

If at all possible, I'll fly to Budapest, where I still have an apartment in hopes of finding a job there. If I can get to Budapest, I'll stay there for a few days, calm down, and fly home. If not, I'll just get off Cyprus to wherever I can go. What sucks most is that I'll be able to take what I can hold in my lap (if we get on a military helicopter), meaning (if i'm lucky, it's possible we bring nothing but what we carry on our pockets and belts) I can get my computer, my external hard drive with my 3,000 pictures from the last year of my life, my iPod, and a couple changes of clothes. Thankfully, my parents brought a ton back with them from Budapest in June, but there are things I have to leave here, and even though it's just possessions, leaving a tangible piece of yourself (worst of all is my Lonely Planets with my travel notes from a year) in a god-forsaken place feels a bit like scraping bits off of my soul to feed to the devil.

There are crazy people here, and by here, I mean this program. The quality of academic instruction was excellent, but the logisitics are a nightmare. Students are helpless and blindly believing what the director of the program says. She has actively put us in danger by encouraging people to ignore State Dept. warnings and stay and finish the program, despite every warning that says "GET THE FUCK OUT" coming from all corners of the earth. I will have more to say on this later, but it is a nightmare. We also live in a police state on campus. Though we are all adults (some old adults in their 40s and up), we are not allowed to be on the same dorm floor with members of the opposite sex; when our internet went out for a time yesterday, I went to my friends' rooms on the girls' side, the only place on campus (i.e. behind gates and guards and guns) where internet was available, to get to my email so I could email my mother and say "I'm ok." I was forcibly removed by three security guards and told by the University's director of security that I was taking advantage of the situation to violate rules, that my presence in a girl's room was "chaos" and "a crisis," and was told that if I violate any more rules, I'd be kicked off campus, and they don't care where bombs are falling. I am not making any of this up. This is what you get when a society doesn't trust adults to make their own decisions.

And still, we wait. I'm stir-crazy. We went to dinner tonight in […] as it's safe and we have no food here, and I was antsy the whole time. I don't want to eat, I don't want to socialize; I want to leave. At the same time, being alone in silence is miserable, and scary, so we travel in hordes. For you Princeton people, remember when we went to the Street freshman year in packs like gazelle, scared we'd be left to the wolves of the eating clubs alone? It's a ridiculous analogy, but transfer that sort of feeling to real life, with real wolves, and that's what's in my head. Nobody goes anywhere alone, and yet we all feel isolated. The Lebanese people find it slightly amusing (not in a malicious way, but there is no other word to explain it). A doctor came up to us tonight and asked if we were stuck, we said yes, and he said "Ah, I am sorry. We are accustomed to this, but it must be strange for you." They go about life as usual, and I am dead inside.

Thank you all for your concern. I am trying to keep my spirits up, but your emails help, even if you think you say nothing. Again, though I tried to add those who have emailed, I left people off this email list, so please forward to anyone who would care. I can't write anymore now. I'm sorry. I'm exhausted (shelling or frantically packing has left us up until past 3 the last three nights, and I've been up by 7 or 8 every day). However, this is a downer, so I will leave you with a bit of humor: in order to keep our spirits up, we have come up with code words. It is not smart to say "Hizballah" or "Israel" or "I"m sick and tired of Lebanon" in public, for fairly obvious reasons. Accordingly, after an intense and hushed debate over dinner, "Hizballah" is now The Flinstones, because they live in the Stone Age; "Israel" is now the Simpsons, because they don't know what the hell they're doing, and they don't really care; and Lebanon is " 'nan," (as in the way people called Vietnam " 'nam"). Therefore, when I return home and discuss my time in 'nan hiding from the Flintstones and cursing at the Simpsons, rest assured, I have not gone totally crazy. Just sort of.


'Yes, we're safe now; yes, we're scared; no, we don't know what's going on'

The following letter was written by Jay Saxon '05, who was studying Arabic in Beirut this summer, to his friends and family on July 13.

Hello friends and loved ones,

I have never sent a mass email before, and I'm sorry to do it now under these circumstances. As some of you know, I'm currently in Beirut, and if you've been watching the news, things here are really, really bad. I'm writing you all because I have gotten many emails today asking if I'm ok, telling me, in various terms profane and otherwise, to get the hell out, and sending good wishes and swift prayers. It has become too much to try to reply to all of them individually, so I'm sending this email to give you the freshest update I can.

My thoughts, stream of consciousness and edited only for clarity and spelling, are attached. Let me explain. In a weird twist of fate, we're holed up in the middle of the city and can't leave, but we still have power, internet, and phone. I just sat down and started to write, to get it all off my mind and to try to make some sense of my emotions, and decided that I might as well try to tell people at home what's going on, as education and enlightenment are always better than hatred and division (Anytown people, you know what I'm talking about). Bearing that in mind (and, quite frankly, with nothing else to do but worry and wait), I edited my thoughts and I've sent them to the Birmingham News, so that hopefully they'll see light of day and the people back home can understand what it's like to be here during this. What I wrote is copied almost verbatim in the attached document, as it is too difficult to try to say it in a more personal way to all of you.

Short version: yes, we're safe now; yes, we're scared; no, we don't know what's going on; and no, we can't leave. All access points out of the country are closed.

I want people to know what's it's like for us, but more importantly for the Lebanese people; they've been living this for more than 20 years. Morever, the embassy appears to have forgotten us, and we feel abandoned. As I write this, a staffer for Congresswoman Jean Schmidt of Ohio, who has a constituent whose daughter in our program, just called that daughter. It would be nice if more public officials who matter knew what was going on here right now, and know that whatever they do on this issue up in Washington is affecting American lives, right now. If any of you want to call up our senators or congressmen and tell them they need to give a shit about what's happening here, because its affecting our lives, I and my friends here would be most appreciative.

Things could clear up tonight, or they could get worse. "They say" that tonight will be the deciding point, but I don't know if that's comforting or not. All we know is that for now, we sit and we wait.

If for some reason anyone wants to call me, my Lebanese mobile, which I have on all the time, is country code 961, followed by […] It will be on and with me as long as the phones still work.

Please pray for us, if you believe in that, and send good wishes, if you don't. I'll send you updates as they come, and should things turn out ok, I'll let you know as soon as we're all in the clear.

Thanks to all of you who have gotten in touch; I appreciate all of your friendship and support. If we're lucky, the diplomats will fix this soon (maybe even tonight), and if not, then we'll ride it out as best we can.

I didn't BCC this because I just couldn't remember everyone. Please look at the send list, and forward it to everyone who would care that I missed, as well as to anyone who might be interested in knowing what's actually going on.

Thanks for caring, and I hope to see you all again soon,

Mideast blog up

We've set up this blog in an effort to help Princetonians in Israel, Lebanon and Palestine share their stories as fighting rages across the border. In the coming days, we hope students, alumni and others are able to post their thoughts here. If you're in the region and would like to participate, please get in touch with me: To our readers, please do post your own thoughts and comments; we sincerely hope this blog will be a space for all Princetonians to freely share their thoughts on these significant events.

-- Chan Sethi '07, Editor-in-chief