Written by Kristina before and during
April 2003 trip to Egypt, Jordan and Iraq.

For Cameron's Writing -- click here.



Dear friends and family,

We arrived in Cairo very early Tuesday

morning,(two days ago). I was a bit concerned before

we arrived about anti-America sentiment but this as I

might have suspected was totally unfounded. These

people, like all Arabs in this part of the world, are

so welcoming it is embarrassing by American standards.

Cameron and I were talking about why some

Americans feel threatened, especially single women,

when they travel here. I suppose a single American

women may feel threatened when a man offers to show

her the way to her hotel, walks a few blocks with her,

gets in the elevator with her and takes her to the

lobby on the 4th floor. But this is just standard

courtesy, as happened to us the other night. Arabs

are just a little too friendly by American

standards--It takes some getting used to.

It takes some getting used to, but relaxing into

this scene is really quite a beautiful experience.

There are those who hassle you to buy things, but you

soon learn to say a firm la shukran, "no thank you"

and they leave you alone. These people try to get you

to buy things but they are honest, there is no reason

to be afraid of them.

I bought a dress in a little shop in the Egyptian

Market the other night. This is a complex of narrow

alley ways with no cars, lots of dust, scrawny cats,

tons of people and Merchandise all made within a few

blocks of the place. We asked how to get to Mohammed

Ali Street where the Ouds (musical instruments that

Cameron plays} are made. The shop keeper tells us it

is very far but he will take us the short cut and off

we go. Along the way his "cousin" sees us and joins

us. As we walk the shop keeper tells me that here in

these dark alleys, "it is always safe at one or two or

three in the morning it is safe, always safe." Twenty

minutes later we emerge out of the maze of ally ways

and arrive at the music shop where we all sit down and

are served cokes and tea. The rest of the evening we

chat, Cameron tries different ouds and I sing. I can

tell by their eyes that they thought I sung very

well---I know my Arabic pronunciation isn't perfect

but the music shop keeper says I sing from my heart. I

am pleased.

The war of course is on everyone minds. But again

here as in Jordan they say "American people good, you

are welcome here. People everywhere good, governments

bad." Bush is very unpopular here. We have talked of

the war with everyone we have met, and that is quite a

few maybe fifty people (remember Arabs are very

friendly.) Mohammed the accountant who lives part time

in Frankfurt say he cries at night thinking of the

Iraqi children, he has tears in his eyes as he speaks

to us. The Arabs do not understand, no one here feels

that the US is liberating Iraq. We do however have an

Iraqi friend in the US who feels the war is justified.

I've yet to meet anyone here or in Jordan (Iraqis and

others) who feels that way.

This is all for now. Love to you all from the Middle

East. If you are not on Cameron's e-mail list and

wish to be, e-mail him at cameron@rmi.net and ask to

be put on his list....Love and Light, Kristina



April 14

We arrived back in Amman last night, and are

staying at our favorite hotel, Al-Saraya. The owner gave us both a

big hug when he saw us. They remember our music and

are very welcoming. Late at night after we arrived

Cameron got out his oud and we had another party. All

the hotel staff was there dancing and singing along.

Cameron accompanied a couple of men who sang

beautiful mawals (vocal improvisations traditional in

this part of the world). One of the staff members

passed out tissues to dry the eyes. He was making a

joke about how tear-jerking the mawals were... We

laughed and cried at the same time. Someone ordered a

mass quantity of food and we all ate together at about

2AM.

It is a confusing time, Iraq is in a state of

chaos. We are close here to Iraq. We hear

conflicting report of what is happening, what is the

truth? It seems that there are many truths. This

hotel is where many of the human shields who have gone

into Iraq are staying. Some people are on their way

to there tomorrow, some have just arrived back here. One

group who went into Iraq a couple of days ago told us

the devastation is immense. It is difficult to travel

into Iraq now: the cost now for the nine hour ride to

Baghdad is around $2,000 US dollars. There are no gas

stations open along the way so fuel must be carried.

And it is still a dangerous journey.

The one thousand Journalists who have been in

Amman during the bombing have all gone to Baghdad.

One young U.K. lad luckily is catching a free ride

with a Journalist tomorrow. People who have been in

Iraq are passing out Iraqi Dinars, now worthless.

The young British man who was shot in Gaza

recently was here staying at this hotel a couple of

weeks ago. The hotel owner tells us "Tom was a good

guy. We played chess. Tom was trying his best to make

the world a better place."

Many of these people have very strong ideas. They felt

their presence in Baghdad would deter American bombs,

but I think they were lucky to make it through.

Several Arabs we have spoken with have expressed

concern that America would not stop with Iraq. That

soon they would attack Syria or Iran or somewhere.

They do not trust Bush and call him a

terrorist. And they see the U.S. government as wanting

to control the world.

Now of course the thing to do is to get as much

humanitarian aid as possible into the Iraqi cities.

The people need food and water and electricity. So no

matter if you were for or against the war now we must

work together to bring life back to normal for the

Iraqi people. After all this destruction, people must receive the help

they need. I hope that convoys of food and medicines are on their

way from America into Iraq now.

Our Iraq friends here are concerned for their family

and friends who are still in Baghdad. They do not know

yet if they are safe. There are no telephones. There

is no way yet to know. More soon...Love & Light,

Kristina


April 16


The stories coming out of Iraq from the people who

were there are hard to listen to. All the people

who were human shields saw many, many civilian

casualties. We all know war is horrible, there is no

question about that. I had so hoped this one would be

avoidable.

Last night we were invited to a concert. The

daughter of a local politician sang songs of Fairuz (a

famous Lebanese singer) and some older traditional

songs. She sang very well. The people who attended

were clearly from the upper class. None of the women

attending this concert wore head scarves. That seems

to be more common with women in the lower classes who

tend to be more conservative.

I met a women who was a fashion designer in Jordan

and who now is a broker handling franchises for a

large American restaurant chain. She is a single mom

and had lived in California for ten years so her

English was very good. She talk about how Americans

were fooled by the media, she speaks on the phone

frequently with her friends in America and compares

what they are getting on the news to what she hears

from the Arabic TV and news media. Very different

stories she says.

For those of you interested in looking at world

events from the perspective of different countries.

Try www.commondreams.org. Scroll down to "Newspapers"

in the left hand column and click on "World Desk" This

will take you to a list of the worlds newspapers many

of which are written in English.

Seems as if it is time for us all to realize

Arab, Jew, American, European, Asian, we are all one

people. It is time to listen to our own hearts for

guidance. And to speak our truth as we know it

Salaam wa alaykum

April 20, 2003


Baghdad is burning. We drove into the city

Friday, April 18th. Many tall buildings were burning.

Flames

poured out of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs building

which was several stories high. Several other

government buildings were also in flames. As we drove

we saw looters carrying away their booty. All the

more affluent stores had been looted: banks, whatever.

The city is in chaos. The air is filled with smoke.

As we drive our taxi driver curses the looters calling

them "Ali Baba," the famous thief. We turn to go down

one street to our hotel but there is a huge traffic

jam due to a demonstration which, we find out later,

was many many Iraqis protesting the American Military

presence in Iraq.

Our taxi driver points to our hotel. It, and

several other hotels and buildings, lie behind a

military blockade. The street is crowded and it is

difficult for our driver to find a place to park. He

finally finds a spot and we carry our luggage a few

blocks; we are searched as we cross through the check

point and land in the hotel seething with journalists.


Next door is the Palestine hotel: the one where,

a week previously, Journalists were killed in a blast.

It is hard to see the damage from the outside. There is

only a small hole where the bomb entered. It exploded

inside.

We are told there is only one room left in our

hotel Al Fonar. We take it. It would be too crazy to

go looking for another room, although it is more than

we wish to spend: Fifty US dollars. The price was

raised as soon as the Journalists showed up. (The

owner later lowered the price to $35 after he found

out what we were doing in Baghdad.)

Our room has no electricity. There is a

generator at the hotel, but that is used for lights

and satelite TV in the lobby. One light bulb lights

each hallway in the seven story building. In the

rooms you are on your own. We use our flashlights in

the bathroom as there are no windows for light. Later

in the evening we are glad we brought candles. I am

happy there is water.

We take our valuables with us and leave the

clothing and food in the room as we venture out on the

street. Cameron brings his oud (traditional Arabic

stringed instrument). Just outside the military check

point, some street vendors point to his instrument and

ask him to play. So he does. A crowd of Arab men

gather around and smiles break out. Everyone sings

along. These people are not shy about using their

voices; they sing freely. Twenty feet away is a US

tank with alert soldiers guns at hand.

The crowd is happy. One man insists on playing

the oud which he does, then hands it back to Cameron.

Everyone wants to be in the pictures I am taking. In

Egypt I passed the camera to others to take pictures.

I knew even if I lost sight of it that it would come

back, which it did. Here I guard it a bit closer. After

seeing all the looting I am not so sure.

Doing these street performances is not easy.

Dozens crowd closely around us. They ask all kinds of

questions. Where from? America. Welcome. One man

wishes to emigrate to the United States. "Will it be

good for me there?" he asks.

I reply, "maybe yes, maybe no." I think of the many

Arab friends we have in the

states and how life has changed for them since 9/11.

Some have been detained, some discriminated against

in other ways. Others have had few problems. He seems

a little disapointed from my response.

It is a bit exhausting to be the center of such

attention. These are very friendly people. We play

and sing for awhile and then feel it is time to move

on down the street to another location. A few of the

men follow us and want to talk. We ask them how they

are feeling. We tell them our hearts are with the

Iraqi people.

One man tells us: "The US has caused all of this

destruction. We do not want US occupation, the US,"

he says, "must fix the destruction and then leave! We

wish to govern ourselves."

I walk a bit further down the road and another man approaches me. He says that the

first man who spoke to us is a "bad man." He says,

"Bush and Blair good. USA good. Sadam was a very bad man

it is good the US has liberated us."

I have come here with the intention of looking

beyond the concepts of good and evil or right and

wrong. These are all people; they have all suffered in

some way. Many were imprisoned or have had family

members killed by the former Iraqi regime. They have

all suffered during the bombing. Many suffered from

the effects of the sanctions. One man told me his

child is very sick, but he cannot take him to the

hospital because the hospital has been destroyed.

In Amman we spoke with some of the Human Shields

who had just returned from Baghdad. All of them saw

civilians dead on the streets or being piled in the

backs of trucks and carted away. What is clear is

that these Iraqi people have suffered beyond what most

Americans can understand.

Many of the US soldiers, too, have suffered. I

look at these young men. They all look like they could be

my sons. They are so young! Tears come to my eyes when

I think of how their young lives have been rudely awakened. Many of

them are trying very hard to be good to the Iraqi

people and to do their jobs right. Some of them are

tainted and see the Iraqis as less than human. A few

of them, we are told, have killed civilians for target

practice.

I don't think this will come as a surprise to

those who have experienced war first hand. The

Vietnam vet, whom we met upon our arrival in Amman,

said he saw it in Vietnam, and now he has seen it in

Baghdad. War is war. Atrocities are committed on both

sides, always.

What do we do now? What can we do? Cameron and

I have our own little way. We play popular Arabic

songs with these people. They have never seen

Americans like us. They are overjoyed that we know

their music. I feel that at least we are showing

these people that there are some Americans who appreciate

them and their culture. We get very enthusiastic

responses. For a while we all forget the pain and

suffering and immerse ourselves in the power of song.

There is a power in this. The power of spirits joining

together in friendship, of moving beyond the idea of

separation. Singing together joins hearts and minds

and spirits. I feel blessed that I can share this

immediate connection with these people.

Another place on the street Cameron again is asked

to play his oud. The man who stopped him plays oud

himself and after hearing us, excitedly invites us to

his home. If we had more time we would have gone, but

we exchange phone numbers and give him our e-mail

address. Insha'allah (god willing), we will meet

again.