Monday, April 13, 2009

Big Problem..., Big Problem Resolved

[Note: this is Dave Hill posting segments of correspondence for Michelle Stevens. She's a bit busy at the moment...]

April 11, 2009 @ 10:50PM local time, Kuwait:

I might have a big problem. I thought I could get a Visa at the border to Iraq, but may not be able to get into the country... I'm at KISR [Kuwait Institute of Scientific Research] and trying to get through to American Embassy.

I'll keep you informed. Please keep your cell phone on if I get to Iraq during meetings and at night in case I need to contact you....


April 12, 2009 @ 11:13PM local time, Basrah, Iraq:

The Eagle has landed, but just barely.... ALMOST did NOT get through security, had five men arguing for me against an extremely stupid bureaucrat. They called finally to the Prime Minister's office..., and got verbal approval to let me in. We had a tank and armed escort, so got through all roadblocks. They have hired two guards in plain clothes and put me in a hotel in Basrah - sorry I don't know the name. The three numbers I gave you are good.

I'm here and meeting wonderful people, great opportunities, really excited. Was really scared. Tomorrow plus next day in conference, Wed in marshes. Not sure about Thursday, but will go back to hotel in Kuwait City Thursday night. May rest and go to aquarium in Kuwait City Friday. E Shallah!

Ma'a sallama,



April 12, 2009 @ 9:20PM local time, Basrah:


Had an unbelievably good day, although fell asleep in last session and they had to wake "Dr. Michelle" up...

Two bus loads of scientists loaded up to go to the Oil Ministry Building. We were guarded before and after the buses with tanks and soldiers. If anyone stoppped too long, the soldiers got out and moved them out of our way.

Traffic is crazy here.

Basrah is slowly rebuilding itself. Many buildings are shattered by bombing and destruction. At the same time the city is rebuilding itself with new buildings going up, people on the streets, new businesses. Lots of stray dogs sleeping in areas without people... Also lots of stray cats, mostly skinny and pregnant.

Its very sad because children are gathered in the corners of many intersections, being given things to sell to cars. A grown-up is giving a flock of young boys some trinkets to sell, like plastic hearts on sticks, or they wash windows hoping for money. The air is very polluted and dusty, and these children are in the middle of traffic pollution. Not School. Very sad.

There are about 400 scientists here. We are guarded as they are Iraq's brain trust. There was a list of dignitaries this morning. The Minister of Environment for Kuwait with full train of body guards spoke of the marshes.

Iraq has to pay reparations to Kuwait for invading them, and Iraq is balking at paying Kuwait the money the World Court ordered them to pay. The [Kuwait] Minister said they still need to pay, but Kuwait would give [money] to restore the marshes. We had the Governer of Basrah, and major ministers, sing the new National Anthem of Iraq. We started with a reading from the Koran. Reporters wanted to interview me, but would not do an interview during a prayer.

Ish Allah ha ill Allah. There is no God but God....


April 13, 2009 @ 9:20PM local time, Basrah:


My talk followed the dignitaries, and I cut it to 20 minutes. It went very well. I spoke slowly in English, and offered to collaborate with Iraqi scientists. They do not have simple things like access to professional journals and proper instrumentation. The years of being shut off by Saddam and then by the war show.

American marines were guarding the Oil building as well as Iraqi soldiers.

Iraqi hospitality and generosity is amazing. After my talk, the young women thought of me as a bit of a woman role model and wanted to have their pictures taken with me. The scientists swarmed around me and I had two TV interviews. All morning had two wonderful translators to help me understand; I wish I could speak Arabic. I hope to develop cooperative research arrangements with US scientists.

Sadly, tragically, the marshes are once again drying, gasping, flopping oxygenless on the beach. From the peak rehydrating of the marshes up to 2008, the drought severely curtailed the life in the marshes and aerial extent ot wetlands. The waters of both the Tigris and Euphrates and Gulf are warmer, salty, polluted. Many areas have dried up. Environmental refugees moved back to the marshes, and now must move in poverty to the cities. One excellent talk was of a marsh Arab family living on land that was not theirs, caring for water buffalo to create new lives. Very beautiful, poignant and sad.

The women are all engineers or scientists, and very beautiful. A wide range of colors, from conservative black abaya to colorful suits (long skirts or pants) with scarves. Very attractive. A woman told me the black abaya keeps women safe; they don't need body guards, they are sacrosanct. They are protected, not under a patriarchal thumb as we Americans think. More and more I am drawn to working for women, for their education and employment, as I think that [approach contributes the most to] heal the community and the land.

Saw Iraqi eagles today, in cages but magnificent!

Will sign out and try to do one more. Can you post for me?


April 13, 2009 @ 11:51AM local time, Basrah:

Hi Dave, First, this machine is so slow...,

Important information:

The hotel is Ay-Iyoon Hotel i Basrah. The numbers are 618148 or 614773 or 615138. Don't know country code. I a Dr. Michelle in 201. You may have a hard time a they don't speak English.

[The country code is 964, the local area code is 40. They are 10 hours ahead of us.]

My schedule for today is the conference, tomorrow we go to marshes. On Thursday I am going to marshes with Jazzim from Nature Iraq without guards. I will stay at this hotel Thursday night and get a ride to the border on Friday mornig. I will be with my friend Faiz l Yamani [and go] to aquarium in Kuwait. I have her cell at 00 965 9903 9509. She doesn't have many minutes... [please don't call her]

Well, the day I am nervous about is Thursday, but Jazzim has taken many people to the marshes with no problems.

I have had so any invitations to Iraqi homes, an Iraqi symphony concert, to go to the marshes with a Marsh Arab women. Wish I could stay longer. May (most likely) be back.

En Shallah!



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