Bruce Wallace, a member of Peaceful Tomorrows and a high school teacher, had an extraordinary idea: opening correspondence between American students and their Iraqi counterparts in an effort to give a face to those living in war as well as allowing the students the opportunity to see how their similarities far outweighed their differences.
The project blog: 121Contact.typepad.com contains some of these moving letters. We are learning great deal from each other. We are becoming friends, and in some cases ‘family’. As Eric L., a student member of Peaceful Tomorrows, put it, “When all the peoples of all the world feel united then no government can bring them to war.”
Peace & Justice in the Virtual World
by Bruce Wallace of September Eleventh Families for Peaceful Tomorrows
The 121Contact Project now exists in the online world of Second Life. 121Contact has been connecting students and teachers in Iraq and the U.S. by email for three years. These powerful emails can be viewed at www.121Contact.typepad.com.
Bruce Wallace created 121Contact to increase awareness about, and provide responses to, the effects of political violence on innocent civilians. Now he has brought the real world into the virtual space of Second Life by creating the Peace & Justice Center. The building sits on Better World Island where activists and artists have carved out an interactive space that is both entertaining and educational.
The Peace and Justice Center vividly conveys the naked truth of everyday life in the Iraq. Words, photos, and videos convey the terrible price that innocent civilians must pay every day while the violence continues.
Second Life is a 3-D virtual world entirely built and owned by its residents. Today it is inhabited by over 1,400,000 people from around the globe. While most come to play, there are many who have found Second Life to be a powerful networking and educational tool.
Along with vivid portrayals of the Iraqi plight The Peace & Justice Center offers the visitor pathways to taking part in steering the world toward more peaceful tomorrows.
Mr. Wallace is a Steering Committee member of September Eleventh Families for Peaceful Tomorrows (www.peacefultomorrows.org ). He can be reached at email@example.com
Visit Second Life and take part by going to http://secondlife.com/. Search for Peace & Justice Center on Better World Island. Mr. Wallace’s avatar name in Second Life is PT Witte.
Below is a Baghdad Post article, written by Bruce’s son Mark, about Bruce’s “peace connection”, followed by Bruce’s communications with the Iraqi teachers as well as some of the exchanges between students. For additional and some more recent letters, click here.
THE BAGHDAD POST
U.S. & Iraqi Students Trade Letters As Their Nations Wage War
Mail flies faster than bombs
by Mark Wallace
BROOKLYN, N.Y.- On September 11, 2001, my cousin Mitchell Wallace was working as a court officer a few blocks away from the World Trade Center. Mitch was an emergency medical technician who had left his job as an ambulance driver because he couldn’t stand the violence of everyday injuries-car accidents, assaults, heart attacks-despite having been decorated for heroism. When the first plane hit, he rushed to the site and was assigned to help retrieve victims from the subway station beneath the south tower. He was buried when the towers collapsed. All that was ever found, months later, was his badge and gun. He was 34, a year younger than me.
Mitch’s death hit my father, Bruce Wallace, particularly hard. In the 1950s, my dad had been a runaway and early adopter of the troubled James Dean look, before there was a word for it. Though Mitch took a less wayward path, I think there was a spark of confusion in him that my father related to.
My dad has always been a peacenik. In the 1960s, he taught high school in Bedford-Stuyvesant, one of Brooklyn’s rougher neighborhoods. (According to family legend, the Black Panthers once had to escort my father and his fellow teachers to school through a picket line of angry union workers.) A few career changes later, dad got in early on the 1980s computer boom and worked as an old-fashioned information technology consultant for twenty years before the dot-com crash of 2000 left him out of work. In 2002, he returned to teaching. As a science teacher at John Dewey High School near Coney Island, he is now as happy in his job as he’s ever been. When Mitch died, my father wondered what he could do to help prevent such deaths in the future. He decided to teach his kids about the people we were at war with, but in an unusual fashion. For two days, he roamed the halls of his school, asking students what they’d ask if they could write to kids in Iraq. The answers came back: What do you do after school? What kind of music do you listen to? Do you play ball?
All he needed were some Iraqi students to talk to. He combed the Internet, searched weblogs from Iraq, contacted aid agencies. Eventually, a family friend put him in touch with a journalist, who put him in touch with an aid worker, who put him in touch with an Iraqi cab driver “who knows everyone,” who put him in touch with Nawar, a 35-year-old teacher at a girls’ school in Baghdad. Another contact put him in touch with Numair, a 22-year-old student teacher at a boys’ school nearby. Excerpts from their email correspondence appear below, followed by excerpts from students’ correspondence. Except for my father and cousin, everyone’s names have been changed. Due to limited space, some passages and letters have been omitted.
BRUCE & NAWAR
6 March 2004
Dear Nawar, I am a member of September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows and a teacher in an inner-city high school in Brooklyn, New York. I am running a workshop for selected students. It will focus on a) the real people caught in the phrase “collateral damage” and b) communicating with children of school age in Afghanistan and Iraq. Can you please help connect my students to our children in school? I have many questions. Please let me know if they are a bother to you.
Where are you? How old are your students? Is there anything we can do for you? With respect, Bruce
14 March 2004
Hello, You can ask me whatever you want, and if I’m bothered I will let you know immediately. I do appreciate our new friendship and I also don’t want to bother you. I’m in Baghdad, if that is what you want to know . . .I want to know a lot about you, what kind of material you teach, how old are you, what do you think of us, what are you thinking of now. Oh, there are a lot of things I want to ask you about, let it be one by one. Let us share ideas, information. Anything you find interesting and don’t forget you can ask whatever you want. Yours sincerely, Nawar
16 Mar 2004
Nawar, First, a general thank you. We are a high school in Brooklyn, New York. The ages range from 15 to 19. I teach Earth Science and Space Science. I am 62 years old (today is my birthday). I was a management consultant before September 11, 2001 and lost my business then. I taught many years ago and thought that it would be good to return to the classroom, and it has been wonderful. I love the kids. The administration is a blind giant, but the kids are wonderful I want to wage Peace. I know the pain of losing dear ones to the madness of political actions. I know you must feel some of this pain also. I believe there are other ways to solve problems.
4 April 2004
Hello Bruce, Thanks for asking about me and thanks for your delicate feeling. I’m in need for such words today. I’m very sad today. The occupation soldiers came to our Institute, they were so rude and they have no decency. They treated my girls badly. I can’t say anything more because I’m so, so sad. Yours, Nawar
4 April 2004
Nawar, Well, then. Take a walk in the park with me. The first hints of spring are in the air. The yellow forsythia flowers shine in the misty rain like chains of butterflies on long stems. Green fingers of tulips-to-come peek up from the moist brown soil and there is a smell in the air of rich earth. A squirrel watches me, still in her sure knowledge that I cannot see her if she does not move. There! A cardinal sits on a high branch. Incredibly bright red-a beacon through the fog. No one can say how long this occupation will last. There are those who strongly oppose it and the next election may give a change in direction. In the meantime I think you have to focus on the girls. I know when I look up (at administration, red tape, government) I am extremely frustrated, but when I look ‘down’ at the students, then I see the light. No, I do not compare my soft position to yours. It is only that I want you to focus on
the good, the girls, and the possibility of a better future. -Bruce Wallace
14 April 2004
Hi Nawar, Some of your student mail is coming through now, and I am glad for many reasons. The first reason is selfish, because it means you and the students are well and I will worry less. I hear horrid news from Fallujah and pray that things like that stop-forever!-and that you and your students may never know such things. It is hard for me to put this into words because I stop myself from writing words clearer than “things.” Regards, Bruce Wallace
28 April 2004
The last two weeks were very crucial in the neighborhood. My house was shot because of the random shooting on the highway. I’m confused and tired, I hope this will end forever. We are the victims of nothing. How are you? Yours, Nawar
1 May 2004
Nawar, I hope you are well, and I hope that some simple quiet can come into your life I notice that the letters from your students have slowed down. Is this because they are not interested? Is this because of the war? I wonder how the school can keep open in these times. How brave all of you must be just to be able to go from home to school. Regards, Bruce
1 May 2004
Hi Bruce, I’m fine thanks. The final examination will be next week, I think my students are working hard for that. Though some of them said that no one is responding to them. Today is my birthday, I’m 35 years now. I want to visit U.S.A., maybe someday if God wills. Nawar
1 May 2004
Happy, Happy Birthday to you. Ah, 35. I wish I were 35 again! Actually, I think I am happier now than I was at 35. More settled, more calm. However, I did know more answers then! (Ha, ha.) I am too old and wise to think I know answers now.
You should know that whenever you get to New York you are welcome in our home. I would love to meet you in person. My wife and I will make a party and we will invite the students to come. There will always be a place for you in our hearts. Bruce
2 May 2004
Oh Bruce. Thank you. Thank you. You are so delicate! I remembered something
about my students, which is that not all of them have easy connection with the cafe, and it is hard and dangerous to go there everyday. Yesterday, two large vehicles were attacked near my house, it was really a shock. Yours, Nawar
12 May 2004
Nawar, The news of torture has affected me and my friends and my students greatly. We are sickened and embarrassed by such horrible actions. It seems too easy for some people to forget that they are dealing with people, regardless of politics and religion. Through all of this I remain optimistic. I try to accept what I cannot change, and try to change what little I can, and that brings me back to the kids, and that always lets me feel a little better. Peace be to you and yours, Bruce
17 May 2004
Hi Bruce, Many people asked me about the relation between us, what kind of project is this? And what for? But I believe in the Good power of man on earth, therefore, friendship to me is so important, this is my answer always … Sometimes I miss your words. You are one of my best friends, really. We are human after all, and that’s what friends are for. Nawar
18 May 2004
Nawar, And it makes me feel good to hear from you. Where were you educated so that you are now a teacher? My knowledge of Iraq is so poor. I thought that women were not allowed to go to school until recently.
The picture: I am the guy in the red shirt, and Marilyn is in front of me in the light blue blouse. I hate pictures of myself because I am always surprised by how old I look, but I thought you might like to see this one. These are friends of ours who came to our house for a dinner party. Regards, Bruce
Mon, 24 May 2004
Hi Bruce, Sure I like to see this one! Thanks. I really wanted to see you. You are not the same person that I imagined, I thought you fat and huge! But you are completely different. How do you think of me, guess how do I look like?
O.K., now your knowledge about Iraq and Iraqi woman is so so so poor! Women here are educated well, especially in the middle and north of the country. This doesn’t mean that the women in the south and the west are not educated but some of them reach particular level or stage of education and stop because of some family or domestic circumstances such as marriage. I’m against that, but some people believe that women’s responsibility lies in raising children because men do not fit in this difficult mission. As far as my family is concerned, my dear father is different, he always believe that woman has the ability to change the world itself. He keeps telling me if women are educated well, men will be born.
I have many sisters and all of them have different kinds of education: Press, Chemistry, Management and Technology. About my education, I have: Diploma, B.A and M.A in teaching. I have studied in my Iraq. So do you think that we are not allowed to go to school until recently! Yours, Nawar
25 May 2004
Nawar, I have sent your letter on to the students after changing the subject to “a teacher teaches Mr. Wallace a few things” Many of us have a distorted view of what goes on in your part of the world. Don’t forget how hard we are being told that we are bringing to you, with our great armies, a taste of freedom and liberation. Many of my students do not have a strong belief that they can become whatever they want. Their sense of hope has been taken away by their place in American society. We are a complex mix of people and not all are treated equally. Many of our poor lose hope long before they even enter school. Much of the job of what I call the True Teacher is to help give kids a sense of their self-worth, beyond the subject area content of what we teach. I think the story of your success will help some of them. Several of them already think highly of you as a brave teacher who carries on in the face of war. Somehow I think that you are becoming a role model for them. Peace to you and yours, Bruce
27 May 2004
Hi Bruce Something happened on our way to school this morning, I’d like to tell you and your students about it. A tank and two Humvees cut off our way to school on the highway. My students were frightened and asked to go back home. I refused and got off the school bus towards the soldiers. I knocked on the glass of the window to talk to the driver of the first vehicle. I asked him to let us pass because we have exam and students must be in time. He said: I understand but I can’t let you go. Try another way or you have to wait! I repeat that we have exam and we are on the highway, there is no other way, only the way back home. He smiled and said: “Then go back home! I have orders to cut the road!” I saw many cars turned back but I insisted to go on, so I went to the other guy in the other vehicle and before talking to him our driver saw small cars passed away, neglecting the tank so he asked me to get in the bus and we continued our way to school. Me and the students
felt proud. It’s our country and we have the right to stop who wants to stop us even in a simple way. Most of the girls started to curse the CF [Coalition Forces] for their rudeness. I can’t blame them.
30 May 2004
Hello Bruce, It’s a lie. What kind of Liberation & Freedom you are talking about?
What is the benefit of legs when you cannot walk? What is the meaning of your life among tens of your people’s bodies who are killed here and there? I don’t dare and say that Saddam was good, but the situation here is more difficult. You cannot walk with your wife or sister or daughter in the street after six o’clock evening (unlike before), checkpoints everywhere, barbed wires surround each building, tanks in the streets instead of cars, armed men everywhere and above all you are sure if you go out you will return home a body! This is so hard a feeling believe me. I understand that freedom means respect others’ opinions, rituals, religion, habits, beliefs: Respect what the difference means. Not enforcing people to do what others want to do. Oh Sir, don’t tell me freedom or liberation. Your government declared it from the first moment its invasion. So how it comes invasion and freedom?
I’m sorry. I don’t want to hurt you. It’s not your fault or even mine. Your country hurt also, but we are the victims of those who regard themselves powerful. We still live in the forest fearing the lion that will be eaten by worms one day.
30 May 2004
Nawar, Many of us tried to stop the invasion before it started. We saw through the lies in the beginning. We failed. We are trying to influence our politicians to end the invasion. We have not yet been successful, that is true, but we are still trying. We march in protest; we write letters to politicians threatening to take away our vote if they don’t act responsibly; we put money into advertising campaigns to educate the American people about the lies they are being told. We try, Nawar, we try, and it makes me cry that we have not had success. I cry for you, and I cry for the dumb
Americans who are so easily fooled that they will let their children go to war for such lies.
I wear the cloth my government weaves, and sometimes I am shamed by it. We all suffer the blindness of our leaders. I weep when my government hurts so many. Did you not weep for the atrocities that Saddam committed which hurt so many? But that is history, and the war is now, and it is horrible. Horrible that so many suffer-for any reason. More horrible that they suffer because of lies that are supposed to make it O.K. to invade your country. There is an invader in your country and until the armies leave you will not be able to steer your own ship, and that is the basic right of every nation. There is a war in your country, and until it is over there will be civilians caught in the hell that war always brings.
Nawar, please believe that I am on your side, and so are many Americans. No, we do not have control of the government now, and there are many Americans who still believe the lies that the Bush machine tells, but we are trying!
Today I will bring a red rose of remembrance for my nephew Mitch who was killed on September 11th, 2001. Today I will bring a second red rose. It will stand for the innocent people of Iraq who now have a special place in my heart. -Bruce
31 May 2004
Peace upon you. It’s so sad moments, I know. Please accept my late consolation and bring red flowers on behalf of me and all the Iraqi people. I’m sorry about your nephew whose remembrance makes me remember my dear brother’s death who was killed during war for nothing. Oh, Bruce. We share the same suffering. -Nawar
8 June 2004
Bruce, I don’t know what to say. It is the puzzle of politicians, those who created this crime in the name of Freedom & Liberation. Do you believe that more than five bombs are exploded near my house everyday? We stopped closing the windows! Now you live this bloody puzzle with the Iraqi people. Three days ago I talked to a soldier (who was hiding behind a tree near the fence of my house) who thought that he is tough, doing good job here. I told him what kind of toughness you are talking about. You don’t know your enemy. You are shooting randomly and killing children and innocent people. Why you are here? And for what? You brought your enemy with you and you fight him in our country and your government is proud of that!
It’s a lie. I told you. We are victims. Sorry. I think you expect this melancholy from a person who lives in the middle of death! Ha ha. -Nawar
BRUCE & NUMAIR
17 Mar 2004
Hi there, This is Numair speaking. How are you, Sir? I’m too glad to hear from people just like you, you and all the people behind the Pacific Ocean are more than welcome to talk, co-operate, and help the Iraqi students. Well, I’m 22 years old, a student at Baghdad University College of English. I’m teaching the kids English language.
Life is just like the woman. It has such a soft skin, but a murder, poisonous, it is a snake. We have to be careful watchful, we have to keep alive and survive. Sorry dear, sometimes I feel myself a philosopher, so do not care of my shit! I think if we do not smile we would die from sadness.
With my kind regards, Numair
17 Mar 2004
Numair, It is good to hear from you ? After the attacks of September 11, 2001, there was much bad feeling here about Moslem people. When the war on Iraq started there was confusion because many people could not believe that Iraq was the cause of the attacks-they wondered why we should go to war in Iraq. Our students are also confused. Some of them think that all Iraqi people hate us. I hope that this project will help both my students and your students get a better understanding of each other. Hopefully, Bruce Wallace
19 Mar 2004 09:42:56
Dear Mr. Wallace, First of all I want to express my deep sorrow for you, and all the families who lost their sons fathers mothers in the attack of September 11. Be sure that we in Iraq felt sadness when the attack happened, and lots of people had changed their mind about the attackers. We were feeling sympathy about them, but when they attack the civilian people, we realized that they are criminals whatever they are, dear sir. With my regards, Numair
In May, as the Abu Ghraib scandal broke and fighting intensified in Iraq, responses from the Iraqi students grew less frequent.
20 June 2004
Dear Mr Bruce, My students are on vacation these days, so they are at home. I see them by chance when I go shopping. They help me in carrying, and sometimes they accompany me to the buses, which go to my farm. Now I’m working to help my family and others including myself about the situation in the future. I think it will be very good when they capture your president BUSH and put him in the jail to eat one bread every six hours and to drink a salty water with a bad smell, and a dark cell, not to shave for months, not to wash his clothes and not to clean his place which will be full of his shit and if I’m the jailer, I would celebrate with him at night on the Iraqi
way and show him the stars at noon, and the sun at night, so as make him feel the misery that we are living in.
Love & peace, Numair
A little more than a year after the war in Iraq began on March 20, 2004, the first emails from students were sent to the two school in Baghdad. They were translated into Arabic by the Iraqi teachers, responses were collected from students and translated into English, and the first replies came back a week or so later. By the timeschools in both countries let out for summer, some students hadwritten more than half a dozen letters to their counterparts in Iraq. Replies were sometimes delayed by logistics. Internet connections are scarce in Iraq, and one teacher had to make a trip of several dangerous miles to an Internet cafe in Baghdad to send his students’ letters.
Most early emails read like teen personal ads: “i could describe myself a little hard working however take school very seriously I really hope that someday i could be a lawyer or journalist to really have and make a difference or play in a orchestra because i play the violin for the past 2 years its very hard to get in a college due to SAT scores you do not want to take if you decide to come to the U.S.”
Early responses indicate nothing so much as excitement to hear from the outside world: “i’m so happy to be in touch with you i hope to see you one day you come to my country or i go to yours thank you american.” Food, music, school and sports were popular subjects. American students were often amazed at the good cheer of their Iraqi counterparts, even when leavened with caution: “hello student of U.S. ? i think baghdad is very beautiful if it has some peace.”
SALIMA & RASHID
Early April 2004
Hi, My name is Salima. I am 15 years old. I am a student in 10th grade. The reason why I joined this program to interact with the people in Iraq and Afghanistan is because I am really curious to know what is going on in these countries, especially in this war. It’s really something for us to be able to communicate with you guys. I really am sorry for the things that are happening around the world today. Even though I haven’t suffered in my life like you guys I could understand your pain. All we can do is hope for it to be over. I forgot to tell you my interests. Well, I love to listen to music, help people in need and read sometimes. What are your interests? Well what
is it that you really want? I don’t really have anything else to say as of right now. Bye for now, hoping for a better tomorrow. Sincerely, Salima
5 April 2004
Hi, my name is Rashid. My age is 16 years. I’m a student at the second year in a high school. My hobby is to play football and I like to help people. Here in the Arabic homeland, life is so beautiful and simple, it is built on the bases of love and co-operation, we would love to be in touch with you and talk with everybody to express our ideas and thoughts. So what are your conditions there? You should tell me about it! In Iraq we are suffering from a very hard situation, what do you think? Goodbye.
5 April 2004
Hi Rashid, I am not sure if you have heard of this game called Cricket that’s my favorite sport. Life in America is great. I mean you get a lot of freedom. It’s really safe here in New York. I am really lucky to live in a place like New York. It’s very beautiful here. I understand that you are suffering right now. I know how hard it is for you. All we could do is hope that everything turns out alright. I would like to know more about your family, your school life, and your everyday life, etc. I am really glad and excited, very excited to be able to communicate with a person like you in Iraq. I would really love to stay in touch as long as possible and know all about you and your thoughts Waiting to hear back from you, Salima
18 April 2004
Hi Salima, How are you? I’m too happy, to hear your reply. Yes I have heard about the cricket. I love it too. The situations in Iraq are getting more quiet day by day, the beautiful capital Baghdad, started to be more peaceful. I have two brothers, they are more young than me. I’m too old! I want to be a professor one day and teach the students in my country, in Iraq. Thanks very much. Please send your picture if you can.
20 April 2004 09:27:00
I am glad to hear everything is getting peaceful. One time I had a goal similar like yours. Well, I wanted to be a doctor and treat the sick poor people in my village. But later on I realized I couldn’t do that. Now I have a life here in U.S.A. I can’t move from New York even if I wanted to. It’s not like I don’t like it here. It’s a very beautiful place nice buildings, etc. But I want to move someplace quiet or go back to Bangladesh. Let’s get back to the whole purpose of this thing. It’s to get to know you better and the situations in Iraq and what’s happening there right now. Well, I have
two sisters and one brother. It seems to me that you don’t have a sister and only two brothers. It’s a very small family, which is good. Email me back, okay? Salima
April 2004 saw an uprising among the followers of Shia cleric Moqtada el-Sadr, an May brought the Abu Ghraib scandal. Letters from Iraq slowed to a trickle, and many Brooklyn students wondered where the responses to their emails were. My father’s explanation was that fighting had intensified in Iraq, and this was probably what was holding up the letters.
28 May 2004
Hi Rashid, I haven’t been sending you emails because you haven’t replied my email yet. Well now I know why. It’s because of the war and everything. I know, and I understand. I’m sorry I didn’t email you even after I knew the reason why the mails were slow. I guess I was busy. That’s my only excuse. I just wanted to see what is going on in Iraq at this time. I know you can’t write to me right now but you could write to me all about it once everything cools down. I hope everything is all right with you. Keep your hopes open. Insh’Allah, Allah will do something about all this. Just don’t give up your hopes. Next time you email me, don’t forget to write to me all about it.
Waiting for your email, Salima
FAIZAH, 15 & BARSHAD, 14
30 Mar 2004
As-Salamo Alaikom, Hello, my name is Faizah. Mr. Wallace, a teacher in my school, told me that I have the opportunity to write to an Iraqi teenager, and I was very happy to hear that. I would like to briefly introduce myself. I am Palestinian, and I was born in Saudi Arabia (and, yes, I can speak Arabic!). I moved to America a little more than five years ago. I never went back to Palestine or Saudi Arabia since, but I hope to go back to Palestine this summer. I am 15 years old and I am in the tenth grade. I would like to know more about you. Please write me back, because I would love to talk to you. Salaam.
5 April 2004
In the name of God most gracious most merciful, al salam alaikum, my name is Bashad, I’m 14 years old. I’m a student at the second year at the secondary school. I would love to know you, and I would love to wish you all the best. I love the Palestinian people as well as the people of Saudi Arabia. I hope that you will be back to Palestine your home. I like your way in speaking in spite of I have never heard you speaking! I’m a Kurdish Iraqi. Thank you Faizah, I love you.
6 April 2004 10:08:14
In the name of Allah most Gracious, most Merciful, Dear Bashad, Thank you so much for replying back. I love the Iraqi people, too. I think that we share a lot of things in common, because we are both of oppressed people struggling for freedom and human rights. May Allah protect us from harm and grant us eternal peace and happiness. I don’t know if I’ll be able to go to Palestine this summer. It’s going to be really hard, and I’m very upset. Insh’Allah I can go as soon as possible. Thank you again for writing back, Bashad. Please keep in touch and stay same. May Allah be with you. Salaam. Love, Faizah
18 April 2004
In the name of God most gracious most merciful, Dear Faizah, I love your words, and I love the Palestinian people. We will struggle as you said for their human rights. I hope that you will send me your picture. I want to ask you some questions. Do you watch the Star Academy program, or another Arabic programs? With my love, Bashad
20 April 2004
In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful, Dear Bashad, I’m so glad that you write back to me. I think this is wonderful that I am able to communicate with an Iraqi youth, because I’ve never had an Iraqi friend before, so I feel blessed. I watch the news all the time these days and it frustrates me a lot. When I see what’s going on in our countries I feel so upset and give up in everything. However, yesterday (Sunday April 18, 2004) I went to a demonstration against the occupation in Palestine. We chanted “Free Palestine” and we also chanted “Free Iraq” as well as other countries. I was on the news and expressed my feelings towards this issue. But anyway, I don’t watch Star Academy. What channel is it on? I have Arabic TV but I
don’t have all the channels ? Keep in touch and be safe. Love and Peace to you and all your people, Faizah
With the help of a software program, Faizah and Bashad begin exchanging letters in Arabic.
8 May 2004
Faizah, Thank you Faizah for your worry about us, I want to tell you that we feel the same thing towards the people in Palestine, we think about you and we pray to God to keep and protect you, your Palestinian dialect was really nice and soft, I think it has more taste than the classical Arabic, all the students were jealous of me because your message which needs no translation to be read, and all the students are too excited to participate in the project but not every one is as lucky as me. Hope to talk to you again.
12 May 2004
In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful, Dear brother Bashad, Thank you for replying to me. Praise be to Allah for you and your friends and family are well I hope. I follow your news constantly. I swear when I heard about the Iraqi prisoners, I lost my mind. I was reading the newspaper and I was crying.
Thank you for the commentary on the Palestinian dialect. I wish I could write in classical Arabic. I was born in Saudi Arabia and stayed there ten years before I came here, so I forgot most of the language. I want to ask, what do you think about changing the Iraqi flag? Say hi to everyone. Faizah
Though the project is on hold for the summer, my father expects it to resume
once school starts again in the fall. “I thought this project was all about
logistics and getting the mail in and out and keeping track of who’s writing
who and making sure that people have letters,” he told me recently. “What I
didn’t expect was to feel the same things the students feel. Their feeling
about the war has changed drastically. When they hear about a car bombing in
Baghdad, they know that the people they’re writing to may be directly
affected by this any day, and this moves them a great deal in a way that was
unexpected to them, and also unexpected to me.”
Bruce Wallace can be reached through www.peacefultomorrows.org. Mark Wallace is a freelance writer based in New York City. His work has appeared in The New York Times Magazine and The New Yorker.