Letter from Iraq- Dec. 1. Amman, Jordan

Dec 1-2, 2002 11:15 PM Amman, Jordan (Minneapolis time + 8 hours)

While boarding the airplane, Peter and I were both “randomly” selected to have our suitcases searched and to also be searched at the gate as well even though we were on different flights out of Minneapolis.

John Evans from our Iraq Peace Team group met us at the airport in Amman, Jordan after I was en route for 31 hours. (I had a 13 ½ hour lay-over in Chicago since the tickets were booked last minute over the busy T-day holiday.) He says, as we walk into the Al Monzer Hotel, “It’s about a half a star hotel”. He informs us on the ride into the city from the airport that he helped start television broadcasting in Jordan shortly after the 1967 war between Israel and it’s neighbors. King Hussein decided after addressing the UN that he wanted TV in his nation and John was given 1 week notice to “arrive in Amman by Dec. 1”. Thirty-five years later, he gets a call from VITW with a message from Kathy Kelly: “we need a group over here by Dec. 1”. This time he had 1 ½ weeks notice.

I am awakened at 3AM with the voice of the religious leader calling the faithful to prayer. I am told later that it is likely a tape recording played over a microphone from the huge mosque up the street from our hotel. So far it has lasted 40 minutes and sounds similar to the call to prayer we heard at 11PM as we were trying to go to sleep. Right across the street from the mosque are two Christian churches. Jabril, our driver from the airport to the hotel told us that 14% of the population is Christian- including his girlfriend. If they marry and have kids, they will be raised Muslim as they will take his name as their own rather than the mother’s.

At breakfast we meet David Hilfiker and Dean Jefferys to complete our 5 person group. We met Sattar, our driver from Iraq, last night and after a call to Baghdad, it is determined that we should try to leave the next afternoon rather than waiting an additional day. Sattar takes Peter and John with him to secure our Iraq visas, Dean goes in search of some computer hardware for his digital camera, and David and I go to check out the internet café. By a little after one we are on the road out of town to the transfer point where we can get into Sattar’s vehicle. (Iraqis are not permitted to drive in the city limits of Amman.)

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