By Diane Wilson
hey folks can you believe. after 3 days in beruit we finally have email. it has been a real ringamarow to do. Finally got a phone too. We cant really call out since it costs an arm and a leg and 4 of us women here are using the same phone but ya'll can call us and we dont get charged. maybe if you can call thru internet it will be cheaper for
ya'll. we're fixing to leave for bombed area. we were bombed last night but nobody hurt. it wwas up futher south. sending you a bit of a blog. will write more when i get back.
xxxxxxx amazing amazing.xxxxxx
Damascus. Heard last night on CNN that all the roads into Lebanon have been bombed and there is no way out or in. Still we had decided to enter Lebanon at which ever border we could so Medea and Gael commadered a bus from a singer they met in a outdoor café in Damascus at 2am and he was so taken with hauling 4 women to beruit that he offered, on the spot, his brotherąs company bus to drive us straight to Beruit then wait for us in Beruit until we finished our business then he would take us back to Damascus. And all for $100. Which was a fine fine plan for us given that weąd heard all the roads were bombed out and if there were drivers, they were charging anywhere from $600-1,000 american dollars to haul people fleeing the bombing in Lebanon to
Damascus in Syria. A good plan indeed.
But the next day the singer came sheepfaced and red and said his brother said he must be crazy to offer such a thing. So our plan to leave Damascus at 7am was nixed until we could find another driver and another car and another price..
So we climbed into the highly fringed bus with the curtained windows (12 seats to one woman!) while our apologizing singer drove us, first, to the Syrian Red Cross who we had been told was sending supply trucks to Beruit. Unfortunately the Red Cross was only for Syria and they couldnąt help us, either, on a route or a convoy to Beruit. Besides, hadnąt we heard, almost all the roads were bombed out and only the northern route might work. So our singer (after singing us a song from a free standing mike hooked to the dashboard and dancing some kind of salsa mumba through the aisles) took us to the International Red Cross who told us that yes, convoys were going almost daily into Lebanon but, no, we couldnąt hook a ride. Eventually, though, after a lot of talking we were given the route the convoy was taking and we got back on our fringed bus while the only woman who could speak Arabic haggled the price with the singer because now the l00 dollars to Beruit had become l00 dollars just to the Lebanon border where he could take us without incurring the wrath of his brother, the bus company owner.. The singer eventually settled on 60 dollars to take us to the border, but we,privately, were thinking Śwait and seeą if we can get him to take us further. We had good reasons for wanting that bus. We were warned that if we took a southern route into Beruit we would have to get out with our suitcases and walk for a considerable distqnce over bomb craters to get to the other side and maybe maye find a car that would take us the rest of the way. Having a bus eliminated a lot of walking through bomb holes.
An hour and a half later we arrived at the northern most border. The border was like a small town in west Texas; hot and dusty and jam packed with cars and buses and people. There were a half dozen little nondescript blonde block buildings where we handed over our passport then received slips of paper that we filled out to turn in to another little block building. The last passport entry into Lebanon was almost a deal breaker. One of our four women had went into Isreal a year ago and the entry was in the passport. So while we waited on whether or not we were going to have to leave one of us at the border hooking a ride back to Jordan, some of the more savy travelers (Gael Murphy and Medea) negotiated with drivers to take us into Beruit. This was where reality hit the pavement. There was a UN delegation at the border who was telling us it was going to be VERY EXPEnSIVE to get a driver to take us to Beruit but the real truth was it was cheap as dirt. The price started at 60 dollars, then dropped to 50$. It began to dawn on us that we acould get into Beruit for nothing so then Gael and Medea started looking for a car that was fairly new and had air conditioning.. Lucky for us, we found a driver that had lived in dear ole Houston for one year but got fed up quick and went home to Lebanon. He worked for a nice taxi service in Beruit that eccvhanged taxi every two years. This driver charged us nothing and waitied two hours while we sweated over our passports.
Around 3PM we crossed the border into Lebanon and started seeing the roads pockmarked with bombs. The first had occurred the night before and looked like someone had chisled a many spangled star into the asphalt. We drove about 80mph, skyrocketing into Lebanon, apparently on a self imposed deadline to get into beruit before Nightfall because the bombs started at nightfall.
We made it to Tripoli around 5pm and the sun was getting red and low. Our ex-Houston driver wheeled into a open vacant garage, yelled something at someone who yelled something back. The driver then wheeled around in the middle of the road and cruised up to some men who were hanging around minivans. One was already full with about l0 men. Apparently we were at our bus stop; the next minivan would take us into Beruit for 5 dollars a woman. Our suitcases where tied down on top of the minvan and a half dozen men piled in with us.
To say we four women were an oddity is an understatment. Our oddness blared out like we had speakers hanging off our necks. Not only were we women heading INTO Beruit, but two of our group were blonde and smacked of Americana. I was amazed by the Lebanese cordiality in spite of the well known position of the Bush Administration giving a green light to the bombing of the cities. They always said ,"you are very welcome here."
The minvan had the same kind of air conditiong I had in my truck back in Texas. 2-80. Two windows down and driving 80 miles an hour. Then 30 minutes into our ride we saw the real bombed out bridges and roads that CNN was talking about. Huge holes the size of small buildings with jagged chucks of cements and rebar poking in every direction. But amazingly, feeder roads trailed around and through trees and over hills, then thru narrow neighborhoods, then whack! we were back on the main road and weąd all look back and see the gaping hole left by the bomb blast.