I finally succeeded in calling you

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Yes, Yes, Yes. I finally succeeded in calling you. It was my 164th attempt!

Here's what I had to do: Dial 1, then ID number, followed by password, then choose 1 for telephone, then dial international and Canada codes, then dial your number, then push A for connection, and there are always a few seconds of waiting between each punch. Anyway, I was extremely happy today to hear your voices, including little Bulbul's!

I forgot to tell you earlier that visitations here are better than at OCDC [Ottawa Carleton Detention Centre] where I could only talk to you via phone behind a glass barrier. Here, visitors are allowed inside small cabins (rooms) with guards outside the door; they can peek through little windows if they wish. At least I can hug you all for a minimum of 30 minutes per visit (45 minutes if you come from a distance of more than 150 Kms), three times per week.

I received your letter (dated December 26 and stamped December 30) after I spoke with you. I liked it, though it gave me tears every time I imagined Jena doing this or that, and it hurts when I read all her questions and requests for me to come back. I hope she’ll adapt more because it’s hard on everyone to see her under such conditions. At least I was happy to know that she’s full of beans...

You know, I was so happy to hear your voice but I forgot what we talked about. I’ll remember everything tonight. I miss you and Bulbula so much, and love to see you and little Bulbul soon. I hope you're doing well, Habibti, and wish you the best.

What a day!

Monday, January 12, 2015

This morning we did two hours of sport. I’m the only one with a belly and they asked me if I was pregnant. I said yes in the seventh month. However, I’m working on reducing it.

We have the “cercle de lectures” this afternoon. I need to participate more in French and less in English.

I just dialed your number 12 times hoping to contact you. As usual, I’m out of luck.

I received from Bob and Linda two books and a letter together with another letter separately. From Ria, I received a nice card. From Jo, I received three books from November 24, 2014. Like Bob's book, they came late... I received one letter from Virginia, one letter from Barbara, one letter from Jan, and one from Ria (in the same envelope) with photos of Jena. I also received your letter from December 29... I received Ali’s nice letter. He's amazing. Please thank them all! How did I forget? I also received Jena's beautiful letter. I hope she’ll like the drawing I made for her (included here).

It rained letters, books, cards, photos... What a day! The woman in charge of “cercle de lectures” brought me three books in English today, while an inmate brought me three books (grammar, etc.) to learn French. My place will soon be full of books and journals. It’s good I’m not sharing the cell or I would be sleeping on my books.

Some of the letters and especially the books were sent as far back as November 24 and I got them today, January 12 (about 44 days later). All the letters are from December 2014. Yours is probably the most recent. You said you sent another letter two days earlier, but I didn't see it. Maybe it's in the receiving room. Hopefully I’ll receive it tomorrow or so.

I look at Jena’s letter and smile. It looks like she's keeping everyone busy with her jumping, talking, and especially football playing. She has tons of friends now.

As you can guess, most of the news on TV is about the incidents of last week. It brings so much to mind the memory of 9/11 in NY, especially the aftermath of the attack. The future doesn’t look promising. Every time you entertain the idea that finally reason will prevail you get disappointed. At the end of the day, only innocent people pay the price for all the uncertainties and messy situations.

How strange now. I have so many books to read. I read constantly and the number of books is growing faster. I had almost nothing to read the first week I arrived.

I can’t wait to read your post-delivery letter to see how things went. How’s the little baby doing, his attitude, his sister’s reaction and interaction with him? Does she feel she wants to be in charge and help? Try to make two short videos of them every month so I might be able to have a look at them one day...

I love that Bulbul!

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Nice weather today (maybe 8 C?). Jude and Sue will visit me at 4:00 pm today, I’m happy to just sniff and hold my Bulbul after so long. I'm afraid I'll not be able to speak because of the overwhelming emotions.

I waited and waited until I finally met him, the tallest and thinnest boy I’ve seen lately. He’s sweeter than anything. He sat quietly. I couldn’t have enough of him. I love that Bulbul!

We talked mostly about my conditions. I felt the visit ended within two minutes, although the guard said we took 37 minutes. I didn’t have a watch.

* * * * * *

Sunday, January 11, 2015

I didn’t write anything during Jude and Sue’s visit. I was overwhelmed by my big and tall Bulbul. I was impressed by everything he represented and showed. He is everything one could wish to have and be. Let me admit that I may be biased. However, I can’t say I found a similar 14–15 year old boy like him elsewhere.

Sue and Jude brought me some books and clothes. I was happy to receive gloves and a hat. I feel so good now. I touched Bulbul after more than six years... I have to stop writing or my tears will blind me when I mention his name or think of him.

I just came back from the telephone booth where I called Samia after failing to contact you. Sometime in the coming week, I’ll see what’s going on regarding my inability to contact you... I’m very unhappy with the lack of telephone communications. Well, I’ll keep thinking of the little Balabels [nightingales / kids] that you have to deal with. I think of how much time you need versus how much time you have, of the help you need, of all the details... I try to look at the bright side and feel you have a circle of friends who are eager to help... I’m waiting to receive a letter with the baby’s photos from Samia.

I finished the drawing I intend to send with this letter (for Jena) and I need to write her a story after I finish the letter...

I’m still dreaming of you my little Bulbul

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Good morning, nightingales. I’m still dreaming of you my little Bulbul [baby].

I just got the news from Samia confirming that the baby is here. A little less than seven pounds with an accusation that he looks like me (poor fella). Samia didn’t give me the exact the time of birth. She conveyed the message that Rania and the baby are doing well and in good health... I wish I could contact you directly so I can hear your and the baby’s voice and he can hear me too. Things in Ottawa look fine and I’m so sorry I cannot lend a hand in these crucial times.

I believe tomorrow Jude and Sue are coming for a visit. I said to myself the other day that my unpleasant situation at least allows me to see my dear Jude. I miss him tremendously and I’ll be so happy to hold him and kiss him in person after all the years.

The weather here is mild (between 0 and 8 degrees C), unlike your snowy one. We had a nice time in the library where I got a Larouse French-English-French dictionary, an Arabic book about the history of the Middle East, and a book about Turkish culture.

I received the Guardian, a card from Bessa (please thank her), and a letter with four photos of Jena and you in your mid-December pregnancy.

I did not receive any of the canteen items that I ordered last week because my account hit rock bottom. But since they deposited 150 Euros, I’m rich now; he, he, he. I don’t need any money for another month. I ordered garlic and lemon today, and shorts and gloves yesterday, and something else (I forgot what).

I have one plate, one glass bowl, two small glasses (I bought one of them) for tea or water (like the small tea glasses we have at home), one large spoon, one small spoon, one big fork, and a small pen knife. This is my collection of kitchen tools. I usually eat from the plastic containers they bring our food in.

I use my shelf outside the window in the cage as a fridge so I don't have to pay 5 Euros per month for a fridge as long as the weather is cold. I ordered more cheese than usual, since I didn't have any after the financial crisis. So, hopefully next week I'll be healthy and fat again.

I hear that Jena exhausted Jo’s photos on her machine... I just love her. I hope she liked the fox story. I’ll try to write another one for her and one for the little Bulbul. You can read them both stories, and I have to think of new stories now...

Welcome to this world, love!

Monday January 5, 2015


I sent you a letter this morning. It’s a crucial time now since the baby might arrive any moment.

I dialed your number time and time again in vain. It looks like mission impossible. The problem is that I always receive delayed and indirect news about you and I need to know everything, but a jailed person is under the mercy of ugly circumstances.

I received a nice card from Frances and Ron, with the picture of a polar bear mother with her two cubs “sunbathing” on the snow.

We had awful food last night (chicken liver – tasteless) and I agreed to take an extra container, but I couldn't even finish one. Today's lunch was tasteful (mashed potatoes with meat). I got 3 Euros worth of canteen stuff (water, milk, grape juice). Not bad. I ordered this stuff a long time ago.

* * * * * *

Tuesday January 6, 2015

I learned from Samia that today is Bulbul’s [baby’s] day. Welcome to this world, love!

I talked to Samia after trying in vain two zillion times to call you. She conveyed to me the news about the scheduled delivery and it was really good news. At least I can now say congratulations. I hope all goes well! Tomorrow, I’ll get the confirmed news... It’s midnight here, 6:00 pm your time.

Are you Bulbul in this world now? It’ll be Wednesday in one minute here so better come out before the end of Tuesday... Welcome!

It’s a guessing game

December 23, 2014


I had my first cup of black tea since my imprisonment here. Christopher passed me a few tea bags today after he learned that I ordered black tea long ago and received nothing. This canteen thing is very unreliable. I have to remember what I ordered so I don’t order it again as I almost did today... Anyway, the black tea tasted good. Actually, they gave us four green tea bags so far. I kept two and used two.

All our food (prison’s) comes at the last day of its expiry (like tonight) or one day before it expires, but never soon after production. The baguette bread looks okay when we receive it at lunch, but almost dead (like rubber) after five hours at dinner. We’re supposed to save some of the bread we receive at dinnertime for the next morning.

We got some ravioli (nice name for "yucky" prison food). I had to eat it since I couldn't eat the corn (tasteless and, like the ravioli, in the last hours before its expiry date). Little by little one discovers more problems that need solutions.

I’m trying to have a haircut, but was told that the only solution (not really) is to shave my hair off completely with the razor that we use for our beards. It takes forever to do that and there’s nobody around to help shave the hard-to-reach or see areas on one's head. They have no barbers here (like at the OCDC [Ottawa Carleton Detention Centre]). Let me stop whining and instead enjoy another cup of black tea (from same tea bag of course).

I read your latest letter (arrived today). Strange how they keep these letters for some time at prison before they distribute them to the inmates. I’m not trying to be stingy with writing. I’m only afraid that I’ll run out of stamps and envelopes before I receive new ones. Not sure when my order of envelopes and stamps will arrive.

I have to wait for what I order and the problem is nobody knows what comes what day. It’s a guessing game. The best remedy is to expect to wait for some time before you get what you want. Now I remembered ordering things three weeks ago and I’m still waiting to the point I may not need them anymore.

I hope you got some sense of what we have here. I hear that the story in other parts of the prison is different. So we’re special here and who likes to be like Mr. Normal? I guess nobody wants that!

I started my guessing game about the arrival of the little baby!

I’m just hoping the canteen money I transferred last Sunday has reached the telephone account so I can call you ASAP. I’ll try tomorrow and every day until I get hold of you. I look forward to hearing the baby’s news... He must be a tough one or Jena will be all over him. I guess she’ll be in deep love with him and he’ll love her more since she’ll be his guide to the new world. What a world!

I guess Pascal (one of our group) will be leaving prison soon (if he has not done it yet). We haven’t seen him today at all (unusual). Christopher’s case is moving faster... André got eight years conviction three months ago or so, so they have to move him to another place to spend his time. He says he may be released when he hits his 70th birthday which is in a few months. Christopher doubts it. Jonathan is still in the middle of his case.

Lastly, HAPPY HOLIDAYS. Enjoy them all despite everything!

* * * * * *

Hello Dearest Bulbula,

I always love to draw you but you’re always much more beautiful and wonderful than all what I draw. You are the best, my love.

Still I hope you’ll like this little Jouja! What do you think of it? Do you think daddy will be a professional drawer/painter one

I love you my darling.

I dream of my nightingale, two, or three?

December 22, 2014


I just received your December 16, 2014, letter along with three letters from Nick, Colin, and Judy (nice card). I was really happy to read everything. Please thank them all for me. I loved your letter a lot because it had more news especially regarding Jena, the pregnancy, and friends’ stories. I also liked the fact that you left no empty space on the pages (except the last page). I must admit that my heart was on fire when I read Jena’s news; it’s killing me. I still cannot look at her photos for a long time because I fear the consequences: hot fire in my heart, tears, etc. I’m glad you're managing and friends are great. Thank them for me please.

I liked your suggestion about writing to Jena. I hope she received my hand-made, coloured card in my second letter. I'll try but I cannot promise because it takes a lot to write to her. I’m not sure if I'll suffocate half way.

Anyway, the money is supposed to be in my account though I didn’t see it on the receipt I received today which came with a small canteen order from last week (four stamps). I transferred some money from my canteen to my telephone account which I also did two weeks ago but with no result then. It’s messy here with the telephone and with other things too, in addition to the language barrier.

I am reading Daiva’s novel, The Guardian, and The Economist. If you send me the few novels you have on the shelf at home, I’ll be okay for a good time with reading. You can always send some novels or books from Amazon (used ones – paperback) directly to me here.

One of the guys gave me today sweat pants and white socks. So I’m getting more stuff from people around.

I forgot to mention a story from the exercise room. There was a new inmate in the room exercising on the bicycle. Not long after we arrived he fell on the floor and (almost) lost consciousness. He’s young (late 20’s?). Luckily André is a doctor (gynecologist) and helped him until the door was open (Jonathan had to bang hard on it), and two nurses showed up and took him with them. He may have had some low blood pressure or lack of food at the time. He said he lost 8 Kgs since he arrived last week. He looked very healthy and fit when he first came. Well, we had a story after that to guess and gossip about. Well, this could happen to anyone.

I noticed (on TV) that you have warm weather in Ottawa, despite the 10 cm of snow two weeks ago. We have a record (in 114 years) no snow this Christmas, plus it’s almost always above 10 degrees C. Poor Jena she came in the coldest year, while the little baby is coming to a snow-free world.

What else? It’s close to midnight. I feel tired after some hard exercise (weight lifting). My brain is in low gear. I might read a few pages of a novel, then I'll dream of my nightingale, two, or three? Well I wish I can help... Wish you the best and all will be just fine!

The fire within is eating me up

December 16, 2014

Dear Nightingales,

Well, I entered my second month here and the fire is eating me up, but only within so I don’t show it. Well, I miss you my dear nightingales and I miss our wonderful friends and supporters. Life begins before our birth and goes on after our end. It’s more than www (water, wind and waves). They never cease to move. Sorry for my ranting. I’m not drunk yet! Funny, eh?

Your letter (stamped December 9th) took nine days to arrive (less than earlier letters). I was so happy to see it after the 2-4 pm promenade. It cooled my hot heart (burning actually). I sometimes think of stopping all sorts of communications so I put the fire in me out. You can’t, nor anyone else can, imagine the amount of heat that engulfs my whole body when I think of you out there, especially Jena. That’s too much and could kill me.

Our group will be four before the New Year since Pascal is leaving soon. He had only eight months (did about five of them or less). He’s the quieter one (speaks only French), but he smokes. I don’t know what charges he had. You can’t but envy him now.

Did I tell you I finished George Orwell’s "Homage to Catalonia"? I might be repeating myself when I say what a great writer. Too sad he died very young. He’s a straight talker. I still drink this ugly instant coffee. No more Bridgehead coffee. Two weeks ago, I ordered some tea hoping it’ll be just black tea ("thé nature" as I think they call it in French –- I might be wrong), but I haven’t seen the order here yet. Maybe they are planting it somewhere!

I guess I have to stop here but first I’ll send you limitless amounts of hugs and kisses and I wish you the best in the coming 10 days or so. I’m thinking of you always. Please say hi to our friends and tons of kisses to special Jena.

A prison is a prison

December 16, 2014

Dear Nightingales,

Finally, I was able to contact you this afternoon at 2:15 pm or so. Jo answered the phone. It was good to hear her. I had my points ready so I said what I intended to say. I heard that all was Okay on your side. So relieved. It was the last telephone attempt that worked. I have no anxiety now. Glad Jena was good. I liked her complaint. She’s right. Someone should fix her “ABC” toy.

I spent two hours in the "library" (25 yard away). Guys were just talking to each other around the only table there. We were five (from our group) plus one (inmate) who works there. I read a little in that little place. Food is coming now at any minute (dinner at 5:30 pm). We eat it in our cells. Other non-VIP inmates are much less restricted than us.

I hope I’ll hear the good news about the new baby as soon as possible... Your pregnancy and delivery are my only concern, and sometimes worry. I hope all will go Okay. I can say from now congratulations, as this letter might be the last before your delivery. I’m just hoping for the best. I’m sure that Jo and others are doing a lot to help. Special salutes to Jo. So you said that Don Bayne is ready to immerse himself into this mess? I miss his meetings. Send him my best regards.

The weather here is always above zero (4-8 degrees or more) but drizzly and humid. It seems I still have a few Euros in my account because I received something I ordered more than a week ago (lemon and some cheese). I crush garlic (with the bottom of a glass) and squeeze lemon and keep the mix outside the glass of the window (like a fridge). I use the mix with almost all foods (bland food as you can guess). Lemon is expensive so sometimes I use vinegar (cheap).

I didn’t talk about the guards here ("surveillantes" is their name). Generally, they are very polite. Even the least polite one here (on our floor at least) is much better than the least rude one in Ottawa. I even saw one detainee getting angry at a guard who didn’t say please when he asked the detainee to get out of his cell. I was also shocked by their smiles and sort of friendship with some detainees. Another cultural difference is that all detainees shake hands with each other every day they meet. The same with the guards, they shake hands with each other, and opposite-sex guards kiss each other every day they meet. I’ve never seen this in Ottawa.

Christopher insisted again today to give me half of the big portion of food that he’ll receive from outside for Christmas. Around Christmas only, they allow detainees to receive certain food items from outside. He’s a really nice guy and the only one who helped me a lot so far (especially with new clothes he gave me and shoes and food). The others are not bad, but he’s the best.

Now, the other side of the above story. The screaming and wild banging on the cells’ doors on the lower floors (especially the third floor –- just below us) have just started for unknown reasons. At least the episodes are usually short, but they happen at awkward times (late at night or early morning). I forgot to mention that, unlike OCDC (the Ottawa Carleton Detention Centre), there’s no uniform to wear for detainees. But only guards can wear blue marine clothing, and that’s why they confiscated sweat pants that my lawyer had bought for me upon my arrival. All other colors are allowed. This policy, though it adds extra washing work for detainees, is not worse than the stupid orange uniform at OCDC (where they wash the orange uniforms for detainees). Close to 50% of all guards are black or other minorities (mostly Arab). As for detainees, according to what I've heard, the percentage of Afro-Arab is very high. (I can see the football players every day in the field down from my window, and white players are very few -- one player out of 20.) Moreover, the conversations I hear of inmates shouting to each other across the prison are in either Arabic or African languages.

Well, I have covered much in this part of my letter. However, I can conclude that “a prison is a prison” however you look at it. Nelson Mandela once asked whether he decorated his cell. He replied that he refused to lie to himself by decorating it. I say that there are only oppressive and more oppressive prisons, and no less than that.

I can see you my beloved in these lovely colours

December 14, 2014


I struggle very hard not to think much of you and of the challenges that you face every hour alone with no substantial help. I try to distract myself with every available thing (books, magazines, TV, etc.) so I don’t drive myself to the edge. After years of boycotting TV in Ottawa, I found myself facing it, though not much focusing on it. It’s the soothing poison. I also read, and try to spend the allowed four hours (daily) outside my cell.

I received today four letters: from Bob S., Barbara, Colin, and Jo (accompanied by beautiful pictures of Jena where she paints in one of them). Again they make me happy but I cried when I saw Jena’s sad eyes. I know her when she's not happy... I’d like to thank those great friends, especially the lovely Jo who’s really giving so much, because she’s too much of a great person. Please thank everyone and convey to them all my love.

I’m not sure if I described the place here in detail or I missed something. I'll try again. We spend at least 20 hours a day in our cells. We can do the “promenade” (caged terrace) from 9 to 11 am and also from 2 to 4 pm, unless we want to go to the library (30 yards away from my cell) or to the sports cell (a little larger than a cell).

We are a group of five. We can either walk or do some exercises. The size of the terrace where we “promenade” varies between double the size of a cell (when our number is small) to four times the cell size. Practically it's small. The terrace is on the 4th floor, just a few meters away from my cell. Luckily there is one guy in my group (Jonathan) who likes to exercise. Christopher joins us sometimes. We exercise almost daily. Half the terrace is covered by a ceiling; the other half is covered by chicken fencing. So we can hide under the ceiling part when it rains. It rains a lot but mostly light rain. I heard on TV that this is the first year since the 1880's that it has not snowed until December 14. It's a record and miracles can happen here too!

Here, unlike OCDC [Ottawa Carleton Detention Centre], everyone is responsible for washing his own clothes. People give their dirty clothes to their relatives/visitors who wash them and bring them back on their next visit. People wear their own clothes (no uniforms, which is much better!). You have to buy your own toothpaste, shaving stuff, deodorant, sugar, salt, additional food, and cooking tools if you want. They gave me a plate (porcelain), a bowl (glass), one small glass (for tea or coffee), a big spoon, a small spoon, a big fork, and a small (pen) knife -- all metal.

I have one big plastic container (15 litres) and three small ones (5 litres) to do the washing in. You have to buy washing liquid/powder and dishwashing liquid, shampoo, and soap. You only get those in a small quantity (and quality as well) for free when you arrive; then all costs money. You can order all these (not cheap) things from the canteen (like OCDC) though you don't see what you order until you pay for it. Because of language difficulties, sometimes you end up buying what you didn’t want. Very few people speak English (Chris speaks better than Jonathan and André)...

I’m getting used to French TV (costs 10 Euros monthly)... The telephone is the most costly thing. You transfer money from your account to your telephone account (takes several days for confirmation), then you call and watch the account diminish so fast! (The cost is 1.5 Euros per minute to Canada). I called the lawyer in Paris today as a local call (maybe for 5 minutes) and I paid more than 1.5 Euros. It's a private company which runs the business.

The food is not great. We always receive it on its last day or a day before its expiry date. Still it’s less worse than the food at OCDC. I feel it’s not enough (though I'm not a big bellied guy). You can buy juice or soda, but I only drink water. I couldn’t find black tea yet (only green – rarely though). I thought I ordered some but apparently there's no money in my account. So they ignored my request. Well, I’ll keep the space below for Jena’s card...

Dearest Jena, I coloured this quasi card for you so you may stick this paper on something (cardboard for example) and hang it anywhere you like. I got the idea from “Paroles Aborigenes” in Australia. It's called Yuendumu (1991) by an unknown artist. It says that five people (seated) facing four people (no idea why 5 vs. 4). The transmission of dreams, made orally during ceremonies, from older to younger people (my translation). I found it interesting and beautiful though not sure whether my colouring crayons did a good job. I can see you my beloved in these lovely colours every time I look at them... Hope you like this card. All my love and kisses to dearest Jena.

I just attempted to keep her face in my mind

December 11, 2014

Dear Nightingales,

It was so good to hear you today at 10 am your time. You can't imagine how many times I was trying to call you and with no success. Great to hear you and Jena. It’s very expensive to call out. I'm almost out of any money, so I tried to keep a few Euros in the account for emergencies. I'll send you a description of the daily activities and observations of what life looks like from the inside: not much!

Upon finishing the call I received a bunch of cards, letters, and one book. Daiva and George sent the House of Blue Mangoes. I received a letter from Ria and Jan, one from Nick, one from Jo, one letter from the grannies, one card from Bessa, and a nice letter from you. Say hi to all our friends and please and thank them in my name. They're fabulous people. Jo's book Benign Bigotry arrived too with the Guardian issue. Thanks Jo.

Well let me just send you all my love and kisses and my best wishes too. I hope the little baby will have a good time with his beautiful Jena. By the way, I just remembered the list of baby names... Let me know which one you like.

[A drawing of Jena:] The closest to Jena who's much more beautiful of course! I just attempted to keep her face in my mind. Jena, I love you.

How can I ease the pain?

December 1-9, 2014

My nightingales, I tried unsuccessfully to call you today. My telephone account is still empty. I was promised to be allowed to call around 5:30 pm but the guard didn't show up to escort me to the telephone post (12 meters away from me). I'll try again tomorrow.

I received the first issue of the Economist. It looks thinner than the North American version. It's good to read some stuff in English at least.

In my wing of the prison, everyone has his own cell with a toilet seat and shaver in the corner, a bed, a sink (porcelain) with a mirror above it, a TV (15 or 17 inch) with French channels only (I rely on France 24 since it has more international news than the rest), a window (barred/caged) that overlooks a football field which is surrounded by many buildings. The prison houses about 4,000 inmates, the largest in Europe! Also there are open cupboards, a hanger with four hooks, and three lights (one for the sink, one for the bathroom, and one for main cell). The size of the cell including the bathroom is 4 by 2.5 meters. I can make coffee or tea using a stick heater or purchase an electric top stove. The canteen has a variety of food, including vegetables, fruits, and meat. I buy garlic and lemon to add to almost all my food to make it edible. The colors of my cell are green and white. We can wear any clothes (no belts), unlike the ugly orange jump suits at the Ottawa Carleton Detention Centre (OCDC).

The noise level is high. We hear from time to time about inmates and guards fighting despite the extra 2-3 years prison penalty for attacking a guard. Raids against illegal stuff are common in other wings and buildings.

It's destiny perhaps! Is it? “How can I ease the pain?” Lisa Fischer asked a long time ago! But where's the answer?

I won against myself in a long chess game.

Jonathan and I did a good amount of exercise today while the others talked or smoked. Sunday is quieter usually than weekdays which helps bring memories, especially of my nightingales and that invites tears to come out of my eyes. I tried hard to drift away with my thinking so I don't cry missing my nightingales. Well, I'll manage to stand firm.

I forgot to tell you about my first meeting in Montreal with the French team who came to take me out of Canada [on November 14, 2014]. The team consisted of one woman and two men who didn't speak English. They were with the Quebec RCMP team whose seriousness was so much in contrast with the French team. The French woman asked me at one point, after inquiring if I had any questions, if I wanted to go with her team to France. I asked her whether I had any other options, but she said no! Then I said you're not asking me but ordering me. She laughed and said yes.

Heavy memories of my nightingales

November 22-30, 2014

Another regular day... 9 to 11 am was normal, walking on the caged terrace with four others. Back to my cell to eat, then at 2 pm I went to meet my lawyer in the “parlor” (visiting lawyers’ section). We met in a room with guards outside. I didn't want to read Rania's letter before discussing the case or I'll be emotional and with little focus. I couldn't take Jena's absence and my heart breaks when I remember her. My eyes are wet now... stop it...

Constantly, one has to dodge any thought or idea of feeling/remembering family, friends, and loved ones. The race is always between thinking positively of my loved ones and dodging that thought. One can easily fall into a dark hole if the dodging is not successful.

The weather is cloudy, damp since one or two days ago. The shy sun has left us for good.

I got the stuff I ordered last week -- bananas, almonds, garlic (yes garlic), yogurt (2 kinds), and cheese. They didn't find lemon today. Maybe later. I guess I exhausted much of my canteen. I went alone to the terrace this pm (2 to 4). I read more of the novel “Half of a Yellow Sun”. I'm afraid I might finish the last 200 pages sooner than I had thought.

Jo Wood ordered a book for me, “Benign Bigotry”, that arrived today. It's in the social psychology area. Thanks Jo. It is the first book that I've received. There was one football game that I caught half way.

I stayed up late and kept the lights on, so I wasn't sure how many times the guards came to turn the lights on. I read a big chunk of the novel while watching an after midnight special program. More quietness around. Life goes on with heavy memories of my nightingales. I miss every one of them. I'll not allow myself to think again...

Still there's no way to make phone calls. I must wait one full week from last Thursday when I charged my account 10 Euros. I didn't know this early enough to fill my account with money. I'd love to hear everyone's voices, especially Jena's...

Happy Birthday anyway!

November 19-21, 2014

Dearest Nightingales,

I miss you a lot. I sent you my first letter this morning. I was taken by surprise and didn't have time to end it properly because at 7 am the door opened and the three papers of the letter were scattered around, so I collected them and put them in the envelop without saying goodbye...

I went alone twice to the “terrace” (caged exercise area), from 9 to 11 am and 2 to 4 pm. Nothing before, in between, or after happened. The good thing is that I got some clothes (some new) from Chris. I may only need my hiking shoes from your side. I’ll let you know if I need other stuff. I think the TV, despite its nonsense, keeps me a bit sane.

Yes, it's my birthday today. I'm doing fine, not depressed or in low morale. Still strong, rather stronger than ever since I know that all what we're seeing here is no more than a bad phase that the strong sunshine will fade away. Happy Birthday anyway!

I had a long chat with Chris... He's very helpful. He sent me some food today -- coffee (Nescafe instant), bananas, dates, etc. It was nice to see such kind acts. He also translated to the guards what I needed today like toilet paper, dustbin, and small broom. So I'm close to being settled except for the lack of contact with you, to say the least, and the rest of the world.

I know things are different at your end after this shock. However, I am sure you're strong... My Jena is strong though delicate... Give her extra kisses and hugs. Love to you all! I'll write more tomorrow. Good night.

I ate the last of three croissants that Chris sent me with some jam and cocoa. Nothing exciting! Went back to bed for one hour then got ready for the 9 to 11 promenade (on the caged terrace). Again I was put with Chris and Jon. We walked and did some exercises (less than yesterday). Pascal wasn't there. André joined us in the last 40 minutes or so. Not much mingling since the other two talked in French, so I exercised alone when they talked. The weather is still reasonable temperature-wise (9-10 degrees C), and the sun was out for the first time but in a very shy way and for a short time. I walked and read some of “Half of a Yellow Sun”. It was sad and drove me into a melancholic state.

I turn the TV on so I cook my head in its foolish programs. For the first time I see a musical program. Oh it's Friday night, I forgot that. I cannot allow myself to think of you much, otherwise I would collapse instantly. Better think of distractions, with no “why” questions! Not much to say or... I'll read more perhaps. I can sleep better.

The sound of metal doors banging and shouting lasted for so long and came from the doors opposite... It's close to midnight and the banging hasn't stopped. Some detained men are protesting the noise but the banging continues...

I miss you tremendously

Monday November 17, 2014

Dearest Nightingales,

I hope all is well with you all. I miss you tremendously. I’m not sure when I'll have the permission to send letters and make phone calls especially for you. I’m writing so I’ll have something ready to send once I'm allowed to do so.

The trip from the Ottawa Carleton Detention Centre (OCDC) to the plane in Montreal was harder than the flight. It took from 5:00 AM to 7:00 AM to reach Montreal's Trudeau Airport, where I stayed in a cell until little before 7:00 PM when the plane took off. I protested the RCMP officer's maltreatment. He confiscated my eye glasses and my belt and, most importantly, my jacket in the cold cell (he offered me later some coarse blankets). I entered into a long crisis of coughing. I refused any food. He tried later to mend the situation but I told him how robotic he was.

Anyway the cell in prison here is less worse than OCDC. I have my own (!) TV, though all programs are in French only. However TV is free only the 1st month. After that I should pay 10 Euros monthly. There's a corner in the cell which consists of a shower and toilet seat. I should keep them clean. I have a sink, cupboards (open ones) and a desk with a mini single bed (plastic mattress and triangular pillow). There's one window that I can open and get fresh air. There are a few activities here like walking in a "demi" or 1/2 roofed cell. You may see it as a balcony with caged top and sides.

More than anything else, I was sad for not being with my lovely daughter Jena on her second birthday. I cry whenever I think of her missed birthday. I prevent myself from thinking of anything so I don't lose my composure because I need to be strong to face all the ludicrous allegations and movies manufactured with bad taste. Please convey my special love to all our lovely friends.

I haven't asked you about food and how Jena and you are managing. I wish I can send you some cooked meals. Tell me more about Jena. Take daily notes of her development, new words, and naughtiness, etc. Write them all, in addition of course to your jokes!

I receive 1 baguette per day (inedible the next day). I also had some cheese and I had some coffee with milk (powder). I should keep some of the dinner served at 5:30 PM for tomorrow's breakfast which is not served. Food is first served at 12:00 noon, but I can eat from what I keep in my little storage cabin. I can make my own coffee since one guard gave me today (from his boss) a little heater stick that I put in water to prepare coffee or, for the first time I saw a tea bag. Tea bags don't exist in the canteen list. Strange. Well it was mint tea, not black tea. What a disappointment!

I missed the Gatineau walk yesterday. I hope you managed to take Jena out instead of going with her usual friends. Tell the group that I walked alone after waiting for them for a long time without realizing the 6 hours difference between France's and North America's time... ha ha

Well inmates got up here (largest prison in Europe according to one of the guards) and they started shouting to each other across buildings and large spaces. It looks like a city with 4-6 story buildings all around 2 football fields with artificial green grass.

I just remembered why they took some pictures of me at OCDC, less than 16 hours before my extradition. They issued me a temporary passport that would allow me to travel. The fastest passport ever that can be issued in a record time.

I don't know what else is going on here or there. I know one thing and that is I miss you all like crazy. Especially my little daughter... oops... just mentioning her name brings down my tears... I cannot take it... Kiss her good from me.