This short phone call to Nesreen taught me, once again, how little I know about Baghdad's people.
b- Hi, Nesreen, how are you today?
n- We are fine, and thank you for calling my brother yesterday.
b- You're welcome. I told him you were OK and he told me he was OK and misses you. He was happy to hear.
n- Thank you, thank you.
b- Has it been quiet?
n- Yesterday and today is very quiet, very good, but now there is a checkpoint in front of the house.
b- An American checkpoint?
n- Yes. I told you there were 3 Iraqi checkpoints on our streets, but now there is this right in front on the street because two days ago the militias were fighting right here.
b- Is this a good thing? To have a checkpoint so close? It sounds like a target to me.
n- Yes. It's easy to be shot now. Everyone is in danger.
b- Are the stores open again? I know they were closed since Thursday's curfew.
n- Some stores did open. My brother went to his shop today. Sometimes I am hearing bombings.
n- At night, and the sky is lit...
((the telephone connection is very poor. We start to have to repeat what we say))
n- ...and sometimes at night I hear voices in the street and you don't know who it is. But tell me, what are people thinking there?
b- Well, there's a big push to set a timetable and bring the US troops home and let the Iraqi people settle the Iraqi troubles.
n- You know I am very...have conflict about that. Sometimes I think, "Yes, take the troops away. They are the cause of everything," and sometimes I think "No, we need them here because when the go there will be more fighting." You know everyone says it was a mistake to start the war.
b- Yes, there is no good answer. And I don't look back so much. I think about what is happening now and how to help make it better.
n- Yes, you are very good. What about the project?
(( We had previously talked about a reconcilliation program within Iraq that would get students to focus on mutual respect))
b- Well, we really can't connect schools. There's no phones, no electricity, no email for most of them. How could we get them together?
n- And there's no school. We haven't had school For a week. The schools are closed.
And you don't know! In my classes there are everybody; Christians, Sunni, Shi'a, and students from Somalia, Senegal, so many places. And they don't think of such things. They don't think of sectarian things. They think of school, and play, and boys and girls.
b- They are children!
n- Of course. They are children. They don't think of such things. They just play with each other. Yes. I told you about Zinna who wants to be a friend to everybody. She likes to have friends of everyone and she doesn't care about what, you know?
b- Oh, when you get email back you must send me a letter about your classes and the children and how they think. I would love to put it on the blog. I love more letters so people can hear your voices.
n- I asked her to write but she does not want to.
b- Tell her Bruce in Brooklyn wants her to write.
n- I cannot push them. I did ask, but they are afraid. I spoke to Marwa's family but they don't want to talk about her kidnapping. They are too sad and worried. They don't want to speak of it.
b- Well, the call will end soon. I heard the beep. I used the same card yesterday to call your brother so we only have a few seconds...
We said our goodbyes and I sat thinking about that great mix of kids in Baghdad, and wondering what will happen as they grow older. Will they take on the battles of their elders? Will they see another way? How could we best help to ensure that this generation of Iraqis learns the critical lessons of the non-violent path?