Zeynep's (mis)Adventures in Ruritania

arise, oh people, let us hear your voices... your voices of freedom.

Monday, February 28

rise up, zaharia

According to a website that I just read (to confirm the word of mouth), an informal cease fire has been initiated by the UN. If this works, it could bring about an end to the Brn-Zaharian conflict.

This is amazing to me because it means that, should this work, it could bring about an end to the war and the violence, but also, my family and I (along with thousands of other refugees) could return home. Home to Duchovnyville... to Zaharia!

Now, of course this cease fire states nothing about territorial divisions, but it's my hope that if the UN sees this conflict out to the end (*crosses fingers*), then a future, free, and independent state of Zaharia could actually be born.

Wow. Maybe soon we'll be able to leave this awful country. (And all its damned cabbage.)

Saturday, February 19

end theme

It was only a matter of time before they let this happen to us...

From CNN's Caitlin Avalon
Friday, February 18th, Posted: 1938 GMT

ZAHRVILLE, Brynania (CNN) -- Amidst a continuing civil war in Brynania, aid workers and refugees report signs of growing food shortages in the southern parts of the country.

In the rebel-held city of Zahrville, one family approached me. They said that their dinner last night consisted of oatmeal that they ended up eating off the floor as the pot they were cooking it in fell to the ground. They were searching for more to eat. When I asked them why they didn't relocate to a refugee camp where food was more attainable, the father explained to me that the house they live in was built by his grandfather's own hands. He grew up in it and has never wanted to leave. He stays, he said, "to make sure nothing happens to the house." So far, they've been lucky.

I talked with many others, who were also hungry. They were also angry that while the international community provides aid to Zaharian refugees who have fled to neighbouring Ruritania and Icasia, so little is done to relieve the suffering of the population that remains in their homeland. Zaharian rebel spokepersons accuse the Brynanian authorities of using food as a weapon, and restricting relief supplies to the region. Government officials deny this, pointing instead to the rebel siege of the southern port of Mcgilldishu as the main cause of any shortages. Some chose not to leave their capital city, and others couldn't leave as they have wounded or missing family members they hope will one day return back home. In Brynania, no one is completely immune to their ethnic conflict with the Zaharians. However, for those in Zaharia, the struggles and horrors of the ongoing violence take a much harsher toll on everyday life.

Thursday, February 10

time for heroes

I finally approached Mr. Fitzgerald about the letters I found months ago. I told him my conclusions (weapons smuggling) and before he could feed my curiosity, I apologized for the snooping without permission.

First, he congratulated me. For finding the letters and for figuring them out. So, I had guessed correctly. Secondly, he told me why he became involved in the whole operation. Years and years ago, he was married to a wonderful woman named Zandra. She helped him out with his shipping business - mainly finances and such. During this time, the Brn and Zaharians had tension between them, but nothing near what it is right now. So, one night, she begins her walk home (they lived close by) and she never makes it to the door. The next morning, Mr. Fitzgerald filed a police report, but nothing was done until her body washed on shore a few days later. From the autopsy, they concluded that she was raped and murdered. The main suspect was the teenage son of Mr. Fitzgerald's only rival company in the business (they were also Brn). He had no alibi and some of Zandra's blood was found upon one of the rival's ships - some pretty solid evidence. However, because of a loop-hole in the judicial system, the son was never charged and he still works in Duchovnyville today.

It was from this point on that Mr. Fitzgerald vowed to get his revenge on the Brn for the murder of his wife. But instead of doing something obvious, like injuring the son or other members of his family, Mr. Fitzgerald waited for the right opportunity to strike. And so came to be his weapons smuggling for the PFLZ and ZPF. This way, he could fight against the Brn, but not just a few of them, quite a few of them at one time.

So then I asked Mr. Fitzgerald why he left Zaharia. I thought it had something to do with someone discovering the weapons, but it's actually more simple than that. His company started to soar above his competition, and shortly after this upward trend began, he started to receive threats. One night, while he was up late working, someone came up from behind him and pulled a knife on his throat. He knew immediately that it was the son, because he stated, "If you don't want to end up dead like your wife, then I suggest you leave this town at once." Tired of all the bullshit, Mr. Fitzgerald complied and left. Little did this murdering son know, Mr. Fitzgerald would not be giving up... his weapons were still a great contribution to the rebels.

Mr. Fitzgerald ended our conversation by stating the following: "I no longer care if the Brn or the Ruritarians discover what I have done. Just please do not speak of this to anyone for your own safety."

Saturday, February 5

blinding lights

I've been having trouble sleeping lately. I think the fact that next month marks a whole year away from home is keeping my mind from relaxing.

Last night I woke up around 2 AM. Not sure why, possibly a bad dream, but I decided to get up for a while. I walked downstairs to find Lorenzo standing in the kitchen, drinking some water. He looked like he had just come inside.

"Did you sneak out to the camp tonight?" I asked.

"I don't think that's any of your business, Zeynep," he responded.

"We're both adults here, Lorenzo. I'm not going to report your behaviour to your father, don't worry."

"You have grown up, then, huh?" he said with a tone in his voice that brought back childhood memories to us both. "Um... listen... sorry about snapping at you just now, I've just been on edge."

"No problem," I said, grabbing myself a glass of water as well.

"Do you wanna smoke?" he asked, pulling a few cigarettes out of his pocket.

"Oh, no thanks, I don't smoke."

"Do you want to keep me company while I do?"


I grabbed the first coat I could find and we went outside, sitting down on the little porch that greets our front door. Lorenzo lit his cigarette and asked me how I've been for the past 4 or 5 years. Usually a question like that is hard to answer in a sentence or two, but last night, it was easy: "Basically, I finished high school, started uni, and then moved here." I asked him the same question back.

"Well, I finished high school as well, but I somehow got my mom and dad to agree to let me take a year off and work."

"Didn't you want to go to uni?" I asked.

"I didn't know what I wanted to study, so I thought instead of taking a bunch of classes to see what I find interesting, I may as well just make some money. Maybe move out of the house," he drew in some smoke. "So, I got a job at a restaurant... as a bus boy," he exhaled it. "I was planning on working my way up the ladder... become a waiter, possible manager."

"What happened?"

"I made friends with one of the cooks. He was young, like me, and he was full of ambition... he hated the Brn with a passion. When I first got to know him, I wasn't up to date with everything that was going on between our people and the Brn. But, Zed, he knew everything. And he educated me, and every day I grew more and more angry with the Brn and their politics of oppression. Zed was the main breadwinner in his family since his dad was detained years earlier, and he was working to support his mom and siblings. So, after saving up, he told me one day that he was ready to go join the ZPF, and that's when I realized this was a great opportunity for myself."

"How did you find them?"

"Zed knew people who helped us officially join the organization."

And then from here, he told me about many of his experiences out in the field, plotting against the Brn, praying for Zaharian freedom, training for "battle". He worked his way through our conversation in a surprisingly strong chronological fashion, smoking another cigarette or two. And then, he told me the story of how he came home.

"One night, Zed, a few others, and myself planned to go to Hamraville and free his father and the countless other Zaharians from detention. We took a less travelled road to try and make our way to the capital... I had never been before. We had bombs and guns, and I was in the back of the van we were using, trying to get everything in order. Our driver announced that we were ten kilometers from the city limits, and that's when shit went down."

"What happened?"

"I heard a siren of a Brn cop vehicle, and then a few warning shots fired into the air. I ducked down as the driver slammed on the brakes, and then he and another guy grabbed some guns and went out to start shooting at the Brn. Just before they stepped out of the van, they yelled at the rest of us to grab some ammo and then run for it. Zed and I left, shooting in the police's general direction, running away, while we each took a bullet. As we kept running, we heard the gun fire start to slow downed. Zed wanted to slow down, as he was shot in the thigh and it was hurting him. I told him we had to keep going so that we could hide somewhere. And that's when Zed fell to the ground after he was shot for a second time, this time in the back. I think it went right to his heart because he was dead instantly. I removed his personal items so that the Brn couldn't find them, and then I kept running."

Where were you shot?"

"In my left shoulder. It didn't slow me down too much, though it ached incredibly. I passed out in some forest-like area, and I woke up several hours later. I had lost quite a bit of blood by this point, so I was feeling weak. I ripped a part of my shirt off and tied it around my wound as best as I could. I ended up walking along the St. Catherine River to figure out my way back to Zaharia. Once I had reached the outskirts of Zaharia, I ended up hitchhiking my way back to the city."

"Were you nervous when the gun fire started?"

"I was nervous even before we were Brn ambushed. This was the most dangerous mission the ZPF was trying to undertake, ever. We were hopeful we would succeed, but I think we started our journey each expecting to die. We just wanted to get more attention to our struggle, no matter how our mission was going to end, you know? But then once things got complicated, I realized that I should try my hardest to live, so that I could rejoin the ZPF. But, for the moment, I knew I needed to go back home."

"Whoa. That is quite the a story," I said in disbelieve. My own cousin was willing to die for the Zaharian cause. I was having trouble thinking of something more to say in response to Lorenzo's opening up to me... I was so stunned with his entire no emotion showing display that no thoughts were coming to mind. "I'm glad you're still alive."

"Me too," he said, smiling slightly.

"Are you going to rejoin the ZPF?" I asked bravely.

"Not for a long time. I'm still a member, and I'm still as pissed off as I was from my first day in the organization... but I can't just run off from my family again."

"Yeah, I think it's better if you stay, as well," I responded. "Well, I need to get back to bed."

"I need to go to bed," he said, laughing a bit. I was happy to see that he was showing some more signs of life.

He finished his last cigarette, and then we both stood up to go back inside. He went to open the door, and then paused. "Everything I told you tonight, my family doesn't even know all those details..."

"Gotcha," I said smiling. "Your ZPF life is safe with me."

"Good. Oh, and I did go to the camp tonight. But only to get some smokes... I don't want to be involved with the ZPF at all for the next little while. I'm waiting to see how this conflict plays out." He then opened the door and we went inside. I went to up to my room, and fell asleep instantly upon my head making contact with my pillow.

Wednesday, February 2

the sun

I couldn't sleep last night.

Instead I stayed awake, staring at a cold, dark ceiling, pondering years past, evaluating our current situation.

I remembered the milestones of being a child. Losing my first tooth, starting high school, learning how to drive, getting my first job. I was starting to become my own person. Even though I was still living at home, I was in college. I would have been moving out on my own shortly... possibly just after graduation. I had plans. I had a ton of them.

But then all my hopes and dreams get put on hold.

A part of me clings very tightly to my Zaharian roots. I love being Zaharian, I want my people to be free of the Brn, and flourish independently. I love the stories our elders tell us. I love our culture, our traditions, the things that set us apart. I wouldn't trade it for the world. However, being Zaharian in my times also means growing up with hesitation toward the Brn. They hate us, we hate them. There's nothing more simple or more complicated than that.

And then there's another part of my thoughts that emerged for the first time last night. Suddenly, I realized how ridiculous this whole situation is. You know, killing, war, guns, hatred and the lot. Of course I'll never admit this to my family, but it made me think that, perhaps if others came to this conclusion (and not just Zaharians, but Brn, etc.) then maybe it will help things resolve more quickly. Finally, I fell asleep.

I woke up in a surprisingly happy mood... the first time in months.

Wednesday, January 26


We are all still pretty upset with the Ruri's firing my dad and my Uncle Uzi. I believe my parents put some extra money away somewhere that we can use if we need to, and we still get rations from the camp, but things aren't so good in the rest of Zaharia, unfortunately.

Having the new family members here has actually been a cramped blessing. Although it's harder to find a spot to relax alone in the house, the chores have been divided up even more, so it's easier to get things done. My sister and I have also been on a path to reconciliation with each other, and she's been helping our cousin Zizi adjust to living away from Zaharia. The two are practically the same age, which is also very helpful.

My mom's been pulling out of her depression now that her brother is living with us. She and Zola get along quite well, so they chat, knit, and cook together. And since Ezra and Nia hang out all the time, that leaves Zeke and I to entertain Lorenzo and Zamir. Zamir's a bookworm, so I've taken him to the library a few times to check out books, read in a comfy chair, chat with the librarian. We all hadn't seen Lorenzo in a long time since when we lived in Zahrville with the family, he was already out running around with the ZPF. He's a fairly quiet boy now, with tattoos on his back of Zaharian green and red, a line of al-Zahra below it, and a "ZZ" on his left arm for his allegiance to Zah'cary Zed, founder of the ZPF.

A few nights ago at dinner, the topic of politics emerged, and suddenly Lorenzo got incredibly angry and ranted (practically yelling) about how much he hates the Brn and how much he wishes they'd all go to hell. His dad stepped in and said what we were all feeling, that yes, we don't like the Brn either, but we don't really have a choice to do anything about it these days...

"Look what happened last time you went to try and do something about it yourself! You ran away from home, just leaving us a note that you'd gone to join the ZPF, but nothing more. We had no idea where you were and you worried your mother sick. When you finally did come home, you were hours away from dying. We are all going to just sit this one out from now on. Don't even THINK about leaving us again!"

Lorenzo kept quiet after that. In fact, we all did. We finished our dinner in silence. It was incredible.

Thursday, January 20

when it falls

You'd think that with things being as bad as they already are, things couldn't get much worse, right?


Both my dad and my Uncle Uzi (who had only worked for a week or so) lost their jobs in the past few days. The Ruri's cracked down on workers who don't have a permit to work in the country (so, most all Zaharian refugees) and now my family doesn't have a "large" source of income. My Uncle Zack was able to obtain a permit before we got here (somehow - he can't discuss it) and same goes for Mr. Fitzgerald (why does this not surprise me?). Ezra's still at the market. Either the Ruri's haven't found him yet, or they don't care to fire him as he makes barely anything (he's often paid in food, for example).

This whole mess better end soon... because soon we'll have nothing left.

Wednesday, January 12

hoppity hop hop

I ran into Ian at the market for the last time today. He explained to me that his girlfriend, Dana, had been transferred to Camp 6, so he successfully requested a transfer to the same camp for himself. It was his last week at Camp 5.

He gave that obligatory guy going away speech... you know, the "it's been nice to befriend you and I hope that your future is full of happiness" stuff. He did ask me if I wanted an Australian penpal, which I thought would be cool, so I gave him my current address. He said he'll write me from Camp 6 so that I can have his address there. He also gave me his address for back home in Melbourne, should my address change, I can always mail a letter there with the update and he'll get it (sooner or later).

I gave him a hug, wished him the best, and left. Short and simple.

Saturday, January 8

wasting time away

I dreamt last night that I was standing in front of my home in Duchovnyville. I heard the sound of a large gust of wind coming, so I turned around to locate its position. It rippled slowly toward my house, and as it made contact with the side of the structure, it caused the entire thing to crumble.

I ducked down, trying to keep any debris from impacting my head. Once the wind ceased, I walked toward the rubble. I tried sorting through the structural parts, like bricks, wires, pipes, bars, but it was very difficult. I finally found a photograph and cleaned the dirt from it... only to find that it wasn't even a photo of my family. It was another family's. One that I didn't know.

I turned around and saw a ghost-like image of myself, only 15 years younger. I approached this girl and I asked her what happened to the house.

"It ran out of love," she answered.
"What does that mean?" I questioned.
"You stopped caring."
"That's impossible... I care about my family every day."
"But you stopped caring about yourself."
"How did I do that?" I asked the girl.
"You let me die," she bluntly said, while looking me straight in the eye. There was no emotion in her face.

That's when I woke up... in a cold sweat.

What the hell was that all about? Things just keep deteriorating around here... and I think I have let myself go. I have a difficult time caring about the things that I used to. And my family members are continually on edge. We have no idea what will happen next. Our stress levels could power a small country.

Friday, December 31


So, the family arrived, tired but relieved, a few days ago. My Uncle Uzi went to register him and his family at the camp and then picked up their food rations. The given food is definitely lower and lower every time we get our supplies.

It's ironic because it was my family, almost 10 months ago, that moved in with their family. And now it's them moving in with us. It's the least we can do though, really.

Although it's made the living situation more cramped, I've enjoyed having some new people to chat with. It's taken the stress off my mom and I, and it's helped to cheer me up. Lorenzo has changed a bit, though, which is understandable given what he went through in the past. My aunt and uncle don't want him going to the camp very often as they fear that he might join up with the guerrillas again. Their presence is strong within the camps and the Ruritarian government can't do anything about it (although we all know they'd love to crush them).