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calendar   Friday - December 30, 2005

Farris Hassan’s Day Off

There’s an old saying in my family that “God looks after fools and drunks.” He must or else we’d have a lot fewer of both real damn quick. This idjit pushed his luck to the limit. In fact, he has probably used up all of his luck for the rest of his life. I have no idea why on Earth this kid is still breathing. Thank God I was never this stoopid when I was his age ... ... ... ... OK, you caught me - there was that one weekend in October, 1964 but she promised never to tell anyone and I’m sure the Chinese Army (Taiwan) has forgotten all about it by now. I hope.

imageimageFlorida Teen Skips School, Sneaks to Iraq
16-year-old survives his experiment in ‘immersion journalism’
December 29, 2005 (CNN)

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP)—Maybe it was the time the taxi dumped him at the Iraq-Kuwait border, leaving him alone in the middle of the desert. Or when he drew a crowd at a Baghdad food stand after using an Arabic phrase book to order. Or the moment a Kuwaiti cab driver almost punched him in the face when he balked at the $100 fare. But at some point, Farris Hassan, a 16-year-old from Florida, realized that traveling to Iraq by himself was not the safest thing he could have done with his Christmas vacation.

And he didn’t even tell his parents. Hassan’s dangerous adventure winds down with the 101st Airborne delivering the Fort Lauderdale teen to the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, which had been on the lookout for him and promises to see him back to the United States this weekend. It begins with a high school class on “immersion journalism” and one overly eager—or naively idealistic—student who’s lucky to be alive after going way beyond what any teacher would ask.

As a junior this year at a Pine Crest School, a prep academy of about 700 students in Fort Lauderdale, Hassan studied writers like John McPhee in the book “The New Journalism,” an introduction to immersion journalism—a writer who lives the life of his subject in order to better understand it. Diving headfirst into an assignment, Hassan, whose parents were born in Iraq but have lived in the United States for about 35 years, hung out at a local mosque. The teen, who says he has no religious affiliation, added that he even spent an entire night until 6 a.m. talking politics with a group of Muslim men, a level of “immersion” his teacher characterized as dangerous and irresponsible.

The next trimester his class was assigned to choose an international topic and write editorials about it, Hassan said. He chose the Iraq war and decided to practice immersion journalism there, too, though he knows his school in no way endorses his travels. “I thought I’d go the extra mile for that, or rather, a few thousand miles,” he told The Associated Press. Using money his parents had given him at one point, he bought a $900 plane ticket and took off from school a week before Christmas vacation started, skipping classes and leaving the country on December 11.

His goal: Baghdad. Those privy to his plans: two high school buddies. Given his heritage, Hassan could almost pass as Iraqi. His father’s background helped him secure an entry visa, and native Arabs would see in his face Iraqi features and a familiar skin tone. His wispy beard was meant to help him blend in. But underneath that Mideast veneer was full-blooded American teen, a born-and-bred Floridian sporting white Nike tennis shoes and trendy jeans. And as soon as the lanky, 6-foot teenager opened his mouth—he speaks no Arabic—his true nationality would have betrayed him. Traveling on his own in a land where insurgents and jihadists have kidnapped more than 400 foreigners, killing at least 39 of them, Hassan walked straight into a death zone. On Monday, his first full day in Iraq, six vehicle bombs exploded in Baghdad, killing five people and wounding more than 40.

- There’s even more to this story here ...


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Posted by The Skipper   United States  on 12/30/2005 at 05:17 AM   
Filed Under: • IraqStoopid-People •  
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