She sat down, weeping. Hana recalls how Aysha was welcomed back to parts of the community, but the children who used to play with her refused. In May , they boarded a plane and arrived in California. For the last 10 months, Aysha has lived in Southern California, traveling with a chaperone several days a week — an hour each way from an apartment in Irvine — to the hospital in Pasadena for checkups and surgeries, all to treat the burns and scars that run across her arms, chest, neck and face.
She is one of six Syrian children who have come to the U. Given the immigration hurdles and expenses for travel, living and medical care, it would be almost impossible for most Syrian families to travel to the U. She has been active in humanitarian projects since the war in Syria began. State Department has remained supportive of temporary visas to bring burned Syrian children and their families to the U.
The boys are all being treated for their burns at the nearby Shriners Hospitals for Children. All four children and their families live together in one apartment in Galveston.
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Twenty-five more burned Syrian children are currently on waiting lists to come to the U. Currently they do not have enough funding to bring all of the children who need help. There have been half a million deaths and at least two million injuries since the start of the Syrian Civil War in , and the young Syrian patients who show up at Shriners come with gnarled hands, missing eyes and knotty scars, as well as obstructed breathing, hearing and vision.
Some can barely swallow. Their injuries are the direct result of air strikes and, in some cases, chemical weapons attacks. A longtime Syrian-American activist within the Arab-American community, Moujtahed worked on developing the partnership with Shriners as well as getting support from politicians. Those who survive their burns have a really tough, heavy pain, not only from their burns, but also psychologically. Norbury recalls the injuries of one Syrian boy he treated recently.
It looked like he was balancing a baseball on the back of his hand. But she still has more surgeries to go. When Aysha is not in the hospital, she plays alone, or studies with a year-old Syrian girl, Hamama, who is also receiving treatment at Shriners and lives with Aysha and her mom in the Irvine apartment. Hamama lost her parents, along with key parts of her memory, when her village was attacked. She cannot recall her past, the accident, or even her family members who died. Hamama Almansoor, 17, in the Irvine, California, apartment where she lives while being treated at Shriners Hospital for Children.
They occasionally go to the shopping mall, or out to eat. Aysha collects dolls, watches Disney cartoons, and loves Skittles. But mostly she longs to attend school in a building outside with other children, even if they stare or laugh at her. It is too risky. Doctors have prohibited her from attending school outside because they worry the sun and environment could harm her already fragile skin and nervous system.
Hana homeschools Aysha, who tries to stay in good spirits, even though she wishes she had other kids her age to play with. When she does go outside for brief periods, she worries about what people think of her. Once, Aysha spotted a woman pushing a stroller. She noticed a toy fall from the stroller to the ground. Aysha thought of picking up the toy to give to the baby. Aysha shows a photo of herself from before she was injured in a missile attack.
On the television, a shark tries to catch a dolphin. Hana wears a gray head scarf and a red trench coat, which she has buttoned. She gives Aysha rosewater. She is often so focused on her daughter, she forgets about herself.
Hana left five other children behind in Syria. Though Hana and Aysha video chat with their family members back in Turkey and Syria regularly, they know that they will likely not see them again for at least another two years.
That is how long the doctors expect it to take to complete the needed surgeries. Abdullah and Anwar on the merry-go-round at the local theme park in Galveston. A doctor examines Abdullah, while his mother looks on, at the Shriners Hospitals for Children.
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W hen Aysha was a baby, her family resided in the close-knit village of Heesh, where she and her husband lived off the land, raising animals and growing their own food. They made cheese and traded it for other products. Their agrarian life was peaceful, Hana says, until the military came in and ordered everyone in the village to leave.
Heesh would become a bloody battleground as opposition fighters and Assad-regime forces clashed — artillery, rockets and mortars dropping over the hamlet, driving out residents and killing those left behind. Hana remembers gripping Aysha in her arms, carrying a bag of just a few clothing items, and making the two-week trek from Heesh to the border of Turkey on foot, with her husband and six kids.
If we make it out alive, we are alive. They spent four years in the camps. Aysha learned to crawl, and walk, between the tents. Since their entire village and extended family members had relocated there too, Aysha knew many people. She would spend her days going from canopy to canopy, hiding and hunting for food. You keep her! The family eventually learned that the fighting had subsided and they could return to Heesh, but when they made the long journey back to the village, they found a heap of rubble, broken glass, burned toys, cracked concrete, dust, dirt and crumbled storefronts.
The ceiling had collapsed. The living room was a hill of rocks. Like the rest of the village, they rebuilt their home, one concrete slab after another. Less than a year later, it was not fully intact, but they had repaired it enough to live within its walls again. The doctor begins to make marks on her ears with a marker. Doctors know the patients may never look the same as before, but they hope to help them live a more normal life by improving their burn injuries and deformities step by step, until they look and feel closer to the kids they are inside.
The ones who skip down halls, sing YouTube songs, and grab for toys like other kids their age — without fear of frightening others. At 10 a. Hama tells Aysha to open her mouth. The syringe is filled to the tip with the bright pink liquid. Aysha breathes deeply, gathering the courage to drink it down. She drinks it down with a grimace and wipes her lips. Minutes later, Aysha is groggy. Her mom leans in close.
Aysha says nothing, her eyes droop. A few minutes later, the nurses wheel Aysha out of the room, down the hall, as Hana watches from behind. Aysha is trying to call out. Her voice is so faint. Hana hears her.
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Hana rushes to her side once more. When priceless texts began disappearing from a seventh-century hilltop abbey, the police were mystified. They were even more befuddled when they finally caught the culprit. T ourists are a most common sight at the abbey of Mont Sainte-Odile in the summer. So, when a somewhat hefty, tall man walked down the marble stairs leading to the first floor of the guesthouse, hardly anyone noticed. His backpack contained a Bible, which is normal in a place where people come for religious pilgrimages, but this Bible was more than years old.
Along with it, the man carried a 15th-century incunabulum, works by Cicero and the eighth-century theologian Alcuin, and three more dusty, priceless books. He picked six books from one of the oak bookcases standing against the walls, and walked right out through the Saint-Pierre chapel, briefly glancing at the marble tomb of Saint Odile — the revered saint who founded this mountaintop abbey in the seventh century — on his way out. Now, the square-jawed, long-legged man sauntered through a swarm of tourists near the parapet enclosing the religious site.
It was a warm, sunny day in August , and he had just stolen from one of the holiest sites in Alsace, a historical region in northeastern France. On countless occasions, he had soaked up the views of the hillsides, blanketed with pines, and the sprawling Rhine Valley. He made himself a promise not to steal from the library anymore, he would later tell police investigators.
A small, vaulted room, it had once been known as Calvary, a place where canons and nuns meditated on the Passion of Christ. In the midth century, a canon had turned it into a library, amassing more than 3, books donated by seminaries and monasteries from the region. In the s, an amateur historian started drawing an inventory and had found ancient editions of works by Aristotle, Homer, and the Roman playwright Terence.
Especially valuable were 10 incunabula — rare books printed before , during the earliest years of the printing press. Sermons by Augustine, bound in sow skin, from Three Latin Bibles, printed in Basel and Strasbourg. Works by the Roman poet Virgil, printed in in Nuremberg. A Bible commentary by Peter Lombard, a 12th-century Italian scholar. Now one was missing. On the lower shelf where they were supposed to line up, there was an empty space.
Buntz scurried out of the room. She bumped into Charles Diss, 61, the director of Mont Sainte-Odile, a short man with an affable face and protruding ears. Diss was rattled. The library was accessible to some of the 60 employees, as well as to groups of 30 worshippers taking turns in adoration of the Eucharist, a tradition going back to the years following World War I. All photos by the author. Buntz and Diss drove the weaving road downhill to file a complaint with the local police station. For a moment, they thought that things would be left at that.
The door was often left unlocked, after all. It appeared that only one book had been stolen, or simply borrowed by a fervent but dreamy pilgrim, and not returned. No additional security measures were taken. But when Buntz entered the library one day in November, just a few months later, the remaining incunabula were gone. The empty shelf stared grimly at her like an open wound. The gendarmes began an investigation and soon roamed the area. He had walked back to the car two hours later, carrying two bags full of nine heavy incunabula, according to previously undisclosed police records.
The lock on the library door was replaced with a sturdier one, and access to the room restricted. For months, there was no further pilfering. It was a relief. Life continued. In the fall of , Diss, the head of the site for 23 years, was succeeded by Alain Donius, a bespectacled, disheveled priest of No one told him about the thefts. The matter was considered closed. W hile the monks breathed easy, the thief enjoyed his new books. At night, in his tiny flat in Illkirch-Graffenstaden, in the suburbs of Strasbourg, year-old bachelor Stanislas Gosse tapped into his knowledge of Latin to read the stolen texts.
There was a 19th-century volume reproducing plates from the Hortus Deliciarum , a 12th-century encyclopedia that had been lost in a fire. Flipping through the pages, one saw the seeds of Christianity sprout and unfold. Miniatures showed Jonah crawling out of the jaws of the monster, a giant fish with its head a glowing red. The Three Kings followed the Star of Bethlehem, and a bearded King David sat on his throne musing, a harp tucked between his hands.
Did reading these books produce the same joy Gosse felt playing the organ at church? He had found them covered with dust and bird droppings. He had found himself a mission. He would save the texts from decay and oblivion. Inside the library at the monastery. In ninth grade, his Latin teacher, a bibliophile, had taken his class to the library of the Grand Seminary of Strasbourg, where the spines of 5, ancient books glowed under the artificial light in countless shades of dull yellow, pearl-gray and purplish red. Equally bewitching was Mont Sainte-Odile. Gosse was 3 years old when he had first laid eyes on the secluded mount and scampered around the Pagan Wall enclosing it, a kilometer long wall made of large stones covered with moss.
His father, a military officer, took him there often, and as an adult Gosse visited the site every year.
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He was raised Catholic, and Alain Donius, the priest who became the head of Sainte-Odile in , had taught him catechism as a boy. When Gosse first peered inside the library in , he was enchanted. He would come back. In August , he walked up the stairs to the library and found the door open. He came back a few days later, riding his bicycle in the summer heat. He made his way to the library. His hand felt for a latch through the loose chicken wire covering the bookcase doors.
He picked six books, including a 15th-century Bible, and one incunabulum. Later, Gosse went to the national library in Strasbourg to read about what he had appropriated. He found the library door open. Gosse, who declined to be interviewed for this story, described the thefts to the investigators with a wealth of details, but the interrogation records fail to mention how he felt perpetrating them. By his own account, he left around midnight, driving away in the cold night.
For several months, it seems, Gosse was content with the books he had collected. In the summer of , however, he went back again. This time, he found the door closed and locked. Would it stop him? He returned the next day with a hand drill. How thick was the door, he wondered, and could he pick the lock?
After drilling a 3-millimeter hole, he gave up. He was no professional thief, after all. He had to find another way in. This time, it hit her like a blow. Hundreds of books were missing. Library rack with books locked away at the monastery. The door and the windows showed no signs of forced entry. Some mysterious force had found a way into the very heart of the holy site. Unless it was an inside job. One of the two priests, perhaps? One of the 10 nuns? One of the employees? Could it possibly have been the work of Donius, the new director? After all, not everyone had welcomed him with open arms.
Everyone was a suspect. Access to the library had already been restricted to a handful of people. Dietrich had changed the lock for a stronger one. Buntz had even relinquished her key, to prove her good faith. Would they ever be found? Had they already been thrown into the Rhine, or sold to art smugglers in the Netherlands or Belgium? This was the lead pursued by the investigators, and art dealers across Europe had been asked to keep an eye out for specific books.
They could only hope for a miracle. O n May 19, near 7 p. He brought ropes, three suitcases, gray plastic bags and a flashlight. Once inside the main courtyard, he headed straight to the second floor of the Sainte-Odile aisle of the guesthouse. He tied the ropes to a wooden beam above a trapdoor in the floor and climbed down into a dark, windowless room of about 10 feet by 10 feet with a short 7-foot ceiling.
Through an opening in the wall, he slipped into a second, narrow room. A dim light filtered through cracks in the lower part of a wall. The thief gently slid two wooden panels open, revealing rows of neatly lined up books on two shelves inside a cupboard. He took the books off, then one shelf, before sneaking inside the library. At the library in Strasbourg, he had found what he had been looking for in an article from a local history journal that mentioned a secret passage, unknown to anyone currently working at the abbey, except Dietrich, the janitor. It had probably once been used as a hiding place for the monks or as an ossuary — a place to store bones.
Gosse selected a few books, wrapped them in plastic bags, then crawled back inside the cupboard. In the second room, he flipped a wooden crate, climbed on it and hauled the bags through the hatch onto the attic. He climbed up the rope, moved the books to a nearby table to clear the hatch, and climbed back down. He repeated the operation eight times throughout the evening.
By the time he was done, more than a hundred books were stacked up in the attic. Around 2 a. View from Mont Sainte-Odile down to the Rhine plain. He came back the following evening. They had poked around the library for hours, eventually chancing upon the secret passage. They saw the suitcases Gosse had left and were waiting for him to come back. Around 9 p. The gendarmes wrestled him to the floor. He barely said a word. At his apartment, they found about 1, books wrapped in plastic bags. On most of the books, Gosse had glued a custom ex libris bookplate stamp bearing his name in Gothic letters, as well as a drawing of a heart.
He confessed to the thefts. He offered to donate them to the library he had so heartily pillaged.
When I normally do write a review so quickly after finishing the movie it's either because the movie was amazing or it was downright dreadful. This is neither of those, I think it falls squarely in the middle. I will say that this movie certainly has good intentions. It wants to be a, somewhat, clever teen movie ala Mean Girls. It was to satire the high school experience while also adding a bit of wish fulfillment with the varying groups from the techies, to the sci-fi and fantasy geeks coming together to take over the school from the popular kids, who use their "power" to torment other students they don't consider to be on their level.
The concept, while not necessarily exciting or fresh, is set up to provide a relatively interesting diversion. Comparing this to Mean Girls one of the great teen comedies of the 00s is not a good look for this film, but that's obviously what they were inspired by. Tina Fey who wrote and acted in Mean Girls is used as a running joke here.
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It's not like they're pretending. The point I'm trying to make, however, is that Mean Girls actually had well-written characters and, not to mention, some really damn good comedy. It was a perfect mix, it had enough character development that it didn't feel like you were just watching something that you'd forget in a week. It was a movie that poked fun at the cliques and some people's desire to be a part of all that fakery. This movie, while having some of that, is completely undone by completely predictable and painfully one-dimensional characters. Jodi and Mindy are the only two characters that seem to have any sort of 'character development' and arc.
That's about it. And their arc consists of Jodi meeting a boy which leads to her not doing as much shit with Mindy. The rest of the characters are stereotypes. There's the techie, the fantasy nerd, the sci-fi nerd, the girl scout, the "angry" one and, naturally, the mean girl and her group of minions. One of the big problems I have with this movie is how the outcasts take over, almost, immediately without really showing you how they actually did anything.
They show some scenes, but it all feels so unbelievable. The outcasts took over the school and made themselves the dominant clique in, what seemed, to be less than a week. And that's just now how things happen. Maybe it's over a period of month, but the movie never does a good job of showing you that.
But let's say you buy into that and you're into the whole concept of the outcasts, the ostracized, running the school. Even with that, I don't think the movie goes as far as it could with its concept. They do the whole predictable power corrupts all angle with Mindy doing exactly the same shit the popular kids did to them to humiliate them. That's not exactly mind-blowing stuff, but it is what it is. While I'd say that this was an average movie, I never really thought this was all that funny.
Its tone is light enough, and that made things easier to watch, but it was never a movie that made me laugh out loud. It gave me a few chuckles, at the most. Another thing I gotta say I didn't like was how forceful some of the characters were. What I mean by that is how hard they tried at making these characters zany or quirky and, honestly, it got to be a little annoying at times.
Like Mindy's quirks got to be a little annoying at times. Eden Sher is a good actress and she's certainly likable, but some of her character's traits just annoyed me and it felt like the movie was just forcing their hand to give the character of Mindy a personality instead of letting things come naturally.
It's like that for everybody, really, even the supporting characters. They were just zany and crazy for the sake of it, not because it came naturally to them or it fit the narrative. They had a list of stereotypes they wanted to tick off and they certainly did that here. The best parts of the film center around Mindy and Jodi trying to salvage their friendship and not wanting to drift apart like so many people do after high school.
It helps that Victoria Justice and Eden Sher have some good chemistry. I will be honest, though, the whole thing with the outcasts taking over the school feels more like a backdrop for Jodi and Mindy's issues. In the long run, it's not like taking over the school really served any sort of purpose as, I'm sure, you could have told this very same story without that and it might have been even better.. That's neither here nor there, I guess. I don't think I have anything else to say about this, really.
This tries to be Mean Girls without any of the wit or a truly strong script. It's not bad, or anything of the sort, I just think it relies on cliches and one-dimensional characters too much without really trying to expand on them for it, truly, to be a movie that stands above the rest in a crowded teen comedy genre. Decent movie, but the results just aren't there to make this something I'd recommend. Jesse O Super Reviewer.
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