My Sister, Nicole Vienneau, Has Gone Missing in Syria - Updates from July 7th to 28th

July 28th (Evening):

Again there is very little to report.

My mother spoke for several hours with the Canadian Ambassador to Syria this past weekend. He is getting a new appointment in the near future (I hope I'm not spoiling an official announcement of some kind) which has the family worried. We've had an excellent relationship with the Foreign Affairs staff in Syria, so it's hard not to think that we'll need to start fresh a little bit. There was no new news from Syria - we were hoping to perhaps hear new things that may have been held back until there was secure communication.

It's been two years this past week since Mom last spent time with Nicole. She told me this late last week, and was able to describe what they did together. I was going to ask her to write it out for me so I could give people a glimpse, but I'm increasingly feeling like a paparazzo, constantly plaguing the family for news or images that I can share. A weekly blog is a seemingly insatiable beast when there is little or no news to tell. I worry that each week of boring updates is another dozen people not reading anymore. I don't ask that people read every week, but please try and check in once in a while, just in case we have news, or need specialized knowledge or skills that you might possess.

Wedding plans are consuming a lot of time, especially for my girlfriend. Gary is invited and we're hoping it will fit with his schedule. It will be nice to see him here in Toronto without him having just returned from Syria.

July 21st (Evening):

Due to weekend activities during the summer, it can be difficult finding time to post until Monday. Last week was particularly bad, as I didn't get something up until Wednesday, and people have made it clear that they like the regular posts. With only a few days since the last post, I have nothing to add, so this is just a placeholder to let people know that nothing has changed, but come back next week.

I did have lunch today with a friend that I haven't seen in 23 years (and I'm not that old). We connected when he heard about Nicole going missing and it's taken this long to arrange a visit. So there is at least one positive coming out of this situation - I'll take what little I can get!

July 16th (Evening):

I'm posting late this week because I was away for the weekend camping with my mother and my step-father's rather large immediate family. I realized that it was the first time in 15 months that both my mom and I were away from email at the same time. Gary was still connected though, and we had a cell phone, just in case something important came up.

But nothing did. The first two weeks of July are apparently a judicial recess in Syria, so there's been no follow-up on the interview request from a few weeks back. Yet another difference between countries - here in Canada it's considered a worst case scenario to get arrested on Friday and have to spend the weekend locked up waiting for a judge, but at least it's not two weeks!

There's very little to report. Back in late June the RCMP reported that Nicole's DNA profile is now in the Interpol database. This is good, especially if another unidentified body is found, but I would be surprised if it led to a sudden discovery somewhere. It would be quite the turn of events if a DNA match was suddenly found in the middle of Europe. That reminds me, I wonder what ever happened to the extortionists that were arrested in Spain last year? We never really followed up once we knew they didn't have Nicole, but I'm kind of curious - I'd ask the RCMP, but they seem stretched as it is.

A university friend was in town last week and not only bought, but also BBQ'd dinner for the two of us. He mentioned how interesting this blog is with respect to learning the ins and outs of Syria and police investigations there and here, and how fascinating it is to see people being found around the world despite only having a badly-translated name to work with (something I could only have done with the help of all the volunteers). Another old friend of mine, who is encouraging me to turn this into a book of some sort (an idea from a few months back), has shared similar sentiments. Right in the middle of it as I am, I sometimes lose sight of how strange this likely seems to everyone else. I suspect most people reading the blog haven't learned how to identify a body or interrogate witnesses. I can't imagine but a handful have dealt with extortionists or met with generals and senior ministers of foreign governments. Heck, I suspect most people barely know their own legal system let alone that of a country several thousand kilometres away. But that's just how life has been for me, so it all seems relatively normal now. Maybe that's why I'm finding regular day-to-day life a bit dull recently?

On the technical side, the Livejournal website has been hit with a rash of spammers recently. My apologies to anyone who notices strange or offensive comment posted in the blog. I delete them as soon as I can and report them to the administrators, but I'm not sure how effective that is.

A couple of people have asked about my job and the "new opportunity" I wrote about back in early June. It wasn't actually a new job but rather an intense training/development opportunity for the very ambitious. I was so ambitious I applied despite being slightly outside the target group (they wanted managers, and I'm not there just yet). Unfortunately I wasn't accepted into the program - perhaps there were other applicants who organized more successful missing person searches? I can't help but grin as I think, "yet another topic people will feel uncomfortable asking me about". If I didn't have an upcoming wedding to discuss, I suspect everyone I know would just avert their eyes and flee when they see me, if only to avoid having to find a non-touchy subject to talk about!

July 7th (Evening):

My mother has been away for a few weeks and upon her return it was fantastic to be able to show her the donations that have come in while she was away. I am particularly impressed by the distances across which people are donating. So far I've only seen the Paypal donations (the Trust handles the cheques and then sends us a list), but they've been from Switzerland, Australia (several!), different states in the U.S., the U.K., Slovenia, Manitoba, New Brunswick and of course B.C. and Toronto. Many of the names I recognize from email conversations, and others are completely unknown to me. It's very touching.

Mom's trip was actually planned for last year and that certainly wasn't going to happen with Nicole so recently missing. My mom retired a little while ago and had plans for lots of travel, but several planned trips have been cancelled due to sudden Nicole developments and visits to Syria. It's unfortunate as I find vacations, where you're in a new place and constantly doing things (like Nicole, my mom prefers active trips), an excellent method of distraction, and mom needs the distraction.

That she was able to go this year displays the glacial pace of the search. A few steps forward, then a few steps back. And a lot of time where nothing happens. Nicole has always been if nothing else, a practical person and if she's not alive and waiting for us to find her, then I'm sure she's rolling her eyes at all this effort and fretting at the cost.

As I believe I've mentioned, my girlfriend recently returned from a month away in southern Africa. Late last week I brought out Nicole's pictures from when her and I took that same trip back in 2001 so that I could do some showing off. For me, there's a tinge of moroseness on anything that has to do with Nicole, and seeing pictures of her happy and smiling in Africa wasn't any different. I've noticed this effect before - it happens with any relationship that ends - but I suspect the lack of closure will keep it fresh for a long time. Even if we find out what happened, I can still see myself showing the pictures to my children in ten years, and having a heavy feeling in my chest.

Ironically, as I write this, I feel a bit guilty - it's not like other people haven't lost a relative to illness or accidents. I'd like to think this situation is a bit unusual given the many unknowns, but I am hardly the first person to encounter tragedy in their lives.

As an example of that, and because I'm all over the place emotionally today, I want to leave you with a story I read about a few days ago. You can read it here. To summarize, after everyone else gave up on the search, a father finds his son on the side of a river six weeks after he disappears in the Amazon, only to have him die in his arms. I can't imagine the agony if we somehow find Nicole after all this time, but we're one or two days (or minutes) late. It appears that there are still some outcome scenarios that make me cringe...

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