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

October 28th (Evening):

November 1st will mark two years since Nicole left for Africa. I went back and re-read some posts from a year ago and it all still feels so recent. It's hard to believe that it was a year ago when we doing some of those things. The past 12 months have flown by with very little to show for it, though we've certainly tried very hard.

I was contacted by someone in Syria who recently saw a poster about Nicole at the Canadian Embassy. This is good news in that there are still posters up where people can see them. It's also hopeful to hear that some people in Syria still haven't heard about or noticed our search. There's a chance that someone with information might still be willing to share it, if only we could reach them.

As some of you may have heard, a dispute has arisen between the Syrians and Americans this past week. I know Nicole's reasons for going to Syria were sound - heck, I was tempted to keep travelling with her once I saw pictures of the ruins - but it does mean we face some unusual obstacles in trying to find her. If it's not some other country invading or threatening to invade, it's a political assassination or other type of dispute. It keeps Syria in the news, but Nicole quickly disappears off the radar.

15-year old Brandon Crisp has gone missing here in Ontario after a fight with his parents over video games. My heart truly reaches out to those involved - my family knows what you're going through. Microsoft has offered a $50,000 reward for information, which is something we wouldn't mind as well, but the real cost is in the searching - I don't expect too many rewards actually get paid out. As I mentioned to someone on email today - we've already spent far more than the reward on search costs. But every bit helps, and I hope someone comes forward for both Brandon's family and ours.

October 21st (Evening):

I forgot to post tonight and just realized it as I was heading to bed.

I was going to just post tomorrow instead, but with nothing going on, I figure it's just as easy to say that now as tomorrow.

Mom filled me in on additional information and concerns received from the new ambassador but I've been asked not to share them just yet. I'd like to say I'll be able to comment on it next week, but I learned long ago that nothing moves quickly in this situation. Needless to say, I'm frustrated, and since I don't trust myself to write anything more without saying something I shouldn't, I'm going to stop for today.

October 14th (Evening):

My mom's trip to Syria has been postponed. She was hoping to head over this weekend, but after a discussion with the Ambassador over the weekend, it was decided to delay the trip for now. This is obviously disappointing, as we make the most progress when Mom is actually in Syria. It doesn't feel like a lot is happening when we're not present and pushing. And it leaves us in limbo here in Canada, continuing to wait for anything to happen.

I believe we've also been told that the investigator on the case in Hama has been re-assigned. It's not clear what that means. Here in Canada we're on our third investigator, so it could just be natural movement within the ranks. But it could also indicate a shift in political will, either positive or negative. We need more information from people closer to the situation, but Syrians in Syria won't openly talk to us about such things.

I'll likely have more information next week. Normally I get updates from mom on Sunday, but due to the Canadian Thanksgiving holiday, we didn't do a lot of Nicole-talk while the family was around. She'll fill me in tomorrow.

When Nicole left for Africa, she gave up her apartment and gave away most of her stuff here in Canada. The stuff that she wanted to keep has been sitting in Gary's basement for almost two years now. Gary has stored a number of her personal items in a safety deposit box, and in a touching gesture, before he flew in for the wedding he got all of Nicole's negatives and made prints for mom. I could tell she really appreciated that.

October 7th (Evening):

I am now married. The first of what will likely be many big events in my and my immediate family's lives that Nicole will miss. What I've realized (though not for the first time), is that it all becomes so much more significant because we still don't know what happened. My father passed away relatively suddenly just a few years ago, but I didn't spend the next 18 months writing about it like I am with Nicole. The ability to have closure allowed me to grieve deeply and begin healing. The open wound of a missing sister tinges every event and keeps the grief alive.

On the plus side, in Dad's last days, he told me I should marry my girlfriend. I mean, "wife". I don't believe that's actually why I am now married, but it's interesting that it turned out that way. It's a bit disappointing that my girlfriend (I mean, "wife") never met Dad - she was in Ottawa during one of my final visits, but he was too ill to visit when she came to the hospital. A part of me really wonders how this search would have been different had Dad lived given his access to the press and politicians.

It sounds like I'm all down, but the reality is that it was an absolutely fantastic wedding. I surprised my girlfriend (I mean, "wife") by proposing to her during the ceremony (she had originally proposed to me, and I kind of tricked her into it, so I thought I should do the right thing), and she had some surprises for me later at the reception. There was a lot of laughter and fun speeches, and people really seemed to be enjoying themselves, which was wonderful. Mom spoke briefly of Nicole and this search, and that was emotional for me (a frequent feeling throughout the day), but it did not dominate the event in any way - no one mentioned it to me at all, which in hindsight, makes sense.

A reader asked if Gary made it to the wedding because I hadn't mentioned him much recently (I thought I had, but evidence suggests otherwise). He absolutely came to the wedding and the rehearsal party and was even there for the opening of gifts on Sunday. It was really good to see him and I appreciate him taking the time to fly in. I couldn't help think how hard the trip must be but he insisted he was okay and enjoying the festivities. I can see it becoming painful to be around Nicole's family, as we're a constant reminder that she's gone, but I can also see it being very supportive because we share the pain. Gary isn't really a "cry on your shoulder" type of guy, so I doubt I could tell either way.

Nicole always spoke of Gary with such amazing affection. She had her "moments" of negativity with me, especially after a week or two of travelling together, but I never, ever heard her say anything that wasn't positive about Gary and their relationship. They both claimed that they never fought, though Nicole later suggested that that might be because Gary let her do what she wanted most times, and would use his charm to subtly persuade her otherwise. As I likely mentioned back in May of last year, travelling with Gary in Syria allowed me to see the other half of the relationship, and it was equally compelling. Never a negative word, and personalities that meshed really perfectly.

My marriage won't quite be the same (though I'm thinking of giving it a try), but it will be a great marriage nonetheless! It's tough to jump right back into work (as a first-year employee, I get no vacation in 2008) but I hope to take some time off in the new year. If anyone has any good (ie "unusual and exciting) honeymoon suggestions, I'm happy to hear them.

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