Joel’s Blog: Settling In

It’s been three months since I last tasted freedom and I finally feel like
I’m settling in to the bulk of my sentence.  Fortunately, these early
months have gone well and been without any major incident.  It’s amazing to
get so many letters of support from folks around the world.

Getting a letter while behind bars is an amazing feeling.  Thank you to
everyone who took some time out of their day to sit down and write.  I’m
doing my best to respond to each letter, so if you haven’t gotten anything
from me yet, I haven’t forgotten.  Also, for some reason, the mail censors
keep tearing off return addresses so unless you include your return address
in the body of the letter somewhere, I have no way of knowing where to send
a response.

Now that the weather has been getting nicer, we’ve been playing a lot of
soccer in the yard.  Jail soccer is a bit different from regular soccer –
pretty much anything goes.  Everything from tripping and shoving to holding
and pushing is welcome and even encouraged.  For a few days in a row, I
couldn’t seem to avoid getting kicked directly in the face with the ball.  It
was as if my face had a gravitational pull and the ball landing on it was a
scientific inevitability.  Also, the shoes they give us are loose fitting
so it is common for shoes to accompany the ball in flight after a swift
kick.  At any given moment it is possible for multiple shoes to be flying
through the air at once (yet more projectiles I have to shield my face

I can’t deny that sometimes I get frustrated in here.  My life has
essentially been reduced to three spaces:  my cell, the range, and yard.  Every
day is some combination of those three places which makes me claustrophobic
if I stop to think about it for too long.  When sadness/claustrophobia
strikes, I try to stand back and gain perspective.  My situation could be a
lot worse and it’s only temporary.  One day in the not too distant future,
I will get out of here.  Some political prisoners will spend the rest of
their lives behind bars so I’m relatively fortunate.

One guy I sit with for meals is doing everything he can to make his
experience as miserable as possible.  He doesn’t go to yard, doesn’t order
canteen, and intends on avoiding work and school while in jail.  His
reasoning is that his freedom and his life outside will be much sweeter
after depriving himself.  He’s a man of extremes.  Eventually, he says, his
misery will get balanced out with positive experiences.

I try not to think too much about time and dates.  Once you start counting
days, you are in trouble (counting months is ok though).  It still feels
like I have a mountain of time ahead of me, but the thought of being free
again is what wakes me up every day.  Out in the world people are living
their lives but in here time seems to stand still.  We are living in some
sort of black hole where time has no real meaning.  It’s a bizarre and
disorienting feeling.  Freedom is precious, folks… treasure every day as if
it were your last.  Unfortunately, human beings have this persistent
dilemma:  we don’t know what we’ve got till it’s gone.  For freedom that’s
especially true.