Arab Spring Break
Credit: Courtesy Chris Jeon
My hands are shaking; my breathing is shallow. The car is surrounded by men with machine guns. They are accusing us of being with the CIA, but my translator is sure they just want to rob us.

"These are very bad people," he says. "They are going to take us into the desert, and we will not come back."

I can see some crumbled buildings 50 yards away. Maybe we can make a run for it. I look over at Jeon and see him smiling. "Dude, are you scared?" he asks, laughing. "You look scared."

He seems to be enjoying himself. I want to shake him and tell him to snap out of it. The only thing he's worried about is that they might take his camera with the car-crash video on it. "Dude," he says, "I shoved the memory card up my butt so they won't take it. I don't want to lose that video of us crashing."

Another truck of armed militiamen pulls up, and the new arrivals begin arguing with our captors. My translator explains that this is a different militia. We are driven to a militia compound, where the argument continues for hours. Finally, near dawn, we are released with no explanation.

When we get back to our hotel, Jeon is ecstatic. We all are. I am still worried that a militia might track us down at the hotel, but I also feel the rush of being free. It's six in the morning, and I'm not tired at all. In fact, I feel enormously alive.

"You see what I'm saying about Libya?" Jeon asks me. "It's amazing."

He says he craves the instability. "It's the total opposite of what I was doing before," he says. It forces him to take nothing for granted, to live in the moment. I can see the logic, but I still want to get the hell out of here. I book a ticket to Istanbul departing the next night.

Later that day, a youth group in Benghazi stages a protest march in the center of town. They're demanding that the transitional government explain where all the oil revenue is going. Jeon says he wants to attend, to show his support for the new Libya. When I walk over, I see him standing in the middle of a throng holding an Arabic sign over his head. They're in the street, and cars honk their way through the protesters. I ask Jeon what his sign says.

"Don't know," he says, explaining that he can't read the Arabic. "I just grabbed one."

He leaves the protest with the sign, still proudly holding it over his head as we walk down the street. Now that we're away from the relative safety of the march, I tell him to roll it up. "You have no idea how people will react to whatever's on it," I say, stopping on the sidewalk.

"It's all about risk and reward," he says.

"Exactly," I almost shout. People are walking past us, looking suspicious. "The risks outweigh the rewards."

"But you don't even know what the reward could be," he says. "Something cool could happen because I'm holding this. That outweighs the risk."

I hurry back to the hotel and pack my bag. As I'm checking out, I see Jeon in the lobby. He's heard about some fishermen nearby who throw explosives into the water and then scoop up the fish that float to the surface.

"I'm going to give it a try," he says, brightly. "I just have to find someone who will sell me some dynamite."