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Karina Nistal and Rebel Crew Rap for the Troops

Circle in the sand

Though Nistal was frustrated that the phones provided to call home cut off every 15 minutes, and that sometimes it would take days before she could get online (she blogged her trip at karinanistal.wordpress.com), Rebel Crew accomplished their goal of bringing a little bit of Texas to the desert. One sergeant in Afghanistan asked Nistal to eat some Whataburger for him when she got home.

"People from Texas who found out I was from Texas would hug me for like five minutes," she laughs.

When they weren't entertaining the troops, Rebel Crew found plenty of ways to entertain each other. They shopped at UAE's Mall of Emirates, which Nistal says "blows our little Galleria out of the water." They hung out on a beach in Dubai, where the sand was "like baby powder," and went on a camel ride, where they learned flash photography will startle the desert mammals. They enjoyed Arabian coffee, went on a "desert safari" and smoked out of a hookah.

Other times, though, Nistal says the homesickness was overwhelming. "I think I felt homesick the whole time, but I dealt with it," she says. "I got a taste of what I wanted, and it kind of scared me. It really hit me when I got to our last stop in Bahrain. I just wanted to see my folks, my friends and my honey.

"It starts to consume you a little bit," she continues. "I had to tell myself that first and foremost I'm an artist, and this is what I want to be doing."

chris.gray@houstonpress.com

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