Saturday, 17 August 2013

The Streets Are Full, The Streets Are Empty

Empty Streets

John just walked in the door after an overnight trip to Cairo.  Yes, I said it.  Cairo.  He received an email from an important colleague in S*dan who said he would be in Egypt for a couple days.  This could be John's only opportunity to speak to him face to face.  He needed to go.  

So I, the good wife, agreed.  I agreed that he needed to go, but understood that it would mean staying alone in our new little abode in a city…rather…country in turmoil.  He heading into the "lion's den" while I smiled bravely and prayed him there and back.

He left in the afternoon which left me wide open for possibilities.  Since going out wasn't really an option I decided to put myself to work.  I organized my new spice rack that I found at the "Grand Mall."  So far I only have 4 spices.  It holds 16, but I don't recognize the other ones that are for sale.  Last time I bought "spices" it turned out to be incense that they burn in the mosque for a blessing.  Fool me once…

After that I paced around the house and looked at our current furnishings imagining them in new configurations.  No matter how I slice it, a purple couch, red chairs and green curtains will never have the chic look I would like regardless of their location in the room.

I poured myself lemonade and read my Bible for a while.  Feeling a bit disconnected from all of the current events, I went to our friend's flat nearby.  They are still on vacation, but at least I could turn on BBC and check the internet for any late-breaking news.

A reporter was reporting live for CNN from the march taking place down the streets of Cairo.  Thousands of protestors were pouring into the streets and he was walking with them.  Suddenly, I pictured John getting caught up in all of that.  One wrong turn by a taxi driver and wham!  What was I thinking?!  Why did I agree?

I quickly shook myself and said a prayer.  John is smart.  He knows that streets that end in tanks are bad and should be avoided.  Calming myself down, I settled in and flipped through the 5 English channels available.  It is American B-movie heaven here.  If it's obscure, it WILL be shown on network TV.  They also run daily "CSI," "The Mentalist," "Burn Notice," and "Blue Bloods."  I guess they made a deal with CBS. Oprah and Dr. Phil are also a favorite here but they show those at night when there's a bigger audience.

After my time at "Internet Cafe" I went back to our flat and straightened up stuff, washed dishes and read for a while.  Finally around 11 pm, it was time to turn in.  I went to the doors and made sure they were locked (double-checked), pulled the curtains and turned on the a/c in our bedroom.  I read for a while before dozing off.  Suddenly, I was startled awake.  I looked around to see what had caused the noise.  I paused and heard a man yelling.  Normally that is no big deal.  People come through the neighborhood all the time advertising their wares by yelling, banging, whistling, etc.

But at midnight, I couldn't imagine what he wanted.  Is this a warning?  What if he's yelling something to the effect "The British are coming!" and I can't understand him?  I tried to peer out my window but I'm too far from the street to see anything.  As quickly as he came, he left.  I listened a bit longer to see if anyone reacted, but no one did.

Finally, I settled back in and went to sleep.  Sometime (not sure when) dogs began barking right by my window.  Most Arabs don't like dogs, but our landlord and his family do and they have two.  I don't mind the dogs, they are good security.  But if they're barking then that means they're barking at something or someone.  Once again I went into stealth mode creeping through the house trying to determine what's happening.  I soon got my answer.  The landlord's brother is here with his family.  The kids (legions of them) were playing a rousing middle-of-the-night game of hide-and-go-seek.  Apparently, the little patio by our flat is the perfect hiding place.  That is, until the dogs tip off the seekers.

Good grief!  When do these people sleep?!  I was almost worked up into a full fledged annoyance when I thought, "Wait.  If they are out playing, this is a good thing.  It means that they aren't frightened by today's events.  They are still able to play and be kids."

Smiling at my good psychology, I lay (lie?) down again.  This time, I began thinking about those that are in troubled areas huddled in their homes.  What if this were my home country?  How would I feel seeing the images on TV, hearing the gunfire out my window and fearing for my family's safety?  I felt a deep sympathy for them and began to pray.

By us living here during this time, we get to see some of the same sights, hear the same sounds and interact with what is really on people's minds.  When John got in the taxi to return from the airport, YahYah greeted him and immediately began filling him in on what had happened since he had left yesterday.  The corniche (business district road along the Nile) has been blocked off by police.  Stores are closed.  Everyone is staying at home with the exception of the protestors who fill other portions of the streets.  The city is at a standstill.

I poured John a glass of iced tea and asked him about Cairo.  He said the airport on both ends had extra security, but he was able to fly in and out without incident.  He took a taxi straight to his hotel.  John reports that the route he took looked fairly normal from the Cairo we remembered.  However, he knew that things weren't normal because the large mall where his hotel was located was closed midday.  It also seems that taxi drivers have devised systems for averting blocked roads and protesting groups.

Curfew is enforced so he met our colleague in the afternoon.  They had lunch together at a quaint restaurant that remained open and had a good visit together.  They talked about many things including the recent flooding that continues to plague S*dan.  The government simply isn't prepared to handle a natural disaster such as this.  Several countries have stepped up to help, but the response proves painfully slow through the bureaucracy of the S*danese government.  John promised to follow up with him and they said their goodbyes.

Two friends were able to meet him for breakfast before he began his route back to the airport.  Quick trip for sure, but so good to reconnect with people so dear.  He took a drink of tea and asked me how I did alone in the apartment.  "Piece of cake!" I said.  Then I laughed because I knew the bags under my eyes told a different story.

No traffic

Buildings closed

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