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Friday, February 4, 2011

January 31

            We’re at the commissary, waiting.  Last night the evacuation was announced over the radio, and we were told to be ready to 8 am for the shuttles to come and pick us up.  I finished up the packing and Brandon put Edwin and the girls to bed for the last time in at least a month.  After the children were in bed, we watched a movie just to have something normal to do so we could pretend that I wasn’t leaving in the morning.  When the movie ended, however, the pretending was over and I couldn’t deny that we were going to leave.  We got a good night sleep, despite the gunfire.  Well, I did; Brandon said that the gunfire kept him up. 
            We woke up at 6 and got everything ready by eight.  When nobody had come by 8:30, I put Edwin down for a nap, knowing that it might be the only nap he would get that day.  Our neighbors came to get us at 9:30, saying that the buses were here, but when we got down, they drove off.  Mr. Dempsey chased the buses down to 55/17 only to discover that they were for HSBC evacuations.
            And so we waited outside until 10:30 when the Embassy shuttle came.  Edwin’s pink eye had flared up again this morning because we ran out of drops and the pharmacies were closed.  While we were waiting, Brandon called some pharmacies, but just as he was giving one our address, the shuttle pulled up. 
            The driver tossed our bags into the back, and Brandon got in with us.  He is supposed to help out at the airport, so thankfully he gets to ride up with us.  When we were in, the driver asked if we knew of anybody else nearby, so we directed him to the Goering’s building.  The Goerings were outside along with the Risleys, but the driver only had room for the Risleys. 
            I had not been outside since Friday afternoon, and was surprised to see the roads.  Concrete blocks, logs, guard shacks, and whatever was on hand had been pulled partway across the roads to prevent looters.  As we left Maadi and drove toward the commissary, crowds of young men manned  areas with the same pulled across them.  One used a telephone pole that had been pulled down.
            When I first saw them, and the pistol shoved into one boy’s belt, I was alarmed.  But as we drove further, I realized that these people were not out to cause trouble, but to prevent trouble.  I haven’t the best opinion of Egyptians, after living her for a year and a half.  They have their own was of doing things that often drives me insane.  An amazing lack of attention to detail in just about everything makes the whole country an almost rubble heap.  And their friendliness often drives me into the safety of my own, private apartment.  But when I saw those men taking the job of peacekeeping into my own hands, I found a new respect for them.  I don’t know if this would have happened in the States; most people would probably hunker down in their own homes, protecting what was theirs.  I was proud of Egypt and the Egyptians when I saw them taking their own safety and well-being into their own hands.  Seeing this has made me believe, for the first time, that they might be entrusted to take their own future into their own hands.
            After arriving at the Commissary, we were unloaded and the driver went out for another run.  Brandon checked me in while Eileen and I watched the luggage and children.  When he came back, he handed me an envelope; inside were five hundred-dollar bills.  “Travel advance,” he told me.  I looked around at all of the people milling around.  That’s a lot of hundred-dollar bills.
            So we sat for about ten minutes, and then were told that the buses were around the corner and ready to be loaded.  Brandon put our bags and ourselves onto the buses, and then he and Dave left the women and children on the bus and went out to help.  Kathleen has found some friends from Maadi House behind her, and is happily chatting away.  Edwin is happy to flip the seat tray repeatedly up and down and up and down, and everyone is making friends and saying hello to other friends. 
            Sometimes I’ve thought about the advantages private sector employees have – nicer homes, often houses, drivers, cars, better salary.  But today as I sit on a bus chartered by the US Government waiting to go to a plane chartered by the US government with my travel advance in my backpack, I am very glad to be in the protective fold of Uncle Sam.