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Saturday, February 5, 2011

January 31

            We have finally made it through passport control and I believe that my shoulders are about to separate my from my body and fall off.  Edwin is strapped on my front and has been since we arrived at the airport three and a half hours ago.  My twenty-five pound backpack, filled with only the essentials – computer, movies, diapers, passports, cash, wallet, blankets, bottles, and Benadryl – is strapped to my back.  The weight of the baby and the backpack perfectly even each other out for my balance, but are no good for my shoulders.
            After leaving the commissary, we drove the back road by Carrefour before pulling onto the ring road.  Carrefour didn’t look burnt, but somebody confirmed that it was bare inside.  On the ring road were tanks every few miles, and outside the Mirage City Marriot were three or four.  I hadn’t realized that the tanks were so prolific.
After getting to the airport, we pulled into a special terminal at 1, and as we drove in and saw the crowds and crowds of people milling about, I thought that we had come to the wrong place.  There are not this many people in the Embassy community by a long shot, and there were a lot of older people.
            After we got off the bus, Brandon helped with the luggage, and we were herded into line next to the Risleys.  As soon as he was done, he had to run to help the other, overwhelmed, consular officers.  As he ran away to help, Kathleen started sobbing, ‘Daddy!  Daddy!  Give me a kiss and hug!!  Please!!!!’  He came back, gave us all kisses, and was gone.
            We stood in line for about twenty minutes, and as soon as it became readily apparent that nothing was going to happen for some time, everyone disrobed and pulled out lunches.  E had made sandwiches and sandwiches and was happy to share.  The girls were delighted to eat jelly and butter sandwiches followed up by chips and were happy as clams.  I was very grateful as I fed Edwin most of mine and the M&Ms she had also brought along.  
            Pretty soon everyone had found friends and the children played while the adults talked.  Rumors flew everywhere about destinations, airplanes, the government, water being cut off in Maadi, who was and wasn’t evacuating, and what had and hadn’t been looted and burned.  Around two, a very very harried woman came to find the people on her list and handed out boarding passes – slips of paper with numbers written on them.
            I saw J and the J.  There was a man with his four year-old son who was happy to share his toys with Kathleen and Sophia, and I passed the time easily with everyone else, chatting.  I am very grateful that we are doing this in January instead of July.  I imagine, however, that the protests wouldn’t have happened in July anyway; it’s just too hot in July to do anything but survive the heat.
            Around 2:45, Kathleen announced that she had to use the bathroom.  Another lady behind us in line handed us toilet paper and we frog-marched off to the bathroom, which thankfully was mostly clean.  It stank, of course, and Kathleen pitched a fit, but I made her and Sophia use the bathroom, not knowing when next we could.  Right when I was having my turn, Brandon came rushing in to find us.  Our name had been called, and we needed to go.  So, I rushed out with him, figuring I would find a bathroom somewhere, sometime.
            The R helped us haul our luggage up front where we filled out departure cards (of all times!  What were they going to do with them?), got checked off the list, hauled our bags inside… and got into another line. 
            After twenty minutes of no movement, we put everything down again, and got to know our new neighbors in line.  We had become separated from the R, and so a nice family with five older children helped move the bags when the line started moving forty-five minutes later.  The line slowly snaked around as everyone put their bags through the one scanner (!!!!!!!) and walked through the one metal detector (!!!!!!!!) that nobody cared a fig about as it beeped for every single person going through. 
            And then we lined up again.  We found the R in line and they watched the bags while I sat with the girls.  We made more friends, and talked to some tourists who had to spend the night sleeping in their tour bus in the Citadel on Friday.  They had been able to get on the flight, but had signed a note saying that they had to pay the government back for the flights.  The paper didn’t say how much that would be, however, but they were happy to pay whatever it took.  They had tried to get commercial flights out, but there were absolutely none available.   Some people had spent two days at the airport waiting for flights and still couldn’t get out.
            Finally the line started slowly, slowly, slowly moving through the one (!!!!!!!) passport control booth.  After a long while, one other booth was opened and my shoulders almost gave out.  We’re through now, however, and waiting for… something.  Evidently we’re to take a bus to the plane, so who knows when they’ll decide when we can go.  There is a lady with a baby traveling by herself who came on a dip, but is leaving on her tourist and they’re making a stink about no entrance stamps so of course she can’t have an exit stamp.  I called Brandon, and he says he’ll find out how to help.  Hopefully she can get out on this flight, because who knows when the next one will go.

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