Monday, 31st of January 2011
The poem Dolce Et Decorum Est Pro Patria More, is echoing in the back of my mind and playing on repeat. I feel as though I am living a fraction of the soldier’s exhaustion that Owen describes in the poem. (http://www.potw.org/archive/potw3.html)
I am only getting a taste of what soldiers go through being in the trenches days, weeks and months at a time. I have always respected their courage, but now I can sympathies with their physical and mental exhaustion. I know that my one night of a show down and days without rest or sleep is nothing in comparison to what they experience, but it’s the only comparison that I can relate the experience to.
After 2 hours of very light sleep I was awakened by a call from my best friend. She called to tell me that a colleague of hers from work had gone to the airport and was still there. He had told her that none of the airport employees had shown up for work and not to go to the airport.
I relayed the message to my friend who has been staying with me for the past few days.
She made the decision to go to her house and pack her bag and try her luck at the airport.
She didn’t want to risk not getting on the plane.
For the next two hours we rushed around my apartment washing up dishes, putting things away, sorting out perishable food to give to the porter of the building and his family, throwing out trash, shutting off the gas and water and unplugging electrical equipment. During that time we waited for my friend to pass by, woke the porter up to unlock the enormous padlock and remove the chains that he had locked the front door to the building with, while my friend got more information about the flight out and a number for a direct line to someone in Ottawa.
When my friend Becs, passed by to pick us up, we went to my friends flat, so she could pack her bag and go about closing her flat and finalizing travel arrangements.
As we waited and I sat in the car with Becs, I could feel the strain of the past few days affecting not only my train of though but my body. My joints and muscles were beginning to ache. I felt as though I was going to crash like a plane out of control if I didn’t get some rest soon.
Once my friend had packed up her bag, we headed to Becs house to decide what to do from there. As soon as we got out of the call she gets a call from Ottawa, telling her what time the flight leaves Cairo, takes her name and some details and then the line got cut. The person in Ottawa calls back but the line gets cut again.
The phone lines are terrible right now, it’s hard to get a clear line.
We go up to Becs’s place to call the person in Ottawa back but the inbox is full.
At this point we don’t know if she’s got a place on the flight or not?
Does she go to the airport and risk getting stuck there over night or stay and attempt to fly out tomorrow?
We have a small window to make a decision, because if we don’t make one soon, the curfew will decide for us.
My friend decides to take the risk and go to the airport. True to my word, I take her there along with Becs, to ensure her safety right until she walks through the airport doors.
I insist that she takes some food with her, incase she has to stay the night and for when she reaches Frankfurt if she is on the flight due to leave.
On the way to the airport we see sandy colored tanks dotted every where and on both sides of the road. They aren’t as modern as the ones I saw in Dhahran, during the invasion of Kuwait. They remind me of the ones in the World War II museum in Al Alamaein, antique looking but still intimidating.
The airport was very busy and the lines of cars dropping off passengers were three lanes wide and long. We find a place to stop to let my friend out and get her bag out of the car. Saying good-bye was a mix of emotions. I was sad to see my friend who has now become more like a sister to me leave and relieved that she would be away from the chaos and be safe. I know her parents were worried to death about her. I’m just glad that they called after the show down we had last night and not during.
She gives me the key to her apartment, so if she is unable to return, I can go and pack her things up and send them to her in Canada.
As I watch her walk towards the door, I can’t help but wonder… ‘Will this be the last time I see her?”, “Will it be safe for her to return to Cairo in the near future?”
On the ride back from the airport I am quiet, mainly because I am too tired to think, talk and I am in need of sleep.
We don’t go straight back to Becs’s house, we go to see how my best friend and her grandmother are doing. I have been worried about her too, because she doesn’t deal with tough situations like this really well.
We call ahead to tell her that we are going to pass by, so that she won’t be alarmed when we ring the door bell.
When we arrive we find her in good spirits and her grandmother is sitting knitting. I listen to Teta Diana talk and I wish I looked as well rested as she does. My best friend fusses over us and offers to make us food and get us something to drink. I have no appetite for food or thirst. We don’t stay long and as we approach the car we bump in to another friend and we talk to her for a bit. She like Becs are very eager to go back to Tahrir to take part in the protests.
Since Friday, I have felt as though I have been in a tug of war match with myself. Part of me wants to be in the square speaking out for the freedoms that I believe in and live by. I want my country men and women to have the same liberties that my foreign nationality allows me to have. I want(ed) to be apart of the movement for change, to witness history in the making and be able to say in years to come ‘I was there and I was apart of that’; but I had my friend to think about and her safety was of the utmost priority to me in addition to that I had also given my parents my word that I would not put myself in any danger. To hold back the Irish/Saeedy blood that thirsts after ‘action’ and danger was not an easy impulse to tame.
Becs and I finally return to his house and his mom (God Bless her always) leads me to a room. I put my phone on silent, take off my shoes and get under the covers and close my eyes. It takes me at least two hours to convince my mind that the danger has passed and that I can let down my guard and relax. In those two hours I receive calls from friends from different parts of the world who have been trying to get in touch with me to ensure that I am safe. Their voices are so filled with concern that I can not help but be moved. It’s at times like these you learn and feel the meaning of philanthropy.
I feel myself drifting off to sleep, I don’t fight it, I welcome it and I sleep.
I awake a few hours later at dusk and I am stunned by how quiet it is around me, there’s no shouting, traffic or gun shots ringing in the distance. I could continue to sleep until the following morning, but I decide to join Becs and his family.
As I walk in to the sitting room, they greet me with smiles and ‘you have colour in your face again, you’re looking much better. You were so pale, you had us worried’. Bec’s Mum comes in to the sitting room and kisses my forehead and offers to make me something to eat, but I still have no appetite.
We sit and watch the news, the protestors are still standing strong and the looters and escapees are still causing havoc. I haven’t missed much.
All the news watching reminds me of 9/11 when I stayed glued to T.V for days and weeks on end trying absorb what had happened.
Someone flips the channel and we watch a movie, I am not really following it, but it is a nice distraction from what is going on.
By 10:30 I can barely keep my eyes open any more. Becs’s sister shows me to her room that I will be sharing with her for the next few days. She is kind enough to empty a shelf in her closet for me to put my clothes in. I change in to my PJs, brush my teeth and get in to bed. For the first time in days I am able to sleep.