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Sit or stand and rise to the occasion

Sit or stand and rise to the occasion

We are all faced with situations at some time or other. There are times when we choose not to rise to the occasion and to let things slide or sort themselves out. I believe in my heart of hearts that 2011 has been a wake-up call to many of us. Especially those who have always chosen to be bystanders. This year I believe many of us have not only risen and stood up for our beliefs and rights as a nation but we have done so on an individual level too.

We have had to deal with situations and circumstances that we never thought or dreamed of occurring. The bombing of the Church in Alexandria on New Year’s Eve, was a trigger of a series of events. The explosion blew off the blinds that had been pulled over eyes to the growing conflict of Muslims and Christians in the country. Many people prior to the explosion lived in the past, where at one time religion was regarded as a private and personal topic that should not be discussed or questioned. As a woman who has parents of two different faiths, I still believe that a person’s faith is their business and no-one else’s, but as the ‘Wahhabi’ traditions continue to migrate westward to northern Africa, particularly Egypt, our culture is evolving before our very eyes and is continuing to influence people’s ideas, thoughts and practices. Which I believe is infecting the minds of many especially those who are not as well-educated or are below poverty level.

A couple of weeks after the Egyptian people erupted like a volcano that had lain dormant for decades. After the uprising in Tunisia, they smelt the winds of change and decided that they too should be shed of the shackles that had held them down and the muzzles that had been keeping them silent. The 18 days that followed were very scary and dark days, but the people stood up and showed that even in the face of danger they could rise to the occasion and face what was to come and what was meant to be. The world watched and held its breath as the reign of one of the longest-serving presidents in the region came to an end and then there was Libya, Bahrain, Yemen…and now America

I think the countries that stood out the most in my mind were Japan after the Tsunami and Earthquake hit the country in early March of this year. After a devastating force ripped through the nation and left devastated nation behind, I do not know if I could have found the will to pick myself up and try to rebuild the country after witnessing something of that magnitude. They are to be commended and held in the highest regard. I have never been a fan of ‘Libya’ and I think that my lack of interest in the country and its people was caused by its former leader, but hearing and following the harrowing accounts that came from the people on twitter and their determination to break free from the iron fisted tyrant who ruled its people through fear was not only brave but inspiring.

2011 seems to have been a year of not only a rude awakening but a year of reckoning for some.  In addition to that, I also believe it has been the year where voices have been granted to those who felt they had no voice and a restoration to those who had been muffled or silenced for their ideas and opinions.

In the post Mubarak era a new chapter in Egypt’s long history is beginning. This past November a parliamentary election was held and many of those who ran had probably never thought of a life in politics before. I was not only a witness to the event but a participant too. For the first time in the 20 years I lived here, I stood among my country men and women and cast my vote and voiced my opinion as to whom I would like to represent me. I was amazed at the people’s resilience to stand for hours in the rain awaiting their turn. Old men and women who could barely stand or walk, would be helped in to the poll stations on the arms of strangers or carried in on chairs, just so that they could have a say. It was beyond moving!

Now we are faced with another challenge, which direction will the country go in? Will the adrenaline that the nation was injected with almost a year ago ware off and allow the nation to be run by conservative and closed-minded thinkers? Or will the liberals take a leap of faith and venture beyond the borders of their comfort zone and tear a page out of the Muslim Brotherhoods book, become more organized, proactive and get their hands dirty by going in to the more rural neighborhoods and making themselves known to try to counter act the decades of seeds that were planted years ago in the people’s minds? Will the liberals rise?

I hope they will…

On a personal level, I never thought that I could be pushed or be challenged the way I have been this year. I had the choice to go back to Alexandria and be with my family just hours before the chaos of January 28th began, but I chose to stay in Cairo for a couple of reasons. One was, I had a very close and dear friend of mine who would have been in Heliopolis on her own and I didn’t want to leave her during such a dangerous and unpredictable time in a country that was not hers and where she didn’t speak the language. A small part of me also wanted to believe that things wouldn’t escalate. Thirdly, if I am going to be honest, I subconsciously wanted to know how much I could endure before I would seek the shelter and comfort of my parents’ home, while, a BIG part of me longed to be with them, in their warm embrace where I felt safe. I simply needed to know and discover what I was made of. My father whom I love dearly, has cast a very thick protective cloak over my sister and I and I needed to know my true inner strength.

I rose to the occasion and I did face danger head on but it did take a toll on my mind and my physical wellbeing. I lost days’ worth of rest and sleep worrying, thinking, and recording the events. My main concern was getting my friend home to her family safely and then home to mine. During the days of duress, I learned a great deal about myself and what I am capable of. I am a lot tougher than I look and by God could I stand my ground if I needed to.

Once the uprising had passed and the President stepped down, I had to find a way to push the memories and events behind me to complete my Masters. The mind is an incredible thing; it is our best shield and weapon I believe. It can tune out and tune in on command. I was able to tune out long enough to finish my Masters and graduate.

After graduation, the events of the past few months and my true state of being came over me like a tidal wave… I had a lot of baggage that needed to be sorted through and a lot of releasing and making peace to do to. I am in a much better place than I was in May, but I still have a lot of ‘cleaning house’ to do.

I took a leap of faith and decided to accept a more challenging job in the field of education as well as in a more international environment. I had my doubts about my capabilities and how I would fit in, there are times when I still have my doubts and question whether the move was a worthwhile one or not, but I believe that I have risen to the challenge. It hasn’t been easy sailing, it has taken a great deal of adjusting, patience and learning and there has been a great deal of struggling. A month after starting my new job, my mother had hip replacement surgery and my poor father was left to care for her himself, I couldn’t leave my father to deal with it on his own, so I would travel back and forth every weekend so that he could get 2 nights of uninterrupted sleep, while I took over for the time I was there. It was very draining and tiring but I would not and could not, not be there for my family. In the beginning  I felt as though I was drowning and doubted that I would make it through the three-month probation period for new hires, it’s now December and I am still there and still standing. I think that I have proven to myself once more that I am capable of much more than I like to give myself credit for.

After four years of being a wall flower and maintaining my ‘single status’, I got back in to the dating game. I felt like a fish out of water, but the person whom I was seeing put me at ease and made it seem very natural. Unfortunately the relationship was not destined to last long; it ended before it had really begun. Breakups of any kind are never easy and it can sting especially when the person you were with moves on and has found happiness with someone else and you are left waiting for your turn to come again. Usually I would crawl back in to my hollow and hibernate for months on end until I am numb and can no longer feel the painful disappointment, but I have decided to be more outgoing and social. Why should I choose to mope and wallow in misery and self-pity when I could be out living, being proactive and being positive ?!

We have risen; I have risen, have you? Will you?

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Monday 6th of February 2011

I am so excited! I am finally going to see my family. I have been thinking of every possible way to get to them ever since my friend was evacuated. The railway lines have stopped working and the roads out of Cairo had been closed too. The airport is over crowded with people trying to leave the country and there’s a strong possibility that their aren’t any flights.

I had done most of my packing last night but there are still a few items that I need to put in the put in the bag, but I have to wait for Meeza to wake up.

I am feeling very torn. I have formed a close bond with my host, (No….that’s not right), my surrogate family and I don’t want to leave them. I have enjoyed my time here with them, gotten to know them more and feel like I’m apart of the family. I dread to think what state I would be in, if I hadn’t come to stay with them and decided to tough it out on my own. Without their company, I’m sure I would have reached some level of insanity. Becs family will always have a special place in my heart for opening their home to me.

Bec’s Mum insists that I share breakfast with her. I’m not really hungry and I have been working exceptionally hard at reaching a target weight for my sister’s wedding in April, (Operation Megan Fox). I know it’s a silly thing to be worrying about in times like these, but God willing if all goes well, her wedding will proceed as scheduled and I won’t hate myself for not looking my best and being fit for the special occasion. So, I am adamant that I am going to remain focused on eating lots of fruits and vegetables, grilled meats and drink an excessive amount of water, Revolution or not! (would this make me stubborn or very determined?)

At around 11am my father arrives, I am so glad to see him. I waste no time in embracing him at the door and kissing his cheeks. I notice that he looks tired but a wave of relief washes over his face when he sees me. My father and I don’t see eye to ey very often and with us being stubborn and control freaks, we often but heads and clash, but with that put a side, he is my Dad, I love him to pieces and I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy to see him.

My Dad comes in to the house for no longer than twenty minutes. We can’t delay our departure due to heavy traffic caused by blocked off roads and protests. We also have to be back in Alexandria before curfew time. My Dad thanks Bec’s parents and as a small gesture of my families appreciation and gratitude for all they have done for me he gives them a bottle of Whiskey and a big box of sweet dates. I in turn hug both Bec’s parents and thank them and promise to come and see them as soon as I am back and settled again.

As soon as we are in the car we have to make a stop at my house to pay the landlord the rent and so that I can drop some unwanted items and collect more clothes (who knows how long the current situation is going to last).

As we approach my street, which is a big military area, I notice a crowd of twenty or more people near the Military Hotel, Triumph. I wonder what they are all doing sitting around staring at the Military compound’s huge metal gates. My father must have caught my gaze or read my mind and informs me that the people are waiting to see their loved ones that had been recaptured by neighborhood watch and military me as they were trying to loot the nearby areas. Upon hearing this slightly disturbing piece of information, I couldn’t help but feel relieved that I had followed my instincts and made the decision to go and stay with Bec’s and his family. The thought of having the escapees that have been causing fear and havoc in the city held across the street from my building, was not in the least bit comforting.

As soon as the car came to a halt, I waste no time in going in to my building and up to my apartment to leave an un-needed bag and gather some other belongings. I am whirling around the place like the Tazmanian Devil from the famous Warner Brother’s Cartoons. I am trying to be as quick as possible so that the echos of the last night spent in the apartment don’t come back to me. The feeling of being in my flat is an odd one. It is familiar and yet alien at the same time. ‘I hope to see you again soon’ I say to it before I close the door and lock it before taking the elevator back down to rejoin my father and the hired driver to head back to Alexandria.

During the drive out of the city my father ask me questions about the safety situation in Heliopolis, the sight of the barbed wires across the street and the tanks pointing outwards to wards the road. He tells me of events and situations that have taken place in Alexandria. That with in the first two days after the prisoners escaped from prison, the people guarding our street caught fourteen ‘baltageya’ (thugs/looters). He told me that other areas of Alexandria are experiencing much worse and that I know for a fact. My friend Shamel has been calling me daily telling me about his nightly watch and the amount of firing and killing that had been going on. Although I am living it, hearing it and experiencing it, my mind still has a difficult time accepting and believing that this is happening to us here in Egypt. It just boggles my mind! How did things spiral out of control so quickly? What lies ahead for all of us? Is it going to get worse? Will things ever get better? It is hard to tell…

At the Cairo toll gate leading to the desert road armored vehicles stand guard with their guns pointed at the center of the road. By the wayside, stolen, crashed and torched cars had been confiscated ownerless as you pass by the toll gate. For the past week we have been hearing horror stories of people’s cars being run off the road, cars being hijacked, robberies, rapes and killings along the desert road. On all the occasions I have driven back and forth on this road, I have never been so alert and watchful of every movement, car and person.

To stop at a rest house to use the toilet, gas up or buy something to eat is too risky and dangerous. Some of the escaped convicts are still on the loose and nobody wants to take any chances. The busy rest stops are empty, which is a strange sight because they are usually bursting at the seams with business, but now only the gas stations have clients. My father told me that he had stopped at one of the gas stations on the way and when he entered to building the owner was sat with a machine gun and bullets across his chest, the smell of freshly baked fiteer was absent in the air and the bustling of the waiters bringing the customers no longer existed.

We finally reach Alexandria after a two and a half hour drive, the security at the toll gate is more intense that the Cairo toll gate. There are more cars and the traffic is worse. Getting to the city is difficult, there is a hold up of some kind. We find out that the congestion is caused by a bus accident and large puddles of water.

As we pass by Carrefour City Center (a big shopping complex) there dozens of confiscated stolen cars parked on the side as you pass the shopping area. There are huge tanks and armoured vehicles positioned there too.

After two weeks of wanting to be with my family and a two and a half hour drive, I am finally home. I take my bags out of the car, get in to the elevator and press the button. The ride up seems to take longer than usual. “Hurry up!! I want to hug my Mum and sister!” As I finally reach my floor, I can see my mother’s silhouette through the glass with her arms spread wide ready to embrace me as I step out. I yank out the bags and drop them at her feet and just squeeze her tightly, while breathing in her motherly scent. There is nothing as warm or comforting as a mother’s embrace.

As I walk over the threshold of the apartment, my sister comes to greet me in the foyer of the apartment and we hug.  It is so good to be home and with family. They look well but tired from all the stress and constant worrying about their safety, the state of the country and me. At least now, they have one less thing to worry about. I am here, safe and sound with them.

We retire to the sitting room and talk for hours while pausing mid conversation every so often to hear the latest news up dates.

By 9pm I can no longer keep my yes open and got to bed.

I am home at last.

It has been almost a month since I last posted something on my blog. It isn’t due to lack of interest or something to say…it’s due to over saturation of events past and present that are preventing me from expressing myself clearly. I have tried to sit down many times to continue typing up and posting my Diary entries during the 18 days of the revolution, but reliving it whilst still going through the post revolution events was getting to be too much for my mind and my emotions to handle. To add to the turmoil neighboring countries to Egypt, Algeria, Libya, Bahrain …etc are going through similar if not worse circumstances and to relive the past with the present became too much for me to cope with.

Messages from Family members, friends and readers whom have been reading the entries and following me on twitter have encouraged me to keep writing and posting. They say that my entries paint a clear picture for them from a person who is actually living in the country. So, I will try to work through the daily distractions of current events here and in the neighboring countries to get my story written and posted.

God Bless