Wow, where has the time gone. Last time I posted I was on my way back to Egypt and here I am back in Canada - 3 months earlier than planned - the unrest in Egypt was too much for me to deal with on my own. My family was great - but waking up at 3:30 in the morning to the sound of gunshots in the street was the breaking point. And my family in Canada was very concerned about me - so I decided - albeit a very tough decision to make - to come back to Canada early and wait things out (what was I thinking - it is danged cold here).
I arrived in Cairo on January 8, 2010. Ayman was at the airport to meet me - first time in a very long time. Arrival was a bit trying - was just about not allowed in the country - I have a residency visa - and unbeknownst to me it allows me to be out of the country for only six months - so I was held up at passport control until the office could nab his superior (who was busy chatting with others) and once the superior came, he looked at my marriage contract and said to let me in - the marriage contract trumps the residency visa - YAY. Ayman wanted to spend the rest of the 'night' - arrival time was 3:30 a.m. and by the time I passed passport control and got my luggage it was around 4:30 a.m. - at a hotel in Cairo - I had been travelling for 24 hours - and while it was sort of appealing - I would have jumped at the chance if we were going to stay in a 'nice' hotel - but the hotel of Ayman's choice is not a really great hotel - hot water is a luxury, the bathrooms are not all that clean and it is in a very noisy, busy (therefore dirty) area of Cairo - so I was not really interested - especially as we would have had to check out by 11 - did not see the point - I had slept most of the way back - so was not really tired - so we headed back to Alexandria - another 3.5 hours of travel time.
Got home and was 'upset' at the mess my house was in. Ayman had asked the bowab (security guard) to find a maid and he had not been able to find one - likely did not even bother looking - he is not known for being very active at doing things unless you are right there to nag him - and Suzanne (my dear SIL) had also been unable to find a maid to clean (and unbeknownst to me she had been in the hospital in ICU for four days - she just about died) - one of the balcony outer doors had not been shut properly and had blown open in the wind - which in turn blew open the inside door and there was garbage all over the place - the bathroom was a disgusting mess - and Ayman had 'lent' my place to friends from Libya and they had stripped the bed but had not made it - so I had to clean up the bathroom - because after travelling for that length of time I HAVE to have a shower and then I had to make the bed - needless to say I was less than 'thrilled' - and then Ayman pouted like a little kid - did not help - just sat their bemoaning the fact that I was not happy to be home - ARGHHHHH.
Spent most of Saturday trying to clean up the worst of the mess - did manage to get a bit of rest - told Ayman I was not cooking - as I had been out of the country for a year and had no idea what was left in my freezer or cupboards - so he sent my youngest nephew out to get a roasted chicken.
Sunday we got up and headed out early to get the registration on the car renewed - had expired in April of 2010 - and Ayman had just driven the car without registration and when he got pulled over he paid a bribe and went on his merry way. Took most of the day and 700LE to get the car registered - then the complaints about how much it cost started - I figured that since he drove my car all the time he was in Egypt while I was in Canada it was the least he could do.
Sunday evening my mother in law and Suzanne and her kids came up to visit - my MIL was impressed with my weight loss (Ayman had not mentioned it at all) - had a good visit - this is the custom in Egypt - if you have been travelling the family is supposed to come and see you shortly after you arrive home.
Monday he decided that he wanted to look at property in Borg el Arab - a new 'city' that is being built about 1.5 hours from Alex - he is going to 'invest' in property for his boys - so when they want to get married he can provide them a home - as this is a requirement - the males are to provide a home for the wife - and of course his boys are not about to work for it themselves. So I was dragged out to look at property for his kids - unfortunately I am not really thrilled with this - as he was unable to purchase a home for me - I had to purchase my own place - needless to say I am less than impressed. Monday night I was informed that he had to go home to spend time with his kids as he had not seen them for a month - WTH - you have not seen me for a YEAR - and you arrived in Egypt on Tuesday and I arrived on Saturday - so what were you doing during that time. Another black mark. And the whole time he was with me he talked about his kids and money - not exactly my two favourite subjects - I am beginning to see the end here.
After Ayman left I went downstairs and visited with Suzanne and her family. Suzanne was very surprised that Ayman had already left to be with his family - she figured he would have spent at least a week with me. She was also very surprised that Ayman talked so much about money and his kids - as if I am interested in his kids. I was interested to find out from Suzanne why Ahmed was in contact with me while I was in Canada - he was under the impression that I was going to buy him a laptop and bring it back - asked where he got this idea - Ayman had told him that I was going to do this. When I came back to Canada Ayman had asked me to look at the laptop of his son's desires - I looked - and before it went any further - my brain said WOAH - here I am looking at a laptop for my 'stepson' while my husband refuses to pay 500LE to get my computer up and running - something is not right - so I quit looking. Saw Ahmed twice while I was in the country - once because his father 'insisted' that he come to see me and he came with my nephew Mahmoud. Then once more Mahmoud was coming to see me - so Ahmed came along to say good-bye. So much for his assurances to me that he would be better than before - I doth believe I smell a rat.
Tuesday I drove to Sadat City to visit my friends Rose (from the US) and Louise (from Australia). I had not seen Rose for just about two years - and of course last time I saw Louise was just before I came to Canada in 2010. Both of them had had a really rough 2010 - both their husband's passed away quite unexpectedly and quite quickly. It was great to see them - Louise kept looking for the other half of me - made me feel good that someone 'noticed' the weight loss. Ended up spending the night - as it was too late to head back - I do not like driving the highway at night - so just spent the night visiting and having a really good time. Wednesday morning I headed off around 9:30 or so - they were heading to Cairo to put Louise's son (Thomas) on an airplane back to Australia. I got home without mishap.
Thursday Ayman went out to Borg el Arab with his uncle and aunt - and they came back to my place for lunch - I made beef stir fry and rice - trying to stretch the meat as I had not taken enough out for guests - but it worked out all to the good. Friday we were out and about looking at more properties for his sons.
Saturday and Sunday I was on my own again - went out to Carrefour to do some shopping on one of the days - took a friend along - and we decided that we needed to make another trip so we could just walk around and see the expansion and renovations that had been done to the mall. Spent time with the family.
Monday and Tuesday were spent running around looking at properties again - nice to know that I was soooo missed in the year I was gone that all Ayman could think about doing was dragging me around to look at properties for his sons. Hmmm - do I detect a touch of sarcasm here - not me!!!!!
Not sure what I did on Wednesday and Thursday - likely not much - think I worked at getting things unpacked and in order and doing cleaning.
Friday, Ayman informed me that he was going to be heading back to Libya that day - I pitched a fit - I have been gone for a year and you cannot stay in Egypt for more than two weeks after I arrive back - WTH????? So he - oh so graciously - allowed as how he could manage to stay for another week. We spent the day looking at yet more properties and on Saturday it was the same - only difference was that we were looking closer to home - at apartments that were actually finished - the placed he had been looking at in Borg el Arab were in the construction phase - I figured he would never get the things done - and there are time limits on when the construction has to be completed or there are fines to be paid. The flats he was looking at are really nice - if I had the money I would be looking to buy one - the flats are situated in 6th of October a subdivision of Agamy - which is a 'bedroom' community of Alex. The area is a gated community - and everything is built in a very nice grid pattern - no buildings higher than four floors - and each area has it's own shopping area - not far from the sea. Oh well - such is life - I don't think I would have liked buying there when I moved to Egypt - it is nice to be so close to the family.
Monday I walked to San Stefano - took me an hour (walked along the corniche) and met with the ladies from AWA - was nice to see those who are still around. After the coffee meeting there was a lunch being held in honour of Gail Rohland - a wonderful lady from the States - her husband had been working in Egypt these past 18 years - but they were preparing to move back to the States as Gail has been diagnosed with Parkinson's. One of the ladies of the group - Gloria - hosted a lunch for Gail and members of her Bible Study and MahJohng group - at a very nice restaurant. I was asked if I was going - said no as I had not been invited - but was told that I was welcome to come - so I tagged along. Felt badly as one of the AWA group had not been invited - if I had realized that I would have stayed behind and visited with her. Ayman came over and told me good-bye - he just HAD to leave - there was a truck heading to Libya that he had to get things ready for so when the truck was coming back to Egypt he could bring a shipment to Egypt for Ayman - I as not too impressed - in fact I was truly pissed off - but that is one of the 'joys' of being married to Ayman. And of course with all this unrest - he is unable to get the copper here - and he did manage to get one shipment but he cannot sell it because the roads are not safe and the banks have been closed - although the banks are now open - not sure if the shipment has been sold or not yet (anyone but me see the irony here).
Tuesday was the first day of protests - held on Police Day - I went to spend the afternoon and early evening at my MIL's place with Suzanne and her two youngest children (Mawada and Mohammed). My MIL lives not far from the train tracks - we saw two groups of protesters - both on the other side of the tracks - did not see or hear anything in her immediate neighbourhood. Played cards with the kids and then had supper with the family and then we came home.
Wednesday was a quiet day - did not do anything memorable.
Thursday I walked to San Stefano again - this time I walked along the tram line - took me 35 minutes - had a nice visit with Gail Rohland - walked home and felt good about walking that distance - a couple of nice hills to navigate.
Friday I spent the day glued to the television watching history unfold - I could not believe what I was seeing - the protesters were not at all violent - but the riot police came after them like gangbusters - the scene of the riot police tear gassing the Muslims as they said their mid afternoon prayers will be seared in my mind for a long time to come - as well as the scene of the police using the water cannon on the men as they prayed the sunset prayers - OMG. Unfortunately the peace did not last all that long - but I truly believe that if the police had minded their p's and q's there would have been much less violence. Watching what was going on in Cairo and Suez was mind boggling - the people were without fear - for the first time since the Mubarak regime took over. There were no live reports coming from Alex - at least nothing to show - but there was a female reporter who was reporting that thousands upon thousands had gathered in an area - a long way from me - and it was getting violent. In the end all of the police stations were torched along with all the Ministry of the Interior buildings. Needless to say I did not leave the house - internet was cut - not that I have a computer - and mobile phone service was also cut - thank goodness I had my land line - they did not cut that service - so I was not completely cut off. I had phoned my sister fairly early in the day to wish her a Happy Birthday - because they were announcing that mobile phone service was going to be cut.
Even though it was very quiet in my neighbourhood it was very unnerving being in Egypt by myself at this time - family was just one floor below me - but I did not spend much time with them - my mistake - but that is just me. I was not really concerned about my safety - because it was so quiet where I was - but I had begun to notice a definite shift in the attitude of people towards me as a foreigner - one of the vendors at the souk I go to for my produce yelled at me - telling me that I should speak Arabic not English - I was talking with my SIL at the time - and he was not nice about it - he was quite angry - told Ayman and of course he pooh poohed my concern - which just makes me even more ticked off - as he was not there so how dare he try to tell me that I was over reacting - GRRRRR.
Ayman was calling on a fairly regular basis during this crisis - always downplaying my concerns - making me feel like a moron - as he was sitting 'safely' in Libya - telling me there was absolutely nothing to worry about - hmmmm. And for the most part I was fine - a bit worried about food supplies - but not overly concerned - I had a fair bit in the house - so did not really need much of anything - although when I heard that Carrefour and one of the Fathalla's (large grocery stores) had been looted it was disconcerting. And I must admit that seeing the 'neighbourhood watch' in place - once the jails had been emptied - made me realize that all was not really well with the world. Went to Suzanne's on February 2 - Wednesday - and spent the evening visiting. She 'convinced' me that there was no need to leave - I was safe - nothing to worry about - so I went back upstairs and went to sleep - sleep had been rather elusive of late - and at 3:30 a.m. I was awakened by the sound of gunfire on my street - ummmm - now I am really scared - so with the urgings of my family - my mom had been calling regularly and my son had called on the Sunday (Jan. 30) and gave me some news that changed things - I was ready to leave - hard decision to make as I felt like I was deserting a sinking ship - the overriding reason for the decision to leave was the fact that I was on my own - Ayman had no intention of returning - so what was the point in my staying - and plus I rationalized in my little brain that since I had the option maybe I should leave so that there would be one less person to feed - kind of crazy - but that was my thought process. Called Shani and asked her to make arrangements from Canada - as I was unable to do anything in Egypt because all the travel agents were closed and there was no internet.
During this time my mom was 'registering' me with the Canadian Embassy - I had contacted them - called the Embassy in Cairo and there was no one there - so was transferred to the 'command' centre in Ottawa - to register you had to have access to the internet - hmmm - kind of tough to do when there is no internet - thank goodness for my mom - she managed to register myself and Margaret - albeit a slow process. Must admit hearing that the Canadian government had arranged flights to get registered citizens out of the country was a red flag to me as well. I phoned to see where they would be taking us to - and it was to Jordan - where in the news it was just being announced that the king had dissolved their government and people were protesting in the streets - hmmm - sounded like jumping from the frying pan right into the fire - at least in Egypt I was in my own home - so I passed. As well the flight to Jordan was going to cost $400 and then once you arrived in Jordan you had to make your own arrangements to get back to Canada - $400 to get to Jordan was way over priced in my books - so I went to plan B and contacted Shani and asked her to see what she could arrange - I admitted defeat - in my eyes.
Shani was able to book a flight leaving from an airport near Alexandria - Borg el Arab - as I was unable to leave from Cairo - the road to Cairo was not safe so .... I was scheduled to leave from Borg el Arab on Feb. 6 - through Bahrain, London, and finally Calgary - adding an extra 7 hours of flight time to my trip - but what the heck - at least I would be in Canada. I booked a taxi to take me to the airport - on the way out - just about there - I am asked which airport - so I phone Shani and ask her new or old airport - and she tells me the flight to Bahrain has been cancelled - Egypt Air cancelled the flight - needeless to say I was in tears - did not help when Suzanne asked me if I was sure - as if Shani would jerk my chain like that - then Ayman called and asked the same thing - GRRRRR. Went home - calmed down - then tried to book a ticket myself online - unfortunately my bank would not allow me to use it - afraid of fraud - GRRRR - so another SOS to Shani and she booked my ticket leaving from Cairo - no choice in the matter - on Feb. 8 - one month from the day that I arrived - through Amsterdam - and because of the curfew the departure time from Cairo - which is usually 3 a.m. - had been switched to 2:45 p.m. - it meant I had a 20 hour layover in Amsterdam - YUCK - but at least I would be out of the country - and the return ticket was $400 cheaper than the one way through Bahrain, London and Calgary - added to that the first flight was with British Airways so I was only allowed one suitcase - and with KLM you are allowed two - minor detail that I had already packed everything into one suitcase I brought alone an empty 2nd suitcase. Booked a taxi to take me to Cairo - and waited until Tuesday.
Trip to Cairo was 'interesting'. Instead of taking the desert road the driver took the agricultural road - which tends to be slower as you are travelling through many small farm communities. My nephew - Mahmoud - came with me. The drive was uneventful until we hit the outskirts of Cairo - we got stuck in traffic for over an hour - I freaked out when I realized I might miss the flight - I arrived 30 minutes before the flight was to depart - thank goodness Mahmoud was allowed to come with me to help me with the luggage - bottom line I was in tears - because I was worried about missing the flight and because I was leaving so soon - it was hard to leave my family - I worry about them.
I arrived back in Canada on February 10th - to some nice weather - only drawback was that because I was so run down I managed to get a whopping nasty cold - so I could not head to BC to visit my parents because my mom does not need this - as she suffers from COPD.
And that is my saga. Will work at being more 'reliable' at posting on my blog. Now things in Libya have gone to hell in a handbasket and I am worried about all my friends and family there - I have a brother in law and his wife as well as Ayman there - and of course all my good friends in Tripoli. In shaa allah all will be safe.