May 2008

I can’t believe you have hot water on tap in this country!  And drinking water, too!


Well, the day after I wrote was slightly scary for a little while, so shall I tell you about it?  Ok…

Got a message late morning that school was closing early and I needed to pick E up.  There was fighting in two or three different areas, so they’d made that decision.  The message actually came through to me via my cleaner’s phone as people had been trying all sorts of ways to get through to me while I was oblivious that my phone was in the car (Oops.  Very embarrassing to admit that.).  So, all in a fluster, I drove to pick up R (someone else had already picked up E – oops again) and went to join E at a friend’s house.  Decided to stay at friend’s house since she is very kind and also a yummy mummy type who always has enough food in to feed a flock of small children for two or three days just in case some turn up.  If there’s going to be a curfew of unspecified duration, best to be in a place like that, don’t you think?

But G was still at home with Lily.  So I left E and R safely with Yummy Mummy and – didn’t get further than the gate of her house.  Horn blaring in the street.  YM’s cleaner at the gate, has opened it a fraction and is watching.

“Can I go out, please?”


She watches.  I watch, too, peering over the wall through the shards of glass that are cemented into the wall and the barbed wire above.  After a minute, she deems it safe and lets me through.  Willing myself to relax and telling myself disparagingly that no-one’s going to be interested in our part of town, I get into the car and drive the five minutes home.

It was much busier on the road than normally at that time of day.  All the expats, at least, must’ve been heading home.  I saw a pick-up with a man riding on the back carrying a gun.  Two cars took me by surprise, rounding a corner at speed.  I also saw a truck full of bricks, driving to some building site near our home.  People were out and about, walking, shopping.  There was enough normality around to make me feel silly for feeling nervous, enough that was unusual to keep me feeling jittery until I got back with G and had all my children together with me.  (M had been unable to return the day before and was still trying to make his way back.)

Anyway, the afternoon was the usual round of looking after children and chatting.  There was no curfew, but none of us felt we wanted to go out.  M phoned a few times and each time it seemed more promising that he would be coming home – and then, just before the children’s bedtime, he arrived.

And then, for us at least, everything was back to normal again.

This morning the curfew was extended till 10am (having been moved from that to 6am last night!) and then extended indefinitely.  The airport is closed, so M’s flight has been cancelled.  The phones haven’t been working perfectly, although texts are getting through more reliably than last night, so it’s been easier to keep informed.

So the task for today is to keep the children entertained (and tackle the washing up left over from a lot of entertaining on Friday!) and answer E’s questions about the government and when they’ll say we can leave the house again…  This is made a whole lot easier by the fact that the house is well-stocked in terms of fresh food, drinking water, electricity and nappies and also the weather is not unbearably hot today.  And the further we get through the day, the more optimistic I feel.  After all, there are only five hours left till bedtime now – and that means we’ve got through eight hours already!

So the rebel troops have arrived and we are under curfew.  I was taken aback by the speed of events.

For a couple of hours this evening, the mobile networks were jammed with people calling each other to make sure everyone knew about the curfew and was home safely.  I couldn’t get onto the internet to see how it was being reported internationally, but information gradually came through.  We live, as you may know, in one of three cities, separated by the two Niles.  The bridges have been closed, containing fighting in the one city, some distance from our house.  We know people who live closer to that side of town who are hearing shelling tonight, but here it is quiet.

It is very quiet in the house, with M away and no sounds from outside.  During the night, of course, things that are innocuous by day can take on a different light…  Well, there’s nothing I can do… except move my mind on for now – onto infinitely more mundane problems at home.  Such as the fact that the schools are going to be closed tomorrow and we cannot leave the house, until 10am, we hear currently.  I think we will use the time to start packing!  It’s under a week till we leave now.  That’s going to keep me thinking positively as I deal with cooped-up and disappointed children…