07 April 2020

I’ve been working with some friends who are starting a dress making business for the last few months.  But on Sunday, they switched to sewing masks.  They have well over 100 orders so far and are sewing as much as possible.

It’s been exactly four weeks now since the last time I went out into Cairo.

Last night we had dinner with a friend from the branch whose family has evacuated.  We made tacos at our house, he made tacos at his house, and we chatted for an hour over FaceTime.  It was pretty fun.

06 April 2020

Being an expat has made this whole experience much different than if I’d always lived in the US, or especially in the same state or region.  

My friends are all over the world right now, in so many different situations.  In our branch alone, just the small number of us, we’re in four different countries and five different states so far.  And I know people in lots of other countries who are trying to figure things out.  Not being in your passport country during a pandemic is really, really different.

I’m not dealing with food shortages here, but friends in the US are having a hard time.  I get that, but I’ve also learned that when you can’t predict what will be available on any given day, you have to shop with the idea of finding what is possible, instead of looking for what you think you need.  Grocery shopping can be an adventure in this situation.  But it’s hard to get into a new normal.  Expat life requires you to deal with the unexpected all the time.  Constantly.

But that means you’re dealing with a pandemic when you’re already dealing with a layer of uncertainty.  It can easily get to be too much.

There can be lots of times as an expat that you are pretty isolated.  Sometimes it’s fear, or exhaustion, or language, or local laws, or lots of other things, but we’ve practiced the isolation thing.

From a Mormon perspective, I’m used to having church at home.  It doesn’t make much difference to me personally if temples are closed.  Conference is already online and delayed for me.  Ministering was already done over the internet in many cases.  There’s not a bishop’s storehouse anywhere I’ve lived recently.  

05 April 2020

We went over 1000 cases yesterday there’s a rumor that the curfew will start at 3pm soon.  I could live with that, I think.

It’s very dusty today from the khamsin.  I love the light, like always.

I walked by the Nile again, and then back through the suq to pick up vegetables.  I got milk later, but the Orange store is always so crowded that I don’t want to wait to recharge my phone.  But I need to, if only to keep my phone number because I don’t really need a cell phone plan right now since I’m home all the time.

04 April 2020

I was thinking today that my life in Riyadh was a lot like being quarantined. I went to the grocery store once a week and on walks when it wasn’t too hot, but I was home most of the time, especially when my foot was broken.  I didn’t much like Riyadh.  But this time there are lots of people stuck at home so we can all cheer each other on.

I went on a walk by the Nile this morning.  That was fun.

A khamsin is supposed to blow in today.

03 April 2020

I waved off another friend today, who I hope to see again in the summer.  But who knows?

Fridays aren’t less busy now with no church.  I just posted some RS videos, then we’ll have an Arabic zoom meeting this morning, then our own sacrament meeting, then a RS zoom call this afternoon.  I think that’s all, because the YM haven’t been doing anything, except what the boys have organized.  Tomorrow we’ll buy food and do a couple more meetings.

I’ve been thinking I should get out of the house on a long walk in the mornings, while Cairo is quieter.  Today’s walk over to my friend’s house was lovely.  I could walk along the Nile, which is not a thing I’d usually try on a weekday morning.

02 April 2020

I woke up too early again today, but I’m not surprised because I was worrying last night.  About Egypt, mostly.

What incentive does most countries have to report their numbers correctly?  I’m not talking about a shortage of testing, like in the US and many other places, or even places where people don’t want to test because they’ll go into the government system and no one wants that.  I’m talking about the leaders who are deliberately suppressing the numbers they actually do know, mostly in an effort to maintain their power, usually with the justification of stability.  The last thing Egypt needs, for example, is political upheaval in addition to medical upheaval.  Why should China report its numbers accurately?  Or Russia, or Saudi, or North Korea? Or India?  Or pretty much anyplace in Africa?  The whole world is dealing with this, so there’s not really help available if your country is overrun.  There’s never been as much help for Africa as there should have been anyway.  I honestly can’t see any reason for an underdeveloped or autocratic country to report accurately, and plenty of reasons to cover this up.

01 April 2020

We just said goodbye to lots of friends, including the family who basically adopted our youngest son after our older boys left home.  It was sad to see them go, and who knows if/when anyone will come back?  One family was leaving for good.  Plus there were other friends leaving that I couldn’t say goodbye to, except online.  It was a sad morning.

31 March 2020

I generally find many Americans to be fairly disconnected from what’s going on around the world, and this has only become more clear as people hunker down in their homes.  I’m concerned about this since this pandemic shows that we’re just as interconnected as always, and shutting down essential systems and connections has serious ripple effects.

Trade wars with China matter, because a lot of what Americans want is made in China.  Not just iPads, but pharmaceutical products and face masks.  The health care systems in Africa matter because health isn’t individual.  You want the people around you to be healthy, and we need the world to be as healthy as possible.  We can’t keep pretending that the deaths of many treatable diseases in Africa don’t matter that much.

I hope for a better world after this is over, but I’m not convinced that those with the power are learning the right lessons.

30 March 2020

And a third quieter day.  Lots of zoom calls though, for different reasons.

Two new babies were born in my family in the last week.  I just found out about one last night when they showed up on a family zoom call with a baby.  It was such a nice surprise to see him.  And my FIL’s family continues to add granddaughters.  I think they’re up to 9? now, and no grandsons.

I slept till 6am today!

Still wondering what the real situation is in Egypt.

29 March 2020

Another quieter day yesterday, although I really had to get out of the house on a walk so I did some errands.  I thought school was supposed to start again today, but there was an email last night that today is a planning day. We were ready to get going on school today.

Lots of people will be flying out on Wednesday and Friday on two US chartered flights that go directly to DC. The British Embassy is sending five flights out today.  There’s one going to Paris on Tuesday.  But even if you get yourself to Europe, you have to find a way to the US. And everyone has to get from their US entry airport to your final destination in the US.  So yeah, the idea of state borders being closed is concerning.

Saudi shot down a missile over Riyadh last night.  Friends there are okay, but missiles aren’t pleasant even in the best of times.

Projects for this week:

Learn about the history of Hajj interruptions, from war or disease or whatever
Work on my Cairo map with good library books
Exercise every day
Practice sketching
Do something with Arabic for an hour every day
Make decent dinners
Work on making sure friends are connected to data

28 March 2020

We had a nice Friday, doing church things through the day from home.  I didn’t leave the house once. Good for me.  I will not be able to stay home today.

I got interested yesterday in how disease, war, and disasters have affected the Hajj.  I’m really curious about this now.

I slept till six the previous two mornings, but not this morning.  But I’m okay with that.

27 March 2020

And now the weekend has arrived, with all of its additional restrictions.  Basically, you can be out, but everything is closed.

Here’s what I’ve been thinking about, for after this is over. Remember how you felt in the last few weeks, and what we need to change.

If you were anxious about your 401k and retirement, now think about the people who don’t have a way to save for retirement, and what social security means to people.

If you weren’t happy about being stuck at home with your children, now think about how much we pay teachers, and how important a good education is for everyone.

If you were worried about lost income and wondered how long you could pay your rent, now think about people who face eviction regularly because they can’t find affordable housing or consistent work, and what we need to change to make sure people don’t have to worry about that.

If you felt blessed during coronavirus because you had prepared ahead of time, now think about people who couldn’t prepare, and how you might actually be more blessed by helping them.

If you were tired of being home, now think about getting a shelter in place order if your home isn’t safe, or if you don’t have a home at all, and think about what we need to do to protect vulnerable people.

If you were tired of teleworking, now think about the people whose jobs didn’t allow them to work from home, and how much you depended on them through this, and think about how much they get paid and their benefits. Or think about how you were able to keep working through the whole mess, and how many people lost their jobs and are still trying to recover.

If you gained weight, now think about the people who were hungry, and how you can make a difference for them now.

If you were worried that you didn’t have lots of food stored in your home and ran to the grocery store to stock up, now think about the people who can’t stock up, and what good your food storage did for them.

If you were worried about the medical system getting overwhelmed in your area, now think about the people who have never, ever had access to decent medical care, and how interconnected we are.

If you know someone who died, think about all the people who never get to see loved ones get old, or survive underlying health conditions, and how this virus in some ways is targeted the vulnerable among the most privileged.

If you were separated from family members and loved ones because of coronavirus, now think about people fleeing conflict and economic problems who are separated from loved ones for years, and how that affects both children and adults.

If you were worried to take the sacrament, or to have your husband do it, to a woman in your ward or branch, now think about how you always have the sacrament available, and what it might mean to someone to not have it.

If you got tired of doing Come Follow Me at home week after week, now think about people who don’t have Come Follow Me in their language, or who are new members and not comfortable using it on their own, and think about what we need to change.

26 March 2020

So, we had the first night of the curfew.  And I slept till 6am!  I’m so happy.

We got 40 meters of fabric yesterday for the dress sewing business.  A group of women in our branch are selling smocked dresses, and since this is their only work opportunity right now, we’re doing everything we can to keep it going.

I miss Cairo.

25 March 2020

The new list of government restrictions came out yesterday.  Most everything is closed on the weekends except grocery stores and pharmacies.  There’s a curfew from 7pm to 6am.  Socializing businesses are closed pretty much all of the time.  The airport and schools will remain closed till the middle of April.  None of these rules is surprising, and they don’t change our plans, but still, no one was very excited about all of this.  More families are trying to get out now.

But yesterday I stopped to get produce.  Egypt has amazing produce in the spring and I got artichokes, strawberries, just-picked garlic, and the ever-present lemons, tomatoes, and cucumbers.  I steamed the artichokes and we had them last night for dinner with the strawberries.  The rest of the family didn’t approve.  I love Egypt in the spring.

24 March 2020

I posted late yesterday so there’s not much to say today.  We’re kind of expecting a military curfew to be announced soon, but it would just be 7pm to 6am which would make no difference at all to me since everything I have in the evening has already been cancelled. And most of the social stuff has already been shut down during those hours anyway. But it’s kind of hard to imagine keep everyone off the streets.  It could happen though.

23 March 2020

I am still so busy!  Shouldn’t quarantines be less busy than this? I’m hoping I can get things under control this week during spring break, and then be able to focus on school with youngest son for a good chunk of the day next week.

More friends are thinking about leaving, and probably will if the school decides to close for the year. I still can’t imagine anything that would make me choose to leave.  Sitting in the US for who knows how many months is not what I want to do.  And I’m managing to be optimistic that we’ll get through this okay here.

It is hard to know what to expect though, and that causes more problems when you aren’t in your passport country.

I had a nice day though, even if I didn’t get everything finished that I was supposed to.

22 March 2020

I’m still feeling a lot better about things, which is nice.  The feeling of impending doom is lifting.

There are just so much things we have to do better at when this is over.

The health of each individual person on this planet matters.  We should work to make sure everyone has decent healthcare, because it’s the right thing to do and it makes our entire world healthier.

No one should have to live with the kind of stress and fear that many of the most privileged felt this week, but that kind of anxiety is the norm for a lot of people.  Will I have enough food.  Will my neighborhood be safe. Will I be able to continue working.  What happens if I get sick and there’s no hospital I can go to.  How can it possibly be okay that so many people in the world live with these questions all the time?

I’ve read for years about the experiences of refugees, but this week I had a tiny personal glimpse into that reality.  What if my home isn’t safe and I have to leave, even if I don’t want to?  How will I get someplace else if the borders are closed?  Is it better to stay, or to go?  How do I prepare if I have no idea where I’ll be?  What if the place I want to go turns out to be not much better than where I am, or worse?  Is it better for my children to stay or to go?  What if there’s no place for me to go if I leave?

I’ve watched a friend’s family get separated for weeks at least, and I think about another friend’s family who has been separated for years.  And I know that if I do leave, it would be on an airplane with a suitcase, and we’d figure out a decent place to live on the other side, even if hotels are closing all over the US.  And the grocery store panic seems to be stabilizing in the US, even if the hospitals are likely to get swamped soon.

Aside from all of that, I wonder if Egypt’s young population will keep us safer here.  And lots of people don’t have access to or faith in the medical system anyway.

21 March 2020

Yesterday was hard.  But I’m feeling more optimistic today, mostly because I think we’re going to get better internet access for more people in our branch.  There will still be plenty of work to do to get everyone included, but at least we can start working on something.

Youngest son is at a sleepover with his best friend, just the two of them.  Friend’s family is hoping to evacuate whenever they can get a flight out of Egypt, so they’re celebrating friend’s birthday two weeks early because they have no idea what will happen.

I found out yesterday that another friend is leaving, and won’t be returning no matter what.  Two other friends are seriously considering their options.

I still don’t want to evacuate.  But at least we’re getting some things in place in case I do need to leave.

20 March 2020

The big news in the last 24 hours is that there’s a global Level 4 travel warning.  We’d usually have been evacuated by that point, but who knows what to do with this one.  I still don’t want to evacuate. I want to stay home.  And hotels are starting to close in the US. Where would I even go if I went back?

It’s weird to see so many people schooling at home (friends, enforced distance learning is not homeschooling, and it’s more difficult than homeschooling in many ways) and homechurching. That was my life for a long time, and almost no one could relate to it.

But it’s bringing up so many memories of the frustration I’ve felt for a long time about women’s access to the sacrament.  So many more women will not be able to take the sacrament now unless the men in their wards and branches are willing to make it possible for them to have it.  I really don’t like the fact that men can always choose whether they have access to the sacrament, based on holding the priesthood, but women don’t have that option.

Of course, I’ve heard of stakes that aren’t allowing men to bless the sacrament at home, usually because they want to somehow protect the sacrament.  Friends, I think that is wrong.  The sacrament isn’t degraded by administering it or restricting it.  That’s especially true when it’s administered to someone who can’t bless it for themselves.  If at all comes down to the Lord knowing your heart either way, let people have access to it and let the Lord deal with the people whose hearts aren’t as good as we would hope. 

19 March 2020

Things were a little quieter again yesterday. Lots of online communication though.  Another friend is in the air now, and yet another is waiting for her flight to take off any minute.  Two others have arrived safely in the US and are quarantined.  But neither are at home since they have family living in their homes, so one is in a cabin and the other in a condo.  Their kids deliver food to them.

I’m starting to collect food from friends to store at our house in case other friends need it.  Most of the refugees I know have already lost their jobs.  Rent is going to be a problem very soon and there is no protection from eviction here.

It’s weird to be so connected to two very different communities here.  The American expats are stressed, but they have so many more resources.  The South Sudanese refugees have nothing.