I recently had the opportunity to correspond with a woman named Yosra. Yozra lives in Egypt, and had an amazing story to tell about the time she spent there during the civil unrest that occurred there a year ago. Her story of preparedness follows
Preparing for Arab Spring
by Yosra, Giza, Egypt
When the year 2000 was due to dawn, I prepared a pantry. I had shelves installed in an unused space under the steps. Little by little, I would purchase a couple of cans a week so that no one grocery bill would overwhelm our budget. As the Midwest winter winds blew, I felt comfort in knowing that if all the banks' computers crashed, we were safe.
Twelve years later, maybe it seems like we were foolish to be ready for new millennium chaos. However, I don't regret taking simple measures to safeguard my family's health and safety. We always gain peace in our lives when we plan for adversity. It doesn't mean we are pessimists; on the contrary it means we are very hopeful people who strive to survive hardships.
Last year, my resolve to keep on going was put to the challenge in a way which many had never envisioned. I lived through the "Arab Spring" in Egypt. I had come to Giza, home of the Great Pyramids, in order to be a kindergarten teacher at an American school here. Though the country proved to be a wonderful new home for us, there was uneven stability within the general population. Many had too much and way too many had none at all. When the population rose up against President Hosni Mubarak's 30-year rule, Egypt started into a tailspin.
After the January 25 "Police Day" protest, I had a gut instinct to prepare a pantry once again. My husband and I went out shopping that Tuesday night. Because of our area, next to the Pyramids, shopping necessitates many trips to scattered stores. We bought cheese, butter, yogurt at the dairy. We walked on to the dry goods store and bought powdered milk, sugar, flour, cooking oil, soup bouillon, oatmeal, pasta, lentils, jam, gelatin, coffee, tea, and fruit drink mixes. The paper supply store had the toilet paper and the tissue. At the feed store we got some popcorn kernels. At the snack store, we loaded up on peanuts, dry-roasted seeds and lollipops. We went to the bakery and bought bread sticks, pretzels, crackers, toast and cookies.
This was a lot of money for us to spend suddenly. It hurt a little to see such an outlay of cash. Thankfully we had it on hand! There have been other times in our life when we would not have been able to buy so much.
While we were feeling cautious about the future, we seemed to be alone in our efforts. I asked around at work, and no one else felt the need to stock up. Realizing potential dangers exist might set you apart from other people. Being aware is more than just watching the news on TV. You have to tune into your intuitions.
Three days later everything changed abruptly for the nation. Three days. We had prepared in time while others had not. By that Friday, the Internet was shut down. All cell phone connections were cut. The banks were closed. The store shelves were empty. The bakeries were not able to meet demands. At a nearby prison, thousands of thugs had escaped and the streets had become unsafe. Shops all over the metro were looted. Downtown Cairo's biggest mall was burned to the ground. Curfews were then put in place. Army soldiers with tanks lined our local square. We were stuck.
Thankfully, we had enough supplies. That was one worry we didn't have. In a massively stressful nation-wide event, there is no way of knowing how you will react. Most everyone I've talked to since had at least one melt-down while locked up in their homes. Some had started to run out of supplies and felt fearful about what would happen next. We all had long stretches of time with little sleep and lots of praying.
Weeks passed. Eventually, life got going once again. After six weeks, I returned to school. Though it didn't feel "normal" any more, it was a kind of new normal which we had to get used to. A year later, we are still unsure of Friday protests and of what will happen on important dates. At those times, we stockpile once again.
As the anniversary of the first uprising looms, I'm sharing this with you. I have learned that preparing for a tough time is one of the most intelligent things you can do. It is not fatalistic but rather realistic. We see animals preparing for long winters, so why can't we admit that this is a biological need; a logical need. We still live in Egypt and inshahallah (God willing) we will remain in Egypt. We will continue to prepare for whatever happens.