Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Are The Streets Safe Yet?

When in the States, we are always asked if we feel safe when we are in Egypt. We have always answered "yes". In fact, there are certain aspects of life that we have felt safer with here in Egypt than we did in the States. One of those is that we felt that our children were safer on the streets here. In the States, there is always the thought in your mind that your child might be taken, or snatched away if they are out by themselves. But here in Egypt, the streets are always full of people, and those people always seem to watch out for each other. If someone is hurt, people come running to help.

Before the revolution, Egypt was seen as a country with a pretty low crime rate. People were fairly scared of being caught by the police because being in custody or in prison here is not quite the "pleasant" experience it can be in the States. During the revolution though, the police just disappeared off of the streets, and things became quite chaotic. If you saw any scenes from the revolution, you would know why. But lately, the police are once again making their presence known. I believe they are still a little gun-shy (as we say in the States) because the happenings of the revolution are still fresh in their minds. But I also believe the police are trying harder. I have seen places they are posted, and they are trying to help traffic maintain order, and they are trying to stop people from doing things that are supposed to be illegal or could endanger others.

The depressing part of this situation though, is the fact that there are still people out there who want to do things "their way", regardless of the fact that it is illegal and dangerous. I have been sitting at traffic lights, where the police will stop traffic so the traffic crossing in front of them can go, and there will be people either totally ignore the police or stop and sit there, blaring their horn or yelling at the police officer until they are able to go.

My husband found the following short article on-line. It is from a magazine here called "almasry alyoum", which I believe means "The Egypt Daily". (Any of my Egyptian friends can correct me on this if I am wrong.) After the article is a comment left by an Egyptian woman which sums up how I feel.

Police Officers Attacked in Three Governates

Police officers on Thursday were attacked in three Egyptian governates.

In Cairo, people stormed the Muski police station downtown, beat an officer, and broke his arm for having confiscated an expired driver’s license that belonged to one of them.

In Giza, a taxi driver tried to stab a police officer who tried to stop him from driving in the wrong direction on a one-way street. Another taxi driver assaulted an officer who was inspecting his license.

In Arish, two police officers were shot at while chasing thieves who were trying to steal cars.

Please people use common sense. Let the police do their honest work. Break his arm because he took a license from someone who was not supposed to be on the road endangering other people's lives?? You've got to be kidding me! I only hope the creeps who did this are punished. You want a honest police department? Then be honest yourselves. They have a lot to prove to themselves and to you but things will never change with things like this going on. Let them prove themselves. To read things like this and the other treatments of the police doing their honest work makes me sick to my stomach to think that people can act this way. I guess those same people want the police to protect them if someone is beating or robbing them?

It kind of reminds me of what the Bible says in Judges 17:6

In those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes.

I'd like to put this challenge out there for all of my friends here in Egypt. Take this woman's advice. Start showing the police here respect, and start encouraging others around you to do the same. I know I have some great friends here in Egypt who want their country to become something better, and I challenge you to do what you know is right, "in your own heart".

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Sectarian Clashes Again in Egypt

More violence in the streets of Egypt: this time over religious issues.

The church burning and firefighters trying to put out the fire.

The Egyptian military standing guard in front of the burned out church. Tim and I actually attended a wedding in this church.

Coptic Christians inside of the burned church.

The following article is from "The New York Times". It is about the current clashes going on between Muslims and Coptic Christians. It is a little long, but worth the read.


I like this quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson:

Peace cannot be achieved through violence, it can only be attained through understanding.

CAIRO — Muslims and Coptic Christians clashed with bullets, rocks and Molotov cocktails here for the second time in seven days on Saturday night, sending at least 55 people to the hospital, officials with Egypt’s Interior Ministry said.

The officials said that at least 33 of the wounded were Muslims, 22 were Christians and that 28 were arrested for playing a role in the strife.

Fears of such sectarian violence have kept Cairo on edge since a nightlong battle between mobs of Muslims and Coptic Christians in the working-class neighborhood of Imbaba a week ago left at least a dozen dead and two churches in flames. (Egyptian state news media said Sunday that the death toll had risen to 15.)

On Sunday, hundreds of Copts angry at the failure of the Egyptian police and armed forces to protect their churches more effectively held a sit-in outside the state television building, known as Maspero.

The clashes on Saturday began about 10 p.m., officials of the Interior Ministry said. Witnesses and officials said a small group of Muslims had fired shots at the sit-in. Soon groups of young men from each faith were battling each other for hours with rocks, sticks and Molotov cocktails.

In the aftermath of the bloodshed, Pope Shenouda III, the leader of Egypt’s Coptic Christian church, urged an end to the sit-in on Sunday, Egyptian state news media reported. “To our children who are protesting in front of Maspero, the protest is now no longer about expressing your opinion and has been infiltrated by those who use different means than the ones you use,” the pope said in a statement, according to the Web site of the state newspaper Al Ahram. “Now there is fighting and hitting, and that negatively affects Egypt’s reputation as well as your reputation. Therefore, you have to immediately end the protest.”

The paper’s Web site said that he added: “The patience of the rulers is starting to end, and you will be the losers if you continue in the protest.”

But thousands of Copts ignored their patriarch’s admonition and continued to rally into Sunday night. “With our blood, with our soul, we sacrifice for the cross,” they chanted.

Tensions between Muslims and Coptic Christians, who make up about 10 percent of the population here, have risen steadily since the sweeping vows of unity during the revolution that toppled President Hosni Mubarak three months ago. Copts say they have felt increasingly embattled since clashes just south of Cairo left a church burning last month.

The battle on the night of May 7 in the neighborhood of Imbaba began with a dispute over a woman. Neighborhood Muslims were convinced that Christians were holding her in a church against her will to talk her out of converting to Islam and leaving her Christian husband for a Muslim man — a recurring theme in sectarian disputes here, where a combination of custom and law make it easier for Muslims than Christians to divorce.

With memories of last month’s church fire still fresh, about 500 Copts rallied to defend their church — some with firearms — even before more than two dozen Muslims had approached it. Casualties were roughly even on both sides.

The anger among the Copts had run so high that many continued to protest at their sit-in on Friday, even as thousands of other Egyptians held a rally for Muslim and Christian unity in Tahrir Square.

In addition to sectarian violence, general crime has jumped in Cairo since the revolution as the military council running the country has struggled to rebuild the police force. Many police officers, who were a primary target of the revolution because of their past abusive practices, deserted the force or have returned timidly. Some leaders of the protests that brought down the old government suspect a counterrevolutionary conspiracy to stir up lawlessness.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Third Culture Kids

Levi helping steer a falukah (Egyptian sailboat) on the Nile.

One of the magnificent touristic sites we saw while on the Nile Cruise. If you look carefully, you can see Tim standing at the bottom. This shows how big these statues are.

Dillon and Levi at the Great Pyramid of Egypt.

Levi's school playing soccer or "football" against a Sudanese school here in Egypt.

Anyone who has lived abroad, or knows someone who lives abroad and has kids has probably heard the term "third culture kids." I like the definition found in Wikipedia: A third culture kid (TCK) is "someone who, as a child, has spent a significant period of time in one or more culture(s) other than his or her own, thus integrating elements of those cultures and their own birth culture, into a third culture."

It is very interesting to raise kids in a culture other than the one you were raised in. I often find myself "feeling sorry" for my kids because I think they are not getting to experience the "normal" things I experienced growing up. But, when I think about it, they are the lucky ones.

My kids, and other "third culture kids" here have gotten to experience things others only dream of experiencing. My kids have seen the PYRAMIDS of Egypt! They have gotten to see the King Tut Exhibition in the Cairo Museum, along with many other artifacts. They have ridden in a falukah (Egyptian sailboat) on the Nile, and have even taken a cruise on the Nile, where we visited many Egyptian historical sites, including the "Valley of the Kings."

We are getting ready to pack up and go back to the U.S. for a year. There are several reasons for this year-long visit, but that is not the focus of this post. Our youngest son Levi has lived 9 of his 16 years of life here in Egypt. He is probably more "Egyptian" than any of us. I know he is a little worried about making the transition to a "new" culture. I am praying that things will be easy for him, and that he will transition well. He will be a junior in high-school next year; not an easy age to change schools, make new friends, etc. But Levi is a very outgoing, special young man. I know he will be okay. Please pray for him, and pray for us as parents to have wisdom over this next year. Only God knows the plans He has for Levi, and knowing Levi, they will be something special.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Saying Good-bye is Hard

Some pictures of some of the furniture we bought a few years ago.

One of the hard things about living in Egypt is having to move so often. There is a law here stating that owners of apartments have the right to raise the rent of them 10% every year. This is pretty ridiculous to me because who can afford to pay 10% more every year indefinitely? So, we stay in an apartment about 3 years before we are having to start the search for a new one.

This move is particularly hard for me because several years ago we bought all of our own furniture and rented an unfurnished apartment. Most of the time foreigners rent furnished apartments here, and we have rented our share of those.

Due to recent events in the country, we decided to sell our furniture and move back into a furnished apartment. Things have become more unstable here, and the government has never been as unpredictable as it is right now. This is what helped us to make this decision. If something happens and it is impossible for us to return to Egypt after our visit back to the States later this summer, then we will not have an apartment full of furniture sitting here that we can not deal with.

As the title of my blog states " in a foreign land," these issues do not just pertain to me, living in another "earthly" country. These types of issues pertain to all of us. We are only on this earth for a little while. Sooner or later, we all pass on to another life, and we cannot take our earthly possessions with us, so as the Bible says in Matthew 6:19-21

"Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also."

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Mixed Emotions

When I first heard Osama bin Laden had been killed, I had mixed emotions. On the one hand, I was happy that the world was void of one less terrorist, but on the other, I began to wonder what God thought of this whole ordeal. The following link was posted on Facebook, and it is a viewpoint that comes from someone I have learned to respect from his teachings and writings.

I hope you find it as interesting and thought provoking as I did.

Monday, May 2, 2011

A Wonderful Weekend Getaway

Tim and I, on top of our building, with the sea in the background.

The retreat center had so many beautiful flowers. This is me, in front of a bunch of daisies, one of my favorites.

This is me and a very special little friend that I tried to spend as much time with as possible.

Levi playing soccer.

Every year, the church we attend goes to the North Coast on the Mediterranean for a retreat. Every year it seems more and more people go. This year, we had 180 people go. There are certain traditions, such as, capture the flag on the first night, a talent show the second night, and the "free ice cream for everyone" that one man buys each year for his son's birthday.

One thing that is nice about the retreat is that we get to get away from the hustle and bustle of every day life. There is nothing real pressing or stressful to worry about. There are daily activities, such as soccer, swimming and basketball, or you can choose to just sit around and visit with friends or make new friends. Another favorite past-time while we are there is to take an afternoon nap, usually unheard of in our busy lives back home.

Something else we have on this retreat is a daily message from the Pastor or a guest speaker, then we break into small groups and have discussion questions together. I know the guest speaker was a blessing to everyone, and his messages spoke directly to many. I know they spoke to me.

Another great thing about the retreat is that we have wonderful meals. All of the meals are Egyptian food, which I love. And it is great to be able to enjoy 3 days of it, especially not having to cook it myself.

The only bad thing about the retreat is that it is just not long enough. We stay 3 days and 3 nights, and it seems like those days and nights go by so quickly, and we soon find ourselves back in the city, going through the routine of everyday, normal life. But at least a few days away has given us a rest, a renewed energy, and a message from God to help us through it.