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Thursday, January 27, 2011

More Thoughts on Yesterday's Visit to Downtown

Linda is a wonderful proof-reader and editor. She not only catches my spelling errors but cheerfully identifies my mistakes and omissions. Yesterday when we returned to the Mogamma to pick up our passports with the extended visas, we were, indeed, directed to Window 38. When we arrived, there were about forty people of various nationalities crowded around the window pushing to get close enough to get in on the passport distribution. The general rule for lines here is, "Get in and push." If you are at all standoff-ish, say, at the copy window downstairs, you will never be served.

The lady behind the window was going through the applications, holding them up and hoping someone would recognize their picture. Suddenly, she pulled one out and said loudly, "Mr. America!" People pointed at me and poked me. Sure enough, that was my picture. The application was passed back to me with a request for signature. I picked a blank spot on the form and signed. I passed the form back and soon my passport was passed along to me. Success!

But, what about "Mrs. America," you ask? I stood off to the side allowing Linda to get a look. "Finlandia" was shouted, "Faransa, Chile, Malaysia." This went on for several minutes. Soon, a gentleman joined the woman behind the counter. Let's let Linda finish the story:
Lucky for me the man behind me was from New Zealand so he was not pressing against me. He was so disgusted with the process that he said, "Never again!" He called the process humiliating and disorderly. Yeah, that's Egypt. He and I had plenty of time to chat. Finally a man stood over the woman and he saw me waiting. These govt workers are behind a thick glass window so when they shout those of us waiting can barely hear. This man caught my eye and asked me where I was from--I read his lips. I mouthed, "Amreeka" and he looked through the pile until he found my passport and made the lady do mine next. It's not beneath me to use the "blonde card" here. It works wonders.
With that accomplished, we headed outside and noticed that the police presence had increased. The subway tunnel that we had used to arrive was now closed. We crossed the street easily since traffic was not moving at all. Descending into a different subway tunnel, I was noticing the increased police presence in the tunnels. A group of about eight young men rounded a corner and one took a flash photo of the three or four police standing at that point watching the crowd. Bad idea. The police captain shouted in Arabic, "No photo!" We didn't stop to see how things went but thinking back, I was glad I hadn't tried that.

On Monday, I had taken this picture of the exit sign at the stairs leading up to the Mogamma.

No flash, no attention. Probably wouldn't have been a good idea to take it yesterday, even without the flash.

The best news source I have found locally for what is going on is this English-language edition of the newspaper, Al Masry Al Youm. Yesterday, they published an article titled "Tips for Staying Safe in a Demonstration." The tips include this helpful advice:
Prepare yourself with comfortable clothes, especially shoes which allow you to run fast toward a safe spot when needed. Do not wear bright colors so you don’t stand out in the protest or grab extra attention from the police forces. When picking your outfit, steer clear of hoodies, as anyone can easily grab you by the hood and drag you around while you helplessly try to run away. Scarves are also not a good idea, for the same reason, and long hair should be tied up in a small bun or hidden underneath your t-shirt, not to allow anyone to pull you by it.
Most of this should be familiar to my older readers who remember the '60s. You could find similar advice in "alternative newspapers" from that era, or even the Minnesota Daily. It brings back memories of this photo that I took at the dedication of the LBJ Presidential Library in 1971.

Well, bookmark that link to Al Masry Al Youm, so you can stay in touch with the news. We hear reports locally, from Europe and the U.S. that big demonstrations are planned for tomorrow afternoon following the noon prayers.

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