Saturday, August 24, 2013

Safe Havens

"How are you?" 'Are you safe?" The questions come in emails, in phone messages, on Facebook....heavens, even verbally. On these long hot summer days when there seems to be so much going on in the media, but when reality seems to be stuck in a  puddle of tar on a melting road, it's hard to know what to answer. We are in the midst of strong currents that push us in directions we don't want to go. The hope and vision that we saw in the winter of 2011 is darkness and worry in the heat of the summer of 2013.

My staff came to me today to talk to me about their annual raises. This is a topic that usually comes up in June but when it did this year, I told them that I couldn't do any raise at the present time, but we could talk at the end of the summer...and we are now at the end of the summer. But my funds are limited and while they are sufficient to pay salaries and the feed bills at the farm,  they are not going to be sufficient to pay increases without income from clients. I explained this to them and told them that we simply had to be able to get by on what we have for the time being. This is hard. We have good land on the farm where we are growing vegetables that the staff can use to help feed their families, but they are used to the idea that things get better, and right now they are NOT getting better.  They have good salaries and I help them with their medical bills and other things, but no one has ever taught economics or even accounting in Egyptian schools. It isn't very easy to explain that we just can't do raises.

Developments in Egypt are disturbing. The Ministry of the Interior has posted a notice showing two symbols that are being used as avatars on Twitter and Facebook in support of the Muslim Brotherhood, and is asking that people turn in friends as terrorists. This is a very bad sign, and in connection with the fact that the Ministry of the Interior has raided Human Rights Watch and is asking for a number of 2011 activists to appear for questioning.

We are under curfew, which is less than any kind of problem for me since I never go out anyway, but this is meaning terrible losses in an economy that is already crashing for most businesses. During the summer heat, most Egyptians are nocturnal and do most of their socialising and shopping in the cooler evenings. For the past week everyone in most places in Egypt has had to be home by 7 pm, although today they announced that the hour has been extended to 9 pm every day except Fridays. With all the businesses not making any money, how can everyone survive?

I've loved my life in this country and I still  have no wish to be living anywhere else. I look to the US where I lived during my childhood, but I see huge problems there. Most of the Middle East is  a crashing disaster. Europe is having major climate problems and its own share of political unrest. There simply seems to be no safe haven these days.

copyright 2013 Maryanne Stroud Gabbani