A good end cannot sanctify evil means; nor must we ever do evil, that good may come of it... We are too ready to retaliate, rather than forgive... And yet we could hurt no man that we believe loves us. Let us try then what love will do: for if men did once see we love them, we should soon find they would not harm us. Force may subdue, but Love gains: and he that forgives first, wins the laurel.
William Penn

Be patterns, be examples in all countries, places, islands, nations wherever you come; that your carriage and life may preach among all sorts of people, and to them; then you will come to walk cheerfully over the world, answering that of God in everyone...
George Fox

Monday, April 1, 2013

Adventure at the Internet Cafe; Port Said; and 'Where are the tourists?'

I've had a lot of work to do online here in Port Suez, my unexpected port of entry into Egypt. As such, I have spent almost as much time in internet cafes as out. The first internet cafe I found had a sign on the wall: Foreigners price, 3 dollars an hour. The last time I'd had to pay such an exorbitant price for internet was in France.
"Foreigners price 3 dollars an hour?" I asked.
"Three bucks an hour. I am honest. I tell people before they use the internet. Where are you from?"
" The USA, but lived in Portugal the last 15 years, and living on the road now."
It's always difficult for me to answer this question.
"Where in USA? I have family in Brooklyn."
"California, Florida..."
Also hard for me to answer.
"California! So 3 bucks no problem!"
I wanted to go, but I was desperate to communicate to family, friends and supporters that I was in Egypt, and not in Israel.
"Three bucks is a problem. I've been living on the road for a year and a half. Walking mostly, for salaam."
"Okay okay, I make you a discount, 2 bucks! Ha ha! Bucks, you know bucks! You're American! Bucks!"

After an hour of internet for two bucks, about 14 Egyptian pounds, I searched for another place. The emergency communication was done. Though the 2 buck internet didn't function well (no Facebook, no Couchsurfing) my friend Selda in Ankara had got the word out that I was in Egypt.
When I found the next place I was relieved, it was 3 Egyptian pounds an hour (not even half a buck), and everything worked. Until the blackout. It may have been a city block, or the entire city, but there was no power and no lights anywhere for 45 minutes. Kids in the internet cafe went wild in the dark. Oddly, the chaos that is Port Said calmed down in the dark. The owner of the cafe had to chase the kids out, they were so wild. I waited because I had been in the middle of an important message. The owner chatted with me a bit in the darkened cafe. He told me the blackouts never lasted more than an hour.
Yesterday, back at work in the same place, a fight broke out inside the internet cafe. I was hastily writing my blog about not getting into Israel, so I wasn't very motivated to make peace. The two antagonists moved out onto the street, with everyone else in the cafe following and shouting. The owner was carrying a stick. I heard glass break outside, and car horns honking. There was a lot of aggression out there, but like a piano player in a saloon during a fight in an old Western, I just kept hitting the keys on the keyboard. In time, everything calmed down, and the owner quietly put his stick away.

As I said, Port said is pure Chaos, but it seems to work. In Morocco there were crosswalks that everyone ignored, the same in Turkey. In Egypt there are no crosswalks, so there is no false sense of security. You just dodge and run for it with car horns honking away. They may not be honking at you though. They honk all the time. Everyone honks. Get out of my way.
I've seen remarkable feats of driving. Drivers who fly down narrow streets (actually every street is narrow, or made narrow as any road space is filled with vendors, motorcycles, bicycles, pedestrians who can't walk on garbage filled sidewalks or cars making a new lane) missing obstacles by centimeters. I've seen boldness; drivers running red lights as if they weren't there, drivers disobeying signals in one intersection controlled by three non-chalant traffic cops, drivers driving against traffic. They honk, get out of my way!
Over a year ago I thought Moroccan city traffic was about the worst I'd seen. The Egyptians are much better at being the worst. Everytime I step outside I take a deep breath and start dodging traffic. I think it must be something like being under fire in a combat zone. When I reach my destination I duck inside and take another deep breath. The other pedestrians are very calm though. While I'm looking in all directions, ducking and bobbing, running a serpentine pattern, they just walk on, oblivious to all the near misses.
Anyway, I'm enjoying it here. Food is ridiculously cheap once you've found the right places. You have to learn very quickly where the foreigner prices apply.

Also, there are military armoured vehicles with manned 50 caliber machine guns standing by on certain streets. The soldiers manning them are very relaxed though, and return your greetings. They're there because Port Said is presently under military control, the result of the recent riots. My Masterpeace friend in Cairo, Raghda, says Port Said is very safe, and I believe it. Except for the cars, motorcycles and bicycles.

I haven't seen but two or three foreigners here. I met a German couple, stranded here because their ship went to a destination other than the one they had booked for. Their destination? Iskenderun. The ship's? Haifa. The ship? None other than the 'Nissos Rodos.' Apparantly our ship goes to where the money is, wherever the greatest number of trucks sit waiting. The truck drivers in Port Said who were going to Iskenderun have been left stranded as well, their loads of fresh fruit rotting. I understand now why I couldn't get a straight answer as to when the ship was going to Haifa while I was in Iskenderun. The Captain doesn't even know until the last hour.
Anyway, Rudyard Kipling said,
If you truly wish to find someone you have known and who travels, there are two points on the globe you have but to sit and wait, sooner or later your man will come there: the docks of London and Port Said.

The times have changed though, and I think most foreigners are avoiding Port Said these days. But I love it here. I love the chaos.

Nevertheless, as I've done all the damage control I can do after being cast ashore here, tomorrow I'll start walking again, towards Cairo across the Masr-Al Ismaileya Desert. It sounds intimidating, but it's only April; not so hot; and the distance to Cairo isn't so far, just some 200k, about 8 days of walking. There is also a city in between, Ismailia, and I'll be walking along a highway. I crossed a bit of desert in Morocco, and I enjoyed it but for the escort by the Gendarme Royale. I'm looking forward to being in my tent again after nearly three months with a roof over my head. After the storm comes the calm. (Or is it the other way around?) Once in Cairo, Raghda has said there will be a little Masterpeace party, which is nice. And I've got three hosts arranged, all near the pyramids, which is the official end point of my 'Down to Egypt' walk for peace.
But I think my walk will unofficially continue for a bit longer. I've still got some walking and work to do in Israel and Palestine.
'Into the Promised Land,' maybe.

1 comment:

  1. great to hear you are doıng okay! keepıng up the prayers and hope to see you agaın soon, frıend!