Friday, December 25, 2009
December 25, Change of Plans
December 25, 2009
The day started with breakfast with Medea Benjamin, Tighe Barry and Ann Wright, a few of the the big dogs of the Gaza Freedom March. We were part of the planning for peaceful activist activities that will take place in Cairo. It is clear that the Egyptian Government will not allow any busses to leave Cairo towards El Anish and the Raffah border. But with 1350 + internationals in Cairo all of them itching to do something plans needed to be made.
The two Egyptian lessons today: First: An Egyptian minute is longer than any other you have experienced, and the Egyptians are well aware of Americans not being used to waiting around, so they tell you it will be an Egyptian minute, it becomes a joke you share with them. Second: Public toilets do not have paper, buy it form the lady who sits at the door before you go in and sit down. I should have remembered this from my earlier days in Naples, but that was so long ago, oh well, live and learn!
Bill and I went on some location hunts today for the March organizers: Where could 40-50-60-100 people get together in the public eye?
After our scouting mission we went to the Egyptian Museum, no cameras allowed, and I still had not found a sketch book anywhere, not even in the museum gift shop! But a very kind girl behind the counter gave me 6 sheets of blank paper, no charge! The museum is not like any museum I’ve ever been in before, there was a lot of amazing art to be sure, but there were no ropes or barriers or special lighting or guards, we went on a weekend so it was really crowded. Apparently my sketching caused quite a stir, I had no idea I was gathering crowds, I was too busy looking and drawing, but Bill said that I was getting more attention than the artworks. IK found out why later when I went back to the gift shop to buy some postcards. I showed the young woman, who gave me that paper, my drawings and she said,
“Oh, you are truly an artist! If I had known I would have given you 50 sheets! She went on to tell me that art is not part of the school curriculum in Egypt, and that there is only one art college, but that enrollment has declined because the economy is so bad. I’ve heard many many sad things while here, but this hurts my heart so deeply. Here I am, an art educator/advocate in the county whose ancient art works inspire millions of people all over the planet and they are not able to participate in the contemporary art scene.
The evening ended with more strategizing and organizing. More and more of the delegates are arriving. It is going to be getting a bit crazy here, and I did not come to Egypt to be a protester, I came to bring friendship, art and hope to the people of Gaza. Since there will be no busses full of foreigners going in the direction of Gaza Bill and I will be heading out on our own tomorrow morning. We are confident we have the travel plans, communication network and enough money to get us to the gate. We do not have high hopes of being able to get in, but we are willing to camp at the gate. We will meet up at the gate with a small group from Spain and another small group from Brittan, we are all traveling separately at different times on different modes of transportation. We will be disassociating our selves form the Gaza Freedom March and attempting to go in only as an artist with a gift.
Peace, Love and Light, there will be a way.