Sunday, December 27, 2009

December 27th

Be Ready to Change Plans Quickly!
Please excuse me if this is too long and if I make spelling mistakes, I have just an hour window to speak my mind. We arrived in El Arish yesterday. It was not a good day’s travel what with all the check point stops.
Bill and I were going to go to the Raffah Border Gate this morning in a taxi that was arranged by the Hotel Concierge. When we got up in the morning and came to the desk to leave we were given a covert warning by the hotel manager not to go. He said that there would be a bus we could take later.

Later when we came back to the hotel to get on the bus the hotel was surrounded by secret police, we went to our room to get our stuff, our British friends came to the room and told us that they were going to leave the hotel and go somewhere else. We like the Brits, they are thoughtful and considered in their decisions and they do not broadcast their intentions.
We grabbed our bags and headed out, I walk fast and thought Bill was behind me, the 2 Brit girls did the same. But trying to leave with our bags is when the shit hit the fan. Bill and the 2 British men were made to stay in the hotel. The hotel is on the second floor. Once we got out and were on the steps of the hotel we women parked ourselves with our stuff and waited for the men to be released.

Phones numbers between phones began to be blocked, I could no longer call the codepink organizers or any of the other International delegates who were also stuck up in the hotel with Bill. One of the Brit girls got some tweeting done and we got the numbers for the US and British Embassies. The US number did not work; I got the same error message as I did with all the other numbers I had previously been able to call. I began calling friendly Egyptians Bill and I had met in Cairo, explained our situation and asked them to call the US Embassy on our behalf. Eventually they let Bill and the Brit (Ian and Peter) men come down to talk with us (Ali and Charlotte) but they made them leave their luggage up in the hotel.
I have no idea who pulled strings or worked on our behalf, but we 2 Americans and the 4 Brits were allowed to leave and bring their stuff down to join us.

However, no taxis were allowed to come down the street. This American Woman who lives in El Arish had joined us and she was able to get 2 taxi's down the street by calling a police contact she has. The 2 taxi's pulled up but as soon as we tried to put our stuff in it they grabbed it and would not allow us to get in the taxi's, thankfully we all worked in unison quickly grabbed our bags and walked quickly away from the hotel, we got to a more busy street hailed cabs and took off.

We have rented a chalet on the beach, for less than the cost of the hotel, and if we were not on a mission, it would be a beautiful vacation spot. However we were there for less than an hour and the police parked out front and then kicked out the Egyptians in the adjacent space and moved themselves into it.

Some of the French tried to take a cab to the Raffah border they were stopped and turned back. The Castellanos are stuck in the hotel we were able to escape.
We are not sure, but we think that there are about 50 internationals who were able to make it as far as El Arish. We let ahead of the main body of the marchers who are stuck in Cairo. The few that try to get out are now being detained at checkpoints, the peaceful non-violent CODEPINK actions that have tried to take place in Egypt have been broken up.

I have some really great photos but am unable to upload them right now. Our Chalet does not have internet access, we are at a hotel using the internet access here, but do not want to stay too long and get detained or have our computers confiscated.
We are fine, we are safe; we are determined to get to Gaza, at least to the Raffah border! How that will happen is impossible to say, but I think once we have exhausted all options we will begin the Gaza Freedom March here in El Arish, and march towards the border.
If you have not been following this story please see my blog.
Please call our senators and ask then to advocate for our free and safe passage.