|Taken while hiding out with my neighbors during the looting on Saturday, January 29|
I am proud to be an American, but I am extremely disappointed in my government and the way it has handled the crisis in Egypt, particularly the evacuation of its American citizens.
When moving overseas, Americans are told to register with the State Department. If you incur any problem while in a foreign country, you are told to contact the US Embassy. How reliable exactly is our US Embassy? If my experience during this crisis in Egypt is any indicator, every American should be worried.
The Egyptian government cut access to internet on Thursday, January 27 and then our mobile phones were disconnected on Friday, the Day of Rage. As Saturday saw mass destruction throughout Cairo, many Americans, including myself, began calling the US Embassy.
Then, because the only form of information we have besides our calls to one another is a message flashing across every international news screen: US Consulate urges all Americans to leave. That’s all well and fine in theory, but just how did they expect us to leave? The airport in Cairo was bombarded with people attempting to flee so much so that even the outside was full with people unable to get in the airport doors. Then there was the issue of curfew which called for no movement on the streets, meaning you were unable to get a ride even if you managed to get a flight out (although most flights were grounded).
Calling repeatedly. An Egyptian answers and immediately puts me through to an automated voice system that gives five options:
If you are calling to obtain information about your US passport, please press 1
If you are an American citizen traveling overseas and would like visa information for a specific country, please press 2
… and the list continues with other options that were not relevant to my situation whatsoever.
Then the television flashes to, “The US is evacuating Americans.” This was only partially correct. It should’ve read, “The US is evacuating American Embassy employees and their families, to hell with the rest.” Are our only concerns those that remain political? Non-embassy personnel registered with the State Department were never notified, and now no one is present at our Embassy to remotely offer any advice and/or guidance.
Then we begin to receive news slowly but surely. Two friends of mine were able to call out and were dispatched directly to the US. The person on the phone explained to both of them that the US was sending evacuation planes and in order to make a reservation, we would need to email firstname.lastname@example.org including our name, phone number and US passport number. Excellent news considering we had no internet access. When this was brought to their attention, they said that we would need to have a family member or friend from the US email the information and then someone from the State Department would call that friend/family member who would then be in charge of contacting us to let us know the reservation was confirmed.
That’s not even the best part of this whole process. The US government said it would evacuate Americans on television, but I bet it didn’t mention how it was going to send us a bill for the evacuation. When asked how much this “bill” would be, the government worker said, “We can’t disclose that information at this time.” My friend said, “So can you assure me that I’m not going to get a bill for $10,000?” The response: “No, but if you can’t afford it, we can put you on a payment plan.” In addition to that, the evacuation planes were only going to drop us off at some yet-to-be-determined European country (reports claim Cyprus – although that small island can’t handle 100,000 Americans, Greece or Turkey) and then we were expected to fend for ourselves. So not only would we be billed some unknown amount from the US government, then we’re responsible to pay for room/board in some European country – because Europe is cheap and then expected to pay for a flight back to the US. Grand total: Bill Gates’ butt cheeks are clenched just thinking about it.
While I understand that there are 100,000 Americans living in Egypt, I cannot for the life of me understand how our own Embassy and government could treat us in such a manner. Not once did they ever notify us about the ensuing crisis, why even register with the State Department in the first place? They say it’s to alert us in case of an evacuation, but I’m proof that this is simply untrue. The US sends so much aid money overseas, we have so many people volunteering, working for NGOs and helping other countries’ fragile infrastructures and their people, but when it comes to a regular American citizen – the US government seems to be helping everyone else but its own.
Basically, I can’t afford for the US to rescue me. Cheers.
|Brees and I inspecting our neighborhood watch's blockade|