Locked Up Abroad

Well it appears to have calmed down a great deal here in Sana’a and today actually feels like a normal weekend. Which is somewhat notable because it’s not a weekend here, it’s the weekday. But still, the lockdown in our hotel was lifted for a few hours today. I used my reprieve from the confines of our haunted hotel to do Jillian Michael’s “Killer Buns and Thighs” because you can’t use being holed up in a hotel in Yemen while your place of work is burned and attacked and al-Qaeda calls for death to diplomats in Yemen as an excuse to let yourself go, you know?

But, to back up. After I blogged yesterday about it seeming like it was going to be a calm day, we were told by security that protests were expected to start following afternoon prayers. Friday here is the holy day, the day filled with the most praying of any of the days. Muslims go to the mosque on Friday, which probably gives those who are planning something a venue in which to solidify plans. Which yesterday, for some, meant “Let’s march to the American embassy again and protest that video! Or America! Or something we’re angry about that relates to Americans!” The embassy really took a beating when protestors got in the gates and destroyed a bunch of the embassy’s cars.

We were told another protest at the embassy was looking likely. Arund 2pm, protestors changed course and marched toward our hotel. We had our “go” bags and our fun bags (games, snacks, wine) packed and made our way to our other colleagues.

Now, I hope I’m not being misleading and having you all picture us in some barren bomb shelter or anything. We were sitting around in relative comfort, sipping tea, shooting the shit, reading Facebook, and watching season one of Homeland (which is getting sooo good, btw). Well, that was one group of us. It’s been interesting to see how people react here to a this eerie/exciting/scary/boring “are we safe or aren’t we?” feeling. There’s basically several groups of people who are all reacting differently (this doesn’t include the security forces who are just running around and getting shit done). But for the rest of us, there is:

The Fun Group: Obviously I’m a part of this crowd. We’re not going to let a little uprising against America ruin our good time. The people here who I’m the closest with (Mr.YemenEm and some of his colleagues who are about our age) have been pretty much going on as usual. Eating, laughing, cracking jokes, sharing things from the Internet, watching Homeland.
Benefits to this approach: It’s fun, duh. The boredom isn’t so bad because we keep ourselves entertained, and it’s not so scary when we’re joking how we sure wish we’d brought our Medieval shields with us to ward off AK fire. Hilar!
People around us might think we’re assholes joking about how we hope the protestors didn’t break in to the mail room, because I’ve, like, been waiting for my Zappos shipment for weeks and I need me some new shoes!

The Worried Well: These folks have, understandably, had deeply furrowed brows for the past few days. They are calm, introspective, and turn to yoga and meditation as an outlet.
The Benefits: Good for them. Yoga has got to be better than just sitting in a lonely closet and crying tears (that will evaporate the second they hit cheeks because it’s damn dry here. Damn dry indeed).
The Drawbacks:  I personally have never achieved mindfulness and not sure I want a totally blank brain during a potentially impending crisis. (Which is also why I haven’t implemented a noontime mimosa hour over these past few days).

The Type As: There are people here who always have to have a hand in every pot, even if there are 10 other people in the room who may know more than them on a given topic. These Type As have become Type A+ in the past few days.
The Benefits: We all need a leader. And I’m probably not going to be the person to organize a movie schedule,  yoga time (yes, there’s some overlap) and group brownie-making.
The Drawbacks: You know these people. Yes, they get shit done. But they can suck the oxygen out of an already stifling room.

The MIA: There are some people who I just don’t see very often around the hotel. I like to think they have a secret tunnel from their rooms to the fun part of town where they spend their evenings chilling with the locals and eating foul. But let’s be real. They’re in their rooms reading science fiction/zombie romance/time travel books.
The Benefits: They get some alone time. Others don’t need to deal with their oddly timed comments in social situations.
The Drawbacks: I guess we couldn’t find them in an emergency, and it’s good to have everyone accounted for. But in a real emergency, maybe they will have learned enough from their beloved books to travel back to 440BC and fall in love with a brooding and misunderstood zombie named Thwarpzen.

So those are the people who were all gathered together yesterday when we were told of “contingency” plans. This is basically what would happen if shit really went down and protestors attacked the hotel. I won’t reveal our contingencies, but let’s just say that none of the plans involved climbing aboard a hot air balloon and then sipping Manhattans on Air Force One. When I write this as a Hollywood movie, you best belee that will be the awesome ending. Because for now, the ending would be that things seemed to have calmed down, as far as we know there weren’t any protests today, and we are going back to work tomorrow. Which would be a boring ending for movie, but it’s a pretty good conclusion to the past couple of days.

With love from the fun group,


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