Susan Johnson of Doylestown, PA, has been invited to Gaza by two organizations seeking her assistance. She's still waiting in Egypt.
.....and I continue to sit in Cairo, in the heat, in my cheap hotel...which has proved to be a bright light in a gloomy picture.
Having returned from the border and two unsuccessful attempts to cross into Gaza, my next step was to visit the Egyptian Foreign Ministry seeking to be placed on their list of those approval to enter Gaza. I should have taken this step sooner but misunderstood. Such is life.
I take a taxi to the Foreign Ministry and once again am overcharged, which I knew. But I've decided unless it's totally out of line I'll pay what is asked; I don't have the energy to haggle. And the driver can probably use the money anyway.
The taxi left me at Gate One where a half a dozen men in tan suits are milling around.
I asked if anyone spoke English and drew blank stares. Finally one man acknowledged he could speak some English,. Yes this was the Foreign Ministry. Travel to where? Don't know. Try Gate Three...all the men chime in "Gate Three" so off I go. I mistake gate two for gate three and am re-directed. When I find gate three....no, no, no what I want is Gate One. When I try to explain I was sent to three from one...no, no.no they are mistaken. I turn around and trudge back to Gate one.
The tan suits are gone, I meet a friendly guard who takes me in to a security area, a room with a fan! The security man cannot understand what I want but is amazingly patient and helpful and figures it out. He begins making phone calls and after about fifteen minutes finds exactly the person I need to speak to. Gaza, I'm coming!
I explain what I want to do and that I have all the documentation that is needed. However, I'm told a new person is in charge and the procedure has changed. They no longer deal with individuals; only Embassies. The documents must be sent to the Foreign Ministry from an Embassy; then they will be processed. I stammer and splutter...which is better than screaming. The woman on the phone tells me to wait by the phone; she'll talk to her supervisor and see if they can make an exception for me.
The answer...no exceptions!
This means I must re-visit the US Embassy, which makes me furious. My Congressman's office contacted the US Embassy in Cairo requesting exactly what I needed to have and do to enter Gaza. I have the paper in my hot little hands. Nowhere in the information does it mention that documentation needs to be sent by them to the Foreign Ministry. I had visited the embassy on Thursday signing away my rights to counsel (paying $50). Why hadn't they mentioned any of this to me? Why wasn't it in the letter to the Congressman?
The Internet-computer age is a boon to non-customer friendly organizations such as Embassies...now everything is to be done on line....they never have to speak with you. I need to make an appointment for counselor services...the first one available is on September 14, I take it. Damn, this means I wait almost two weeks before anything can happen.
When situations such as this befall me I respond in one of two ways.
One, I become a wild woman, demanding results, asking for supervisors, repeating my "case" over again and again, word for word until I usually receive at least a good portion of what I want. Sometimes it doesn't work...once a plumber was not fixing my kitchen sink to my satisfaction. I demanded he call his supervisor...he talked to her, I talked to her, he talked to her again, walked over to the sink' pulled out the plumbing; walked to his truck and drove away.
My other response is to freeze, much like a rabbit who, when in danger, sits perfectly still, no twitching nose, wiggling ears, not one movement. If she holds still, she won't be seen, even though she's in plain view. That's me. I just want to disappear and when I reappear I will be in Gaza.