Our Travels

September 24, 2012


This past week and a half has been crazy and to put it mildly, stressful!  This whole experience has also been so surreal, I can't even put into words what I'm feeling right now.  I woke up on Wednesday the 12th as usual but learned while I was drinking my coffee  and reading facebook the horrors of what happened in Ben Gauzi, Libya and the protest in Egypt,  As usual, we went to work and Keenan went to school.  As the day wore on we had about 100 Tunisian police in front of the Embassy and a slow trickle of protesters.  That afternoon I walked home (we took the long way around) with a small group of people home.  The school buses had security escorts on their routes.  By the time we got home, my neighbor and I noticed that there was a smokey smell in the air.  A few minutes later we realized that smell was the beginning of tear gas, one big whiff of that was plenty.  My eyes were watering and my throat my burning, the boys were oblivious watching cartoons.  I quickly locked all doors and windows and closed our blinds, by this time I could here people dispersing in our alley way and a few people jumped up on our yard wall hooting and a hollering.  I told my nanny to stay for a while but her fiance was already on his way to pick her up.  That was really it, I admit I was shaky and nervous during this because of our close proximity.  We later learned there were about 300 protesters.

Thursday was a normal day other than Van tripping and splitting his lip.  Our friends from Slovenia were in town so were also entertaining.  Friday we had planned (for some time) on leaving around noon to go to Hammamet with our friends for the weekend.  I didn't work that day so I could get ready for the weekend.  Keenan went to school and our nanny came over.  The front of the embassy was a bit scary looking as there were lots of police and razor wire.  A few hours later the school decided to close early and ALL kids had to be gone by 12:45.  No big deal we had planned on getting Keenan at noon anyhow.  At noon we picked up Keenan and took our nanny home and left town.  Nobody was expecting what happened next...

By the time we arrived in Hammamet we learned the protesters had breached the walls.  Eric left us in Hammamet and went back :(  I tried to stay calm but I couldn't breath and my heart rate wouldn't slow down.  I was glued to Internet.  Unfortunately at the hotel I could only get Internet in the lobby so while Keenan was hanging out with our friends, I was checking updates while I tried to keep Van entertained.  It was comforting to have facebook and see every one's updates that they were OK and to let my family know we were also OK.  It was stressful to see and learn the damage being done.  The Embassy is where I work (my husband too), where I take my kids to play, it is supposed to be our safe spot.  I was staying fairly strong until I learned about the school.  The school where I send my 5 year old to learn, where I expect him to be safe.  Seeing pictures of the school hit WAY to close to home.  The protesters destroyed and I mean DESTROYED the school a mere 2 hours after the kids had left.  2 HOURS!!

The protesters had the the mentality of take or destroy.  Anything that could be carried away was, anything else was broken and/or set fire too.  Keenan's classroom was torched.  His pictures and stories that he worked so hard on... just ashes.  His extra set of clothes and possibly his favorite superman hat... gone.  Everybody's cars that were in the Embassy's parking lot, American and Tunisian, torched along with a few other buildings.  What a mess.

 Inside the school.  The library was burned as well.

 Keenan's classroom is to the immediate right of those blue doors.
 Tear gas and protesters
This picture show the smoke from the cars being burnt and one of the facilities buildings.  The main building of the Embassy was OK.

A welcome sight during the aftermath!

All families and nonessential personnel were evacuated out a few days later.  Eric thankfully did most of our packing as we were still in Hammamet.  We arrived home late on Saturday night, I threw a few more things together.  I was stressing out, as I usually do while packing, but how do you pack when you're not exactly sure where you are going and for how long??  Eric then said "what ever you don't have you can buy, don't worry about it and pack light"  I said "OK, I'm done".  The boys and I left Tunis with 2 bags that weren't even close to weight between the 3 of us.  We reached our final destination of Montana close to midnight on Monday night.

The boys apparently got the memo that I was stressed and couldn't deal with a lot else at the moment and they were close to perfect on the flights!  Other than Van being extra friendly to the guy that sat next to us, he tried cuddling on him, ate some of his food and was constantly touching and poking him.  Thankfully the guy never even blinked an eye and reassured me several times that he didn't even notice and his 2 year old daughter was sitting across the aisle with his wife.

Now a huge cloud of uncertainty looms over us.  Now what?  Can we honestly take our family back to Tunis?  Will we ever feel safe again?  The Tunisian government took 3 hours to respond the school distress calls...  can we send Keenan back into that? The middle-east is in such turmoil right now, blaming it on a video... their anti-American message is loud and clear.

I enrolled Keenan in school here, I feel defeated...  When I went to enroll him, Keenan was mad, he loved his school and his teacher was awesome.  I must have looked mournful because when I asked if he could be in the same class as his cousin the secretary immediately said yes.  I know he's only 5 and it's only kindergarten but I can't help but feel bad about starting him in another school.  I know Keenan will be fine, he is adaptable, strong and outgoing.  He did cheer up when he met the teacher (a girl that was a few years behind me in school) and see his classroom.  His cousin Cade on the other hand looked completely shocked to us and didn't know how to react.  Cade is Mr. Rules, he was sitting at his desk working on his school work and kept looking at his teacher to us, not saying a word.  :)

I can't tell you how much all the emails and comments on FB from friends and family have meant to me.  To know we have so much support and in so many peoples thoughts and prayers... I'm speechless and so thankful.  Thank you everyone who took the time to drop a line.


Laura Olson said...

I'm sorry you and the boys had to be uprooted, but I'm so glad you are all safe. Thanks for keeping us updated throughout on your location. Let us know if you want to vacation in CO anytime soon! We would love to see you.

Špelček said...

So happy you are all OK :)
Hope to hear only good news now on.

Heather said...

Wow. This is unbelievable. I'm so happy you and your boys are safe in the US. How is Eric?

Keep us posted and we'll keep you in our prayers.