Much like my guest today, Jenyfer Matthews.
You’ll remember the last time she visited (The Reluctant Trailblazer), she was living in Cairo, Egypt the past five years and living abroad for the past ten years. Anyone who has watched the news of late knows of the unrest and change of regimes happening in Egypt. Jenyfer shares some thoughts and observations on her Blog. Scary times to live in a foreign county and especially as an American.
Evacuation is never fun. It’s fraught with a sense of urgency and danger, worry over those in your family and pets, hard choices of those things to take and those to leave, a list of things to remember, and all this with a deadline over your head.
Jenyfer shares what it was like to have to condense the life of a family into four suitcases and run.
There’s a common game: what would you grab if your house was on fire and you only had five minutes to get out? I had a little more time, but recently had such an experience in real life when my family was evacuated from Cairo, Egypt with very little notice.
A friend called me from the US State Department and told me to go to the airport as soon as I could - and that we should be prepared for only one checked bag each, no carry-ons. We had lived abroad for a decade, five of which were in Cairo. I had to decide in a hurry what was important enough to fit into four suitcases.
I backed up my laptop on to an external hard-drive to preserve precious photos of our children and our travels and also my manuscripts. I packed nearly all of my jewelry, making sure that I got the special items from my late MIL, mother, and grandmothers on both sides. I packed the negatives from the baby pictures as well as the journals I’ve been keeping for each child from the time they were toddlers. All that in addition to a selection of warm clothes for each family member – wherever we were to end up, it was likely to be cold.
Most things we have accumulated I dismissed without thought – clothes can be replaced as can dishes and knick-knacks. I would miss the tea set and the Buddha statues I had purchased on trips to Cambodia as well as paintings and tapestries collected over the years, but they were not a priority – neither were our beautiful carpets. The only items that caused me more than a few pangs at leaving were the many quilts that I’ve made over the last decade. Anyone who crafts understands that you put your heart as well as time into each item. I can only hope that my house doesn’t literally burn down and that they can be recovered in time.
I packed every scrap of currency we had, spare change from several trips, as well as an accordion file full of vital documents, including birth certificates and vaccination records. I also made a few mistakes in my haste – such as packing both of my son’s toothbrushes but none for my daughter and my e-reader but no charger. (I boarded a plane for the first time in a decade with no reading material at all, not that I could concentrate to read) I did not bring a rubber band for my hair and ended up pulling it back with a couple of Silly Bandz donated by my daughter. Some choices were purely sentimental. I left behind a beautiful red patent leather purse my husband bought me as a gift on a trip to Italy but brought along a pair of leather sandals that I wore when I left the United States for the United Arab Emirates in 1999 and that came on many travels with me, including my first visit to Egypt as a tourist. I won’t wear them anytime in the coming months, but it seemed wrong to leave them behind now. I took a black evening bag and a set of cut glass salt and pepper shakers that belonged to my grandmother but left behind a heavy wool cape given to me by a dear friend which would have been infinitely more useful but would have taken up too much space.
How do you condense the life of a family into four suitcases?
I feel like the heroine of one of my own novels at the moment – unexpectedly losing nearly everything and having to rebuilt their life when they least expect it. I hope that for the majority of you such a scenario remains a party game, but is interesting to notice how quickly the “stuff” you have accumulated over time becomes meaningless when you have to prioritize and choose.
- What would you save if you only had 24 hours and one suitcase per family member?
ONE CRAZY SUMMER BLURB:
Summer Donahue is not Ben Martin’s type of woman. Ben is conservative, thoughtful and the model of self-control. Summer is whimsical, spontaneous and just a bit flaky. So why, when she breezed into his office like a tropical storm, was he so instantly and inexplicably attracted to her?
Summer consulted Ben to have her business’s taxes done. But when it comes to light that Summer’s ex-husband and ex-accountant Malcolm has embezzled most of her liquid assets and put her on the brink of bankruptcy, Ben throws aside all of his iron-clad rules about getting personally involved with his clients. Summer and Ben go to Mexico to find her ex and save her business. But in the process Ben loses more to Summer than his personal credo — he loses his heart as well. Excerpt
You can visit her blog, Writing News & Disconnected Thoughts and her Website. You can find her available books and the excerpts, here.