Leaving Bahrain began with a goodbye/good luck drink with my neighbors / friends / work colleagues. We expressed our concerns and frustrations of the past week and compared informative notes about what we knew. I had watched too much news and saw too much violence. Most of all that I had seen I didn't discuss. It should be enough to know it happened.
My phone rang and interrupted our conversation. It was my driver. I had arranged for him to pick me up at 10:30. He called saying how it was so bad and could we go early. It wasn't even 9 p.m. I agreeded and was ready having packed hours earlier. I had anticipated needing to go earlier than planned.
Kayo and Gökhan helped me downstairs drinks still in hand and a bag of raw chicken that I didn't have room to freeze.
Downstairs we found six men where usually there was only 1. They were keeping watch. The manager shook my hand and asked me to call him. I had earlier in the day paid my April rent in advance. They were keeping watch and also keeping the front doors locked. I was able to pay the man who washes my car his money for the month of March. I am now paid up for everything except my car rental. That will be due the first week of April.
So off we went. Me and Sayed. I thanked him for being available. He said he must. He will get me to the airport safely. I had met him back in early January when he picked me up from the airport when I first arrived. He talked about the troubles and how he would only take me and then go home. He said that no taxis were available. No one was driving. People arriving to BAH were finding themselves stranded. I soon found out why.
Every street has a roadblock. If it is a highway it is blocked by the government. A combination of police and military. Jeeps trucks and cars parked askew to ensure slow passage and the S wave path. Guns down but clearly brandished. AK-47s. But these shined in the lights. On the side streets you also had roadblocks. No vehicles. No lights. Men standing themselves askew with trashbins and rocks and broken bits of gathered fencing. These were the entrances to the villages. Self-governance and willful independence defended by two, three, perhaps six men. Their weapons are knives, boards and belief.
We went through three checkpoints. All government of course. Each stop we turned on the lights. We were waved through. White woman passing through.
I saw perhaps a dozen other vehicles between Adliya and BAH. The rest were the watchful guard.
I paid my driver three times what is normal. He asked me to pray for Bahrain. And then he left. I hope he gets to his home and family safely.
At the airport another checkpoint. Documents required. And then the wait. I found waiting for their checkin counter an American-Bahraini who works for the U. of Bahrain. She had been there since before sundown waiting to get their boarding passes. Three hours they had waited. I chatted about what she knew from her institution. She was leaving with her whole family for the USA. Having lived here for years she knew things were not good and would not be good for a while. I talked about what I had seen on Bahrain TV. Her husband talked about what he had seen on Iranian TV. When their counter opened we wished each other safety and peace.
There are so many exhausted families here. Babies screaming. Everyone exhausted.
Now all I do is wait my own three hours for my counter to open. Then another three for the flight itself. I will be in Dubai approximately seven hours from now. Hugs all. I am booked to return on Saturday. But prepared for a long separation. We shall see. 23:18 15 March 2011.