Yesterday I was struck down by the nasty illness that is going around locally. It had already hit both kids and the husband, getting a little worse with each successive victim. It floored me completely, and made it easy to stick to my vow of backing off the whole move panic thing for a little while. There are still emails to respond to, forms to fill out, questions to be asked, but I just can’t do it right now. There is nothing like a timely, but temporary, illness to make you appreciate your generally good health and physical strength.
What I did manage to do yesterday was catch up on some reading. Like most of the world, I’ve been following the events in Cairo and Tunisia at a distance. Now that I’ve read some first person accounts, the whole thing is so much more real. Cairo was one of the places on our original list. There are some really good schools for special needs children out there, so there is no doubt in my mind that there are other foreign service families with special needs kids over there, or at least there were until ordered departure came.
Evacuation has never personally touched our lives. Friends and colleagues have had this experience, but we haven’t yet lived in a region of instability. I was able to have both babies in Luxembourg, despite some early complications with the second pregnancy so I’ve never even had to do a medical evacuation. I’d never given it much thought, I suppose most people don’t until they have to, but reading how trying an evacuation is for families filled me with cold dread. Can you even imagine how hard this would be for children on the autism spectrum?
If we were at post, and departure orders came, the chances are that my husband would have to stay behind because of his particular job. The kids don’t react well to daddy going on a trip even when I can show them when he will return, imagine not being able to provide answers to their fears? And they would naturally want to know where they were going, but there’d be no opportunity to provide a social story of what the safe haven would be like. There would be no choice but to just take them to an alien environment. There’d be no goodbyes with friends and teachers, no knowing when, or even if they’d ever see them again. Imagine trying to explain to your anxious child that they may never go home again. And leaving behind everything familiar? Whether you have 24 hours, or a matter of minutes to pack, it won’t be enough. Nor is a suitcase ever going to be enough to contain all your child needs to be comfortable in the world.
Safe havens can be anywhere in the world, depending on where you’re evacuating from, so you might be dealing with yet another foreign language that neither you nor your terrified children understand. If like my kids, they have several allergies, how do you figure out what foods are safe to eat? Usually time at a safe haven is pretty short in duration and your family gets transferred on. But to where, exactly? It wouldn’t be home for them without daddy there. And for how long? Kids like ours can’t go for very long without their therapies or educational services, so as the weeks, possibly months wore on, we’d have to put together a program. Dealing once again with waiting lists and insurance problems, not knowing if your efforts would even be worth it if you were returned to post.
We don’t think it is likely that we’d have to evacuate out of Johannesburg, but then it is a critical crime post, and I’d have said that Egypt and Tunisia were pretty safe too. From now on while we’re overseas, I’ll do my best to be prepared, once I figure out exactly what that means. My heart goes out to anybody affected by this political turmoil. The other thing to note is that evacuation means safety, and if you’ve been in the midst of such rage and violence, that might even put the disruption into perspective. After all, we are fortunate to be taken out of there, local people have to stay.
Suddenly my six months to plan doesn’t seem such a hardship, more like a wondrous gift of preparation time. So yes, I’m giving myself that week off. I have a week to spare. My panic once again put into perspective. I’m going to rest and recuperate and enjoy the gift of security for as long as we have it, and hope that we have it for a really long time.
Thank you all those whose service overseas grants us our safety. We know the sacrifices that you and your families make.