The view of a pitch black Sana’a skyline from my flat in Old Sana’a
Tomorrow marks 250 days since daily protests began in Yemen. I, along with just one other foreign journalist, Jeb Boone, have been here to see every day of them. This weekend, for the first time since January, I’ll be taking a break from Yemen.
As freelancers living here our lives couldn’t be further removed from our established colleagues of visiting foreign correspondents.
I think I hit the wall in the days after Saleh’s departure on June 5, after trying to keep up with demands of editors and producers in seven different time zones whilst living on 2-3 hours sleep during the Hasaba war. (Note: ringing a journalist continuously at 3am without notice for a phoner will not be well received - as one US producer found out.)
Just as fresh faced visiting journalists started flooding in (a Yemen journalist flood is aprox. six) to stay in their comfy hotels with a constant supply of water and electricity, I was spending my mornings collecting water to take home to wash out of a bucket. (This isn’t meant to be a ‘woe is me’ fish for sympathy. I was far from alone in my daily quest for water and electricity and unlike most Yemenis I only have to look after number one.)
Ironically today’s Friday prayers protest was labelled the “Friday of Patience” – something worth praying for at the moment.
My own patience ran out along with the water having done the night time petrol queues for six hours (they later stretched to more then six days) trying to help out friends. (Women were put in a separate, usually much shorter queue so a female driver could get to the front hours ahead of men). I’d had enough of the endless dark nights, inability to store food or work from home, or even take a shower; not to mention spending endless mornings in a mix of government buildings and hotel foyers meeting ministers and stone-faced officials trying to secure my visa renewal.
Despite my bemoaning the past six months have, without a doubt, been the most memorable of my life. I’ve met many inspiring and brave people. I’ve experienced some wonderful and brutal moments. I feel fortunate to have witnessed all of them. But I will be glad to return to the land of electricity, running water and fuel and rid myself of my wasp-like persona.
This year’s Ramadan is going to be a particularly tough time for Yemenis. I’ll be away for less time than Saleh (ongoing visa issues permitting) and look forward to returning with a spring in my step.