So much for home "for good"

So much for “Home permanently”

After spending almost 2 years back In NZ running my Rosebrooke Life clinic in Wellington, my Husband was selected for another miltary posting overseas. This time in Egypt, we would again be required to pack up our NZ life, rent our house out and travel to the other side of the world to do our part to fulfil NZ’s commitment to the MFO peacekeeping mission in the Middle East. https://mfo.org/ 

On 1st December 2019 my Husband took up the position of Force Commander of the MFO (Multinational Force and Observers). We moved into a small hooch, like a small trailer home, in a military camp on the edge of the Red Sea in the south Sinai region of Egypt. It was winter at that time and yet was still day after day of sunshine and blue skies. Occasionally some light cloud cover or patches of cloud that would reflect the sunrises and sunsets turning the sea red.

It wasn’t long after this move that Covid-19 started to take it’s grip on the world. Living inside a wire surrounded compound away from the general public had it’s benefits in that we lasted for a good long time before the pandemic threatened us. However, by 16th March 2020 we had to lockdown camp and remain separate from the rest of Sharm el Sheikh which surrounds us. Nobody was allowed out unless it was a specific requirement of your job (which it is for many who are involved in the observation and reporting of violations to the peace treaty) The freedom within camp to move around and interact with each other remained intact right up until some of our Egyptian civilian staff brought it into camp with the shift rotation. Camp suddenly had to lock down and work out how to avoid the virus spreading when the whole camp relies on 3 meals a day from the main dining facility (none of the barracks and hooch’s contain cooking facilities). Take out boxes were the key to success, and we have been through multiple phases of lockdown where we were unable to sit in the dining hall or interact closely with others in camp. Socially distanced queues to feed over 2,000 in the extreme heat of the Sinai are not ideal but a necessity to keep everybody safe.

Now in July of 2021 we have been through multiple tight lock downs within camp and have been locked into the confines of camp since March 2020. The inability to travel or see any other part of Egypt or even the surrounding township has been difficult for many who have done their posting here during this period of time. Several contingents from all over the world (13 countries) have come and gone via quarantine, without any serious health consequences from COVID incidents although we had one period where a group were granted permission to visit a local bank(only) and they brought COVID back with them. This was the biggest threat we faced, and it spread like wildfire to approx. 270 members of the MFO team who resided in close quarters. During this time, due to short staffing, we were reduced to ration packs for 1 meal a day. Luckily there were no serious health concerns among those who contracted the virus, probably due to the physical requirements of good robust health when being selected for a military posting. That combined with the environment here not being particularly COVID friendly with very high sunshine hours and temperatures.

Finally, the majority of the Force is now vaccinated, and the risk level has dropped significantly. So, we are starting to carefully open up with some freedoms of providing group outings for the soldiers and staff on organised MFO only tours to keep our team safe but allow them the chance to spend a day outside the wire. It’s been very challenging for everybody, especially the leadership who have had to learn and adapt fast to the constantly changing situations in the outside world. Overall, they have been successful in maintaining Peace in the middle East (doing their day job) and also protecting and providing for the entire force through a global pandemic. It’s not over yet and the big challenge is to remain careful and aware of everything that you do. Be responsible for your own wellbeing and making sure to wash hands or sanitize regularly and maintain a safe distance from anybody outside of your safe bubble.

During this lockdown of Camp for the last year and a half I have had to work out how to keep myself occupied as a lot of this time has been spent in the confines of our tiny Hooch. So, I have taught myself to play the Ukulele and now enjoy gathering together anybody I can find with similar interests to Jam with. I have set up a YouTube playlist of play-along’s and have it hooked up to the television so that we can Jam with gusto and lots of hilarity. I’ve also taken up painting and have found I rather enjoy painting landscapes. I’ve dabbled a little in watercolour and have found YouTube very useful for tutorials to help me learn some skills. I enjoy photography and spend a lot of time recording the flora and fauna in this hot sandy desert as the view never changes. I started up a Women’s conversation group here in camp and we organise regularly to do various activities together like “Paint and sip” and tie dying t-shirts etc. I also opened “The dance room” once a week and I teach line dancing and Rock’n’Roll dancing to all who are keen. We have a great time learning other styes as well from anybody who wants to volunteer to teach something. We have done 2 step, Bachata, Merengue, Salsa, West Coast Swing etc. At times we have been banned from partner dancing due to going through a tight lockdown phase, but it doesn’t take long to re-kindle the class and get people enjoying some social interaction again. Together we have found our way through these challenging times and together we will complete our mission and then return to our home country the better for the experience.

Posted: Thu 22 Jul 2021

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