Dreaming for peace in Yemen
06:30 AM: My phone is ringing at the break of dawn and I wake up to a new day in Yemen. It is 6°C outside and that makes it more difficult to leave my bed. However, I know that I have a busy day ahead of me so I get up to start boiling two pots of water. One is for much-needed coffee and the other one to take a warm shower since the solar energy my building generates cannot run electric heaters.
07:00 AM: I’m dressed, sipping my coffee and waiting for my neighbor Ameen. He has a minibus to take me to the office. Ameen’s bus is running with natural gas, not petrol, that’s why he has a better chance to tank up his minivan compared to petrol vehicles. I can hear the horn; time for me to leave.
07:15 AM: On the way to the office I usually go through statements, reports, and other important documents. I am reading the last update about the ports closure trying to catch any sign of improvement. Suddenly Ameen stopped the bus. I look up to see what just happened and I am seeing the street blocked with cars queuing for petrol. We had to use the other side of the road, which is being used now for both ways now. While passing some of the cars, I can see people sleeping inside their vehicles. “They must be freezing,” I am thinking to myself until I see a very long line of people sleeping on the pavement waiting for the petrol station to open. This is how the streets can show you the impact of the blockade, better than some written reports. I feel depressed and helpless about what I just saw and I open the bus window to feel how cold it is outside. It’s cold.
07:55 AM: It’s a bit long trip from my home to the office; it usually takes 30-40 minutes. Finally as I reach the office, my colleague Hind is already calling me. There must be something urgent to know. A warm “good morning” and lots of smiles is what you see once you enter through the office gate until you sit on your desk. Although there’s nothing around us to make us happy, we do share high spirits. After another morning coffee with Hind we get our to-do list ready for the day.
09:00 AM: A very long list of emails is popping up on my screen and I make sure to go through all “urgent request” emails. This is the most often used email subject, making you realize over and over again that you are working in an emergency. Media outlets are asking for interviews, CARE colleagues in other offices for new video and quotes… the list goes on and on. Seems like we have a lot to do and the best way to finish is to start right away.
11:00 AM: In the two hours in the office, I and Hind have been running constantly in and out of our Country Director’s office. He is the one who gives interviews, letting the world know of the situation I witnessed this morning. Reports and news updates keep coming in, stating that the food prices have increased and the exchange rate is skyrocketing day by day. I grab my camera and go to the nearest supermarket that was almost empty. I went inside and started looking at the prices of sugar, rice, milk, wheat and vegetable oil. Hind came along and is talking to some customers to collect quotes. After taking some pictures we immediately go back to continue working on the materials we have.
1:00 PM: It’s lunch time and I meet some of my colleagues in the kitchen to eat and talk. Something I find interesting is our daily lunch. We pay monthly for our lunches, which are delivered to the office by a women who prepares them at home. During our lunch break you can find most of us sitting around one table, eating the same food, talking about last night’s airstrike and about the prices of fuel. I believe that sharing our views is a good way to cope with the hard conditions under which we live.
1:30 PM: I’m back on my desk and sipping a cup of tea while designing some images, editing photos, and replying to emails. Our Country Director comes in to inform me that he just successfully finished his first interview today with a Dutch radio station. I feel really great knowing that people in the Netherlands got an insight into the crises Yemenis are going through.
2:30 PM: Working hours usually finish at 3:30 PM but I still have some footage and photos that I need to upload. The internet connection in Yemen is very poor so what I usually do is to wait for all of my colleagues to leave the office and then start uploading as the connection gets a bit faster.
5:00 PM: Every one left the office but unfortunately I am still failing to upload the videos and images. I wish it was the speed of the internet that could be increased rather than food and fuel prices.
6:00 PM: All media interviews are done for the day and good news! Only 30 more minutes until my materials are uploaded. I go out to grab a sandwich and spend some time to talk to the guards. It is always nice to speak to people from all walks of life and I strongly believe that they are the real source of information.
6:30 PM: Finally the materials are uploaded, quotes are submitted and now I can head home and get some rest. I’m standing on the street side waiting for a taxi. It got colder outside and the only lights on the street come from stores and headlights. I used to pay 1,200 Rial (US$4.80) for the same trip and this time I have to pay 2,000 Rial (US$8) due to the fuel crisis. On the car I feel exhausted and am unable to talk. We drive by the same petrol station we passed in the morning and people are still queuing for fuel, maybe even the same people I saw earlier today. I assume they are ready to spend another night on the streets.
7:00 PM: It’s good to be home after a very busy day. I spend most of my time with my mother, talking about our days, contacting some friends and helping to prepare dinner for the family.
11:00 PM: Tomorrow is Friday which is weekend in Yemen and I have to go to the petrol station and line up for fuel. Hopefully I will succeed this time as I queued for seven hours last Friday and I got nothing. I put my head on the pillow, satisfied and hopeful to wake up to a new day in peace. You might say I am a dreamer, just like John Lennon sang in his famous song “Imagine”, but I will keep dreaming for a peaceful Yemen on behalf of all people in this country.