Anyway, here is the lowdown; in respect of my usual 'no politics' rule I will explain the basics of what is going on without getting to involved as to the why. Some guys are protesting the government saying the government fiddled with the last elections. When I say some I mean about a million; the government isn't all that happy about this and disagrees with said protesters and... well let's say the overreacted and now my beloved city is crawling with police in riot gear, I can't get a train or a bus anywhere and there are roadblocks everywhere.
My weekend is ruined to say the least...
So, what do I do? Thankfully as a prepared person I am ready for this and in fact 'civil unrest' (how can unrest be 'civil'? Do people say please and thank you before bludgeoning each other? When the loot a shop do they hold open the door for fellow looters?) is the number one thing on my list of potential disasters, along with floods and earthquake. Thus I am READY!!!
First of all, I am not going to be going out today (it is about 3AM now, protests are in 12ish hours) as it would be very very very stupid and no matter how much I want to take pictures to sell to the newspapers I will not do it. However my offer of $2000 to a guy willing to provoke a riot officer so they get stamped in the nads and let me take a picture of it is semi serious. Semi.
As a prepared person I have a stock of food in my room which I am in the process of turning into a bug in location (I am about to move so stopped half way but it will be a project I cover in this blog once new lodgings are secured). Well, I sort of have a stock of food... unfortunately last month I was short of cash so I ate a lot of it, however I can spin it out for two or three days. Not ideal and it is a massive mistake on my part which I pray doesn't cost me badly. I thankfully live on the suburbs in a guarded condo complex and way away from the focal points of the protests so I don't really even have to barricade my doors. Theses are all good points for me and basically mean I can sit at home and wait for it to blow over.
In reality, I think that this protest is hugely over hyped on the part of the government who have a little problem with 'dissident' (won't go into it here but basically they lost a lot of seats last election and are very very scared of losing more this time) and have, a few hours ago, that the protesters are trying to promote communist ideology, thereby "waging war against the king". Nothing like a bit of a red scare and treason!
However I also have a bug out bag just in case I have to do a runner to the embassy/airport. In it go my documents (passport with visa and passport copy), my phone, my keys, a small medical kit (see this post on how to make your own), some money, a multitool, a map of where I should be going, change of clothes (I will explain why in a bit), some water, some chocolate and my notebook PC (it has my life's work on there!). Bug out bags is something I'll cover in more detail in later articles but it basically should have everything you need to get from point A to B and deal with any issues you come across.
I also have a return flight with Emirates Airlines to the UAE (where my parents work these days) that is on hold for any time up to January next year just in case I have to fly out, I also have the necessary visas in my passport for the UAE. Finally, I signed up to my embassy's 'locate' program so they know where I am and how to contact me in case things get bad, most embassy's have this and if you, like me live in a foreign country you should update your details as soon as they change (I seem to get through phone numbers faster than anyone I have ever known). These are all 'worst case scenario' items, ideally I want to just sit at home, kill some paperwork and go out on Sunday when everything has blown over.
But let's say I do have to run to the embassy, what do I do? First of all I should probably phone them and ask what they say. In most cases it will be 'stay we will get you' or 'move to this rendezvous point'. Since I am on the locate program this is far more likely, however, I have a route planned out that is easy to follow just in case (follow the LRT tracks until the central train station and then push on the embassy from there). Simple? Not really. The embassy is in the center of the city and I want to avoid:
These guys (they don't look happy to be working weekends)
Looking like these guys (however groovy custard yellow is this season)
Remember I said about the change of clothes? Well the Police (guys at the top) said they would arrest anyone in yellow (guys at the bottom). However, the guys in yellow aren't stupid and rumors are that they are planning a snap 'color change' before the protest. So, I'm going to be in big trouble if they chose green and I'm wearing my green shirt. Not looking like a protester, either blending in or playing the part of a lost tourist is vital to surviving this. I have covered this topic a number of times so go and have a look at my stuff on blending in. If possible I can probably get a friend to escort me through, however I have often found that my knowledge of this city supersedes most locals so I'll be going alone this time! Not only is this faster for me it means I can play the 'lost tourist please get me to my embassy/hotel' ploy.
Oh, and if it get's messy:
That rather helpful sign in the three local languages (and Arabic for some reason... maybe they were expecting salfis to turn up??) is being held up by one of the local regiments during a crowd control training exercise last week and bluntly says, "Disperse or we will shoot". I doubt, I really do doubt, that it will come to that but last time there was a protest the police did use tear gas (normal really) when things got ugly.
With that in mind, if I do have to bug out I will have to make a choice; bug out a bit early based on judgment that things are on the verge of going haywire or bug out when “Disperse or we shoot” has become the policy of the day. Ideally I want to therefore keep my finger on the pulse by staying tuned in to the local radio (I have one as part of my bug in kit) and trying to keep online (I signed up to the protesters Twitter feed so I get their side) and tune in to what the government is saying on TV. All of this will help me make the decision of if I stay or should I go now.
But let's say you do get caught in the crossfire, what do you do? Simple, hit the dirt and crawl crawl crawl somewhere inside. Stay away from both 'sides', the protesters can't help and the police are unlikely to be in a good mood and bunker down. Call your embassy on your phone, tell them where you are and wait. DO NOT BE A HERO AND KEEP YOUR CAMARA PACKED AWAY AND YOUR HEAD DOWN. This really isn't your fight!
Hopefully it won't come to that though... if it does then good luck! Mostly likely you will run into your first police block and be told to bug off or escorted to your embassy. Governments hate it when a foreigner ends up with a gas grenade in the groin or a bullet in the head and will probably just want you way out of the way. At least that is what I am hoping... I'm also hoping I'm alert enough to keep away from all the gunfire and rioting if there is any. They tend to be quite noisy...
Oh, and lastly, why your embassy? Well, simple, your embassy is sovereign soil of your home nation, as such it cannot be touched and is a safe haven for you for as long as you need it. They tend also to be equipped for such eventualities and are a natural focal point should the worst happened. Get there quick!
- Judging on where the protests and potential riot it is far safer for me to stay at home until it blows over.
- Staying at home I will tune into the radio, twitter and TV, this and the help of my local friends living with me should help judge if it is still safe to stay at home. It probably will be for the duration.
- If I have to make a break for it, I will phone the embassy beforehand to seek advice and judge if it is safe to do what they say, their number is on my phone. It again, probably will be.
- If I have to move it will be light and with my bug out bag, alone, and on foot. Route to the embassy is planned already but not tested.
- I do my best not to look like a protester. That includes a change of clothes and not holding something like a camera.
- If I get in trouble, I'm a lost foreigner who needs to get to their embassy and my passport proves it. Police will likely help just to get you out of their hair and protesters will have more pressing issues.
- If I get shot at I do the worm and stay on the ground like a coward. An alive coward.
That is it I think, please comment away and I will do a follow up article once all this blows over and what I learn from it. See you at the other end.