Some people just don’t know how lucky they are
By Constantine Markides
(archive article - Sunday, July 23, 2006)

PLENTY of misfortune and tragedy has passed through the Cyprus ports over the past week as evacuees have included injured people, unescorted children, and people leaving behind family members.

But it also remains a fact that most of the evacuees so far have come from the wealthier regions of the world like the US, Europe, Australia and Canada. And since they have the economic means to travel, they will likely belong to the richer crust of society within their home countries.

Just last week it was reported that some 80,000 migrant workers from Third World and developing countries were looking for a way out of war-torn Lebanon.

Keeping this in mind, it is unavoidable that, alongside those in genuine distress, the evacuees will also include a fair number of people so accustomed to a comfortable lifestyle that the undeniable discomfort of a mass evacuation may appear an excruciating misery.

One flustered woman waiting at the State Fair, the facility the US has rented out to temporarily shelter its nationals, asked a US embassy worker whether there was going to be any ‘American food’ at the airport.

“You mean McDonalds?” the US Embassy worker replied.

“No, American food. You know, hamburgers, hot dogs, ham sandwiches… that sort of thing.”

The US embassy worker assured her she would be able to find a ham sandwich at the airport.

“Oh, thank God. I haven’t been able to find any yet.”

The relieved women went on to declare that she would like to file a complaint.

“You know what? In Beirut they were letting people on the boat who had Lebanese passports before those who were completely American. I mean, how is that fair?

“They have families and they’re from that part of the world, so why should they go before us? I mean, there were people speaking Arabic getting on the boat and Americans were left behind. Can you believe that?”

Others have vented their anger before news cameras at the Cyprus docks upon hearing rumours that their governments might demand they pay for part of their passage. It was not enough that the effort had been made to get them out: they had to escape for free.

There have also been claims that some have pretended to be sick or feigned fainting spells in hopes of being placed on the earliest possible flight out of Cyprus.

Whether this is the result of residual panic from Beirut, a misperception that Cyprus too is about to be bombed, or sheer neurosis, it is hard to say.

But with tens of thousands of displaced Lebanese and citizens of poorer countries still left behind to endure days of bombing, it may lift the moods of these evacuees to remember that they are not presently cowering under the flight of armed warplanes.

They are – at least for a few hours or days at most – in a popular Mediterranean island during holiday season. That should at least be some consolation.

Copyright © Cyprus Mail 2007