Saturday, October 16, 2010

Update as of 3:16pm (GMT +8)

Kevin speaking now.

Busy day today and tomorrow morning. Everyone wants to travel together to Gaza. Pleased to announce that all the volunteers and vehicles will be on the cargo vessel. Today we will clear passport procedures thanks to Syrian authorities.

At noon we are to hand in our passports. From 3pm all drivers of vehicles to be available for the rest of the afternoon. All vehicles to be lined up in order of embarkation. We are buying canned food and water for the sea journey and each vehicle will be supplied with basic food supplies. Medical facilities have been organised on board the vessel.

Everyone needs to be ready by 7am tomorrow. This afternoon, we'll be given stickers to place on our personal belongings to distinguish between aid and personal stuff. Plan is to leave the camp at 8am tomorrow.

We should be at the port by 9am all lined up and ready to board. We will then be able to get out of our vehicles and mingle with the people seeing us off. After 30 minutes, all the drivers must go back to the vehicles for the loading procedure. This process will be overseen by the security team, helped by the local Syrian authorities. On board the ship everyone will take order from the security team which in turn takes orders from the management.

Ultimately captain of the ship is in charge. Around the entrance of the ship will be a cordoned off area and only convoy members will be allowed. The vehicles will be searched and the passengers will then embark, show passport and be crossed off the list. The vehicles will be loaded first then passengers. Next point is absolutely strict. Once we've gone through the security zone, we will not be allowed off the ship. So all good byes must be said before boarding.

All the vehicles will be on the lower deck and once the ship sails we will not have access to the vehicles. So we need to pack whatever we need for the 18 hours trip in a separate bag. We'll be sleeping on the deck. If the weather's nice we can sleep under the stars. There's a very small number of cabins and will be allocated to those who need them, like the sick and older volunteers.

By far the biggest risk is that we enter windy weather and people get sea sick. Second risk is the unfamiliarity on board a cargo ship. We'll be in a shipping lane and we will see lights from other ships. This doesn't mean the Israelis are coming on board.

Most if not all the crew on board the ship are Egyptians who largely support this mission.

(Sent from Azra via SMS)

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