Beaufort News

Beaufort High alumna blogs from Cairo

Beaufort High School graduate Trayle Kulshan -- humanitarian aid worker and blogger -- assured readers she would post her first impressions of her new home in Cairo as soon as possible.

That was before protesters took to the streets Jan. 25 in demonstrations across Egypt against the government of President Hosni Mubarak.

"I promised first impressions of Cairo. Well, it is an interesting time to get some first impressions," 35-year-old Kulshan wrote Tuesday on her online blog, "The Path of Trayle."

"It has been a week since the protest started, and I am fascinated. I am also frustrated because I am not working, I am not out there and I have to stay indoors a lot. ... Now, people are talking about economics. Stock market closed. More practically, banks are closed and ATMs are out of money."

"As I write this, there is a standoff," she wrote. "No one is moving on either side."

Protesters had maintained a round-the-clock, peaceful vigil in Cairo's Tahrir Square since Friday night, when the military was first deployed and police largely vanished from the streets.

But on Wednesday, the protests took a violent turn as Mubarak supporters charged into the square, some riding horses and camels, brandishing whips as others rained firebombs from rooftops in an assault against the anti-government protesters.

"Preserving order and protecting private property in light of chaos has fallen upon the people somewhat," she wrote. "Neighborhoods have set up 'vigilante groups' -- more like a very active neighborhood watch. Each night they stand guard with sticks, metal rods and some guns."

Kulshan arrived in Cairo in December with her husband, Mario Stephan, a native of Damascus, Syria, after a three-month job with UNICEF in Haiti, said her mother, Cynthia Follrich of St. Helena Island.

Although her job in water sanitation and public health often takes her into the jungles of West Africa or the streets of Port-au-Prince in the days after catastrophic humanitarian crises, her experience in Cairo marks the first time she has witnessed such massive protests, Follrich said.

"This event seems to be more intensive than some of the others she has seen," said Follrich, whose daughter's work also has taken her to war-torn countries as Afghanistan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. "This one, she's right there on the scene as it's happening."

Follrich said her son-in-law recently signed a two-year contract with Doctors Without Borders to provide security for the aid organization. Her daughter plans to attend Arabic classes at the American University in Cairo and start work on a book about her travels. The couple also hopes to start a family.

But they have no immediate plans to leave Egypt, she said.

Although the government has disabled a number of communication systems, mother and daughter spoke by telephone Tuesday.

"Right now, he's working and she's anxious to get started with school," Follrich said. "They continue to be able to get their food. She says they're fine."

Despite the dangers, Follrich says she's grown accustomed to her daughter's work.

"I'm sort of used to it,." Follrich said. "... I know she's safe."

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