Well, I'm am now safely back at home after another 24 hour session of marathon plane flights. It's great to be back with the family and eating good American food. However, I definitely ended my blog a few days too soon. Because in the last 72 hours of our trip, Yemen unleashed the full wrath of it's craziness upon us. It started the morning of our last day of school, and consequently, our last day at the Yemen Language Center. When we walked in for breakfast that morning, we saw a sheep in our outside dining area, tied to a post near the garden. Turns out, one of the YLC students had bought a sheep to be killed for lunch. And no, they didn't have it killed at the market and then prepared and brought to the center. They bought the goat, and kept it tied up overnight so that we could all sit around with it. That morning, a Yemeni kid, who could NOT have been more than 12 years old, showed up to do the honors. This kid came with a set of knives that looked to be half as tall as he was. So, they brought out the sheep held it down, and... botched the first two cuts. The first two knives used were not sharp enough to cut the throat and get at the artery, which significanty upset a number of the Yemeni teachers, since it is supposed to be done in one cut. Finally, the kid pulled out another knife, sharpened it up, and nearly cut all the way through the throat in one motion. Of course, they did this right in the middle of the walkway leading to the kitchen in the center, so anyone who wanted breakfast would have to walk by the profuse amounts of blood coming out of the high pressure arterial spray, which consequently caused them to not want breakfast anymore. Once most of the blood was drained, they tied up one of the back legs, and the kid skinned the sheep in double time. Then, with very obviously practiced blows, he got through the leg cuts, ribs, and spine, and had all the edible meat seperated from the inedible. Luckily, our group was headed for a lunch at a nice restaurant to end our program, and we let the YLC kids have all the sheep for lunch.
At this point, we were all just hoping to get back home without further incident or excitement. We wanted to enjoy our last bit of time in Yemen, but evidently the tribes of the province of Marib (where the car bombing occured) had other ideas. On Thursday night, a few people from the group were smoking sheeshah at a hotel in the Old City. Two of the girls took off early, and were heading back to their hotel, which was on the same street in the Old City. As they rounded a bend in the street, a man bumped into one of the girls and grabbed at her purse. She held on and refused to let go, and then began to scream. The man broke one of the straps, but could not get the purse, and decided to cut his losses and ran off, after nearly 15 seconds of struggle. Somewhat in shock, the girls started to head back to there hotel, but were stopped by some Yemenis. Apparently, other Yemenis had seen what happened, chased the guy down, and proceeded to beat the guy. The local sheikh of that quarter (who somehow managed to get drawn to the scene) asked the girls to identify the guy, which they did. After the girls returned to their hotel, the hotel manager came to them later in the evening, and said that the police needed to talk with them. They went to the station and were asked to identify the would-be mugger again. They took them to a cell where about eight Yemenis were sitting around, chewing qat, acting as they would on any normal Yemeni evening, and the girls identified him once again. Turns out, the mugger was the brother of a very wanted terrorist associated with al Qaeda. Having his brother gives the government quite a bit of leverage over this fugitive. The idea of this type of low level street crime is very surprising in Yemen, where this is almost unheard of. Yemen is incredibly safe for a day-to-day tourist, there is almost no petty theft, or muggings, or crime typically associated with extreme poverty. This unusual incident was explained away by the Yemenis due to the mugger and his brother being from a "bad family and tribe" in Marib.
The day after all this excitement, we had another run-in with members of the trouble making province. Two other members of the group, Heather and Joe, were having lunch when they were approached by a Yemeni man, who sat down at their table and started talking with them. This happens fairly frequently for foreigners who travel outside the tourist areas and speak Arabic. He began to talk with them, telling them he was sheikh from Marib. He went on to talk about how everyone looks down on people from Marib, that they think they are all terrorists and kidnappers, and they all carry bombs in their belts, pointing down to his belt holding his jambia, they traditional Yemeni knife. After lunch, he bought cokes and water for them, and took them to a sweet shop, apparently attempting to continue engaging in a public diplomacy campaign for his province. As he was continuing his monologue in the sweet shop, he apparently emphasized his point about Maribis not being violent by... pulling out a bomb. He pulled at a couple blocks of C-4, which Heather promptly recognized, having formerly served a number of years in the Army. He even pulled it out from the part of his jambia belt that he had pointed to earlier, when despairing over the fact that Yemenis think that all Maribis carry bombs. But, evidently he was just showing off, because nothing actually happened. When he offered to buy Heather a dress and suggested they go get it fitted, Heather and Joe decided they had overstayed their hospitality and made a judicious retreat.
So, having escaped unscathed from all this wackiness during our last 72 hours in Yemen, I've made it back all in one peice to the US. The flights back were totally uneventful, the Yemenia flight from Sana'a to Frankfurt even landed ahead of schedule, which is a minor miracle of God. So, my time in the Middle East has come to an end, for now. It has been a crazy ride, filled with a lot of good memories, and a few things I'll intentionally overlook. If I wind up overseas anytime soon, I'll probably try to use this blog again, but for now, I'm signing off. So long, it's been fun.