Flying into battle zone


Two Tauranga teachers are flying into chaos in Egypt as violent clashes killing hundreds break out across the country.

Anna Robinson and Morgan Lewis are sticking with plans to live in the country that has been rocked by civil unrest since they flew out of New Zealand on Wednesday.

This week violence erupted when riots broke out across Egypt, resulting in the death of at least 278 people nationwide.

The couple, who left their teaching positions at Otumoetai Intermediate to take up new jobs at an international school in New Cairo, were oblivious to the sudden outbreak of violence as they made their way to the troubled country.

Late yesterday, Miss Robinson told the Bay of Plenty Times she and Mr Lewis were mid-flight to Dubai when they learned of the riots and killings. She had no idea of the violence escalating in their new home country until they read messages from concerned friends and family after their flight landed.

"We just arrived into Dubai [yesterday] and found that some of our Kiwi friends and family had sent messages asking us to reconsider moving to Egypt - the less adventurous ones to be fair.

Are we worried and concerned? Absolutely. Will it stop us from going? No. However, we've decided to take things a day at a time."

Miss Robinson said they were due to fly into Cairo on Monday, where they would be met by a representative from the international school then taken to a hotel about 45 minutes from downtown Cairo.

After a four-night stay at the hotel, they would move into an apartment in a gated community with 24-hour security.

"I'm really happy that we made a decision to rent a place there, it makes us feel safer."

Miss Robinson has registered with the Safe Travel website and got an update yesterday.

"I was expecting it to go up to extreme risk, but it remains unchanged from last week's rating. This made me feel strangely calmer, even though it's still set at high risk.

"People who have travelled a lot seem to be backing us up on what we're thinking and support the plans we're making."

Miss Robinson said if she and Mr Lewis arrived in Egypt and felt unsafe they would "be on the next plane out of there".

"Funny that a major reason for leaving NZ and my nine-year job was to get out of my comfort zone, and I seem to have leapt out of it."

The Bay of Plenty Times published a story in early July about Mr Lewis' unusual marriage proposal to Miss Robinson using signs held up by 30 friends and family outside a restaurant window.

Anna's mother Debbie Robinson said her daughter and partner were "sensible people" and thought they would be a safe distance from the violence.

Otumoetai Intermediate principal Henk Popping said while he was concerned about Miss Robinson and Mr Lewis' safety, he was sure they would be safe at the international school.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade has advised against all tourist and other non-essential travel to Egypt after a month-long national state of emergency was declared in Egypt.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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