A Corona del Mar couple's 10th church visit to Egypt in the past dozen years put them in the center of a storm now being called the 2011 Egyptian Revolution.
But Monica Moore and Dave Fish said they never feared for their safety as they watched events unfold just a few days after their arrival.
"We were afraid for the people in the streets," Moore said. "I'd never say I was worried about myself."
Moore and Fish have been visiting Egypt since 1999 as part of a mission organized through the St. Andrews Presbyterian Church in Newport Beach. Their work focuses on supporting their partner church, the Ibrahimia Evangelical Church of Alexandria, and a sister church in a village an hour away, as well as buying supplies and helping needy children who are attending camps run by the Stephen's Children organization.
This year, they arrived on Jan. 20, spent a day sightseeing and then headed to work at the camp, they said in a recent interview in their Corona del Mar home.
The uprising began the next week.
"It was going on three days before we heard there were demonstrations," Moore said.
They heard only when the camp staff said they were shutting the camp in order to keep the children safe at home.
To Fish and Moore, the protests were not a complete surprise; they'd seen the poverty up close over their many visits.
"I think it was building slowly," Fish said. "The cost of living had been climbing. A doctor might make $65 a month, but prices for basics like beans and rice had gotten so high, they couldn't afford it."
On Jan. 27, a Friday, the couple stayed in their hotel, 10 minutes from the protesters. They were able to walk to a local market, to watch television, to use the telephone in their room to make calls.
When curfews began at 4 p.m., they said they watched young men show up on the streets to set up neighborhood watch points.
"There was a checkpoint one building away from our hotel that stopped cars to check for looting and weapons," Moore wrote in her journal. "Most of the night it was very quiet with no cars and no car horns, which is quite unusual for Cairo. We personally did not feel in danger but we worried and prayed for the young people demonstrating in the streets."
The couple said they had flights out of Egypt the next Monday, which was smart because others who crowded to the Cairo airport had to camp out and wait.
"We were packed in like sardines, waiting," Moore said. "But I made so many new friends from around the world. I felt useful, and I felt calm."
The experience, they said, was amazing, and they continue to hope for peace and prosperity in the country they've grown to love.
"All our friends there see hope," Fish said. "It just sort of takes your breath away."
CdM VIP cards return
The Corona del Mar VIP savings cards are back, CdM Chamber of Commerce President Linda Leonhard told board members at the recent CdM Business Improvement District meeting.
The VIP card program launched in December of 2009 as part of a plan to promote village businesses. But cards expired last year, and the program's future was in jeopardy because of a lack of involvement.
At a January B.I.D. meeting, the group decided to renew the program with the hope to increase business participation.
New cards are now available, Leonhard said. They currently are being mailed with the chamber directory and will be available through local businesses and at the annual town meeting scheduled for April 20 at Sherman Library & Gardens.
The offers include discounts at several businesses, including A Fine Affair, the Bungalow Restaurant, Mark Patterson Jewelry, Port Restaurant, Ruby's Diner and Spa Gregorie's.
Cheese shop's opening date draws near
Crews have spent the last three weeks working on the Vin Goat artisan cheese shop, and the owners say it could open on at 3326 E. Coast Highway on April 5.
"Things are moving along very quickly — we anticipate that all of our construction will be mostly complete by this Friday," said Erich Vogel in an e-mail.
The shop will carry hundreds of varieties of artisan cheeses along with charcuterie, gift baskets and handcrafted beer.
Crane placed at Civic Center
A crane has been placed at the Civic Center construction site, but city officials say that the flag on top is a "typical safety measure" and not a final height indicator.
The city's website updated the progress of project, which has been under construction between Avocado Avenue and MacArthur Boulevard since a May 2010 groundbreaking ceremony.
The crane's purpose is to aid the installation of rebar cages for the shoring wall along MacArthur Boulevard, the city website states.
The website also states, "If you are planning a visit to the Central Library sometime soon, you will notice the beginning of excavation at the back of the library for the planned expansion."