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Displaced families of U.S. diplomats in Egypt anxious to return 'home'

From Sandra Endo, CNN
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Diplomat's family in limbo
  • Jim Dempsey and daughter, Beverly, were forced to leave Egypt last month amid uprising
  • His wife, a USAID employee, had to stay behind
  • They've been temporarily relocated to Virgina but now consider Egypt home
  • "I want to go back really badly, but that doesn't mean I don't like it here," says Beverly, 10
  • Egypt
  • Hosni Mubarak

(CNN) -- With violence approaching their doorstep, 10-year-old Beverly Dempsey and her father had eight hours to gather their belongings into one suitcase apiece and evacuate Egypt during last month's uprising.

Her mother, a U.S. State Department employee, had to stay behind while they were relocated to temporary housing in Falls Church, Virginia, with other displaced diplomatic families.

Jim Dempsey tries to make life as normal as possible for his daughter, who is attending school for the first time in the United States, having lived abroad since she was 2. But her heart remains in Egypt, the place she's come to regard as home.

"I really like it here, but it would have made me feel better if we were in Egypt because that's where I want to be right now," she says. "I want to go back really badly, but that doesn't mean I don't like it here. I just want to be able to say goodbye."

The Dempseys are among the many diplomatic families wait in limbo for word on when they can return to Egypt. Jim Dempsey, an economic development consultant, says he is grateful to the U.S. government for making the transition as smooth as possible in a community that has been welcoming and supportive. But it's been more than a month since they left Egypt and he's anxious to resume the life he left behind.

"We've been living in Egypt for four years. It's our home. This is place is fine, but everything is there. We have a set of friends, we have a way of living, and all of that is disrupted. We have to adjust and do well, wherever you go, but you want to be at home."

The two speak daily with Jim's wife, a USAID employee on essential work in Cairo. She has told them things are still tense in the Egyptian capital -- there's still the occasional gunfire; roadblocks are still up; people are hesitant to go far from their homes. But life is slowly returning to normal, with 70 percent of schools up and running, including Beverly's school, Cairo American College, Dempsey says.

Beverly's room contains her most cherished mementos of the life she left behind: some stuffed animals, medals from her accomplishments as a swimmer, photos with her parents from their adventures in India and Ethiopia -- where they lived prior to Egypt. She also brought along a small statue of Ramses, the Egyptian pharaoh.

"I don't have a lot of statues of things, and it was small but it also reminded me of the Great Pharaohs and how they lived through a lot of hard things, so I sort of related to them," she says.

She misses her friends, her teachers, and "all these amazing sights that most people aren't able to see."

But most of all, she says, she misses her mother.

"It would have been easier for us all to adjust with my mom here because she sort of is the one who does a lot of things. She helps us shop, she helps us decorate ... and so cook. My dad's not a very good cook."

Jim Dempsey says that, given the situation in Egypt, he hopes to return sometime in the next month.

"We're kind of waiting, trying to figure out what to do in the meantime. My job is to work as a single parent and take my care of my daughter."

CNN's Emanuella Grinberg contributed to this report.

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