Thursday, November 26, 2015

One more thing off the To Do List

The past few weeks I've been getting bits and pieces of paperwork done. For the last week I've been working on getting a new drivers license. It required making appointments, a few trips to the DMV (Dept of Motor Vehicles) and studying the driver's handbook. I also was required to take a 4-hour online test which I could have done in a lot less time, but it was intentionally timed to make sure you spent the full 4 hours.

The final day came for the actual driving test. I was using my mother's car which is an older model mini-van that is all computerized. Unfortunately the circuit boards sometimes work and sometimes don't - so sometimes the right front blinker works and sometimes it doesn't!

After going through all the paperwork with the DMV employee we headed out to the parking lot. First he did an inspection of the car and of course the stupid blinker wasn't working so he said, "I'm sorry I can't give you the test unless the car passes inspection." I pointed out that I could do the test using hand signals. He looked incredulous and asked if I knew them, so I put my left arm up "Right!" then put my arm straight out "Left!" and then put my arm down "Stop!" He laughed and said "OK!". We got in the car and off we went. The examiner made sure that I made a lot of right turns. We laughed at every turn.

After the test we went back into the building to complete the paperwork - I passed! The examiner said that it was the first time he had ever given an exam with someone doing hand signals because no one ever knows them. I told him "Hand signals are nothing. I've been living in a war zone. I can dodge bullets when I drive!"

What doesn't kill you makes you stronger! 

Sunday, November 15, 2015

The slowest year ever...

This has been my slowest blogging year in all the years I've been blogging. It's isn't because I am losing interest or being lazy. This year has been difficult and depressing. Life in Libya has continued to be a challenge. The thought of writing blog post after blog post of the same news..... issues with electricity, gasoline, cooking gas, internet connectivity, the hunt for bread and medicines.... the general lack of basic services. It's all the same old negative Libyan news. Someone (who has been living away from Libya for over 40 years) recently complained to me that I haven't got anything positive to say or write about. Well, I'm sorry, there is very little if anything that is positive to say!

This summer it was time to go home - home meaning Florida to take a break from Libya and spend time with my family. Mom needs me now, she's 80 and suffering from numerous health issues. Next month she'll have eye surgery so that hopefully she will regain some of her vision and be able to see clearly again. She can barely walk, has had over 20 stents put in the arteries in her legs, diabetes, hypertension, stage 3 kidney disease, COPD, hearing loss and some dementia just to name of some of her maladies. She needs me now, so I'm staying to help out. 

Meanwhile, some of the kids are returning to Libya to finish up university and school. Although people complain about the education system in Libya, university graduates can still go on to do their post graduate studies elsewhere. If they stayed with me in Florida they would have to start all over from scratch... what a waste of time that would be. 

I feel kind of like a refugee.... externally displaced and separated from my husband, children and home in Libya. I'm making the most of it though. Apart from spending quality time with my mom I've been doing some professional development; working with a literacy program, tutoring immigrants and also working at the local college's admissions test center and doing some online courses. Hopefully I will learn something and bring my knowledge back to Libya to share.  I've also been doing a bit of travelling, visiting friends, museums, festivals, the beach... There's also my mom's garden to sort out when I have a few moments to spare.... and maybe I'll start blogging again... about the positive things happening. 

Below are some photos, click for a larger image.
The Rainbow River, near Dunnellon, Florida

A sign at the beach 5 minutes away from my mom's house. 

A glorious Florida sunset, Madeira Beach, Florida

Part of the extensive butterfly collection at the University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida

In a pine forest in the middle of nowhere, Taylor County, Florida.
My mother watching the kids at Rainbow River. 

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Some observations

Mom thought it was still May today and was surprised when I told her it was October.

The background soundtracks on TV programs and films make it impossible for my mother to hear the dialog. There is no way to fix that unfortunately. Consequently, the volume is turned up very loud most of the time and we shout a lot.

Mom's recently been diagnosed with macular degeneration, so on top of the rest of her health problems she's losing her sight. She can no longer read the newspaper and is having difficulty using her iPad.

Having non-stop electricity, Internet and phone service is so nice.

My mother's back yard is peaceful. I haven't heard any explosions or gunfire since I got here.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Long Overdue

It's time for a break from the Failed State, I'm heading towards the Sunshine State,
So tired of living with so much hate,
Tomorrow I'll be sitting at the flight gate.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Another Ramadan is over

This year Ramadan flew by. It was certainly better than last year, but only for anyone living in the west of Libya. Those living in Benghazi suffered  the whole month long and the fighting continues even into the Eid.  Eid is supposed to be a happy time. I hope and pray that the situation in Libya improves.
Wishing that all my Muslim readers have a safe, happy and peaceful Eid. Qul am wa antum bi khair!

Monday, July 06, 2015


Libya's future is about as clear as looking through frosted or patterned glass. You  can see something on the other side, but you can't tell exactly what it is. Sometimes the light looks bright and other times it looks murky and full of shadows.   You keep looking, hoping that the picture will clear.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Tripoli looking peaceful

I took this picture a few weeks ago on a quiet morning while I was waiting for my daughter to do some paperwork.  It would be nice if it were really peaceful.

Sunday, May 03, 2015

May is here...

The weather has been wonderful for the past few weeks - gardening weather. The kids are gearing up for final exams which are right around the corner for Jenna and Ibrahim, but Sara and Yusef will sit their exams in June during Ramadan.

I've had a few interesting adventures. I'll have to sit down and write about them when I get a chance. The power is out for hours every day and when it's on there is the mad scramble to get the essential things done, which unfortunately don't include typing out adventures. Look for an update soon...

Monday, March 30, 2015

Weather for Reading

We've had crazy weather lately, which is pretty normal for this time of year and of course the weather is at it's worst at the weekends, so not much has been going on in my garden. It has, however, given me more time to snuggle under a blanket and read. I've been taking my time, reading slowly and savoring every word. What's the rush?

I've been reading all kinds of things, but here are two that I thought I would share on my blog as they are related to Libya.

"In the wake of World War II, a new U.S. foreign service program was born. TALES FROM TRIPOLI is a memoir of one American family's experience in that program at the Vocational Agricultural Training Center (VATC), a Libyan boys' school that has since evolved into Libya's foremost educational institution, the University of Tripoli. 

Kirsten I. Russell spent most of her childhood at VATC, while her father directed the school. Despite the difficulties of growing up American in a foreign land and culture, and despite the Russells' increasingly troubled home life at the school, the VATC farm became an unforgettable playground for Kirsten and her siblings. Now, through family letters, she understands what her father did there, what it meant to the students, what it cost her family, and how her family bonds survived."

I enjoyed reading the book, and noticed that though many years have passed, so many things are still the same, especially with regards to people and their attitudes. The agriculture department of Tripoli University has probably changed quite a lot, but part of the area has been opened to the public. I passed by there recently and snapped this photo (standing outside the fence):

The grounds are quite large and I have been told that there are many plants and trees there that have been donated by the US Dept of Agriculture and can only be found there, but unfortunately I haven't been inside for a walk around because I can never get anyone to go with me - it's not a good idea to be wandering around alone in Libya these days. It's on my list of things to do... if I can drag someone along. 

Another thing I've been reading is a weblog of poetry (in English) by the Libyan poetess, Nora M. Barghati, titled simply, Nora M. Barghati - Writings She has a lovely way of playing with words that carries the reader away with the images the words create in the mind. I find her work enchanting. 

What have you been reading lately?

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Moving into spring

Life's been keeping me occupied these days. The kids had a two week break from school - now they are back. Sara's on break from university so the girls have been having friends over. Lot's of giggling, cake making, pizza and junk food, movies and Xbox.

The usual power cuts,  gasoline and diesel shortages and now there's a shortage of flour so the price of bread has increased. For the most part Tripoli has remained quiet and people go about their business as usual for that's all you can do as life marches on amidst an uncertain future.

I've pretty much given up on following the news. It's too depressing and there is nothing I can do about anything anyway, but my husband is addicted. I plead with him... 'Please change the channel!' and he does - to another Libyan news channel.

We've had quite a bit of rain lately. The wildflowers are beginning to bloom. It's time to take a long walk, smell the flowers, watch the butterflies and birds... and forget about all the things that are beyond my control.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Last Year - a recap of 2014

I usually make a post at the end of each year that recaps the year's posts on my blog. Better late than never. Here is an overview of the posts from 2014.

January started the year with a plan to be optimistic and smile. February continued along the same lines.

March was rainy which made it difficult to drive, but later in the month there were signs of spring. I hit the milestone of 25 years living in Libya. 

In April there were general strikes in Tripoli that caused lots of traffic congestion and not much else. There were shortages of gasoline and the announcement that subsidized petrol would soon be limited (still hasn't happened). I spent time at home with the kids, our pets, the garden and doing some decorating.

May found the people of Tripoli still suffering from a shortage of gasoline. I had a rather scary adventure when I went to fill up my car - a crazy man with a machete next to the pumps. We managed to fill up the tank and get away.

In June there were more petrol shortages which made getting the kids back and forth to school for exams difficult. We began stocking up for Ramadan. Power cuts were a continual problem, but my garden was looking lovely!

July was hot with temperatures soaring to nearly 50 degrees Celsius. Ramadan was here and we tried our best to be patient with the continued power cuts and petrol shortages. By this time the security situation in Tripoli was so bad that my daughter was told not go to the office (more than 6 months later, she still can't go back). Fighting in the distance was so bad that our house constantly rattled and shook. Tripoli International Airport was destroyed in the fighting. Some positive news was that Nalut, a Libyan town in the western mountains was voted one of the most beautiful places in the world for mountain bikers. Some of my photographs of Nalut were used on the Mpora website.  To break up the monotony we spent time in the garden, playing with our pets and at night we started hunting scorpions aided by an ultraviolet flashlight and a pair of barbecue tongs - we caught hundreds of them!

In August Libya witnessed the mass exodus of foreign workers and Libyans as the fighting continued. Embassies (including my own) and companies closed as the situation continued to deteriorate. Thousands of people were crossing the borders on a daily basis. Petrol and electricity issues continued and the stocks dwindled in supermarkets. I posted an ominous looking photo I took of burning fuel tanks that damaged by the ongoing fighting. News reports started referring to the conflict as a civil war.  There was a guest post on my blog - an update to a previous post regarding inheritance rights and the rights of women married to Libyans.  

September marked my blogaversary - my blog turned 10 years old, I celebrated a decade of blogging. Power cuts continued and Libya remained unstable. I posted a fun story about Libyan logic.

In October things started to quiet down in Tripoli. We prepared for the upcoming Eid festivities. I posted about the continued clean up of unexploded ordnance that is at a site located near my home - some positive news for a change! I had another 'interesting' adventure at the gas station.

In November I had some work in Tunis so had a quick 3 day break from Libya. I counted my blessings and enjoyed Thanksgiving.

December - another year gone by. Libyans prayed for rain and then there was a deluge. Fighting continued in Libya although Tripoli was quiet and people went about their business. The usual power cuts were never ending. Libya had fallen into uncertainty - two (or more ) governments, the threat of ISIS, unemployment was high and the costs of goods and services was rising. The Central Bank announced that there was not enough money to pay salaries in 2015. Libyans live in a state of limbo. 

Phew.... what a year! Let's hope 2015 brings peace to Libya. 

Sunday, January 04, 2015

Thank you!

Many thanks for this award given to me by those who visit the All Libyan Blogs blog list and voted for my blog. I'm honoured and hope to continue to post about my life in Libya. 

Best wishes to all for a peaceful 2015!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Nearly the end of another year

It feels like Tripoli is in a state of suspended animation. People are just watching and waiting for something to happen. It's now been almost half a year since the UN and most embassies have left. Most companies have downsized or closed completely. Unemployment is high, the cost of goods and services is climbing.

I read on the internet that the Central Bank says there are not enough funds to pay government employees their salaries for the first month of the new year. What a mess... sigh...

Lots of holidays in the next few weeks. Libya's Independence Day is next Wednesday.  We'll have a day off... there isn't anything to do, we'll stay home.

Another holiday, Meloud, the celebration of Prophet Mohammed's birthday falls in the first week of January this year.  It's usually celebrated with a barrage of fireworks.  It will be interesting to see how much the 'poor' citizens will waste on fireworks this year... Personally, I've had enough explosions to last me a few lifetimes!

Merry Christmas to those of my readers who celebrate!

I'll be looking back on the year next week.... lots of blessings to count and plans to make for the future.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Rainy with a Chance Power Cuts

It seemed like the electricity problems had been solved and all of Libya had gotten into the routine of using electrical appliances again.... unfortunately, power cuts have resumed... We are back to waiting for hours for the power to turn back on, restocking our supplies of candles and recharging the battery operated lanterns. Looking on the bright side  the weather is cool and we aren't suffering from the heat.... just add a few blankets at night and wear layers of sweaters and all will be fine.

The past few weeks there had been calls for Libyans to participate in special prayers for rain... their prayers have been answered! It's rained most of the week. Of course while they were busy praying for rain no one thought about making sure the drainage systems or the streets were clean so when the skies opened up the streets flooded. Driving in deep pools of sewage and floating rubbish is treacherous and there have been huge traffic jams all over town. 

No one really seems to know what is going on in the news... How many governments does Libya have now? And are they doing anything? There are reports that there is fighting going on in the east, the south and to the west of the capital but Tripolitanians seem almost oblivious or maybe they're just letting it loom in the back of their minds. Most people I talk to  just want the fighting to stop and peace to return. Some people are taking sides, but mostly people are neutral - or they just don't want to say who they are siding with which is probably safer.

Weekend has arrived - I'm staying home, relaxing and reading a book. It's nearly the end of the year... time to start thinking about New Year's resolutions. 

Monday, December 08, 2014

Glorious Winter

Yesterday's sunrise lit the sky up in gorgeous shades of pink. This was the sky in the morning as I was going to work. After a very long day I returned home after dark under a huge glowing full moon. Winter is here.... it's raining today.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Making the best of it all

It's been a while since my last post. I've wanted to sit down and write for a while, but first of all I've been busy and secondly I'd been feeling a bit negative and I figured I'd just end up filling up a blog post with pessimism. So I decided to hold off until I found something to be optimistic about... it took a while!

Thanksgiving is next week... even though life here isn't optimal, I have plenty to be thankful for; a comfortable roof over our heads, food in abundance, we've got gasoline and cooking gas, the kids discovered an Adidas outlet and everyone has new shoes, my garden is looking quite nice, I had a three day break in Tunisia, health, well being, kids in school... all small things, but they add up. I suppose I could list negative things, but no, I won't do that, not today anyway because I'm doing what I can to make the best of what life hands me.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

You can do whatever you want in Libya

I stopped at the gas station this morning after I dropped the kids off at school. There were only 4 cars in front of me. The long lines that we've experienced at the pumps for the past few months are gone. 

There was a woman in the car in front of mine. She pulled up to the pump and pushed two empty containers out the window at the pump attendant. He put the first one on the ground next to the pump and casually began to fill it. The gasoline quickly reached the top and spilled out over the sides of the bottle. As he was putting the cap on the bottle I realized he was also holding a lit cigarette in his hand! He put the filled bottle in the back seat of the woman's car and proceeded to fill the second one, only stopping to take a drag off his cigarette. 

'Excuse me,' I called out from the car window, 'Would you please put out your cigarette? It's very dangerous and you are putting our safety at risk.' He stood there for a minute and looked at me, then he continued smoking and told me 'Ya Momma, mind your own business. I can do whatever I want.'

Sadly, this attitude is very common in Libya these days.... sigh...

Friday, October 10, 2014

Positive Things Do Happen in Libya

Recently I installed a time-lapse camera on my mobile phone and I have been fiddling around with it, mostly taking videos of the traffic. There is something about the flickering images that intrigues me for some reason. Today I came across a website that had time-lapse satellite imagery of different places around the world. It gave me the idea to look at the progress being made on the cleanup of a military camp in Ainzara where ordinance had been stored and to create a time-lapse video of the site.


This site is located in an area called Khamsa Shwara by the locals and is next to a residential area quite close to Tripoli University Campus B (Nasr). It's really quite alarming that so many bombs were being stored in such close proximity to the population. 

The picture below shows the amount of ordinance being stored there in July 2011.
Click on the image for a larger picture. 
NATO bombed the site in August 2011. I can honestly say that it was the most terrifying night of my life. I wrote about it in my journal which you can find here: August 2011 You can see the bomb craters that hit underground bunkers and also a large amount of unexploded missiles in the image below.

Click on the image for a larger picture.
After Tripoli was liberated I wrote a post about the site and added pictures of the damage from the bombs. You can see it here: Flashback - Unexploded Ordnance in Tripoli

After the revolution, work began to clean up the site. An independent aid organization, Handicap International, recruited and trained a team of Libyans and began diffusing and removing the missiles. They also launched educational programs to warn Libyans about the dangers of landmines, fire arms and unexploded ordnance. I posted about it here:  Making Libya a Safer Place 

Below is the latest satellite picture taken on August 8, 2014. You can really get an idea of how much progress has been made. I'm not sure why the picture is black and white.

Click on the image for a larger picture.
The images for this post and the time-lapse video I created were taken from Google Earth beginning in February 2002 and ending in August 2014. Clean up is still underway.

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