Wednesday, August 29, 2018

No Peace for Libya?

In my last post, Peace in Libya? Reconciliation? I had added a padlet and asked readers to contribute their thoughts and ideas of how Libyans could reach reconciliation. Very few people added anything which leads me to believe that Libyans really aren't interested in achieving any kind of peaceful agreement with one another. That's depressing.

This week Tripoli is finding itself back to booming and banging as various militias (and whoever) fight to achieve power. No end is in sight  as they don't seem interested in peace. Is there any hope?

Monday, July 16, 2018

Peace in Libya? Reconciliation?

Libya has been in a continual state of unrest for over 7 years. How can Libyans find peace? How can Libya move forward? What are some ways that Libyans can reconcile with one another?

I've been playing around with different online ideas for my students and came across Padlet, which is a kind of online idea board that people can work on together to collaborate ideas and information. Collaborators do not have to register to read or add to a page. I decided to see if Padlet would work as a forum for people to post their thoughts and ideas about the current situation in Libya. There is a lot of discussion about Libya on Facebook and Twitter, but I wanted to see if I could get as many ideas all in one place - and with Padlet's platform the posts would be anonymous. Even the creator of the Padlet page cannot see the identity of the people who post. I thought this was important because it's not about whose idea it is, but about the idea itself. 

Padlet is easy to use. If you want to contribute you just click on the (+) in the lower right corner, double click anywhere on the page, or drag and drop to the page. If you click on the three dots  in the corner of a post ... you'll find a menu that lets you post in a variety of ways: by comment, uploading files, adding links, searching Google, taking or adding photos, videos, voice recording, drawing, adding a map or linking to other Padlets.

 Thoughts and ideas can be linked together with a line and arrow connecting the posts. 

Padlets can be shared and embedded in blog posts and websites (like below). You can contribute to the discussion below, or go to the link directly: 

How can Libyans reach reconciliation?
Read what others have posted. Post your own thoughts and ideas. 
Remember to be constructive and respectful.

Made with Padlet

Sunday, July 01, 2018

I Can't Stop Blogging

(C) Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano @ langwitches

I've had this blog for almost 14 years. The past few years, posts have been sporadic, but I still manage to post from time to time. As of today there have been 646,178 page views. I've noticed that I seem to have about 4,500 visitors to my blog on an average month. If I post something controversial or intriguing the numbers will shoot up. The most read post is A Very Important Guest Post, closely followed by a post I wrote in 2008 titled Old Wive's Tales.  

The popularity of blogging seems to have dropped as people find themselves absorbed by Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, but from time to time there is a resurgence. I'm always so pleased when I find new blogs by Libyans. Last week I had an email from a young Libyan girl named Mariya who wrote to say she was 12 years old and was starting her own website. She also said that she was the daughter of one of my students. When her father read her website he suggested that she read my blog. She wrote to tell me that she found my blog inspiring and that by reading it she had learned a lot of new vocabulary. She asked me if I could give her some tips she could use to help attract readers to her site. 

To be honest, I was really thrilled to receive an email from her, and I was especially happy to know she was the daughter of one of my former students. It's kind of nice to know that my teaching lives on in the next generation. I emailed her back and gave her some tips. Then I decided to post the tips here on my blog. Here is the advice I gave her:
  • Don't write posts that are too long - people like to read something that won't take much time. 
  • Post often. It will keep people coming back for more. (I need to heed my own advice!)
  • A picture is worth a thousand words. Add pictures to create interest.
  • Encourage comments... ask your readers a question or what their opinion is (but don't expect them to have the same opinion that you have)
  • Share your links on social media - create a Facebook page or a Twitter account for your blog
  • Link to other things in your blog, but make sure the settings opens the link in a new tab so your page wont close.
  • Have a guest post something on your blog (my most popular post is a guest post)
  • Write about things that interest you and share your link with people who share the same interests
  • Blogger has a feature that allows you to look at your site statistics. You can also add other stat counters. I like
  • Check to make sure your grammar and spelling are correct. 
  • Use to help you find just the right word.

Have you found any Libyan blogs or Libyan related blogs that aren't on my Link List? Let me know in the comments.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Kindness... blessings...

Last night we went to one of our usual spots to hang out in the evening, a fast food place by the beach that has tables so that you can sit next to the water. There's a boat dock where the water taxi stops to let people on and off. We enjoy going there because it's quiet and peaceful. We go there often; it was a place that my mother used to like so we have fond memories of times spent there. Sometimes you see dolphins playing in the water, we watch the boats go in and out. Many boaters park at the dock to pick up something to eat or to shop at the nearby supermarket. We like to go after dinner to get a coffee, ice-cream or a smoothie. We relax, chat and enjoy the evening. It's a safe place.

We enjoyed our evening, as we always do. Just as we got in the car, ready to go home, a man ran up. He was waving for me to stop. I recognized him as being one of the boaters that docks there to go shopping. He probably lives on his boat. I thought maybe something was wrong with my car, so I rolled down the window to ask him what was wrong. He said "I'm so glad that you didn't leave before I finished my shopping. I'm so glad you are still here. I don't usually say much, but I wanted to tell you that I am with you people, I support you people" and with that he reached into his shopping bag and pulled out a large bag of Hershey's chocolate kisses. "I want you to have this. I support you!" He handed it to me through the window. I was so surprised. "Bless you! Thank you! Bless you!" I told him. He had a grin from ear to ear - actually, I think we both did.

Despite the current divisive political climate in America there are still people who care. It's so easy to focus on what is presented to us in the news and think that this is the reality - but it's not. My America is the one where people respect and accept one another.. and care for one another. This is my America... this is the America that I know and love. 

I hope that I meet up with that kind soul again in the future and we have a chance to sit down and talk. I'd like to hear his opinion of things and to thank him again for his kindness.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Ramadan 2018

Today I was thinking about all of my past Ramadans. It seems so long since my first Ramadan back in 1981, thirty-seven years ago. So much has changed in my life since then. 

This year, right before the beginning of Ramadan, I took my kids shopping at a local Asian market. We had a great time, happily checking out all the interesting things and deciding what to buy to try during Ramadan. When we finished shopping and walked out to the parking lot, there in the middle of the lot was a crowd of people gathered around the scene of a car accident... and the car at the center of everyone's attention was my car! 

What a shock! It turned out that the man who hit my car had been driving recklessly and decided, for some reason I will never understand, to back into the parking space in front of my car at high speed. He smashed into the front of my car so hard that it pushed it clear out of the space and across to the cars parked on the other side, narrowly missing a parked Jaguar. There were two girls that came over immediately and said they had witnessed the event and would wait for the police to give a report. The police had already been called and were on their way.

The man that hit my car was a newly arrived immigrant from Vietnam. He'd only recently gotten his drivers licence and this was already his second accident (he was driving his friend's car both times - poor friend!). The police arrived and charged him with reckless driving and revoked his licence on the spot. 

My daughter Nora took lots of pictures for the insurance company while I stood by in shock and disbelief. My car had only 24,000 miles on it and not even a single scratch.... now what? Everyone was so kind to me; the policeman, the insurance agent, the witnesses, the tow truck driver. I was thankful that no one had been in the car, no one had gotten hurt, it could have been much, much worse. I was too shocked to cry. My heart ached and I wondered if I should ask to be taken to the hospital. We went home and I went straight to bed and stayed there. In the evening we went to the beach and sat quietly watching the sun set.

Initially, the insurance company said the car was repairable. The body shop told me that there was over $6,000 worth of damage. After they started taking it apart a few days later, they said the damage was much more extensive and decided to total it. The insurance company and I discussed how much they'd give me for the car - quite a bit less than I wanted. I argued with them that it was in pristine condition and still under manufacturer's warranty. In the end we came to a compromise. I started car shopping and picked up the check. It didn't take long to find a car that my mechanic approved of and fit my budget. I am back on the road once more.

Later, when I went to the auto body shop to take the licence plate off my car and remove the things I had left inside. I stood and looked at the car and cried. I said to the woman from the body shop 'Maybe I should take one last picture' but she said 'Oh no don't do that. It's bad karma.... just leave it behind you and walk away. You are meant for something else". I took her advice, dried my tears and walked away. 

All of this excitement happened at the beginning of Ramadan and added to that I had a three-day trip to San Francisco for some work right in the middle of these chaotic days. While in California I met up with my cousin and an old friend from Libya. It was a whirlwind trip, but I managed to also see Fisherman's Wharf, Alcatraz (from afar) and the Golden Gate Bridge, which was on my bucket list. So much to be thankful for. 

After the accident one of my colleagues sent me a message: "I'm sorry God is using this time to strengthen your patience. Practicing patience sucks." I pondered on the events and reflected on my beliefs. I know that no matter what sort of adversity a person experiences, God will create a path or a way out for those who are steadfast in their patience.  God revealed in the Quran: For truly with hardship comes ease; truly with hardship comes ease. (Surat al-Inshirah: 5-6) and ... Whoever has fear of God - He will give him a way out and provide for him from where he does not expect. Whoever puts his trust in God - He will be enough for him... (Surat at-Talaq: 2-3). 

There are three more weeks left of Ramadan. I will continue to practice patience!

Monday, April 30, 2018

It's been a while

I haven't posted in ages. I could list a lot of reasons (excuses), but that really isn't getting me anywhere. Actually, not much has changed or is going on. I've been busy with work, family and trying to get a grip on some health issues. Here are some things I've been thinking about lately:

I've been considering adding a page to my blog with an ongoing list of books/publications/movies about Libya that I have come across. Add some reviews and let others add their thoughts in the comments. So far it's just a thought...

One of the blogs on my Link List has been recently revived after being dormant for a some time. What was once called Caterpillar Cafe has been renamed Dear Sister. It's listed in my Link List under the category Married to Libyans. You can find the blog here: Dear Sister

Ramadan will begin in two weeks. Are you ready? I've been stocking up on food and trying to organize my life so that I can focus more on family and the spiritual aspect of the holy month. Last year I had to travel for work during Ramadan, I'm still not sure what my schedule will be this year, but I am cutting back on some of my work - I don't think I will pass up any chances to travel though since I enjoy it so much! We'll see what the month brings.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Revisiting an Old Libyan Friend

In 2002, I wrote a tribute to my dear Libyan neighbour and friend, Najiyah. The Tripoli Post, which was the sole English newspaper in Tripoli at the time, published my story and I later put it on my original website. I decided to dust it off and post it on my blog. Enjoy!

My Missing Link 
By: Therese Martin 'Khadija'

I came to Libya in 1989 and for the first year lived with my husband's family. We had an apartment of our own, but it was in very bad condition and needed to be completely renovated. Finally in 1990 all the repair work was completed, and my husband dropped me off at the flat to clean things up so we could finally move in. 

It was a happy day for me. I was glad that soon we would be living in our own place. I hadn't been to the flat while the workmen had been there and things were quite a mess. Paint spills needed to be cleaned up and spatters of plaster were everywhere, not to mention the accumulated dust! I decided to open up the windows and balconies to let in some fresh air and sunshine while I worked. 

While opening the back balcony, I noticed a woman watching me from her window. I smiled and said "Assalamualaikum". I wasn't sure how my new neighbor would receive me. I'm American, and though I'd been in Libya for a year, I never had to deal with anyone besides my husband's family before this time. She smiled back and replied, "Walaikumasalam. Kay fahalik?" I expressed that I was fine and inquired how she was. "Qwise", she replied. She informed me her name was Najiyah and asked me mine. I told her my name was Khadija. She nodded and smiled and I went back to work. 

It was a busy day for me. Every time I would pass by the window or balcony, I'd see Najiyah. One by one, each of her six children came peeking out at me. All of them wanted to introduce themselves. 

Over the years Najiyah and I became very good friends. Her balcony faced mine and we visited while hanging the daily laundry. The two of us shared our favorite recipes, and she explained many things about Libyan culture. But most of all, Najiyah kept me informed about what was going on in our community. She told me who was getting married, and who had had a baby. If one of the neighbors were sick, Najiyah would share the news. She was my link with the neighborhood. 

While watching Najiyah's children grow up over the years, I added to my own family. Najiyah often had advice on how to raise my little ones. She was alert to what my children were doing, and quick to notify me if they were doing what they shouldn't. I always felt my home was safe with Najiyah nearby. She worried over my children and me as though we were her own. Najiyah became a special friend. 

One day Najiyah told me she had a small growth in her mouth. She wasn't quite sure what it was and planned to see a specialist about it. Over the next few weeks she was back and forth to the doctor. She was so busy getting medical care that I didn't see much of her on the balcony. Deciding to look-in on her at home one day, I found her in a very depressed state. She said the doctor thought it was an infection, but she believed that it was more serious than that, because her husband had decided to take her to Tunis for another opinion. 

When she returned from Tunis, it was with sad news. The doctors had diagnosed her with oral cancer. Everyone was very upset. I spent hours researching the subject on the Internet and urged her to have the tumor removed as soon as possible. Her husband quickly took her to England for specialized treatment. 

While she was away, the balcony became a lonely place. Najiyah's children were busy with their studies; thus her windows and balconies were usually closed. I would occasionally go to her house to ask her daughters for any news. The news was not favorable. As a result, Najiyah and her husband had decided to leave England and go to Tunis for treatment so they could be closer to Libya and their family. Everyone was worried. 

It just so happened that I'd be traveling to Tunis. I told Najiyah's oldest daughter that I planned to visit her mother while there, and needed the address of where she was staying so I could find her. I swore her to secrecy, as I wanted it to be a surprise. 

The capitol of Tunisia is a ten-hour drive from Libya. My husband and I planned to stay only for a few days. We stopped at the train station to pick up a map of the area. I had the address with me from Najiyah's daughter. Tunis was a big, crowded city, and the streets were confusing because the names changed every few blocks. Finally, I found the street on the the challenge was to get there in the car! 

We drove around for over an hour, finally finding the street but unable to locate the number. I was determined not to leave Tunis without seeing my long-time friend. We inquired at different houses on the block. "Do you have a Libyan couple staying here? The wife is seeking medical treatment,"we'd ask. 

At last we found a woman who informed us that Najiyah and her husband were staying in a small apartment behind her house. She showed us where to park our car and how to get to the flat. The landlady knocked on their door and called out, "You have visitors!" Najiyah's husband came out. He looked astonished to see us. My husband was busy speaking with him while I sneaked inside. 

Najiyah was sitting on a cushion on the floor. She looked up, amazed to see me there. I ran to her and we hugged each other. Both of us were crying. How good to see Najiyah after so long, but also how sad to see her looking so ill! Quickly regaining our composer, we sat close and both started talking at once. 

It was a pleasing feeling to be able to visit with my neighbor once again. We talked about how her children were handling things while she was away, and I shared with her what little news of our community that I knew. After all, Najiyah was my link with the neighborhood, and she wasn't there. Najiyah told me how her treatment was progressing. The doctors wanted her to have chemotherapy and radiation treatments to shrink the tumor before they tried to surgically remove it. 

She wasn't sure how much longer it would be until she returned home. The tumor seemed to be getting larger, not smaller. Only too soon our visit was over, as my husband said it was time to go. We clung to each other. She didn't want me to leave. 

When we got back to Libya, I looked in on Najiyah's daughters to tell them about my visit with their mother. I told them that their mother would be home soon, and that she was in good spirits. A few weeks later, my neighbors returned. They had decided to complete Najiyah's treatment in Libya. 

Over the next few weeks Najiyah's health became worse. The tumor was growing and the treatment was making her very ill. She was put in the hospital, as she was too sick to stay at home. The balcony was empty now. It seemed an unfriendly place to be. Every few days I would see one of her children and inquire about their mother's health. At first they were optimistic, but as time progressed, they would just shake their heads and look very sad. 

During this time, I only went once to visit Najiyah in the hospital. Every day I'd tell myself to go, but something kept me from going. I felt like an intruder. It was time for Najiyah to spend time with her children and siblings. I didn't want to get in their way. Also, I couldn't bear to see my friend suffering. Denying that she was so sick, I kept telling myself she would get well again, that soon we'd go back to our usual chats over the laundry. 

Early one morning, about 6 o'clock, I was awoken by the sounds of a tent being put up. The tent-poles made an unmistakable hollow metalic clang as they were assembled. I put the pillow over my head to block out the noise, telling myself I was dreaming, or possibly someone was putting up a tent for a wedding. I squeezed the pillow tight over my ears, but by then I could hear women crying. I knew that my friend had died. 

I went to the cupboard; pulled out a stack of bed sheets and hung them on the balcony clothesline, to hide the view. I closed each window and door tightly, to try to create a barrier from the commotion outside. My husband said, "You have to go there", but I replied, "I can't." 

All morning I listened to the sounds of Najiyah's funeral, unable to bring myself to except that it was finally happening. I wanted to believe it was all a very bad dream. My husband came home for lunch and asked me why I'd still not gone to the funeral. "I'll go when the noise stops... when things have settled". 

My husband shook his head, "In Libya you have to go to a funeral as soon as you hear about it,"he replied. "I'll go when I'm ready," I told him. "Do what you want." he said with a sigh. Knowing I had to go but dreading it, I waited until after they took my friend to the cemetery. By then, the women were not crying as much. 

Najiyah embraced me as a friend, even though we were so unlike one another. I was American and she was Libyan. There were never any hard feelings because I was an American. Our cultures were so vastly different, yet we both accepted each other as equals, sharing the bonds of womanhood and Islam. 

It's been over a year since Najiyah died. I see her girls from time to time while I hang the laundry, and we chat. But it's not the same. My balcony used to be a special place, but it's lost its magic. I never know what's happening in my neighborhood anymore, for my link to the neighborhood is missing. 

"God bless you and have mercy on you, my dear friend Najiyah. May you be rewarded for all your kindness and for the friendship you gave to me."


Published in The Tripoli Post - Monday, November 4-7, 2002