Sunday, April 20, 2014

Making Predictions

The weather is heating up - it's dusty and hot and the flies are increasing in number. We closed up the house switched on the air conditioning  for the first time yesterday, but we've been using the ac in the car for over a month. Outside, I noticed that the fields are starting to turn brown, the springtime wildflowers are almost gone. 

The kids will finish school in a few weeks and as a result there will be less traffic on the roads for which I will be very grateful! I think we are all tired of sitting in traffic jams and worrying about whether or not we'll have enough gasoline to get back and forth to work and school.  

From time to time there have been long lines at the gas stations - usually sparked by rumors that demonstrators in Zawia have closed off the supply routes. Today I filled my tank in about 5 minutes, but a few weeks ago I waited in line for over two hours. Now I just make sure to stay topped up. 

Image from Global Post

Libya has subsidized gasoline - miraculously, this allows me to be able to fill my car's tank for a mere 8 dinars, which is less than 10 US dollars.  Because of the cheap price of petrol, much of it is smuggled into neighbouring Tunisia for resale at higher prices. Also, the Libyan car market is awash in cheap, used cars (many of them that don't meet any kind of safety standards) - the capital is one big traffic jam. No one carpools, public traqnsportation is basically non-exsistant and the favourite pastime of both young and old is joyriding around town. Much of the day is spent sitting in the car in major gridlock. 

I read in the news that Libya plans to implement a new 'smart card' system for the purchase of gasoline. Details are still a bit sketchy: In the first stage citizens will be issued cards with their personal data. Everytime you go to the gas station they will swipe your card and this will allow the government to collect data on the public's petrol consumption. Later, after sufficient data has been collected the cards will become mandatory and gasoline will become restricted. It's been suggested that either a weekly (40-50 litres) or monthly (200 litres) quota will be imposed after which you will have to pay the higher, unsubsidized price. Only Libyan citizens will benefit - foreigners will not be allowed the subsidized rate. 

I'm not sure if the amount is per household or per car - many families own multiple cars. My husband said that there are so many used cars on the market that you can buy 3 cheap, used ones for 10 thousand dinars. 

Will limiting subsidized petrol help solve the problem of smuggling? Maybe, but what will most likely happen is that everything in Libya will become very, very expensive. Taxi drivers will raise their rates as will bus drivers. The cost of distributing goods will rise, and this cost will then be added to the prices that  consumers will have to pay. The cost of everything will increase.....  and Libyans will end up poorer.... and they will be stuck sitting at home in their misery because they can't afford to go out joyriding anymore. 

Friday, April 11, 2014

A little bit of this, a little bit of that

There isn't much going on in my world these days apart from going to work and then going home. Most days I go directly home and I make sure I get there before the sun sets. 

Around town: This past week there was a bit of trouble with some people wanting to impose a general strike, but Tripolitanians weren't really interested. The result was that some of the major roads in the capital were blocked in an attempt to cause chaos and force people to join the strike that Benghazi seemed to be embracing. It wasn't very successful in Tripoli - it just turned parts of the city into traffic jams. For the most part, I think people just want to go to work and get on with life. A strike isn't going to do much of anything to solving the myriad of life's troubles in Libya. As for me, I continued life as usual and just made sure to avoid the areas where the roads were blocked. Some problems seem to happen after dark, and thankfully I'm home then. 

When I'm home: I'm busy with the kids, the garden, the pets. One day Jenna decided to paint our pit-bull's nails... it was so cute, she sat there so patiently having her nails done and look so pleased with herself. She thinks she's a person. 

Also happening at home: Last summer when I was visiting my family in Florida I took some photos at the beach and I've been meaning to have one that I really liked printed and framed  - I finally got around to having it done. Now it needs to be hung, but at the moment it's propped up on the credenza behind my desk. 

I'm very happy with the way it turned out. If you are in Tripoli and need something framed I recommend the Art House in Treeg Sikka. Apart from doing framing and selling art supplies the Art House has a gallery and also hosts a cinema club that holds fairly regular screenings of international films. While I was there they said that they were hoping to have art classes during the summer. I hope so because my daughters have been asking me if there is something to do and it would be a great way to pass the time in the heat of the summer. We've been doing crafts at home, but I think if there was a class to go to they'd enjoy it so much more. 

Thinking back to the past: I took this photo of my friend Tara in 2007 at the Spring Festival in Nalut... has it really been that long ago?... we had such a great time. I haven't heard if there would be a festival or not this year - most likely not.  When will it be safe enough to plan such an event?  About two weeks ago I met someone who told me 'There used to be a foreign woman that would ride her bike down the highway'.. That was 7 years ago.. people still remember. 

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Love thy neighbour....

Earlier this month I made a post about the terrible conditions of the roads caused by heavy rains. I included a picture of the road near my house that was washed out. No one's bothered to repair the road - we're still having rain from time to time.

Unfortunately, someone decided that the hole in the road was the perfect place to dump their rubbish... So now we don't just have a hole in the road... WE HAVE A FREAKING EYESORE!

To whichever neighbour of mine did this... I wish you all the best.... grrrrr.....

Monday, March 24, 2014

Optimism - Pessimism... Positive - Negative... Libya

Spring has sprung! As usual for this time of year the weather is unpredictable. Yesterday it was warm and sunny and I sat outside in the garden last night in short sleeves. During the night the wind picked up and I woke up to cool and cloudy. It doesn't matter though because I can see spring around me everywhere: Wildflowers are blooming, butterflies are fluttering about and the neighbour's flock of sheep is dotted with tiny lambs on wobbly legs. 

As optimistic as spring makes me want to feel it's not easy to be positive here in Libya. My rose-coloured glasses are picking up the happy sights of spring, but that is about all they are seeing. Reality hits when each morning and afternoon I check out the news services to see what's going on... ugh! The prime minister was sacked, the airport was bombed and flights cancelled and suspended, reports of assassinations and kidnappings and bomb attacks and on and on and on.... a seemingly endless list of negative, negative, negative... I'm not even going to put the links here because it's just too depressing. 

On the 8th of March I hit a milestone - it marked the anniversary of my arrival in Libya - 25 years in Libya! That's half of my life. I had thought about buying 25 trees and planting them in different places around Tripoli to mark this day... but then I realistically decided against it. 

Generally speaking, Libyans are tree haters and I'd just find it distressing to see the poor trees suffering from abuse. I hate to see the condition of the trees around town. Even in my area of town which is semi-rural farmland the trees are in pretty bad shape. When I lived in Benashur I planted mimosa trees from seeds I got from a tree in my mother's garden in Florida. The trees grew into wonderful green, shady places where birds found refuge. After I moved out the neighbour killed the trees by stripping the bark from their trunks... the reason for killing the trees: "People are parking their cars in the shade under them and I don't want anyone parking in front of the building" So now there are bleak skeletons where there once had been beauty. I seldom go down that street anymore because the sight of the dead trees makes me feel ill. 

My decision not to plant trees around town didn't prevent me from stopping in at a plant nursery and having a look at the trees and plants on display. The owner happened to be there and I chatted with him about different types of trees. My dream for many years has been to have a magnolia tree in my garden so I asked him why there are no magnolia trees here. He looked startled and stood back and looked at me and said "You know about trees! You are the first person who has ever mentioned magnolia trees to me!" He then went on to say that he had shipped a few of them in from Italy, two of them he had planted in his friend's garden and the other two were at his other nursery. He said I was welcome to have a look at them and purchase them if I liked. 
This is a magnolia blossom... imagine a tree covered with such immense blooms.
The newspapers give you an idea of the size.  

I haven't made up my mind. Should I buy the trees and plant them in my garden like I've always wanted, or not. What is stopping me? 

Thursday, March 06, 2014

The road's a bit bumpy

I'm really starting to hate driving lately. The rain that we've been having lately has made the roads a mess. And the drivers are getting crazier too. There are days when I leave the house in the morning that I wonder if I'll make it home.

This a picture of part of the road that's washed away on the dirt road near my house. On another road nearby is a sinkhole large enough to fit about 4 cars.

I'd post more pictures, but I'm afraid to take my hands off the steering wheel!

It's not just the roads that are a bit bumpy here these days.... life in general is a bit bumpy. .. I'll post an update soon.

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Inspiring some optimism

“May Light always surround you;
Hope kindle and rebound you.
May your Hurts turn to Healing;
Your Heart embrace Feeling.
May Wounds become Wisdom;
Every Kindness a Prism.
May Laughter infect you;
Your Passion resurrect you.
May Goodness inspire 
your Deepest Desires.
Through all that you Reach For, 
May your arms Never Tire.” 

                                                                        ― D. Simone

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Have you smiled yet today?

It's almost half way through January and I'm finally getting around to posting my New Year's resolution:

Make someone smile and laugh every day.

That's easier said than done as most people around me here in Libya are pretty depressed.. Everyone I meet tells me they are unhappy with the way things are turning out.  Pessimism prevails, I hear the phrase 'sinking ship' frequently - I think I've even used it myself a time or two. It's hard to be upbeat and optimistic. Maybe they should start putting anti-depressants in the bread supply. Meanwhile, I will try my best to honor my New Year's resolution. 

Sunday, December 29, 2013

The past 12 months - Recapping 2013

Here's a recap of my world, 2013...

 My single post for January was about the weather... as usual it was a rainy January and I spent quite a bit of time in the car, traversing on very bad roads.

The month began with a post about a historical landmark near Tarhouna.  Later on in the month I posted about a childhood remembrance. There was Libyan Revolution Day to get happy about, and fun times with my son Ibrahim. We waited for Nora's exam results to come out while we devised plans to scare off marriage proposals.

An anniversary this month - 24 years in Libya which is nearly half my life! I enjoyed springtime in my garden and tried (in vain) to buy the most exquisite lamp I had yet to see in Libya.

A big milestone for my daughter Sara - braces! After some dust storms that were so bad they closed down the airport I spent time cleaning up in my garden.

We went hiking in the mountains on a dusty day, but still had a good time anyway. There was some drama with my in-laws that turned out not to be very dramatic after all (thank God!). And I requested some ideas to get me through writers block.

We had some foggy mornings and my husband built some bird-feeders for the garden. I wrote a small poem called 'The Libyan Waiting Room' and started my annual stocking up for Ramadan. We had a morning picnic at the seaside  with a good friend. I wrote a 5 minute adventure story and reported on life's annoyances in Libya (drones and houseflies).

Ramadan preparations are well underway at the beginning of the month. The Minister of Electricity announced that there would be no power cuts during Ramadan - he didn't mention which year though because we had power cuts nearly every day. It was hot, usually over 40C and we suffered our way through the month. There were assassinations of activists in Benghazi and  unrest in the country and even close by -  right down our dirt road.

The Heath Minister announced that "Libyan hospitals were not fit for human beings" and said a contract was awarded to a British company to try to remedy the situation. I posted a list of things I had written in the past about my hospital experiences in Libya. I had a guest post regarding the rights of foreign wives of Libyans (we hope there will be changes made soon). Ramadan ended, we had a quiet Eid and then it was time to get back on some sort of schedule.  The new school year was about to start and I reported on a project to build portable classrooms in Libya. It was time to plan my trip to Florida to visit my family there - I was counting the seconds till it was time to leave as the temperatures in Libya got higher and the power cuts got longer.

The power cuts in Libya continued (seems to be the theme this year) and to top that off the water supply to the capital was cut off, but I was on holiday -  far away in Florida. I had spent a few days in the UK on my way to the United States. Unfortunately I had the flu and so didn't really get to enjoy my visit to Cambridge as much as I'd have liked, but I was 'home' in Florida recovering.

This month was spent with family and friends. I didn't post much during this month because I was too busy. This is what I was up to: We spent time shopping, picnicking, attending music festivals in the park, and spending time with friends.  My mother had good news from her doctor and we decided to take a 5 day cruise to the western Caribbean visiting the Cayman Islands and Cozumel, Mexico. We had a fabulous time and hope to go again in 2014. Here are some pictures that I had planned to post, but never got around to:
Cambridge when it wasn't raining was really nice. 

I took this picture while taking a walk on the beach about 5 minutes from my mother's house. I'm going to have the picture printed and framed to put over my desk.
This was a big milestone for my mother. She has health problems that require her to use a walker, which is fine for the house, but make shopping difficult. She had refused to use the motorized cart  - but she finally gave in and we got her on one for the first time. She was all over the store!
Too many pictures of the cruise to post here... I will have to upload them someplace. 

Back to Libya. I spent time sorting through my house and getting rid of junk. Mid-month, Libyans demonstrated, demanding that the militias leave Tripoli - people were killed in the process and many were injured. The militias pulled back and Libya shut down for a general strike that lasted about 2 weeks.

I posted about  how the situation in Libya made posting anything difficult, how unfortunately, the new found freedoms in Libya don't necessarily include the freedom to publish your opinion. And lastly... a post about the gasoline crisis and having an empty tank.

I'm hoping that 2014 will be a wonderful year for all!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Libya's Running on Empty

Tripoli is suffering from a gas crisis this week... it seems ridiculous as Libya is an oil producing country. My tank was on empty yesterday, but my son managed to get me 20 litres of gas from someone who drove all the way to Khoms (a 2 hours drive away). I'm hoping that it will last me until the gas crises is over and I can fill up my tank again.

The gas indicator light was flashing....
Looking on the bright side... I have an excuse to do nothing and be nowhere... I'm going to relax and enjoy reading a book - the weather report says rain tomorrow. I see a nice warm blanket in my future.

Friday, December 06, 2013

Libya Hurra! ... Libya Free!

It’s almost the end of the year. Usually at this time of the year I look back at old posts and recap my year’s events. This year I haven’t posted very often. Not because there hasn't been anything to write about, but simply because nowadays writing about events happening around me might not be a very bright idea.

A great deal has been happening in Libya over the past year, and I've had quite a few interesting adventures here, but posting these days is risky, especially if you are expressing any kind of opinion because there is always someone who just might not agree with your views and take offence – and that doesn't necessarily mean they will just make a comment.  In this year alone, there have been reports in Libya of journalists being kidnapped, shot at, and even killed. The head of one of Tripoli’s local radio stations was found shot to death recently. You don’t even have to be part of the media to be a target.  This past week an American teacher was shot and killed in Benghazi – reason and assailants unknown. 

During the Gadaffi era there was a fairly tight muzzle on the media, but I was still able to pretty much express my views about things (although sometimes I had to do it in a rather vague manner).  Right after the liberation, Libya witnessed an outpouring of all kinds of stories and reports in newspapers, on television and on the Internet.  Everyone was thrilled with their newly found freedom to say whatever they wanted and to be able to express themselves in ways they never thought possible. Numerous new television and radio stations opened up and there was also an increase in the number of newspapers in the country.

Despite all this new-found freedom, I've noticed that over the last year or so, that the Libyan blogosphere has slowed to a crawl. Few Libyan bloggers have been posting in the last year, possibly because they’re expressing themselves more on social networks such as Twitter and Facebook.  But I wonder if the reason for the absence of blog posts, even for those bloggers who post anonymously, is because they just don’t feel safe to write anymore. 
My posts this year have been mostly about the weather, my garden and complaints about the continued power outages. I've got lots of opinions about what’s happening around me but I’m keeping my thoughts to myself. Also, I've had some interesting adventures during the past year that I’m keeping to myself too.  

I hope the situation will change... soon, I hope… (Insert sitting duck image here).

Friday, November 15, 2013


I took this picture this afternoon. The weather was perfect, but it wasn't an enjoyable day. We could hear gunfire and explosions in the distance. In Tripoli, after the Friday prayers, demonstrators gathered, singing the national anthem and chanting 'Libya'. They marched and demanded that the militias leave the city. The militias opened fire upon them. Various reports of injured and killed - the casualty lists grew throughout the day. 

As the sun set and we could still hear fighting and heavy artillery coming from the city. Later in the evening the Prime Minister gave a televised address which didn't go over very well and was later followed by a second address. Still the shooting continues. There is talk of a general strike and the launch of a civil disobedience campaign until the militias leave. 

It's been more than two years since the end of the revolution, but has Libya really been liberated? Oh Libyans! Put down your weapons and embrace one another... then you will finally be free!

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Back again

I'm back and over jet-lag. Nothing changed while I was away except for the addition of a few new potholes in the roads.

I'm doing a Fall clean out - it's amazing how much 'stuff' accumulates. I've been rearranging furniture and I bought a carload of new plants to replace the ones in the house that had seen better days. The old plants are in rehab, hopefully they will recover.

Yesterday the rains started. The roads are flooded and the kids couldn't get to school this morning. They're enjoying a day off. Maybe I can put them to work... the kitchen cabinets need to be sorted out...

I'll post some pictures from my holiday soon. It was a great 6 weeks!

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Still at home...

I've been enjoying spending time with my family in Florida. My son Yusef thinks we should be spending everyday at an amusement park (isn't that what Florida is all about), but who can afford that? Relaxing on the back porch, a walk along the beach, window shopping at the mall, communing with nature at the park are so much nicer in my opinion. 

In the shade of Southern Live Oak trees along the Pinellas Trail.
The end of my holiday is approaching and soon I'll be trying to figure out how on earth I will fit everything into the suitcases. I'm going to spend every moment I have busy with family and friends, but... stay tuned because there will be an interesting guest post on my blog soon. 

Wednesday, September 18, 2013


I'm back 'home' visiting my family and son in Florida for a while. Time to catch my breath and relax for a change, time to spend with family and friends.

The weeks up to my trip were filled with work and gettting things done around the house. We had a small house fire in the bathroom caused by an electrical short in the lighting of the bathroom mirror (most likely the result of a power surge). The damage was mostly from smoke and required a lot of cleaning. My husband cut his foot on broken glass from the mirror when he ran into the bathroom. It could have been a lot worse! We counted our blessings as we cleaned up the mess. 

For weeks and weeks there have been power outages all over Tripoli and the surrounding area and to top that off the water in the capitol was cut off. Thankfully, we have well water at my house, but it caused a huge amount of problems for many people. The water came back on two days after I left. I hope they get the electricity and water situation sorted out once and for all.

I'm trying not to read the news of what is going on in Libya, but everyday I check at least once. And news doesn't look good! It's very hard to remain optimistic about the situation there. It just might be time to look at other options...  but for the moment I'm planning on heading for the beach to watch the sun set. Time to chill out.

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Friday, August 30, 2013

Making Predictions

I've been counting down the days until my vacation. Time seems to be going slowly and quickly at the same time. There is so much that needs to be wrapped up that my days are filled without much time to breathe. I have a list a mile long of all that needs to be done. Unfortunately, we've been having frequent power cuts and that isn't  helping me accomplish as much as I need to. In my neighbourhood we're having daily power outages that last four to six hours at a time. I head off to work and find there is no electricity there either. Often times I go out to run errands and find the shops, banks, and offices haven't got electricity either. Many companies and private individuals have invested in generators, but even so, Libya is slowing to crawl. It's the hottest part of the year with over 100F(40C) temperatures. Everyone is hot, grumpy and complaining. 

If I'm at home I usually just give in, go to bed, read a book, take a nap, relax and wait it out. If it's night time we don't even bother to light candles anymore. We've become so accustomed to walking around in the dark that candles are no longer needed. 

If I'm at work it's a different story. The heat is stifling no matter what you are wearing (and when you wear hijab that means you are wearing a lot!). Work piles up while you wait for the power to return and then you try to get all the printing, photocopying and other work finished. Tempers are easily ignited and moral is low. I keep reminding myself and others to look deep inside and count their blessings. 

There are all kinds of speculations about why Libya continues to suffer from problems with the electricity. There really isn't much anyone can do except grin and bear it..... meanwhile... the lights flicker, you look up and then they are off. Everyone lets out a sigh, then looks at their watches and tries to predict how long it will be until the power comes back on again.

It won't be long and I will be 'home' again. I've been watching the weather and checking in with the National Hurricane Center's website. I'm keeping my eye on that orange spot on the coast of Africa (see picture below).... it might be heading towards Florida too.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Making plans

Last summer when I was visiting my mother I promised her that I'd be back the next year. It's almost time to start packing. I'm excited!

Friday, August 16, 2013

Back to school soon in Libya - I'm excited!

Ramadan and Eid are over and people have started to get back to their regular schedules. In a few weeks the new school year will begin. This year it's supposed to start on September 1st. Even though it's right around the corner the shops haven't started the big school supply and uniform displays - maybe next week. I want to get all of that shopping out of the way as soon as possible so I plan on getting as much of the stocking up done this weekend. Uniforms will have to come later when we can find them.

The beginning of the school year is an exciting time. Kids will go back and see all their old friends, get new books and supplies, new teachers. But not all children in Libya will face an ideal learning environment. Schools in Libya leave a lot to be desired, even in the capital. Let's just talk about the buildings and facilities themselves: dirty classrooms, many without electricity (Yes! Even in the capital!), broken desks, boards and even windows in the classrooms. Do you need to go to the bathroom? Go ahead.... at your own risk. Don't expect to find a gym, media centre, or even a library... sigh...

Schools here are pitiful...  sad..... depressing.... and I'm just talking about the schools in the capital. I keep reminding my kids to count their blessings because the schools outside of the capital are much worse. 

Some schools don't even exist anymore as they were damaged or obliterated during the war. Some Libyan kids don't have homes or towns to go back to - many internally displaced refugees are living in camps with schools set up in tents.

A tent classroom in a refugee camp

A school destroyed in the revolution in Zliten, Libya

Damage to the University in Misrata from the war. Photo: Reuters

After the revolution the Ministry of Education did a study of Libyan schools to assess needs and pinpoint problems. They looked at 4,800 schools for their survey and reported that:

  • There are about 5 pupils to one teacher (many Libyan females become teachers and are just on the payroll - not actually teaching.)
  • Fewer than 1 in 20 schools have provisions for special needs children and there are significant shortages of psychological support and special needs staff - critical as many children are suffering from psychological stress since the revolution.
  • A mere fifteen percent of schools have one unisex toilet per 90 students - not always functioning, and fewer than 1% of schools had a functioning toilet for children with disabilities
  • Drinking water is often not available, nor is running water of any kind
  • One third of the country's schools do not have a system for waste collection - garbage is just left to pile up
  • Resources in most schools were found to be substandard, lacking in teaching materials and textbooks
  • 40% of schools sustained damage during the revolution and are awaiting repairs
  • there is a huge demand for teacher training and development

Educating Libyan children is essential to Libya's future. The entire educational system in Libya needs a make-over and many projects are underway. Last June the UN signed an agreement with the Ministry of Education and UNICEF to start up projects aimed at improving education and offer teacher training

One promising project that is just getting underway will create classrooms out of shipping containers. Libya has ports all along the coast and ports are stacked high with empty shipping containers which can be turned into classrooms, libraries, offices, study centres, media centres - you name it, the possibilities are endless!

These are empty shipping containers that were being used at a checkpoint along the coast road near Garibaldi during the revolution. Last week I saw something similar in Wadi Rabia.
Tommy Jordan, an American who had been working on infrastructure projects in Libya before the revolution (and who I know personally), was contacted to help work on projects for the new Libya. He is working on setting up these amazingly innovative classrooms. The project will also offer training to Libyans who will then be able to take over once it's underway. Along with the classrooms will be the introduction of technology to keep them running, provide educational materials and programs for teacher training and development. I'm really excited about this - this is something that won't take years - it can get underway in months! This is something Libyan schoolchildren will benefit from and thus push Libya toward a better future. 

They are calling this project: Project Phoenix - the name derived from the Greek myth of the Phoenix, a long-lived bird that obtains new life when it rises from the ashes of it's predecessor. 

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Is the holiday over yet?

Another Ramadan and Eid are over. The time flew by this year. Now we have to get back to a 'normal' schedule again. 

I got up early this morning and found the girls still awake watching TV... they hadn't slept all night long! Now I suppose they will sleep all day. Soon enough they will start complaining that they never get to go anywhere and that they are tired of staying in the house. To which I will respond "Get out of bed in the morning if you want to get things done or go someplace!" It doesn't help that it's summer holidays and they don't HAVE to be anywhere. 

Oh to be young and free to sleep all day..... 

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

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