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 map...now 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 



Friday, November 17, 2017

I'm going along with the plan

Yesterday Jenna and I went to get our haircut. We hadn't had cuts since before Hurricane Irma - we had been too busy with my mom's illness, going to the hospital and all that followed after she passed. Getting our haircut was wonderful therapy - we left feeling relaxed and good about ourselves.  

On the way home we made an unplanned stop at a consignment store that we go to from time to time. I don't know why I felt the need to stop there. When we went into the store I went directly to where they display the household things and spotted a beach/bath towel. I picked it up and saw that it was brand new. I didn't need one, but for some reason I felt compelled to buy it. I said to Jenna, "Let's go", but she wanted to look around. I wandered around the shop, but all I wanted was the towel. It was the weirdest feeling - I had to get that towel.

When we got home I threw the towel in the laundry hamper. I'd wash it later I told myself. I went to work and while I was there Jenna phoned. She was upset. My sister (who we've been having issues with) was at the house and Ibrahim said that he had seen her take a towel. At first Jenna thought that it was the towel I had just bought, but it turned out to be the old one I had been using. My sister said it was hers. Maybe it was, I don't know - I'd been using it for 2 years. "It doesn't matter Jenna. Let her have it. I have the one I bought today in the laundry hamper. Nothing she does matters". 

God looks out for people in mysterious ways.


Wednesday, November 01, 2017

My Mother

My mother passed away a week ago after nearly a month in the hospital and a week in a nursing home. She passed on the day of her wedding anniversary - my parents would have been married 58 years. I was blessed to be able to spend the last two years caring for my mother - so many wonderful memories to cherish. 

A memorial service will be held for my mother, Helen Godette Martin, on November 20th, 2017 at 11am at Blessed Sacrament Church in Seminole, Florida. Following the church service, a ceremony will be held at Bay Pines Memorial Cemetery where she will be interred with my father, George William Martin.

Friday, September 15, 2017

I Survived Irma!

It's been a busy week! First there was preparing for the storm, which included stocking up on water and food and making sure the hurricane kit had everything in it. As the storm approached Florida I made the decision to take my mother to a special needs shelter as she is on oxygen and has medical equipment that needs electricity - plus the shelters are built to withstand category 5 storms.

In the end, my sister insisted that mom go to her house. At first I argued with her about it, but then after discussing it with my son we decided to let my sister take care of my mom during the storm. Actually, we were kind of surprised she offered, especially since we could count on the fingers of one hand the amount of times she's shown up in the past year. So off mom went on an adventure with my sister. 

I continued to sort out the hurricane supplies, while Adam and Jenna cleared the yard of all the yard furniture, planters, barbecue grills, garbage cans - anything that would blow around and cause damage. They even cleaned out the garage so Adam could fit his boat inside. Adam turned the canoe in the back yard over and filled it with water that  later might need to be used to flush toilets.  

I was also busy with my city's Community Emergency Response Team (CERT). We organised the evacuation of the people with special needs. First we had to call them all to see if they still needed to be picked up (some had other plans and some had died or moved away since signing up for the service). As the storm got closer it was time to pick them up and bring them to the shelter. Without the help of the  county school buses and drivers the evacuation would never have been possible. 

It was an interesting experience. We evacuated people from all walks of life, mostly elderly in wheelchairs and walkers who live alone and have no one to look after them. Each bus had a driver and driver assistant, one firefighter and two CERT team members. Our bus picked up two busloads of special needs passengers and their belongings - some of them we had to help pack.

One poor lady had four bags full of adult diapers. A little old man held his chihuahua on his lap and cried. A 98-year-old woman showed me a locket with her late husband's picture - all her kids have died before her, she has no one left. One woman brought a big cake with her to share with all the new friends she would make at the shelter. They all joked and said we should get matching Irma tattoos. One lady said she was finally happy to have something interesting to write in her diary. Overall it was a positive experience. I hoped they had homes to go back to once the storm was over.

Irma gradually arrived. I must have had hundreds of people sending messages and asking if I was OK on Facebook. It was hard to explain that the sky was still blue and the sun was shining. The storm was downgraded to Category 3, then 2 and was moving about 9 miles an hour. By Sunday evening the winds started to pick up. Around midnight the power went out and by one o'clock Saturday morning the storm was hitting it's hardest. Soon after I lost mobile service. It was dark outside and impossible to know what was really going on - lots of wind and things banging around outside. I lay in bed listening to the power of the storm and finally drifted off to sleep.

The next morning the electricity and phone service were still off, but the winds had died down. I was scheduled to do a twelve hour shift at my city's Emergency Operations Center. I dressed by the light of a flashlight. It was still dark as I opened the front door to see what things looked like outside. I could see the neighbor in his front yard with a flashlight. The old oak tree in his front yard had blown down. I called out to Adam to go see if anyone was hurt.  Luckily, the tree had fallen toward the street and the house was spared. The road was partially blocked on both sides of my street. Adam jumped in his truck to have a quick check of the neighborhood and returned to report that there only seemed to be trees down and no major damage. I headed off to the EOC.

The roads were littered with debris and some houses showed signs of damage. None of the traffic signals were working. There was hot coffee at the EOC! The building had a generator and was built to withstand Cat 5 storms. At some point during the storm someone had gone out to remove the satellite antenna as it was blowing so hard they thought they would lose it. Then a huge tree fell over and pulled up the internet and phone lines that were buried next to it. The only mobile provider that was working was Verizon, so those that had that were creating a hot spot and tethering to it in order to run the EOC's computers. For a while I manned the Citizen Information Center (CIC), but the phone line was down and as most people didn't have phone service they couldn't have connected anyway. Finally, the decision was made to close the Center and move it elsewhere. It was disappointing, but so much valuable information was learned from the experience and would be extremely useful later on.


On my way home I drove around town. Most of the damage seemed to come from old trees, mostly oak. There didn't seem to be anyplace that had power. The beach roads were closed to traffic so I headed home. 




On Tuesday, I was called in to start bringing home the special needs evacuees. First we had to drive around to see if their houses were safe and if there was power. No one would be allowed to return until their homes had electricity. Most of the areas were still without power, but we were able to bring a few of the evacuees home. They said that their experience at the shelter had been mostly positive. They had been put up in classrooms that were furnished with cots and given three good meals each day. Medical staff were available and anyone that had any problems was taken immediately to the hospital. There were plenty of people there to offer them assistance getting to the bathroom and in and out of bed. They were just tired and wanted to be home. It was rewarding to be able to help them.

Power came back on at our house on Tuesday evening. My mother came home Wednesday, just in time for me to take her to her doctor's appointment. We're still putting things away - there is a stockpile of water bottles in the corner of the dining area, all of the things we removed from the closet under the stairs needs to be put back. Thank God we didn't have to use the safe room (closet) under the stairs! All the disarray makes my mother confused. She keeps asking what happened to her house. It will take a few days more to get back in to a routine. It's expected that by Sunday all of the electricity will be back on in our area..... and school starts back up on Monday. 

It's been an adventure. I've lived through a hurricane and survived to tell the tale. ... but I am not getting Irma tattooed on anything!



Saturday, June 24, 2017

Eid Wishes

Wishing a safe and peaceful Eid to all who celebrate. 
May Allah accept your fast and shower you with blessings. 


Thursday, June 15, 2017

End of May till the first half of Ramadan

I've been pretty busy the last few weeks. I'll try to fill in all the blanks with some of the pictures I took along the way. First I'll start by sharing my quick trip to the lovely Caribbean island of Guadeloupe. I was there last June and found myself back there again for a short work related trip.

It took a while to get to Guadeloupe as there are no direct flights from where I live, so I spent a few hours in Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico might become the 51st state soon, at the moment it's a US territory. My cell phone worked there and they use dollars. My hamburger and French fries in the airport cost $25!


Last year I stayed in an all inclusive resort... this time I stayed in a studio apartment. If I have to go back again for another short stay I will go back to the resort simply because it had a restaurant and I didn't have to go anywhere to hunt down a place to eat. But there were some bonuses to my accommodation. My little apartment had a view of a small cove with a lighthouse and I didn't have to deal with a tourists on their holiday. The weather was a bit hazy, the landlord said it was the result of desert sands that blow across the Atlantic from north Africa. 


Guadeloupe is a French overseas territory, people there speak French, the currency is the Euro and it's part of the European Union. I went to the supermarket and found pretty much the same things I would find in a Tunisian supermarket. I bought the makings for a Tunisian breakfast... bread, cheese, tuna, olives and some juice. They even had harissa, but I decided to get some spicy creole mustard instead. I had a nice relaxing breakfast on my little balcony overlooking the cove and watched the boats. 


After my work was finished I spent the rest of the day with friends. We visited an interesting museum, Memorial ACTe. I was quite impressed. The museum is a memorial to slavery and the history of the slave trade in the Caribbean. There's a lot to learn, you could easily spend a few hours there. 

One of my friends had some things to do that would take her to different parts of the island so she asked me if I would like to come along for the ride. Yes! I taught her a new phrase 'riding shotgun' and I explained it's origin. What a beautiful place! There is an active volcano on the island, but it hasn't erupted in forty-one years. Sugar and bananas are the main exports, the vegetation is lush, mangos hang heavily on the trees and passion fruit vines drip over everything. Butterflies, humming birds flit from flower to flower.

Towards evening we headed to my friend's weekend home on the side of a hill overlooking the sea.  The view was breathtaking. 





We headed to her kitchen where she taught me how to make a popular Caribbean dish called Chicken Colombo and tender smoked Marlin drenched in olive oil, peppers, shallots and lime juice.

Chicken Colombo

Smoked Marlin

 My visit to Guadeloupe was much too short. It is definitely worth visiting as a tourist. I was told to watch for deals on flights from Norwegian Airlines which offers direct flights from New York for as little as $79 - and accommodation in Guadeloupe is reasonable too. The only thing I found expensive were the taxis, but you can rent a car for about $24 a day. Yes, I'm adding this to my list of places to revisit.

Ramadan started a few days after my return to Florida and two days after that it was Memorial Day. I took my mother and kids to visit my father's grave. He's buried in Bay Pines National Cemetery. Every Memorial Day the graves are decorated with flags. It's really a sight to see the flags stretched out across the cemetery - there are over 38,000 graves there and each one has a flag on Memorial Day.


Bay Pines National Cemetery
During April and May I attended the Citizens Academy which was a seven week course that covered different aspects of my city. We learned about City Hall, The Department of Public Works, the library, the Parks and Recreation Department, fire department, sheriff's department and we also participated in a mock city council meeting. I met all kinds of interesting people from my community, but best of all I learned what it takes to run a city. I wasn't able to be there on the day the certificates were handed out because I was in Guadeloupe at the time, but I received the certificate and a shirt after I returned. 


A week into Ramadan and I was back on an airplane, this time for a five-day trip to New York City. This was my first time visiting the Big Apple and I was excited to be in such a big and busy place. Unfortunately, I had some work to do so I wasn't free until the afternoons and all the museums closed at 5:30 so there wasn't much time to see the sights, but I fit in what I could using subways, trains, buses and a lot of walking too.

One thing that surprised me was that most people there tend to wear black or dark colors. When you get on the train you see people jammed in, all dressed in dark, drab coats and jackets. I had packed a bright turquoise suit jacket to wear for one of the days of my trip.... it stayed packed!

My subway and train adventures took me to the Grand Central Terminal. The terminal has intricate designs both on its inside and outside. In addition, it contains a vast interior main concourse. The terminal is one of the world's most visited tourist attractions, with 21.9 million visitors recorded in 2013.

Grand Central Terminal.... someone needs to get up there and clean off the grime and pollution.

The view from my hotel room window... a bit noisy. I was near two subway stations.
Looking down the tracks from the platform while I waited for the train.
One place on the top of my must see places was the New York Public Library. Actually I went there twice, the second time they had to throw me out so they could close the doors for the day. The New York Public Library is the second largest library in the United States (the largest is the Library of Congress) - it's also the fourth largest library in the world and has over 53 million items. In the front of the library entrance steps are two lions named, Patience and Fortitude. 


Next to the library is Bryant Park which is one of the busiest public spaces in the world, visited by over 6  million people each year.

Bryant Park - I like the vertical lines in this shot; the trees and panes of glass in the building.

Bryant Park - stop the hustle and bustle and do yoga.

View of some of the buildings surrounding Bryant Park
 The pointed building in the middle of the picture below is the Chrysler Building which was built in 1930. I was working one day in the building directly next to the Empire State Building. The windows in the buildings are very big so inside the rooms are filled with natural light. It felt weird to me to look out and see people in windows going about their lives and know that they could look right back at me. I was told that everyone feels that way when they first arrive in the city, but it soon wears off and you don't notice it anymore.

Fifth Avenue
 One afternoon I visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Sadly, I didn't have much time, only 2 hours - it needed at least two days! It is the largest art museum in the United States. Its permanent collection contains over 2 million works. I wandered from room to room, looking at as many exhibits as I could and wished that time would stand still.   

Metropolitan Museum of Art



Display of armor 
After the guards threw me out of the museum I took a walk through Central Park. Right smack in the middle of the hustle and bustle of the city is this peaceful refuge. I rested my tired feet for a while, relaxed and watched people pass by. I am totally convinced that every city should have a park in the middle of it. (Someone needs to tell them that in Libya!)

Central Park
 I headed back to my hotel, which although it was close to the subway, didn't seem to have any descent restaurants nearby. I had decided to try my best to keep up with my Ramadan fasts, even though technically you are exempt from fasting if you are travelling, but that would mean having to make up the days later. So when sunset, the time to break fast neared, I would head for my hotel and pick up something to eat along the way. 


 One day I had some work outside of the city and took the train to the village of Tarrytown. The train traveled alongside the Hudson River for most of the way. An interesting thing about the train was that two of the cars on each train are reserved for the Quiet CALMute program. Customers on those two cars are not allowed to use their mobile phones, must disable any noise on their electronic devices, speak only with subdued voices and use only headphones at a volume that other passengers are unable to hear. It made for an enjoyable ride, I watched the scenery of the Hudson River pass by the window. 


The Hudson River
 Five days passed all too quickly and it was time to return home. I was weary from my busy trip and needed a day to recover. When I looked at how many steps I walked each day I discovered that I had been walking over 6 miles every afternoon. The pavements in the city are hard - my feet hurt. Next time I go to New York I am going to bring a good pair of walking shoes!  

Friday, June 02, 2017

It's Me....

I've always said that naming my children was harder than giving birth to them. Their names were important - more than likely they would have them all of their lives. It was hard to decide what they should be called. My name, or at least what I am called, has evolved over time. 

Officially, my name is Therese Martin, when I married my husband I decided that in traditional Muslim fashion I would keep my surname because after all, I only married him, he doesn't own me. Keeping my name meant keeping my identity. Since I was a child my family and friends always called me Teri or sometimes Teri-Anne. Therese was always kept for official things and that turned out to be quite useful. For example, if anyone ever telephoned asking for Therese, I immediately knew it wasn't friend or family and I would reply "Can I take a message?'  However, after I moved to Libya things changed and I became known as Khadija.

The name Khadija needs a bit more explanation. When I became Muslim (in 1982) the mosque prepared a certificate for me and at that time asked me if I would like to choose an Islamic name as some people like to do so when they make this life changing event. I thought about it for a while and chose the name Khadija. I never had my name officially changed, but  I  began using the name after I traveled to Libya. Let me explain....

Khadija is the name of Prophet Mohamed's first wife. She was a very successful and wealthy business woman and merchant. Her caravans equaled the amount of all the other caravans of the Quraish put together. The Quraish was a tribe comprised of 14 clans that inhabited Arabia and controlled Mecca.  Khadija was known by the by-names Ameerat-Quraysh ("Princess of Quraysh"), al-Tahira ("The Pure One") and Khadija Al-Kubra (Khadija "the Great"). She never traveled on her caravans, instead she hired others to trade on her behalf for a commission.  She hired Mohamed who was at the time 25 years old - this was before he received the Message. She was so impressed by Mohamed that she proposed marriage to him even though she was about 15 years older than him. When Mohamed received the Message she became the first Muslim woman. She remained married to him until her death 25 years later. He never married another woman until after she died even though polygamy was usual at that time. 

Khadija was a woman before her time - wealthy, successful, educated, married a handsome man much younger than herself, the first Muslim woman... What better name to choose?

After I arrived in Libya I found that people had trouble pronouncing my name. When they called me Teri they rolled the 'r' and it sounded like the word they use when they are on a donkey and want to make it go faster - Terrrri! Terrri! So I tried Therese, but they mangled it and made it sound like they were saying 'idreese' which is the Arabic word meaning 'men'. That's when I decided that I would just have everyone there call me Khadija and it worked perfectly!

Later on, I met another American woman in Libya who was also called Khadija - but she had taken it one step further and had her name legally changed to Khadija. Every time anyone in the expat community talked about either of us they would ask 'Which Khadija?" and if it was me the response would be KhadijaTeri. When I started my website (a few years before I started blogging) I called it Khadija Teri. I'll answer to Teri, Khadija or KhadijaTeri, but I still save Therese for formal occasions. Many Libyans know me as Mrs Khadija - the American woman that teaches English and does IELTS preparation courses. I have had hundreds of students over the years (something I am very proud of).

This calligraphy that spells out Khadija Teri was made by a blogger called Libya Gharian... sadly his blog no longer exists, but I am honored that someone took the time to create this especially for me and I keep it on the sidebar of my blog. 

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Ramadan Mubarak

Today is the first day of Ramadan. I have been looking forward to Ramadan for months. It is as though it is a respite from all of the world's problems as I plan to avoid watching the news and instead look inwards and focus on my spiritual life. I'm looking at it as time to recover from everything that has been thrown at me this year. A lot of prayers this month for myself and my family and many, many, many prayers for Libya and Libyans. 
Best wishes to all for a peaceful and safe Ramadan. 
Ramadan Kareem!

Friday, May 12, 2017

Almost like being in Libya

I came across a page that someone created on Facebook where they are uploading 360 degree images of Libya. So far it looks to be primarily from the Tripoli area, but hopefully the collection will grow. No mention is made on the page as to who is the creator. I think it's a fabulous idea!

I added the link to my Link List and a sample below. You can find the Facebook page here: 360 Around You


Click on the picture to go to the 360 image

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

A Day Away

We took a day off last week to spend some time at the Rainbow River in Dunellon, Florida which is about a two hour drive from where we live. The water is a refreshing 71F  all year round. We swam and snorkeled and the kids went off in the kayaks to look for alligators - and found one! They said it was a small one, but I could hear a larger one downriver on the other bank where there was some tall grass growing. 


It was a lovely day. Sometimes you just need to get away for a while. 


Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Some Updates To My Link List


Recently, I made a few updates to my Link List. I started putting together a Links List about 15 years ago. I come across so many interesting blogs, websites and news sources about Libya, when I find anything new I add them to share with my readers. A few of the links are in English and Arabic (or other languages) but the list is primarily sources about Libya that are in English. 

The list keeps growing and changing. I am calling out to my readers for a little help: 
  • Do you know of any links that are not on the list? Let me know and I will add them. 
  • Have you come across any of the links on my list that are broken, or pointing to the wrong place? Let me know and I will fix or remove them.
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Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Libyan of the Diaspora

Way back in 2007, I gave my friend Tara a kitten. We had just come back from the Nalut Spring Festival so it seemed only fitting that she name the kitten Nalut. 

Ten years have passed and Tara still has Nalut. After she left Libya she lived a while in New Mexico, then spent quite some time in Cyprus. Now she is back in New Mexico... but she is still very much a Libyan cat! 

Nalut... age 10, Albuquerque, New Mexico
The picture below is from 2007 - Nalut as a kitten on the day I gave her to Tara. Has it really been ten years? So much has happened and so many things have changed. I wonder if Nalut dreams of Libya like many displaced Libyans ... She is a diaspora kitty.



Thursday, April 13, 2017

Quality Time

Mom hates pizza, but she agreed to go have pizza the other day. She decided that she hated pizza after my son Adam came to the US in 2008 to live with her. She said he ate a lot of pizza... pizza till she felt it was coming out of her ears. Now she seldom eats pizza, but on this particular day she said 'Let's get pizza' so we did!


Sometimes we eat out on the back porch. This particular day mom decided she didn't want to eat on a plate, instead she put everything in one bowl. Mom likes to eat on paper plates, but we had run out. Real dishes seem to annoy her for some reason. She drinks her coffee in paper cups too. When we were growing up we never used paper plates, but she insisted on us using paper cups when we were kids. She said they were more sanitary. Dixie cups... I always hated them!


One day we decided to have sandwiches at the park. After we ate we had a walk, I pushed mom in her wheel chair. She wasn't sure where we were and that seemed to bother her a bit. Sometimes when I wear my scarf my mother thinks I am a Libyan woman that cares for her.  When I take off my scarf at home I am her daughter Teri again... but sometimes she thinks I'm my sister. 


I thought a trip to an antique mall would interest her. We found a section that was set up just like her mother's kitchen with all the old kitchen tools, gadgets, plates and cabinetry. Mom thought it was funny, but nothing else seemed to interest her. I liked a huge replica of a sail boat. Mom thought it was too expensive. I reminded her the point of the trip was to look and not buy. Mom hates window shopping. I think she went along just to make me happy. We bought nothing. It made me happy though.


There are some lovely, well kept tennis courts nearby. The kids decided that they wanted to learn how to play, so I managed to find some rackets and balls and we headed out to the courts. Mom came along to watch the kids' attempt at learning how to hit the balls to each other. I took this picture of her on the bench. 'That's an old woman' she said when I showed it to her. She didn't realize it was her until I told her.


Since Mom's surgery last December her dementia has gotten worse. Today the doctor prescribed some medicine that will hopefully slow it down. It won't make her better, but it should help by giving us more quality time together. 

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Something Extraordinary Happened: It really is a small world after all

Before I went back to Libya last September, I noticed an advert in the local newspaper about a Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training course. It looked interesting for more than a reason or two. Above all, I liked the idea of learning how to be prepared in case of an emergency. I wanted to do something for my community, to help others and meet people. Also, I thought that this would be a way to learn about civic programs that might one day be useful should Libya ever become peaceful again and needed to rebuild – maybe I could help in some way, or maybe I’m grasping at straws, but it didn’t really matter because that wasn’t my sole reason for becoming involved. I emailed to see if there was any space left on the course. Unfortunately, the course was full, so I asked to be put on a list for the next course. Then I became busy with travel preparations and my trip back to Libya so I shelved the idea for a while.


After I returned to Florida I was notified that the next CERT training course would be starting. I attended the three days of training held at my town’s fire rescue department. Although the course was short, I learned an impressive amount. We also had the chance to meet team members from earlier courses, many of which were city council members. On the second day of training a lively and spirited woman came in and introduced herself. She turned out to be the mayor of my town; Mayor Leslie Waters, of the city of Seminole, Florida.

It turned out that Mayor Waters has been a member of the Community Emergency Response Team for our town since it was initiated and is an active member of the team. She found a few minutes to chat with each of us. When she stopped to talk to me we found out that we had something quite extraordinary in common – Libya! It turned out that the mayor has been working on a project to train Libya’s first-ever women elected to city government. Due to the instability in Libya the workshops took place in Tunisia. Mayor Waters was in the process of planning her second trip out to work with the Libyan women. She gave me her card and asked me to get in touch with her so we could discuss the project. I was rather amazed that the mayor of my small town (population 17,830) would have a Libyan connection - and I think she was equally amazed to find me sitting in that training room at our local fire house!

We emailed back and forth and ended up getting together over coffee after she returned from her second trip to Tunis. I arrived at the busy coffee/bagel shop a few minutes ahead of schedule and the mayor came in shortly after. It seemed as if she knew everyone in the shop as she gave a lively and enthusiastic greeting to many of the people there. As soon as she sat down she presented me with a souvenir from her trip to Tunisia and some information about the latest activities she had been working on for the city. Then she filled me in about her trip.

Her assignment which was sponsored by the Woman’s Democracy Network (WDN), an initiative of the International Republican Institute (IRI) located in Washington D.C. and set up in Tunis by USAID-Libya. The purpose, was to help “empower women to lead” their City Councils by educating participants on how to be effective local government officials. These training forums focused on how to improve communications with constituents, to leverage social media, to network with other women throughout Libya, to set goals, and put an emphasis on the importance of developing an expertise with government issues. 

Photo credit: USAID.gov
Over 40 Libyan women took part in the first sessions held in September 2016. This initial conference was part of an effort to build and develop a national-level network of women leaders and to launch a Women’s Municipal Council Association.



In Libya, the requirements state that one seat on the governing body of each city is held by a woman, but Mayor Waters pointed out that they could also run for other council seats. The mayor explained that these trips aren’t about politics, but simply to teach the elected Libyan women the basics of running a democracy. Such things as how to communicate with residents, how to set up town hall meetings and press conferences, and how to budget and plan for the future. 


The second meetings were held in February 2017. This was a 'Train the Trainer' session with group comprised of 15 Libyan women leaders from different parts of the country. The women were given the training and information to pass on to other women after they returned to their cities in Libya. The next 'Train the Trainer' session will be in mid-May with the same fifteen women who will return for follow up. Meanwhile, Mayor Waters has been doing some online mentoring with some of the women. The ladies are in the capable hands of Mayor Waters. 

We had a great time sharing stories and ideas about Libya. We spent two hours, but I think we could have talked all day. I’m looking forward to hearing about the next trip – and I’m so proud of both Mayor Waters and those wonderful Libyan women. 

Oh, I almost forgot to mention, I asked Mayor Waters if she had heard about a famous female mayor of Libya’s past, Huda Ben Amer and when she said no I told her the tale of Huda the 'Executioner'. Thank goodness that is all in the past!

‘We do not create our destiny; we participate in its unfolding.’ ~ David Richo

Saturday, March 04, 2017

Recovery

Mom's had more surgery since I last posted. All went well this time, and she is home recovering. We're mostly staying home and mom gets a bit stir crazy from sitting in the house all the time. Occasionally we go out, but we're pretty much limited to places that have motorized scooters because mom can only walk for a few minutes and then has to sit down. We have a wheelchair, but mom doesn't like to use it. She says it's low and she has to crane her neck upwards to see things. Apart from the scooter issue there is the problem that mom has difficulty hearing so that limits what we can do too. 

We try to keep mom as comfortable as possible. To make life a bit easier we got her an electric lift-recliner. She's been having trouble getting in and out of her chair so we hoped this would help. The only problem is that she hasn't been able to learn how to use the remote control for the chair. It has two buttons... up... and down. Push the up button and the chair puts you in a standing position, push the down button and you can sit down and recline with your feet up. Two buttons... simple right? Wrong! It's been nearly a month and she still hasn't been able to figure it out.  Regardless of how many times we show her, within a few minutes she will have forgotten. Dementia is so cruel!

I found a large print word search (mom has vision problems) that I thought would keep her busy. She complained 'These puzzles are not like they used to be. I can't find the words!' I watched her try. She would read the word and then begin to look for the word in the puzzle. By the time she gets to the end of the first line in the grid she has forgotten the word. It makes her frustrated and she puts the book down. She tried quite a few times because she had forgotten that she had tried before - each time with the same result. 

Mom likes to talk on the phone, but making calls is a challenge. Today, my daughter sat down to help her dial the numbers. Mom called quite a few people. She called one of my sisters and asked how she was. 'I'm sick with a cold' my sister said. Mom replied 'Oh I'll let you go then. I don't want to catch it'. She called my other sister twice, having completely forgotten that she had called the first time. One call was to a family friend. When their voice mail picked up mom said 'Hey! It's your grandmother' We were entertained by mom's phone calls for a good part of the afternoon. Then it was time for mom to take a nap. 

Maybe tomorrow I'll take her to Home Depot to look at the flowers and plants in the nursery section. They have got good motorized scooters there. Then when we come home I will pull out some old photo albums and we can reminisce about the past. That will keep us busy for a while. 




Friday, February 17, 2017

LIBYA: 17th February Anniversary Six Years On

The following article was written in collaboration with my friend and colleague, Susan Sandover who is the author of the book ‘Libya a Love Lived a Life Betrayed 9/36’ 
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Daily we (an American mother with a Libyan husband and a British Libyan widow) read, hear and see the ongoing tragedy and horror of the war in Syria and yet Libya barely warrants a mention in the British and American press. It seems as if the Libyans are the forgotten. Photos and video footage are seen periodically of migrants being saved in the Mediterranean but we have yet to read an article on the potential tinderbox situation in Libya.

The 17th February marks the anniversary of the commencement of the fight to overthrow Gaddafi but will this date warrant a mention in the international media? Most likely NO. The war finished quickly in just 8 months. Today what remains is the daily episode of the Libyan Game of Thrones represented by an assortment of grey-haired men in their expensive suits with allegiance to either diaspora, area, tribe or a religious faction all vying for power. But what of the ordinary citizens of Libya? With 45% of the population aged under 30, the majority without hope of work, they are the dangerous forgotten. Consequently,  crime is on the rise and coffers from the old family loan system have long since dried up. The infrastructure that was failing under Gaddafi is now at crumbling point or virtual collapse. The morale of the people is so low that they too are beginning to join the thousands of migrants endeavouring to reach Italy and Europe by crossing the Mediterranean in the hope of a better future. 

Aside from tribal infighting, the cancer ISIS, whose roots had lain hidden during the Gaddafi era now has found its chance to emerge and spread its tentacles. Libya’s porous borders allowed pockets of IS to establish themselves in three branches in Libya; Tripolitania in the west (primarily in Sabratha), Cyrenaica in the east, and the Fezzan in the south of the country. Sirte has only recently been cleared of IS by forces backed by the GNA (Government of National Accord) and supported by the United States which targeted ISIS with over 500 airstrikes between August 2016 and January 2017. Although IS combatants were removed from Sirte, many Jihadi warriors managed to escape, disappearing into the desert. Will they once again go into hiding, waiting for the chemo therapy to end and then resurface? Libya’s marginalised youth and migrant Africans entering the country are all potential recruits and this needs to be recognised before the Libyan dormant bomb erupts, as it will, if help is not given to the country. 

Despite the abundance of problems facing Libya, some hope remains. Organizations, focused primarily on women and youth are emerging. On offer are empowerment workshops, training for the health sector, networking for entrepreneurs, as well as opening centres to provide services for psychological, social, legal and health problems. Reconciliation will only happen with concerted efforts from within Libya, as well as with help from abroad.

By ignoring the ongoing situation and hoping that it will go away will only result in another Iraq and Syria disaster of horror, instability and further turbulence within the MENA region. Peace and reconciliation should be led by the Libyans hand in hand with the West so that Libya can be reunified and the IS cancer can be eradicated from the country. The alternative is unthinkable. The new President of the United States seems to believe that by building walls and banning Libyans from entering the United States that this will solve the problem and prevent the spread of IS  and terrorist attacks. We only wish this were true, in fact it may be encouraging those Muslims who were born or who are now living in the United States to feel marginalised and draw them to embrace radical ideals.

Will the Libyan youth be celebrating the 17th February anniversary? What are their aspirations today? They must be given hope or they will become the lost generation and potentially join radical groups who offer them salvation. The alternative is unthinkable while the reality is an unstable quiet which is shattered by periodic gunfire, bombs and tanks as Libya once again has returned to a questionable, unpredictable future.

By: Susan M. Sandover & Therese Martin