Tuesday, February 28, 2006

at long last . . .

Finally my ADSL problems seem to have been taken care of. Now my major worry is whether the electric company will not mess up whatever work it is that they are doing in front of my house and leave me without electricity.

The streets in my area are all dug up. There are trenches dug everywhere along the streets and roads. It's a mess and it's also very noisy. While digging they broke the water pipes that supply water to my neighbour and they have been without water for the last couple of days. But so far our house has been OK. I am expecting that they will turn off the electricity at some point. I just have to remember to save my work as often as possible in case it happens.

Around the corner from my house is a street that's a bit wider than the others and the workers have been storing all their vehicles and equipment there. It looks like they will be staying there for a while. What a mess they are making. They did this a few years back and it took them forever - now it seems they are doing it all over again. Oh well, I guess it's making sure someone has a job.

Technology! You can't live without it. In the last week the both the vacuum cleaner and the microwave oven have called it quits. So we are doing old fashioned stuff in my house now. Having to heat up food the conventional way - on the stove. And we've gone back to using a broom. It is amazing how these two items change your life. You don't notice it until they aren't there. Have to either get them repaired or replaced because I don't like doing things the old fashioned way anymore. Not enough luxuries here to begin with so every little bit counts!

Saturday, February 25, 2006

News and a new blog

I woke up this morning and started in on attacking the dust in the house. The kids joined in to help as soon as they got home from school. Of course they thought it was fun because they got to spray things with the hose, play in the water and get wet.

Afternoon found me at Sheila's getting my hair done. It was a wonderful treat as she's been away for about three months and I was looking pretty dreadful. I'm looking like a million bucks now. Isn't it funny that you can get your hair cut and a bit of pampering and it treats your soul too?

There's a new Libyan blogger out there. Benghazeeya is a Libyan who lives abroad but makes annual and sometimes semi-annual visits to Libya. Stop by and welcome her to the blogosphere. I've put her link on my sidebar as well for future reference.

Friday, February 24, 2006

We had one heck of a sandstorm yesterday. The day began looking as though it might rain. Then the wind picked up and it became dusty. By two thirty in the afternoon the sky turned orange. This is Yusef next to the window at 2:30.

Even with the windows closed the dust manages to get in and cover everything.

I had to go to work at three. At that time the cars were all coated with dust and it had begun drizzling - so it turned into rainy drops of dirt that covered everything.

By around 8pm things were settling down. This morning we went to the farm to see how things were doing and I took this picture of apricot blossoms. The trees and plants are coated in a layer of dirt. Now what we need is a nice rain to wash everything off, but the weather looks clear and I guesss we will have to tolarate the dirt and dust for a while. Posted by Picasa

Thursday, February 23, 2006

High speed internet . . . oh really?

In my last post I mentioned that Libya had the wonderful thing called ADSL - yes... it's available . . . maybe?!?

I decided to take the plunge and get off the frustrating dial-up - graduate to something speedy and fast. I had dreams of being in another realm of the internet at the click of the mouse. Of course, my husband said 'NO WAY! - You play enough on the internet as it is. Just what we need is to have you able to do it at high speed!!' He also didn't like the idea that I could be on the internet and the phone would be able to ring. How on earth could he tell if I was on the internet then when he called to check up on me? Oh the life of an internet addict is a tough one!

But I'm a woman with my own money, so when I got paid I spoke with one of my students who said he would arrange it all for me. The plan was that I wouldn't tell hubby, I'd just leave the phone off the hook once in a while to throw him off. As usual when I try to pull one over on the man of the house my plan fails. (I should know this by now - 23 years is a long time.)

While hooking up the service the company somehow messed up the telephone line. I had internet but no telephone. This was a problem because the internet company (LTT) said the problem wasn't theirs and I should contact the phone company. This sounds like a simple thing, but let me assure you that this is far from simple. Hubby gets involved - and you have to remember that he knows nothing about the ADSL connection. He drops in at the phone company to tell them the phone's not working and they say they will get to it.

Get to it . . . when??? After a day and a half of waiting for them to 'get to it' I go down the road to a telephone exchange and call the phone company's repair service myself. I have this stupid idea that I can solve the problem:

Barid: Hello
Me: Asalamaualaikum
Barid: Walaikumasalam
Me: (In my best broken Arabic) I'm having a problem with my telephone
Barid: What's the problem
Me: I ordered the ADSL service from LTT and when it was hooked up the internet connection works but the phone is not working now - no dial tone, I can neither make nor receive calls.
Barid: Are you Pakistani?
Me: That's not necessary. I just need you to fix the phone please.
Barid: Are you mixed? Where are you from?
Me: Sigh . . . are you going to help me with my phone problem?
Barid: Are you Italian?

He's not going to give in and I am not going to get the phone fixed. God this is so frustrating!

Me: Sigh . . . No. . . further away than that, but it isn't necessary. Please can you help me with my telephone problem?
Barid: Are you English?
Me: No. . . sigh . . American.
Barid: Oh!! Welcome! What is the problem exactly?

I repeat what the problem is and he says he will get right on to it. He also wants to chat me up some more but I cut him off by hanging up on him. I am pissed off, mostly with myself for giving in and telling him where I'm from. He had no business asking where I was from - and I was an idiot. I should have said I was a Russian doctor or something. I decided to tell my husband who became furious and went down to the phone company and had a shouting match with them.

I ended up having to tell my husband that I was having ADSL hooked-up. And of course he wasn't thrilled with that. So I had no phone, problems with the phone company repairman and now an angry husband who happened to be jealous about the phone company repairman chatting me up. Everything has to be a huge production!

Finally after 6 days and countless trips to the phone company, the telephone gets turned back on. But surprise, surprise - the internet connection gets turned off.

More headaches - I contact the internet service who tells me the problem is with the phone company. The phone company says the trouble is with the internet service. Back and forth we go. Now the internet service finally says 'OK - it's the problem with the phone company, but we will take care of it.' And they've agreed to credit my account for the week of internet that I haven't been able to use. They said MAYBE it will be fixed today.

Sigh . . . I am still on dial-up until they get their act together.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Currents events and information about Libya

I got a comment from someone who is thinking about cancelling their trip to Libya to see the eclipse next month because of the recent events in Benghazi. That makes me sad - I think that there were some problems, but for the most part the media has blown them out of proportion as usual. I feel safe here and many of my friends are planning to work as guides for the event. I certainly wouldn't let the incident spoil your maybe one chance in a lifetime to see a total eclipse. Many people in Libya think Chicago or New York is a dangerous place to go - 'How can you even think to go there? There are mafia there and gangs!' Of course, if you are from any big city you know that's silly, but if you've never been there it's easy to be influenced by what you see on TV.

I got the following letter from Nathan with questions about Libya. I've tried to answer his questions, but if you have anything to add please click on comments.

Hi, my name is Nathan and I am very interested in Libya. I have never been to Libya, and there isn't a lot of information available. Would it be okay if I asked you several questions? Thank you.

1. Is there a supermarket in Libya? (something like Walmart or Kroger???)
There is no Walmart or Kroger here, but there are plenty of supermarkets, the Mahari for example. Libya imports most of it's food from Europe or other Arabic countries and also the far east. You will find a wide selection and most of the name brands as well. Frozen foods are lacking though, but Libya makes up for that by having wonderful fresh fruits and vegetables as well as fresh meats, chicken and fish (no pork though).

2. Is there a golf course? Tennis Club? Horseriding Club?
There is a golf course of sorts in Tajoura. Many people play golf and find it challenging as the course is sand and rocky. Tennis is available in Reggata, the Diplomats club in Ain Zarah as well as other places. Horseriding is also available in Janzour and also in Tripoli.

3. Any nice hotels besides the Corinthia?
Other hotels are The Grand Hotel, Bab Bahar, Mahari and others.

4. Thing to do in Tripoli? (at night or day)
While there are no nightclubs here in Tripoli you can find many cafe's. Walk along the seafront on the cornishe, restaurants . . .

5. Places to visit??? (other than Leptis)
Sabratha, the beach - Nagaza and Farwa Island as well as many other beautiful places along the coast, the old city in Tripoli, a drive in the mountains, the qasrs in Gharian, and Nalut, Ghadames and a visit to the dessert . . .

6. Are there any restaurants? Chinese? Italian? or even Fast food?
Restaurants are abundant. Chinese, Turkish, Lebanese, Italian, Seafood, pizza, fast food as well as restaurants that serve traditional Libyan cuisine.

7. Where are the young and upcoming hip neighborhoods in Tripoli? any cool shops?
Gargaresh and Benashur (Jaraba Street). Many foriegners are choosing to live in Janzour and Siraj areas.

8. How about an art museum, art gallery, or movie theater?
The main museum located in the castle next to the Green Square is wonderful. There are movie theatres around the city but most people prefer to rent videos or DVDs and watch at home.

9. Is it safe? at night? for women? for foreingers?
Tripoli is very safe, for women, foriegners and at all times of the day or night. As in any city you should take care when shopping or visiting the bank or ATM machines. The driving is probably the most dangerous thing about Libya. No traffic laws are followed - drive or ride at your own risk.

10. Does Libya have highspeed broadband internet?
ADSL is available: http://www.lttnet.com/ and dial up is also widely available. There are internet cafes all over.

11. Is it easy to purchase everyday items such as food and clothes?
Food and clothes are everywhere and bargains can be found.

12. Last but not least, is English spoken and understood around Tripoli?
Many people speak English in Tripoli. For a while English was banned in the schools but now it is being taught again. Many Libyans take courses in English and they are trying to catch up with the rest of the world. They know that to get anywhere in the future they need English. One problem is that Libya has NO signs in English - only Arabic. This is a headache for anyone visiting that doesn't know Arabic. But it is common for even Libyans (the older people) not to know how to read - so no one thinks it strange if you ask them 'What does this say?'

Once again thank you very much.

Please readers - if you have anything to add, please click on comments.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Spring has arrived in Libya! We went to the farm yesterday to breathe the fresh air and look at everything green and blooming.

Sara found some flowers that we have never seen before - there was abundant rain this year so maybe we might see lots more flowers than we usually do.

This grows on the edge of our land next to the barbed wire fence. It has a very soft, delicate smell.

These are soooo tiny and were full of bees.

The cows are very happy to be out of the barn and eating all the sweet green grass. Milk at this time of year has a completely different taste.

Apricots.  Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

another Libyan blogger

There is another Libyan blogger out there. Safia who lives in Denmark and has been a recent visitor to my blog has started a blog of her own. Go have a look: http://safiaaoude.blogspot.com/

It's nice to see another Libyan blogger and I hope more and more Libyans discover this wonderful medium of self expression.

I'm slowly recovering from this chest cold and of course it's not being made any easier by the fact that my 'friend' Fatima Omar's sweet voice can now be heard on my phone when I pick it up and try to dial. Hopefully, the bill will get paid (although that never seems to be at the top of hubby's list of things to do) and I will be back to business again.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

spending time with the in-laws

Today I've got to attend the party held in honor of the birth of my brother-in-law's son. I hate these kinds of events. Hours and hours spent with in-laws. . . .uuuugh!

My husband complains about the fact that I always get depressed about going to any family event. He wanted to know why I never look depressed when the event involves one of my friends. I told him it's because I LIKE my friends. I LIKE spending time with my friends. I know that I'll ENJOY myself when I'm with my friends. We'll have a good laugh and none of us will be compairing what we're wearing, or the amount of gold we have 'or don't have'. My friends are intelligent - I can discuss such things as current events, work, and things that require thought and insight. My friends don't discuss such boring things as how many blankets they've washed in the last week or whether smeed is available at the jamiah like most Libyan women (at least the ones in my family). My friends don't care about things like that!

It's not the same when it's with family. The ladies gossip about each other and compare and become envious. You seldom see those ladies having a good time - they're too busy worrying over whether someone is backstabbing them. And they've spent hours and a small fortune to get all dressed up to sit and stare at one another. To me this is so ridiculous. None of them ever look comfortable.

Actually I think Libyan ladies have more fun at funerals. I can tell because they smile and laugh alot at funerals (which is another thing I find weird). Maybe it's because they don't have to get all dressed up or spend any money on a gift. And at funerals they can gossip more because they don't have the loud music to try to shout over.

I'll go and do my best to be pleasant. I have learned to paint an interested look on my face while I sit and daydream. If I take advantage of the time I have to spend there I can make up all kinds of things in my head to entertain myself. And you know what? I plan on wearing an outfit that they've all seen at least a dozen times! That will give them something to gossip about. . . . hehehe

Can you tell how excited I am about this?

Feature Article

The Lonely Planet has an article about the eclipse that will take place in Libya on March 29th. They also have a 17-page guidebook that you can download for free. Click on the image to have a look. Posted by Picasa

Thursday, February 09, 2006

We had some really wild weather in Libya during the past week. It was even recorded by NASA!

Dust and Clouds over Mediterranean Sea - a low pressure system over Libya that was recorded by NASA last week. Click on the image to visit NASA's Earth Observatory site and read all about it.  Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Tripoli Zoo

Going to the zoo is something we do as a family once in a while. As a child I always loved the zoo. When I was small we lived near Chicago and spent many enjoyable days at Lincoln Park and Brookfield Zoo . When I lived in Miami the Miami Metro Zoo was a good place to spend time. (click on the links for these wonderful zoos to see what my idea of what a zoo is)

Now I live in Libya, and Tripoli does in fact have a zoo. Well, at least it has a good base for a zoo. When I first went to the zoo not long after arriving in Libya (about 17 years ago) I was pleased to see that there was a zoo. There weren't many animals, but there were plants and flowers and nicely paved paths to walk on or for the kids to ride bikes or skate on. It was simple, but nice, and since it had wide open spaces and I could see that there was room for expansion in the future I was optimistic.

Over the years, the zoo has seen some improvements in the services offered. There are all kinds of newly installed play equipment for the children; swings, slides, jungle gyms, things to climb over and crawl under. And the equipment is sturdy and well made. There are fast food stands and snacks sold in various places about the park. For the most part, the park is kept neat and clean. The parking lot is large and well supervised. The only thing that is lacking are the animals themselves.

(this image makes a nice desktop background - click to see it enlarged)

We went to the zoo a few weeks ago and this is what we found:

- one elephant
- some camels
- lots of water buffalo
- a brown bear
- In the cat family: tigers, pumas, mountain lions, lynxes, Siamese cats (I'm not sure that Siamese cats need to be put on display in a zoo, but it filled an empty enclosure)
- birds: parrots, birds of prey, flamingos, ostriches, a few species of owl
- a python
- assorted monkeys
- gazelle, antelope and African plains herd animals
- fennec foxes and red foxes
- porcupine
- some racoons
- and a few other things

They have a petting zoo, but we didn't stop to see it because Ibrahim can't stand goats and I didn't want to have to argue with him.

Well, you might say that that sounds like a nice collection, but in reality most of the enclosures are empty. A few years back there were many more animals. In the past I remember seeing giraffes, zebra, hyena, lion, rhinoceros, hippo, swans, kangaroo, rabbits, tapir and many more. And they used to have about three elephants. The poor elephant looks lonely in the large enclosure that it has all to itself.

What on earth happened to all the animals? Did they die off from starvation? Neglect? Illness? Did someone get hungry and eat them? Was the excuse the economic sanctions we all endured for so long?

I can be an optimistic sort of person sometimes. I have high hopes that things will improve in the zoo's future and they will acquire more animals for the collection. I dream of someone implementing some kind of educational program for school children. They could start simply by putting up signs telling visitors what they were looking at (I didn't see any signs).

The park was crowded the day we went. The parking lot was nearly full. Many visitors were Libyans from out of town and also many foreigners. Everyone, young and old seemed to be enjoying themselves. Hopefully we'll go back again in a few weeks to enjoy the fresh springtime air and see what's going on.
Posted by Picasa

Monday, February 06, 2006

work is underway . . . again

Mustafa has convinced Adam that he should help out with the painting by scraping the old pealing paint of the kitchen ceiling. I'm not sure how he managed to convince Adam to do that, but something tells me there must be some big-time money involved to get Adam enthusiastic about being up on a ladder with a scraper.

Money is always a big issue with Adam. Probably it's a big issue with most 16 year old males. He wants all the fun gadgets like MP3 players and the latest in mobile phone technology (at least what's the latest here). So he's up there scraping away and he has a smile on his face - there must be money involved! I am not asking any questions. As long as the work gets done and it's not coming out of my pocket.

I am not sure how I am going to prepare meals for the next few days, but I'm sure we won't starve. I see lots of sandwiches in our near future.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Cheese anyone?

Denmark is a big word in Libya these days. It all began with some cartoons that were published in Denmark that had an anti-Islam slant. Libya asked the Danish ambassador to leave and the Libyan ambassador in Denmark came home. There was a big, world wide call for the banning of products from Denmark by Muslims.

Actually, when I asked around I hadn't found anyone that had actually even seen the cartoons so I found it really weird when Libyans went down the street near my house demonstrating. Shouting and chanting all the way to the Danish embassy which is nearby. Demonstrations here are always a planned event. They go to the university, schools and government offices and take the students and workers to the demonstrations by bus. It's very weird in my oppinion. Isn't the idea of being in a demonstration because you WANT to be there? It should be something that you really have strong feelings for. Not, 'You're going to a demonstration. Get on the bus'.

As for banning goods from Denmark, this really isn't a big deal as it's mostly dairy products and we get them from many sources. It's not like we are going to feel like we are doing without and making a big personal sacrifice.

As for the cartoons, I have had a look. And while I don't believe that it's right to insult anyone's religious beliefs, I do believe that people should have the freedom to express themselves. Or to attend, or not attend a demonstration.

Just my two cents.

Yusef and Ibrahim went to have their hair cut this evening. Ibrahim has been refusing to have it done for a long time and has been looking really scruffy. So when they got home I made Yusef hold Ibrahim still so I could take a picture of him with his newly cut hair. Had to put him in a headlock . . . such a silly boy!  Posted by Picasa

Jenna worked really hard creating a clown today. I haven't ever been able to find construction paper here in Libya. All they have is a kind of shiny paper with a sticker back. I like construction paper much better, I'll have to keep looking for it. Posted by Picasa

Thanks and links

I looked over at my site counter and noticed that it's gone past the 10,000 mark!! It's really nice to know that so many people read my blog and after looking at the site statistics many people regularly read my blog. Thanks!

Recently I was wandering around the blogosphere and happened across an interesting Libyan based blog. Cyberdigger has an interesting look at life in Libya - a look through the eyes of an expat working here. Very interesting!

Also I'd like to mention a Libyan website, Libya Connected. It's a site dedicated to news, articles and information about Libya. I'll add both links to my sidebar so that they're easy to find.

Again, thanks to all who read my blog, for those that come back, and especially for those that comment!

Thursday, February 02, 2006

weather and more paint fumes

It's been a cold, wet and windy week and quite honestly I have enjoyed every minute of it. I really like the weather when it's rainy. This season lasts for only a short time so I always feel that I should take complete advantage of it. Some people tell me the weather makes them depressed, but for me it has the oposite effect. I feel energized and the weather also gives me all kinds of inspiration.

I am blessed in that I have a very warm home, temperature-wise that is. You can usually wear short-sleeves inside and only need a light blanket at night. I'm sure it will probably be much colder when we move to the farm.

Mustafa is still on his project to paint the house - he's finished three rooms and now he says he'll take a break before starting in on the kitchen. I could definitely use a break! That man is going to drive me crazy. He complains saying he wants us to help him but if anyone tries to help he complains that they aren't doing a good enough job. The kids have given up and are ignorring him now. He keeps insisting I stand there while he paints to keep him company, but then complains that I'm not getting any of the regular housework done.

You can imagine what my house looks like: paintcans, ladders, brushes, buckets, and all the rest, with furniture all in the wrong place and stacked everywhere. I feel like the entire house is upside down and it seems noisier than usual because we have pulled up some of the carpets. Of course, this is the time that all the people who rarely visit decide to drop in unexpectedly.

I need a vacation.

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