Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Are you still using dial-up?

There are actually many, many people still using dial-up in Libya. ADSL is available here but most people consider it way too expensive - 200 dinars to start up the service and than 50 dinars a month after that. That's a lot of money considering the average salary in Libya is about 250 dinars a month.

One of my friends told me she would visit my blog more often if it would only open faster for her on her painfully slow dial-up connection. So I've found a solution for all of you stuck in this dilemma.

Mowser is a proxy service used for people connecting to the internet via their mobile phones. It offers users the chance to view pages on the net that are free of all the bulk of unnecessary HTML and JAVA script. What you get is just the basics - the text and a smaller version of the images.

So here's my blog's link using Mowser:

What do you think? It's really useful, isn't it?

Saturday, May 26, 2007

A wasted afternoon

I woke up this morning thinking I had overslept. I looked at my watch and found it was only seven. I lay in bed trying to get back to sleep but it was impossible so I got up to face the day.

The house was quiet with everyone else still sleeping so I was able to eat my breakfast in peace. Then I got dressed and started my day. When I got outside I found the air was still and seemed thick and smokey. The sky looked overcast as though it was going to rain and the temperature was HOT and I knew it was going to just get even hotter as the day progressed.

A trip to the bakery, then to the butcher shop for meat, then off to a meeting. On the way home a stop at the vegetable market. In the house and straight into the kitchen. Lunch: rishta kiskas along with two kinds of salad.

The afternoon today is like a furnace. The heat is making everyone just want to stay indoors, wasting away the afternoon sleeping. This is one thing that I hate about Libya - the time wasted while everyone lolls around for hours every afternoon, especially in the summer.... sigh...

Friday, May 25, 2007

My shoes

Lately on Libyan blogs there's been a show-all of everyone's shoes. Well, I thought I would share a picture of mine. I took it last week while I was visiting Sabratha with some of my students. My foot with a mosaic in the background - I wasn't stepping on the tiles! What do you think? Pretty cool?

Thinking back, I posted a story about my shoes a long time ago. For some reason the picture disapeared but the story is still here: Ever get the feeling someone is looking at you?
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Tuesday, May 22, 2007


The sitemeter says that I've had 50,000 hits on my blog! Number 50K was in Libya, using IE on a Windows XP in Arabic, among other interesting things.

Thanks to all of you who read my blog! I'll let you know when I hit any other interesting milestones (on my blog or in my life).

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Another weird product

Yesterday when I was out shopping with a friend we saw this! How weird! Who would buy such a contraption? It looks painful! Why would a shop owner even put it in the store? My friend and I had a good laugh.
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Thursday, May 17, 2007

Weekend's here & summer's here too!

Well, five kids are through with exams.... only Adam left now. Since Adam doesn't use the telephone very often (because he has a cell phone), we dragged it out from the lock-up and plugged it in.

Do you know what we heard?...... Fatima Omar of course! Asking us in her sweet voice to go pay the phone bill. It will have to wait now until next week because the weekend is here. It doesn't really matter anyway, we were actually getting used to not having the phone. It did make some of my friends pissed off though... they are begging me to consider getting a mobile phone..... sigh.... I'll have to think about it.

Now I'm trying to figure out what I will do with all these kids for the summer.

Any suggestions?

Monday, May 14, 2007

Have you been trying to call me?

The kids are getting through exams...Adam doesn't start until June 3rd. We solved the problem of the girls having gabfests on the phone by unplugging it and hiding it. So if you've been trying to call me just forget it and send me an email. We'll plug the phone back in when exams are finished.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Dangerous products are sold in Libya!

Most Libyan women don't feel complete unless their eyes are lined in dark black kohl. It makes them look beautiful and exotic - their dark eyes shining and the whites of their eyes appearing even more so with the effect of the kohl. But these products are really dangerous! Most contain large amounts of lead - in some cases up to 47%.

Lead is especially dangerous for pregnant women and children. Libyan women often decorate newborn babies eyes and small children with kohl. Besides it's use for cosmetic reasons, Libyan women believe that it prevents eye diseases, and argue that it was used by Prophet Mohamed.

The New York City Dept of Heath put out a press release warning against these products that are sold illegally in America for use by the immigrant population there. The article is very informative and I really recommend reading it and passing it along to anyone you know that uses these products. Link here:

Friday, May 04, 2007

Where is this? - #16

I haven't had a picture for the 'Where is this?' challenge in quite a while. So here's a recently taken picture for the challenge. If you think you know where it is (or you want to guess) click on comments. Click on the picture to see an enlarged image.

The pictures for the game 'Where is this?' have all been taken from someplace in Libya and are in an area open to the public. The prize for the winner will be the satisfaction of knowing that you had the right answer! - I'll let you know who the winner is.


Tara wins this round of Where is this? Not fair really since she's the one that gave me the picture in the first place. And yes Kris, it is very much improved since we were there last.

This is pretty much a typical public bathroom in Libya. When my kids saw the picture they said it looked like a bathroom at either a public school or a mosque. In fact this particular picture was taken recently at Ras Ajdir, the border post between Libya and Tunisia - on the Libyan side. Tara was horrified, but I looked at the picture and said 'Hey, that's not too bad. You should see some of the bathrooms I've been in!'

I think everyone that's ever been to Libya has a bathroom story... some of us have more than one. I've got plenty of weird bathroom stories. But I think I'll just tell you my best one. It's the one that's the most bizarre. The sentimental journey begins like this...

Long ago, way back in 1990, when I was pregnant with my daughter Nora, I was having complications and the doctors decided that it would be best if I gave birth at the public maternity hospital which is connected to the children's hospital, Aljala. This measure was for 'just in case of any emergencies' and thank God none happened. I wasn't thrilled with the idea of having to deliver at Aljala and so I decided I would wait until the last possible minute to go - and I managed to do this, arriving at the hospital at 5:30 in the morning and delivering just 25 minutes later.

Shortly after delivery Nora and I were moved to the ward. It was a room that had 18 beds in it, all of them filled, except one. The nurse pushed me in the wheelchair to my assigned bed and found the mattress, a flimsy foam type, was soaked in fresh blood. I suggested to the nurse that she flip the mattress over to have a look on the other side. Of course the blood was soaked all the way through.

What to do? Here I was, stuck in the hospital, I was at their mercy. The nurse was a sweet woman from India and she felt sorry for me. It certainly felt good to be able to speak English to someone. We discussed what to do and she decided to see if she could find a plastic bag - the big industrial kind that is used for waste. She came back with the bag and we opened it up and laid it across the edge of the bed. Then she helped me out of the wheel chair and I stayed there, leaning up against the edge of the bed, holding on to the metal railing, doing my best to stay on the plastic. It was a balancing act that was made more difficult due to the fact that I had just given birth. Nora was tightly wrapped in a blanket and tucked into a bassinet.

A short while later the same nurse came back with something for me to eat. She said 'Don't worry. This food is clean. I went into the kitchen and prepared it personally for you.' God bless that nurse for her kindness! So I ate an egg sandwich with cheese and had a piece of fruit and a glass of milk, all the while doing my best to ignore the Libyan women in the ward who were not too happy to see me getting special treatment.

I really am lucky that my delivery was an uncomplicated one and that I was able to recover my strength quite quickly. The shock factor of seeing the filth around me made me want to get out of there as fast as possible. I asked when I could leave. 'Probably not until tomorrow.' was the answer and visiting hours weren't until four in the afternoon. It was going to be a long wait.

Nora began sucking her thumb about 2 minutes after she was born and she was contentedly sleeping the whole time, thumb in her mouth, oblivious to all that was around her. After about 45 minutes I decided to attempt to find a bathroom. I walked slowly, holding onto the rails of each bed, making my way down the ward. Then when I got to the corridor I kept near to the wall so I could reach out for support and lean against it whenever I felt dizzy. I slowly passed the entrance to each ward, stopping for a rest and looked in the doors. I can't remember how many wards there were, but they all looked the same as the one I was in. Finally, after what seemed like a long time, I made it to the bathroom. Only one bathroom on the floor, shared by all those women, in all those wards! And what a bathroom!

Well, never in my life have I seen such a place. Shock, total shock! There was a row of sinks, none of which worked, and along one wall were three stalls for toilets. Two of the stalls had western style toilets in them. They weren't working, but out of necessity women had used them anyway. Blood, urine and feces were everywhere. But even more awful was a huge mountain of sanitary napkins thrown on the floor with the biggest cat I have ever seen in my life eating from the pile. The cat looked over it's shoulder at me and hissed. Hissssssssssssssssssss! And then he turned back to his meal.

Too weak to make a run for it and in desperate need, I resigned myself to the task of actually using the only working toilet. It was an old fashioned, hole in the floor type. Imagine how it feels to be crouching over a filthy hole in the floor when you've only recently given birth? In the corner of the bathroom was a shower stall with a faucet that had a trickle of water coming out of it. I did my best to clean myself up at the water tap and got out of there as quickly as I could.

In a daze I managed to get back to my bed and resumed my perch on the plastic bag. It took forever for four o'clock to arrive. As soon as my husband saw me he said 'Get your coat on. I'm taking you home.' There weren't any doctors around and the nurse said she would sign me out but that I would be leaving at my own discretion; they wouldn't be responsible for anything that might happen to me. That was fine with me. I couldn't get out of there fast enough!

I survived the experience. I've heard that they've cleaned up the hospital since then but I visited someone there a few years ago and found it much the same. Libyan women give birth there all the time and their attitude is: 'It's only for a day and then you can go home.' To me that is so sad that they have such an attitude. Even animals deserve better treatment! I had four more children after Nora - thank God after that time private hospitals and clinics started opening up and so I could go someplace that was relatively clean. But not everyone has that option available to them. Not everyone can afford to pay for a private clinic.

Last week I saw this article in the news: Poor Plumbing To Blame For Six Premature Baby Deaths In Montreal. It made me wonder what the hospitals in Canada looked like. And it made me wonder how many deaths in Libya are caused simply because of filth. I'm thankful that neither Nora nor myself suffered any ill effects from the filth we were subjected to (except for lingering nightmares and thoughts that make my skin crawl).

So that's one of my Libyan bathroom stories... hard to believe but true!

Thinking about invitations...

I've gotten to the point that the word 'wedding' makes my heart sink. I am totally sick of Libyan weddings - and I don't even go to very many of them.

The whole idea of getting all dressed up in an uncomfortable outfit, with a face full of makeup, spending time on my hair and all the rest, just to sit for hours at a wedding with music blasting so loud that you cannot even hear yourself think let alone have a conversation with anyone just makes me feel ill. I sit there thinking about how uncomfortable I am and wishing I were elsewhere. Thinking about all the things I could be doing if I wasn't there. Feeling alone in a roomful of people - feeling alone because the loud music is so isolating.

I might find Libyan weddings a bit more interesting if they were not all the same. But every wedding has the same music, same food, same routine. Why can't someone have a quiet, 1 hour ceremony on the beach with everyone having a piece of cake and something to drink and then everyone goes home? Maybe with a violin soloist instead of loud music? How about an afternoon garden party with a buffet? Why do Libyan weddings always have to go on and on for hours and late into the night? And sometimes last days? AND ALWAYS BE THE SAME????

Sigh... I have weddings to go to soon. I'm thinking of just not going... sigh... It will hurt people's feelings if I don't show up... but I really don't care... sigh...

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