Sunday, September 30, 2007

Islamic lectures

The other day my husband came home and told me that there are some guest lecturers at Baggi Mosque (sometimes called Menshia Mosque) in Benashur. One lecturer, Dr. Jamal Badawi who is scheduled to give a lecture on Wednesday, caught my attention. When I became a Muslim in 1982 I read nearly all of his books and had his entire collection of lectures on cassette.

When I came to Libya in 1989 I brought my books and tapes with me but they were confiscated. When I asked the reason I was told it was because Dr. Badawi was a professor in Saint Mary's University in Canada and the guy said 'That's a Christian university.' My husband kicked my leg and glared at me as a warning so I would keep quiet. I was ready to blast the guy for being such an imbecile.

Of the eight boxes of books I brought with me to Libya I was only allowed to keep one Quran, the rest I never saw again. It was a painful experience for me back then, having been used to the freedom to read and listen to whatever I wanted. Nowadays we have the internet thank God so reading material is just a click away.

So now the former forbidden lecturer is here. Libya is really changing.

Friday, September 28, 2007

An update

We told the kids that their aunt was having a baby. My husband insisted to say she had gotten married but that the marriage wasn't working out as planned so she would probably be raising the child on her own. Of course the kids saw right through this as I expected they would but they decided to go along with their father just to 'save face'.

I decided to put this in my mental file cabinet in the 'Libyan Legends' file. That's the place where I have filed the other tales that Libyans 'believe' such as; the sleeping embryo and the magical virginity fix.

I'll have to write up a post about these one day.. but then they would be exposed as myths... hmmm...

By the way - most people commented to say congratulations and were in favor of telling the kids. Thanks for the input!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

I've got good news!

My sister told me she is pregnant! I am soooooo thrilled. When hubby heard the news the first thing he said was 'Don't tell the kids.'

CULTURE CLASH! - My sister is single. I think his reaction is stupid. Everyone in Libya watches Oprah, Dr. Phil, Friends, and the list goes on and on. What is the big deal?

What do you think about this?

Monday, September 24, 2007

An English teacher's nightmare!

This card was given to me by a friend who got it from someone who stayed at the Alkabir Hotel in Tripoli. Well, at least there are no spelling mistakes!

Dear Guest

We are pleasure to welcome you in one of Social Security Hotels. We are sure that you will enjoy a very happy accommodations.

Our policy is good welcome for you and to Prepare amicable friendly good atmosphere for You, and to render for you brilliant service distinguished with courtesy, cleverness and respect.

We kindly request you to help us for achieving our Objective by filling the attached questionnaire Overload before leaving our hotel.

Thank you for your co-operation, and for Choosing our hotel, we are looking forward to Welcome you again soonest.

Click on the image for a larger picture.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Thinking back...

Every Ramadan I take some time to stop and remember my father-in-law. Actually I think about him more often than just once a year, but he died during the month of Ramadan in 1996 so the month makes me think back and mark his passing.

When I first came to Libya my father-in-law wasn't particularly thrilled with me. I think the whole idea that he was stuck with a foreign daughter-in-law just kind of ticked him off. Just shaking my hand seemed a huge effort for him. But seeing that my first year in Libya was spent living in the family house we were forced to get to know each other. There were good times... and there were bad. I swear that was the longest year of my entire life.

Once I nearly killed my father-in-law. It was kind of an accident that marked a turning point in our relationship.

Being stuck living with the family and only having one small room was pretty miserable. I was going through culture shock and hubby was going through re-entry shock. These were trying times and because we had little if any privacy it meant we couldn't yell and scream at one another to get it out of our systems. I quietly steamed away wondering why in the hell I ever decided to come to Libya in the first place. I found sitting with the family day in and day out extremely boring so a lot of the time I would just stay in my room either writing, reading (the same books over and over again) or listening to a small cassette player that I had brought with me from the US.

This pissed the hell out of hubby. He seemed to think I was being anti-social and he decided to break the cassette player - thinking this would just make me have one less thing to do alone in my room. Well, there was no privacy to have a screaming battle but there was still revenge to be had. I waited for hubby to leave for work the next morning and carted his stereo system up to the roof and tossed it over the side. I leaned over and looked four stories down, satisfied to see it was completely broken. Then I went downstairs to the kitchen and made myself a celebratory cup of coffee with some nescafe I had managed to hide away for myself (there were 14 people living in that house and the only way you could keep anything special for yourself was to hide it).

As I was pouring the hot water into the cup my father-in-law stormed into the kitchen. He was white as a ghost and furious, holding parts of the broken stereo system in his hands. He shook them in my face and demanded to know if I was the one who had tried to kill him. It turned out that he had been standing in the carport area below the building and the sound system had landed about two feet away from him. It could have landed on his head had he taken a step out but instead the fright nearly gave the poor man a stroke. I explained why I had thrown it off the roof and I asked him, 'How was I supposed to know you were standing down there?'.

I gave him my coffee and we made up. I think he felt sorry for me. When dear hubby came home and found the broken sound system he was not pleased but my father-in-law told him off and the whole event was pushed aside. Thus marked the beginning of my friendship with my father-in-law.

Over the years we became very close. He was retired but worked on the family farm everyday. One of his favourite things to do was to go into the fields and cut fodder for the cows and sheep. I often picked up a sickle and followed him into the fields where we would work together and talk. He told me about stories of his life or we'd talk about our fears, current events or the future. Sometimes we would just work together in silence and oftentimes he would sing, always the same song; the national anthem during the king's reign.

He suffered from diabetes and hypertension which in his later years caused him to have heart problems. We had long since moved out of the family house and into our own apartment in another area of town but every time we went to the family house for a visit my first stop would be to check on my father-in-law. If he wasn't busy we'd have a nice chat and then I'd go off and sit with the women. One visit he told me that he wasn't feeling well and thought he would be going into the hospital that night. After I left him I found my husband and told him what his father had said. He went to see his dad but came back and said his father was fine. Sure enough, later in the night my father-in-law asked to be taken to the hospital. He sent word that I wasn't to visit him in the hospital. I went off for a walk and found a smooth rounded stone the size of my fist. I gave it to my husband to take to his father because I knew he wouldn't be able to wash for prayers but he could use the stone to perform his ablutions symbolically. The kids took out their crayons and drew pictures for their grandfather.

After a week and he insisted on being released from the hospital and taken to Tunisia. He came home before leaving for Tunis and the family gathered round to see him. I was able to spend some time alone with him. He told me he wanted me to take care of the kids and look after his stubborn son. He begged me to be more patient with the family and attend all the weddings and occasions even though he knew how much I hated the events. He told me he was going to die and we would never see one another again. He told me to fear only Allah. We said our goodbyes. He didn't say goodbye to anyone else. He had a heart attack and died within minutes of arriving at the hospital in Tunisia.

I'm really lucky to have had such a good relationship with my father-in-law. I have found that it is a pretty rare thing indeed.

OK... you can stop crying now!

My father-in-law with my daughter Sara, 1992

Friday, September 21, 2007

Get out your frustrations honey!

I found this game for Mustafa... now if he can figure out how to use a computer he can get his frustrations out by beating the heck out of a computer (instead of threatening to do it for real to mine). Now I have to find a game that has a television with Aljazero on it that I can pound my frustrations out on... LOL! Play the game: HERE

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Links to Libyan History

I found these interesting links about the Garamentes of Libya:

My last nerve

I saw this: Libya returns French to school curriculum and thought about laughing if I could only stop crying. My daughter said one of her friend's sisters was given a schedule and a book for Italian. In the past they had the idea to bring in Housa (an African language) into the curriculum.

Isn't this kind of stupid seeing they still can't manage to teach English in Libyan schools yet? This is just another thing to get on my last nerve.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Adventures.. just another day in my life

The kid's have really started school. And guess what? They are all going in the morning! This is the first time this has ever happened. I actually have peaceful and childless mornings! I've dreamed about this for years and years.

We've been running around different shops picking up things for school. Yesterday the girls and I decided to see if my friend Tara wanted to come with us. We got to her house and ended up chatting and joking around until it was pretty late. We decided we'd just stop at some shops on our way home. On the way out the door Jenna decided she had to give Tara a huge hug. She jumped up and wrapped her arms around Tara's neck causing her to become off balance and the two of them ended up falling backwards off the veranda in front of the house - a drop of about a meter and a half.

Boom!... Crash!... I was outside opening up the car and heard the screams. I got back inside to find Jenna screaming and saying she had knocked herself on the head. Poor Tara was in shock I think. It had all happened so fast. We straightened out Jenna and found she had also hurt her arm but she was able to move it and it looked straight and not broken. No one was bleeding. We got some ice to put on Jenna's arm. And decided to head for home.

Tara says she thinks she has whiplash. She said as she was falling she was trying to make sure to be underneath to protect Jenna. It could have been much worse.. counting blessings here.

In the morning Jenna said her arm still hurt but she wanted to go to school. It wasn't swollen, I told her after school we'd take her for an x-ray if it was still bothering her. After school her father took her to have it x-rayed (this saved me from having to post another hospital story - aren't you happy?). It turns out she has a slight fracture, the doctor put a splint on it (not a cast) and said to come back on Wednesday.

Otherwise life is going ok. I am finally over missing out on my morning coffee. The first few days of Ramadan were miserable in that respect, but I survived them.

Our next adventures should involve buying Eid clothes... I really miss Rosebud who used to help me out by taking the girls shopping while her mother and I enjoyed an evening chat and coffee. So stay tuned for more of my weird adventures...

Oh I have another beggar story too.. but I will save it for later as I'm sure I will have more to add before the month is over.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Is it that time of the year?

School... does it start tomorrow or not? That's the latest question.

My kids are ready to go. School clothes, backpacks, pens, pencils, notebooks are all waiting to be used. I will be soooo happy to see the kids off to school. This has been one hell of a loooooong summer!

Tomorrow morning the kids will be groggy and complaining since they have been in the habit of staying up half the night (or more). I will have to go back into my roll of bus driver once again.

I hope school starts tomorrow... Please let it start tomorrow...please, oh pretty please!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The First Day

Ramadan began in Libya today. Apparently a day earlier than everywhere else in the world except an area of Iraq. Most other countries will start fasting tomorrow.

Last night the traffic in Tripoli was horrendous and the supermarkets were packed with entire families. It was crazy. I've had all my shopping done except for the vegetables and meat for about two weeks. I took the kids out for a drive last night just to watch the madness. Just getting into a parking area of a shop we often go to was almost impossible. Inside they had added an extra cash register to try to handle the crowds (but it didn't really make that much of a difference). Why on earth people had waited so late to do their shopping is a mystery to me. But the kids and I enjoyed watching them all. We drove around town at a snail's pace. The kids chose oldies from the 70s to listen to and we stopped and got shawarma on the way home.

Other than the God awful Libyan soup, I don't cook many Libyan dishes during Ramadan. We tend to eat pretty light, keeping to rice, baked chicken and various salads. Nothing fried and none of those time consuming (in my opinion time wasting) dishes are prepared. And I cook early so I am out of the kitchen by 2:30 or 3. Thank God for the invention of the microwave!

As a rule Libyans eat sitting on the floor in the sitting room - in front of the television. Not in my house - in the kitchen, on the table, everyone has a separate dish (and we use proper silverware). My kids and husband complain from time to time, but there are just some things that I refuse to budge about. They are more than welcome to go spend Ramadan elsewhere and occasionally they do go to a relative's house to eat. Then they come home with stories about how so and so's bratty little kids spilled soup on the carpet and how their cousins grabbed up all the pizza and stuffed themselves. It's interesting living in a multi-culti household sometimes.

After eating my kids like all Libyans always watch television. I think Ramadan is probably the only time of the year that anyone ever watches the Libyan channel. They put on all kinds of special programs during the month and they are not necessarily religious ones either, usually comedies and other fun things like a Libyan version of Candid Camera. Today they had a comedy with a typical family in Ramadan:

Praying together before eating.

Eating at trays on the floor. Notice the men have a separate tray from the women.

And of course the television is blasting away the entire time .....

Happy Ramadan!

Sunday, September 09, 2007

A break, 'me time' and a new project... in Ramadan

My school goes on break every Ramadan. We've found there is no use in having classes for students (and teachers) who are fasting because everyone feels like a zombie and students have trouble retaining anything. One year I taught during Ramadan and it was hard going. Trying to talk to an entire classroom, making sure your voice is loud enough to reach the four corners, just makes your mouth dry and parched. It was exhausting. So starting from Monday there will be a break for me from teaching for a month, actually a little more as we won't start back until after Eid.

In the meantime I have lots to do besides cooking, fasting, praying and other spiritual things.

First on my list will be to make an effort to spend quality time with family and friends.

is 'me time'; plans include getting out my camera and shooting a photo a day. These days I haven't had much time to get out and take any pictures - no time and little inspiration. Hopefully having more time will solve the creative photo block I've been going through.

Another thing
will be going over my website and changing it a bit (maybe more than a bit). That's been on my list of things to do for ages.

But most of all
, I will be working on a new project with a friend and colleague. We've decided to set up a relocation consultancy service for people and companies relocating to Libya. I get so many questions and requests for information that it is just natural to put it all together and offer it as a service. On the surface it looks easy, but information about Libya changes daily and as every client's needs will be different it all has to be done on a personal and individual basis. It's not just work for me though because I will be learning new things everyday - and you know how much I like that. Libya has so much to offer and I find all this new knowledge thrilling.

What are you planning to do during Ramadan?

Friday, September 07, 2007

Do weird dreams need interpretation?

I had a weird dream last night. There was a mother cat who had just given birth and was abandoning her kittens - there were three kittens. This was happening in a shop that sold a combination of lingerie, luxurious linens, and self help books.

I first noticed the lingerie. Lacy, soft and silky - just the kinds I like. Then I noticed the bedding. Fabulous stuff - not the kind they sell in Libya - this was real bedding! As I was looking at the section that had bath towels and touching and smelling the soft fluffy cotton I looked down and noticed the cat. Actually I heard the kittens and then noticed the cat. Mama cat was leaving and the three kittens were scattered about on the floor of the shop. I collected them up and put them in a display of silky pillow cases so they wouldn't get stepped on.

Then I looked up and found the self help books. I forgot all about the rest of the things and started browsing the titles. Then I woke up.

What does all this mean?

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Look what I found

I found an interesting way to see who links to me in the blogosphere. It's all mapped out using a free site called TouchGraph Google Browser. It's an interesting way to see the connections between blogs and sites and how they interact with one another. I like that I can see how Libyan bloggers connect. It's also a way to find new places related to sites you like. Pretty nifty!

Monday, September 03, 2007

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Getting ripped off

I went to the supermarket yesterday. It's a small shop just around the corner from my house. I don't particularly like this shop, I just go there because it's convenient.

I've noticed that they've been stocking up on new merchandise for Ramadan. This time of year they come out with all kinds of things that you don't find the rest of the year. Things like, pudding mixes and cake mixes, packets of mixed spices and all sorts of 'instant foods' like soup mix. After Ramadan they will stop bringing these things (as if we only eat one month a year!).

I was in the shop to buy the usual - cheese, milk, tuna, macaroni, tomato paste, harissa and those unmentionable female things.

At the cash register I put the basket on the counter... actually I put it on top of all the plastic bags and advertising promotion papers. I squeezed the basket in between the candy displays and all the other junk that's on the counter.... sigh... this is one of the reasons I hate this shop...too much clutter.

It's a modern shop - meaning he's got one of those laser guns that zaps in the price from the barcode right into the computer and shows you all the details on the monitor. What do you think he does? He zaps in the first price and then tells me 'Oh. The price is wrong. We've changed the price.' and I watch as he adds a quarter to everything I have in the basket. Everything that is, except the unmentionable female things.

Yes... Ramadan is just around the corner... be prepared to get ripped off on everything, everywhere you go... except for unmentionable female things... sigh..

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