Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Libyan History

If you are interested in history, particularly the Ottoman Empire, you might want to check out this book I found online:

Essential Histories: The Ottoman Empire 1326 - 1699

The pirate king called Khair ad-Din, who is also known as Barbarossa or Red Beard, conquered Tripoli in 1538 and the Ottomans arrived to occupy Tripoli in 1551. The Ottoman Empire's rule in Libya ended in 1911 when Italy invaded.

March 2nd is a public holiday in Libya. It's the anniversary of the amendment of the country's constitution and the establishment of popular congresses and people's committees - a part of more recent history (March 2, 1977). The kids have the day off school and I'm going to take the day off too. Hopefully I will spend it reading about the Ottoman Empire.

The book looks wonderful; 94 pages with lots of pictures. It covers more than just the Libyan part of their Empire, but reading it will give a good idea about the influence this part of Libya's history has on life today. One's past always influences one's present, and future too, doesn't it?

I also found this book: A Historical Archaeology of the Ottoman Empire. I'm still downloading it.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Weekend Adventures

My weekend was lovely! Friday afternoon was spent at a gathering of my friends. We took an afternoon out of our busy lives to; meet, laugh, catch up on our news and of course eat. It was a potluck bonanza! Everyone brought a dish or two. One thing is for sure - no one ever goes home hungry or empty handed when we all get together because there is always enough to eat and also to take a sample of this or that home to the unlucky members of your family that didn't come along.

Saturday I had a positive shopping experience (at least for me). My friend Tara and I decided we would see what Suk Al-hise in Al-hani was all about. It was horrible! The stuff they are selling would be classified as 'cheap crap'. In one section they had some CDs for sale and Tara stopped and got a CD of Tamer Hosni - her latest heart-throb. As we left we decided that 'Suk Al-hise is one place we will not waste time visiting again.' Unfortunately Tara discovered upon returning home, that the CD she had bought from there was blank!... Does this mean we have to go back there to return it? Uggh.. the thought of returning to Shlaftyland is scary!

We decided it was time to have a hamburger and went to our favourite place Mexicana. I have never understood why they named the place Mexicana because they don't sell any Mexican food there. We always get good service and the hamburgers are pretty consistent. Most people just pop in there and order take out but there are two tables if you want to eat there.

The disadvantage (not for me) is that there is no smoking allowed there and so Tara decided to stand outside to smoke - (God I wish she'd quit... sigh...) The guy working there got all upset and asked me to ask her to stop smoking in front of the shop. He said 'Ayb Ayb!'. 'But it's obvious that she's an ajbabiyah (foreigner).' I told him. He said 'Quite honestly I don't have a problem with her smoking, but not everyone would feel the same way.'

Libyan women don't smoke - at least not in public. If they smoke they do it at home and even then it is kept like a hidden secret. But I think in nearly every other Arab country women smoke and it's considered normal. This brings up the issue of just what is expected of foreigners visiting or working in Libya in regards to customs and behaviours. That's a whole post by itself.

Across the street from the fast-food shop there is a shop that sells shoes and bags - real stuff! The kind that are made out of leather. The shop doesn't smell like glue and plastic - it smells like a shoe store is supposed to smell. And they had a bag in there that I just couldn't pass up. 'You are such an impulse buyer.' Tara remarked. I bagged my first kill of the shopping expedition. One point for me! The bag is mine!

After that we headed toward Dahara's computer shops. Tara needed an audio cable and I wanted to look at wireless routers. Tara got her cable and I picked up a memory chip and an iPod recharger (two more points scored for me). I got an idea about the router I wanted and will return for that later.

On the way home we got in the car and found that the audio cable didn't work. Poor Tara - this was just not her day for shopping. I don't think you get any points for getting a bad audio cable and an empty CD. Better luck next time Tara! ... We are already planning our next retail therapy session.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The daily drive

I'm the official driver that takes Ibrahim to and from school. Actually I don't mind this because it gives us time to be alone together. We talk about things and we argue a lot. For a while Ibrahim would pitch a huge fit every time we drove past a toy store. He had this idea that we should stop and buy him a remote controlled car. Many times I have to pull over and stop to avoid having an accident. Everyday is some kind of adventure.

Ibrahim rides in the front next to me because he can't be trusted to behave himself alone in the back seat. If left to himself in the back he would be opening the door and trying to get out, hanging out the windows, making faces and shooting birds at neighbouring cars and if he gets angry there is always the chance that he will bonk me over the back of my head with something or take a pencil out of his book bag and stab me with it.

So to keep him somewhat under control he sits up front next to me with the seatbelt tightly fastened. He is still able to reach over and turn the windshield wipers on, poke at the buttons on the radio, try to burn things with the cigarette lighter and play with things in the glove compartment. When he's angry he kicks the dashboard in front of him as hard as he possibly can and it's a wonder that the airbag has not blown up in his face yet. I suspect that there might not be an airbag in there.

When I pull up in front of Ibrahim's school I usually see the school bus driver with a bus full of kids. I've decided that man is either a saint or he's a stupid idiot. All the money in the world would not be able to convince me to take a job carting around a bus-load of special-ed kids. God love him.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

A change in plans

Last week I was busy with ELTEX and had a light schedule at work. On Thursday I checked in to see how things were going and my secretary informed me that over the weekend the building directly across from the school would be demolished. I thought 'How nice that they plan it for the weekend. The demolition won't disrupt classes.'

On Sunday, the beginning of my work week, I drove to work expecting the neighbouring building to be gone but when I went to turn into the road I found the workers just beginning.

I sat in my car and watched the bulldozers, dust and debris. Huge chunks of broken cement were falling around the equipment which filled the road that had been blocked off from normal traffic. I noticed that the workers weren't wearing hardhats or other protective gear and I figured that if they didn't care about their own safety they wouldn't give much thought to anyone else's either. I would never forgive myself if anyone got hurt or injured and it was so noisy that no one would be able to hear above the din, so I canceled classes for two days to give them time to sort things out.

I drove home. It seemed strange to have the afternoon and evening off and I decided that since I wasn't supposed to be at home anyway that I would pretend not to be there. I headed straight for my bedroom, locked myself in, changed into my pajamas and climbed into bed. I hid under the blankets and slept all afternoon, only coming out when it got dark outside. I did this again the next day too. It was wonderful. No one missed me.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Starting out the week...

I am truly enjoying reading On the Edge this morning.

She made me laugh,
she made me cry,
she made my day!


Friday, February 15, 2008

We did it!

UT and I survived our presentation... we didn't fall over from stage fright and no one that attended fell asleep ;-) It all went smoothly. We started about three minutes late because people were still coming in and in the end there was standing room only and the door monitor ended up having to turn people away.

My only regret was that the organizers of the event got my name wrong on all the schedules, brochures and handouts and they didn't add in the description of our presentation either - despite the fact it was on our application forms and all they needed to do was copy and paste... oh well. Never mind... we had a good turnout anyway - and we had a wonderful time too.

Here's the part where I thank everyone.... hehe... like an awards ceremony....

Special thanks to UT for working so hard on this with me. It was so fun working with you. To Tankgirl - you rock! we made you sit through our presentation while we were rehearsing it and you gave us some very helpful feedback. Thanks to UT's daughters who came with their cameras and along with my daughter, TripoliGirl, helped pass out the handouts and worksheets to the people attending. And special thanks to A.Adam and Heba (two very special Libyan bloggers) for attending, commenting and cheering us on.

Monday, February 11, 2008


Getting geared up. UT and I are giving a presentation/workshop this week at ELTEX 2008. We've been working together for the past month preparing. It's really been a pleasure working with UT. We have so much fun when we get together so it really hasn't been like work at all. She's a super special lady. Wish us luck that we don't fall over from stage fright.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Mountain Biking in Libya

Last year I went with my friend Tara, my husband, and two of my children, to the Nalut Annual Spring festival. Tara, who is an avid mountain biker brought along her bike.

The conditions for mountain biking in the area are fantastic and this year we plan to go back hoping to meet up with more mountain bikers. The festival coordinators have informed us that they would be pleased to have us. We got super hospitality from the people of Nalut last year - you can see my post about it here - and here. The festival was fabulous.

If you're a mountain biker and will be in Libya on April 3rd, 4th and 5th 2008 and would like to come along you can contact me here: relocationlibya @

Friday, February 08, 2008

My pet peeves about Libya

[This is gonna get me a lot of hate]

I'm doing this for therapeutic reasons. Gotta get it off my chest kind of stuff. Yes - I am on a rant! Feel free to add your own pet peeves in the comments.

This is just a running list. They're not in any particular order, just as I think em up. I'll add to the list from time to time and link to it.

1. Plastic fruit. Why do Libyan women buy plastic fruit to decorate their houses? Who the heck wants to look at plastic fruit? Is this a thing they started in the eighties when fruit wasn't imported into Libya and kids grew up not knowing how to eat a banana? Did they buy it so they could remember what fruit looked like? Plastic fruit... uggh.

2. Tuna. Why do Libyans LOVE tuna? I would NEVER even think to eat tuna when I was a kid. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches ruled (and still do)! If any kid was stupid enough to bring a tuna sandwich to school in their lunch box they would get teased unmercifully as the 'kid who ate sandwiches that smelled like a woman with a vaginal infection'..... ewe... smelly tuna breath!

3. Water on the bathroom floor... what is their problem? Can't they go to the bathroom and clean up after themselves? I always wonder if it's water... maybe it's pee... Along with this are those skunky looking plastic shib-shibs they stick next to the bathroom door. They come to my house and think I'm strange because we don't have a pair. The floor is dry! I am militant about this!

4. Plastic bra straps. Go to any party with the ladies dressing up and you will find women with plastic bra straps hanging out of their dresses. Those dresses were made for women who have boobs that stand up by themselves. What are they thinking??? Oh... not to forget back fat and flabby arms... cover up please - you are too out of shape for that dress!

5. Tele-visits. Ever go to visit a Libyan woman and they insist that the television must be on while you visit? Usually it's tuned to cartoons or some soap opera. Why can't they just turn it off and have a conversation? Is it because they don't have anything interesting to say? I don't even watch TV at home - why would I want to go to someone else's house to do it?... sigh. I always leave feeling like I've wasted my time. I hate TV.

6. At the supermarket. Why do they put a few things on the counter and then go back to look for more things to buy? Use a basket and when you are sure you have everything - then, and only then, go to the cashier. This must be an Arab thing because I noticed it was always Arabs that did this when I was working as a cashier at Winn Dixie in the US years ago. It always pissed me off when they did this.

7. Honk! Honk! Your driver (usually son or husband) has arrived to pick you up. Libyan women actually know the sound each kind of car makes. I never answer to a honk... ever. Get out of the car and knock on the door or ring the bell! I've noticed that since most people have mobile phones that there is less honking going on... Thank God.

8. Can I borrow your ladder, screwdriver, pipe wrench...? My ladder is the most popular piece of equipment in my neighbourhood. Every time I need to use it it is gone and we have to waste time tracking it down. Not only do my neighbours borrow it but they lend it out to whomever they like too. Once my ladder somehow made it all the way from Benashur to Janzour. Imagine the stories that thing could tell? Am I the only person in the neighbourhood with tools? When we move to our new house I plan on going around to all the neighbours asking to borrow their stuff. That way they will think I don't own any of my own and won't come asking to borrow mine. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbours' hardware collection. lol.

Helping out Tommy

My friend Tommy, who's one of the sweetest guys on the planet, has asked me to help him out. This is what he has to say:

" Unfortunately, my crimes have caught up with me. I need your help to get bail money to get out of jail! Here's the story:

This year, I have the honor and pleasure of participating in the Muscular Dystrophy Association's (MDA) "Lock Up 2008." This is a national effort happening all across the country this year, but I need your help and the help of anyone you know who might have a kind heart and a few dollars to spare. On February 21st, 2008 I will be arrested by Pitt County Police and taken to Jail until I can raise the money necessary for my bail. This "bail" money comes in the form of tax-deductible charitable donations given by you to the MDA. "

If you want to help him out please visit his blog for all the details:

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

an observation

Why must Brits insist on using the word 'whilst'?

It sounds so affected......... lol

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

My life is not so ho-hum afterall

Last night I had an adventure of sorts. My day at work was finished and we were on our way to drop my daughter's friend off at her house on the way home. I made it through the dangerous intersection at Benashur and Jaraba Streets - dangerous because the traffic light has been out since they started demolishing Jaraba Street and for some reason instead of putting a traffic cop there for safety they just leave everyone to fend for themselves. Libyans have no idea about the concept of turn taking. They just all try to push their way through the intersection and it's a snarled up mess with angry motorists yelling and glaring at one another as they weave their way through.

Further down the street we turned into the road that would lead us to my daughter's friend's house. I was driving carefully because the area was a bit dark (broken streetlights). All of a sudden I saw someone jump out and rush towards the passenger side of the car.


'What the ....?!?' I exclaimed. I wasn't sure what had happened. I was pretty certain I hadn't hit someone but I knew something had hit my car. I slowed down and came to a stop when suddenly a man appeared in the road next to the car and started shouting 'Don't stop! Keep going! Keep going! He's coming! Don't stop!' I looked out my rearview mirror and sure enough some maniac was running down the road towards my car waving what appeared to be a metal bar. I took off.

With our adrenaline pumping, We made it to my daughter's friend's house and I got out to see what had happened to my car. There were no streetlights working on her street either and it was dark but I could see a deep dent in the top of the car above the window. I realized that had the guy hit the window it would have smashed my daughter's friend right in the face and head. It was a rather frightening thought.

Being a civic-minded person I decided that we should immediately report this to the police. What was I thinking? I drove to where I knew there was a police station but when we got there it was no longer there. Maybe they moved it? Do they just move a police station? I told my daughter to get out and ask at a nearby supermarket. With a big sigh she said 'Mom. Do you think you're in America or something? Even if there was a police station they would just look at you as though you were crazy and were wasting their time.' I suppose she was right. I gave up and headed home.

When we got home I looked again at the damage to my car, counting my blessings that this was all that had happened. Raving lunatic, irate drunk or crazed drug addict... who knows? We were home safe.

Here I had been thinking that my life had become ho-hum and some adventure happens my way. I should be careful what I wish for in the future. This was definitely not what I had in mind.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

An unexpected visitor

Saturday mornings are usually spent with my girls and I doing a thorough cleaning of the house from one end to another. I usually get out of bed, throw on an old housedress, head to the kitchen to put on a pot of coffee and then start right in on the cleaning - stopping as I pass through the kitchen to take a bite or two of a sandwich along with a sip of coffee instead of sitting down to my usual breakfast. When we're through with all the cleaning I head for the shower.

An hour or so into the cleaning found me attacking the dust in my room. My son Yusef came in to tell me there was a neighbour lady at the door wanting to see me. Here I was in a grimy looking housedress, my hair flying about in every direction, with smudges on my face. No time to freshen up, I headed for the door to find the neighbour lady standing there patiently.

After exchanging greetings at the door I told her 'Come on in. I'm afraid you've caught us in the middle of our Saturday morning housecleaning. Just ignore the mess.' I pushed over the pile of clean laundry that was on the sofa waiting to be folded so she could have a seat.

'What can I do for you?' I asked. She took a deep breath and said 'I've come to ask if you would give your daughter for marriage.' Here I was with my dirty housedress and messy hair sticking out every which way. 'No. Sorry. She's much too young.' The woman actually sighed and looked relieved! I imagine she was so happy that I said no considering how I looked. I had a hard time to try to keep from laughing. After she left the girls and I started laughing hysterically. I looked at myself in the mirror in the entry and just howled with laughter.

I need to get some kind of warning system set up. Maybe a sign, or possibly that yellow caution tape.

This Libyan custom is so totally ridiculous. At least this woman was polite and went about asking about my daughter in a nice way. Some of the approaches women use are just so weird. One woman came once and said 'My son wants a bride who's mother has blue eyes.' What is this? Selective breeding? Is my daughter a farm animal? Livestock? Later on I thought that I should have replied 'Let's let my daughter have a look at the boy's father's body parts to see if she likes any of them first.' Ugghh.. do they realize how they sound? And they all want white girls; fair and white. And they all state this up front.

One of my friends told me that some women came to her house when she wasn't at home and one of her daughter's answered the door and told them their mother was not home. They said to her 'Can you and your sisters line up in the window so we can decide if we should come back?' Did they really think that someone would marry their daughter off to a family that used that approach? Needless to say the girls had the sense NOT to line up in front of the window.

Arranged marriages.... deranged marriages... hehehe....

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