Saturday, April 26, 2008

The treadmill of life

This morning I had a meeting to attend. It was in an area I was unfamiliar with so I brought along Jenna to help me out by reading signs and pointing out landmarks.

We got to the area but never found the place. Poor UT who was also attending the meeting was on the phone with me trying to guide me in the right direction. Traffic was awful, the sides of the streets were full of people double parked and whenever I slowed down to look at landmarks and signs angry motorists horns began to blare. I found myself driving in circles and at one point a pick-up truck backed into the side of my car. I finally just gave up and drove around until I found a road that looked as though it might lead me in the direction of home. Jenna and I decided to stop and have a hamburger before doing some grocery shopping and then we headed home.

The afternoon was spent getting ready for a visit from my sister-in-law's daughter, a newlywed. To give the aroosa a little something different we made Mexican food. Yummy! And after dinner I sent Jenna around the corner to get us some ice-cream.

I'm tired. It was a long day. But I am going to reward myself tomorrow with a hair cut. Yeah!!! Sheila is back! It's time to get pampered and feel and look human again.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Libyan roads are getting rediculous!

Lately I have been wasting huge amounts of time driving around town looking for roads that are not blocked due to all the demolition and roadwork. It's becoming extremely frustrating.

What were once simple tasks or errands that took a few minutes now take much, much longer. The other day I drove to the copy shop and in the few minutes that I was at the shop all the nearby roads were closed to traffic. I drove down one street only to get to the end and find it closed and had to figure out how to turn around to go back where I started. Of course a long line of cars behind me were in the same predicament; all of us trying to sort ourselves out. Just when you thought you had figured out a through road you would find yourself at an impasse and have to back-up or turn around once again. What should have taken me a few minutes ended up taking me an hour and a half.

At one point the only way through was to cross a rather high median. My car is low so I stopped and had a look to see if I would be able to make it across. I decided to go for it only to get the front set of wheels over and get stuck... my tires were spinning in mid-air.... I was going nowhere. I'm not sure how I managed to get off the center strip and back again with 4 wheels on the ground.

Back up... turn around... Ahhh! I can go this way! Turn the corner only to find a tent set up in the street blocking the way. Here I am trapped once again.

My car is turning into junk in just a matter of weeks. How long will this roadwork go on? When will we see the end of it?

I need a 4-wheel drive. Or maybe a helicopter... sigh..

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Child brides

Girls in Libya seem to be getting married at younger ages these days. It's something I can't understand. If a girl in America got married at age 16 it would most probably be because she was 'in the family way' and even nowadays maybe that's a bit old-fashioned as most would just choose to have the baby on their own and not even bother about marriage. But in Libya, where arranged marriages are still pretty much the norm, it seems the trend is to marry young girls.

My daughter Nora's friend, aged 17, is getting married in July. The girl isn't thrilled about the idea; this is all her mother's idea. The woman (who I think is a complete idiot) is so excited because the guy (in her eyes) is filthy rich. 'He's given her expensive presents and says he has two houses in Europe, where he's been living for quite some time' she says gleefully.

What is this woman thinking? The man is about 20 years older than her daughter and the girl is only going along with the idea to keep her mother happy. And her mother has been going on and on about this for the past few months causing the girl to give up all thoughts of education because all her mother can keep her thinking about night and day is wedding plans, wedding dresses, wedding gifts, wedding this, wedding that, wedding, wedding, wedding. Most likely she will fail her last year of high school because she's been diverted from any thoughts of studying. The guy is going to find himself with a poorly educated teenaged wife half his age who doesn't love him or care about him (and doesn't know how to cook either) - what is he thinking? Maybe he's some kind of pervert. Sigh....

Two years ago one of Nora's friends got married at age 15. Two weeks after the wedding the bride came over to visit Nora and the girls sat in the living room and played with Barbie dolls. It was bizarre.

Just yesterday I read a news article about a Yemeni court ordering the termination of the marriage of an 8-year-old girl. Eight years old? Isn't that like pedophilia???

Ladies have been asking for the past few years for my girls and some have actually argued with me when I told them that all girls should be educated; hold some kind of certificate or diploma in their hands and preferably working before thinking about getting married. Who knows what they may face in the future - they need to have the ability to take care of themselves.

Nora's friend has decided that all her friends can be bridesmaids at her wedding - this is a new western idea that Libyan girls are adopting. The girls had to spend an entire afternoon and evening discussing the dresses and visiting the seamstress who will be making them. An entire afternoon and evening that none of the girls did any studying and final year of high school exams are just around the corner. It's all like a big game the girls are playing... this is getting out of hand.... sigh...

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Nalut's Spring Festival - 2008

As soon as the kids got home from school last Thursday, we packed up the car and headed out to Nalut. Jenna, Ibrahim and Nora went with this year. Tara came along as well but left Friday afternoon.

We arrived feeling dusty and tired and were treated to dates, milk, buttermilk and ibsisa by the welcoming committee about midway up the mountain going into the town of Nalut.

This is Tara checking to see which sim card would work the best.

The festivities had begun earlier in the day and we felt bad about missing Thursday’s event but the festival would continue through Saturday. Abdulmenom, our friendly host from last year outdid himself with hospitality by letting us stay in his house. The Hilton has got nothing on Abdulmenom's house - It was fantastic! Tara and I decided to sleep upstairs on the roof under the night sky which was sparkling with zillions of stars The kids slept on the middle level of the house and Mustafa all the way downstairs on the lowest level.

In the morning we headed toward the Qasr and met up with two of Tara's friends who had driven out from Tripoli in the morning to spend the day. We toured the Qasr (the castle).

Inside are storage rooms that in the past were used to store grain, oil and other foodstuffs for the people of Nalut; each family having their own room.

The area just outside the Qasr was filled with people watching traditional musicians and many of the men and boys joined in dancing and singing.

Displays of traditional handicrafts and local foods and crafts were shown. The Tuareg's from last year were there and they were so happy to see their friend Tara that they gave her a handmade fan as a gift. The people of Nalut are Berber, or Amazigh as they prefer to be called, but the Tauregs come each year to participate in the festival.

Tara's fan. She kept calling it 'my fertility fan!' - please keep that away from me please.. lol

A barefoot boy riding a camel.

The media were out in force; not only local Libyan stations but also Aljazeera and Al-Hurra among other international news agencies.

This little girl is named Wa'ad which means Promise. She was very sweet and spoke English, having lived in Wales for nearly a year. Many of the people of Nalut have travelled abroad for their studies and we met many people who spoke English.

Wa'ad - Promise

As the morning progressed, the temperature rose accompanied by a strong dust-filled wind. Tara had brought along her mountain bike hoping to be able to ride but the weather had other ideas. We headed back to our lodging and Tara decided to head back to Tripoli. We had lunch and rested inside waiting for the cooler hours of the evening to go out again.

Nalut has one small hotel that was built during the Italian occupation of Libya.

We took the kids out for some ice-cream and then went to the underground houses that were set up with displays of traditional handicrafts and met up with Abdulmenom.

After a bit we went to a show of Libyan artwork, books, and historical documents and artifacts. I bought a coffee table book of Libyan artwork called 'Drawing from Libya' by Mohamed Hijji for 20 dinars.

Later we visited the display of geological findings from the area which had many kinds of rocks, fossils and information about the dinosaur bones that had been discovered just outside of town.

We came across a little girl named Narjes that we had met last year. She was so excited to see us and remembered all of our names. She told us to make sure to come the next morning to see her at the festival as she was going to be dressed in traditional Amazigh clothing.

Narjes with Jenna and Ibrahim.

The next morning (Saturday) we got up early and packed our things in the car and went to attend the last day of the festival. Last year the third day had been held below the Qasr but this year they decided to move it out of town in a flat open area.

At one time this area had been covered in a dense forest, evidence of this surrounds you as the ground is littered with petrified wood.

Tents were set up; each one showing a different aspect of traditional Nalut culture. Men sang traditional songs and recited Quran and poetry.

Women and girls showed various types of cooking skills and sang while they worked.

We found Narjes in a tent with woman grinding barley into flour using a traditional stone grinder.

It seemed only too soon and it was time to go home. The drive would take us between three or four hours depending on traffic.

Jenna and Ibrahim with Abdulmenom's children and neice and nephew.

Special thanks to Abdulmenom and his family for their wonderful hospitality and thanks to the festival committee for all the hard work they did to make the festival a success. We're looking forward to seeing you all again next year.

More links relating to the festival (in Arabic)are here:

Monday, April 07, 2008

Be patient

I've got lots of stuff happening for the next few weeks. I'll keep blogging but I'm moderating the comments. I usually try to keep up with comments and remove any that I find particularly offensive and the spam that keeps finding it's way in despite the captcha - but it requires checking emails frequently and I might not get to them. So if you post a comment - be patient. I will get to it as soon as possible.

The weather is horrible these days - today is hot and dusty, made worse by getting stuck in a huge traffic jam half the morning. It's time to have the air conditioners serviced at home and at work. Another thing for the growing list of things to do. Patience, patience...

Friday, April 04, 2008

An afternoon in Rega'at

I took three of my kids and Tara to Bate's Mountain in Rega'at this afternoon. The weather was overcast but nice. The kids and I walked up the mountain and Tara attacked it with her bike. It was the first time she'd ever been there.

Finally Tara ditched the bike and we climbed up to the peak and took in the view.

Conquering the mountain made me realize how out of shape I am these days. I huffed and puffed my way to the top. The kids beat us to the top - they are like little mountain goats. Tara got to the summit and I snapped her picture with her arms waving triumphantly in the air. We had a lovely afternoon.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

It's official! I'm addicted!

The other day I was just dragging. I couldn't get moving no matter how many cups of coffee I downed. After about the fifth cup I realized I had been drinking decaf. No wonder...

This morning after dropping Ibrahim off at school I stopped in at the supermarket and bought coffee and as soon as I got home I slurped down two cups as quickly as possible. I felt human again. When I sat down to read the news on the net I found an article about how Libya is funding a coffee plant in Uganda. I wonder if coffee will become cheaper because it's costing me a small fortune to keep my habit going. Especially since my kids are all joining me too.

I'm off to the kitchen... gotta get myself another fix....

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