Sunday, June 29, 2008

Time for a new look

Before the funeral we had been in the middle of painting the boy's bedroom and rearranging the furniture. We had gotten the room half painted and had to stop. The painting supplies and cans of paint were stacked up to be used later.

This morning Yusef got up and started in painting. The house smells of paint, the CD player is blasting and Yusef is going at the job with gusto. I insisted that he paint over the mural he did on the wall... It had '2 Pac' in huge letters across the length of one wall with geometric designs in bright, vibrant colours. Yusef wanted to paint around it but I told him to cover it and we'd paint something else. He's mostly through the 2 Pac stage anyway.. time for something new.

The painting will be done this afternoon and then we'll be able to put the furniture back and hang the curtains again. The carpet needs to be taken to the cleaners.

I told Yusef that as soon as we get the boy's room done we will start on painting the entry. I love it when the house has a fresh coat of paint.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Good grief!

The third day of the funeral is over. I think I've shaken about a million hands, and been kissed by that many tear stained, sweaty faces. Somewhere in the process I acquired an eye infection. I hope that is all I got.

The first day was horrible as expected. Lots of screaming, crying, fainting, hair pulling, collapsing women, all getting carried away, while the religious women ran around trying to get the screamers to stop screaming. They made just as much noise and commotion as the screamers. I sat and weeped quietly in my chair. Aren't you supposed to die quietly in your sleep after you've reached old age and lived a full life? Unfortunately that doesn't happen all the time, so when that ideal doesn't pan out it's almost unbearable.

Libyan funerals go on for a full three days. People come to pay their respects with most of them coming at meal times so that the family is stuck feeding them all. A huge amount of money is spent on this. Everyone complains that it's a stupid custom but they continue it none the less.

The first day is the most stressful. The men take the deceased to the cemetery for burial while the women wait at the house for their return from the cemetery. Most of the screaming and carrying on by the women stops soon after the men leave for the cemetery.

The following two days are mostly a free-for-all gabfest with hours of sitting around with nothing to do but gossip. This is when I get a bit fed up with all this and start wishing I were home, or anyplace else for that matter.

And there is always DRAMA (in big huge capital letters!). Women who refuse to eat or drink (because they are so overcome with grief) fall faint and have to be taken to the hospital and put on IVs to sustain them. At least one person will fall and break their arm or leg, or require stitches. And someone will forget where they put something; one of their kids perhaps, or their keys, or mobile phone. Shoes get lost at every funeral; I personally have gone home barefoot on two occasions. And it goes without saying - funerals are host to major bigtime gossip.

I've finished the three days. It's time to get on with my life. I am more than ready!

Thursday, June 26, 2008


NORA PASSED! It's also Nora's birthday... 18! Next week she'll register to vote and get her driver's license.

Posted from moBlog – mobile blogging tool for Windows Mobile

School year coming to an end

Nora's results come out today.... we heard on the radio that only 33% passed of those who were studying English. They will announce the results on the radio and you can send an sms to get the results too. We sent the sms and have gotten nothing back yet.

So now we wait. Nora looks pale and keeps complaining that her heart is beating way too fast.

Other news, we have a death in our family and have been busy with the funeral. The uncle's wife decided to burn the year's schoolbooks and papers since they wouldn't be needed any more. She took them out to the garden and poured gasoline on them for good measure. Unfortunately her dress caught fire in the process. It is more than sad. The lives of many people have changed in just an instant.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

A relaxing evening out

Last Thursday morning I said to the girls 'Let's take your grandmother out for an evening at Nadi Awil' and they thought it was a terrific idea. Jenna got really excited and said she wanted to invite her cousins too. She got busy making phone calls. First she called her grandmother who said she would love to go out but said she was fasting. 'Can you pick me up after sunset?' she asked. Jenna assured her that we would come pick her up after I got off work. It would be after sunset by the time we got to her house. She would have plenty of time to have something to eat before we got to her house. Then Jenna called her cousins and invited them.

After work I went home to drop off my bags and pick up the girls. We drove to my mother-in-law, 'Hajja's', house. The cousins live in the same building and they were eagerly awaiting our arrival. I sent Jenna upstairs to tell her grandmother we had arrived. The kids were all piling into the car - some of them squeezing into the back of the hatchback... hehe.. this was going to be a typical Libyan-style outing with a carload of kids.

Hajja got to the car and saw all the kids, 'Why are they in the car?' she wanted to know. 'Jenna invited them to come along.' I said, opening the door for her. 'Is their mother coming too?' she wanted to know. 'No, she's not.' I replied. My mother-in-law muttered under her breath as she was settling herself in the front passenger seat, 'Hmmph! She just wants to have a quiet evening at home without her kids.' I got a strong impression that she wasn't too happy with that particular daughter-in-law, but I wasn't going to ask about it.

Off we went. The cousins started arguing and fighting immediately. I drove along trying my best to concentrate on the road. We got to the Nadi and the cousins argued and fought as they tumbled out of the car. The Nadi is a kind of club that has a park area for children, cafe tables with various kinds of fast food available. There is an entrance fee to get in and they only allow families and women - no unaccompanied boys. It's a safe, clean place for the kids to play and has a relaxing atmosphere for adults.

It's a but blurry, I should have taken out my tripod - but I was lazy.

It's a little on the expensive side for most Libyan families. For example, just for the entrance fee we paid 16 dinars... add overpriced food and drinks to that and it's a bit much. But I imagine that keeps out the riffraff. Unless you have people like me who bring cousins (riffraff) along with! They were embarrassing.... sigh.. My mother-in-law kept pointing out: 'This is the last time they come out with us.' and 'We're never taking them again.' When she said 'I'm glad their mother isn't here because it would only be worse.' I nearly burst out laughing. I don't want to know what my sister-in-law did to make Hajja so disgusted with her.

Hajja is getting old and a bit set in her ways, especially since she started going to the mosque to study. She wasn't thrilled with the zimzamat (traditional female singers) that were singing, but she didn't seem to mind when they switched to regular Arabic music which wasn't played very loudly. At a table near us some girls started smoking and she found that shocking. I pointed out that they were not Libyan. From their accents we deduced that were from Syria. After a while she relaxed and we enjoyed ourselves. The weather was pleasant and the kids had fun running around and playing on the playground equipment. Hajja and I took a short walk around, but mostly we just sat at our table and chatted.

At a little past midnight we rounded up the children and headed for home. 'Next time don't invite the cousins' said Hajja. I think she would appreciate taking no kids at all... I know I would.

In the morning the phone rang. It was one of my sister-in-laws (not the mother of the cousins). She NEVER calls me. She wanted to know all about our evening. I just told her we had a nice time, not giving her any details... lololol..

Friday, June 20, 2008

One smart kitty!

A little over a year ago I gave Tara one of our kittens. She's a cat person but had left all her cats back home in the care of her mom. Something was missing in her life and I decided it was the lack of a cat. So I gave her one. We had recently returned from our first visit to Nalut's Spring Festival so she decided the most fitting name for her kitty would be Nalut.

Nalut as a kitten with Tara's braids.

Nalut is a Libyan cat. Rough, tough and a bit on the wild side. She's the daughter of the belated Anbah who was one clever cat, so it is just natural that Nalut has inherited some of her mother's ingeniousness.

This morning I got a phone call from Tara and she told me that yesterday Nalut got out of the house and came home without her collar. It has a bell on it so you can hear Nalut as she scampers around the house and plays. She looked all over the house and garden but never found it. 'What happened to your collar?' Tara wanted to know. She gave poor Nalut a scolding about being a bad kitty and losing her collar.

The next day Tara heard the tinkling of Nalut's bell. In padded Nalut carrying the collar in her mouth. She dropped it on the floor for Tara to see.

Anbah, Nalut's mother.

I am not surprised that Nalut is so clever since her mother, Anbah, was one of the most intelligent felines I have ever met.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

A Milestone

Today at 3:10pm plus 20 seconds Libya time, my stats reported that my blog had had it's 100,000th visitor! I guess you could call that a milestone of sorts.

I started this blog nearly four years ago, in September 2004, basically as a way of keeping my family back in the US up to date about what was happening in my life. It was a whole lot easier to post everything on the blog and then my family could just keep an eye on things that way. Way back in 2004 internet was still a pretty new thing in Libya; the connection was slow and sending out numerous emails was time consuming - and expensive too. So having the blog saved time as well as money. There was also the added benefit that there was an archive that my family could look back at.

Blogging wasn't my first adventure on the internet. Previous to blogging I designed a website that was mainly about Libya. It's down now - the fees need to be paid and I'm debating on it. It needs a total makeover and that's time consuming and time is something I never seem to have enough of these days.

I've met a lot of people because of my blog and made many good friends. I've also run across some weirdos too... ehem, ehem. At one point I thought about quitting and deleting the blog because I felt it was getting boring, but my mother assured me it wasn't boring to her and as she happened to be the main reason I started the blog in the first place I just kept on going with it.

To all who visit my blog,
to all who post comments,
and to all who link to me.....

Thank you!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Influencing hobbies and interests

It's been a while since I last had a go with my camera. When I start taking pictures I get lost in the pure bliss of it and later wonder why I waited so long. And then I shelve it for a while once again until the mood strikes me.

Once in a while I let Jenna have a go with my camera and she really seems to enjoy it. She's got an eye for it and takes some really nice pictures. The thought of buying her a camera has been hanging about in the back of my mind. Her father will have a heart attack if I do it I imagine, especially since I have a camera, a Sony, that I paid 700 dinars for a few years ago. It has a lens that moves in and out when you turn it on and off or use the zoom. The mechanism that does all that is broken and in need of repair. Unfortunately there is no place in Libya that can repair it and the nearest repair place is in Tunis. The expensive Sony is thrown in the dresser drawer waiting for the day we finally go off for a holiday someplace that it can be repaired. In the meantime I've gotten attached to my other camera, the Canon. It's cheaper and takes pretty good pictures. It's also a much sturdier camera (masha'allah - just in case I give it the eye).

Hmm... we'll see.... Maybe I can work out a reasonable camera for Jenna. I suppose we'll have to call it 'the kids camera' or there will be shouts of complaint from the others. But my intuition says, that in the end, Jenna will be the only one that really takes an interest.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Here we go again...

Despite the rampant cheating during Sara's exams, only 40 of around 400 students at her school managed to pass. The system here allows students to re-sit the exams that they fail... they are given a second chance. Sara is among the re-sits. It's back to having her nose in a book for a while more. She wasn't that upset about the news. I think the re-sits will begin in about 2 weeks.

We're still waiting on Nora's results. I had a look at some of her exams that she brought home, and it was sad - she's studying English so I can read them. How on earth can you give a multiple choice test for speaking? And for the reading exam they weren't given a reading passage to read and then a set of comprehension questions (as one would expect a reading test to be like) No, the reading test was also multiple choice questions based on the reading passages they had done during the year, and they weren't given the passages to read during the exam. The students had to memorize all the readings they had done. Topping that off, I found numerous mistakes on the exam - some of the questions were written so that they had more than one correct answer. A multiple choice question with more than one possible correct answer? Which correct answer would be counted as the right one?

.... haddi-baddi.... sigh....

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Stocking Up on Fun

Last night I took the girls out CD shopping so they could stock up on PlayStation discs to get through the long, hot, boring summer. While there I picked up a couple of movies and today I've been putting them on my iPod.

I've got a whole slew of family weddings to go to in the next few weeks and watching movies on my iPod is going to be my saviour. I was planning to save them to watch during those boring waits for the aroosa to arrive, but I couldn't help but watch one of them - The Onion Movie is soooooo funny in a weird and silly way! Get that one and watch it.... NOW! LOLOLOL....

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Sorting out links and a day off

I'm slowly but surely updating all the link lists on my blog. I'm trying to put them in some sort of categories and I'm also trying to check them out to make sure all the links are still valid. This is taking quite a long time because every time I click on a link I start reading and forget what I am supposed to be doing!

I will keep at it, be patient while I sort through - things may look messy on my sidebars until I get them the way I want. Having a side bar on either side of the page is driving the Libra in me crazy... they must somehow balance or they are just not right!

Yesterday I took a day off. In the past the 11th of June was a public holiday in Libya - something to do with throwing the Americans out - or asking them politely to leave, as I was corrected by someone recently. LOL... Anyway, I decided it was a good day for a day off, so I took one.

Last week I asked Mr. Aljazero if I could go with Tara to Gharian to buy pottery. 'What! No! It's too far to drive there!' was his reply. I should have known better than to take that approach to discussing things with that man. We put off the trip to buy pottery for another day. Since I had the whole day off yesterday Tara and I decided we'd go to Gharian. Mr. Aljazero was planted in front of the TV getting his morning dose, 'Tara and I are going out shopping for souvenirs.' I informed him. 'Ok. Have a nice time.' he replied. You have to know how to deal with these men... sigh...

We had a pleasant drive to Gharian, bought lots of pottery and came home. Actually, I took my sister in the US along with us. I got on Palringo, a program for my phone, and chatted with my sister and sent her pictures and audio the whole time. It was kind of fun.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Oh Happy Day!

Right before the kid's exams started the telephone service stopped working. It was time to pay the bill. I decided to wait until all the exams were over before paying it. So for the past few weeks we've been without a landline.

It really doesn't matter much to me as most of the people I call have such bad telephone connections that you can hardly hear them above the annoying sounds of crackling, whooshing and other people talking because of crossed lines. On one of my friend's lines you are blasted by a radio station in the background the entire time you are talking! Can the phone company get their act together? This is 2008.... sigh...

Yesterday Nora had her last exam - Yeah! and so this morning, as promised, I went to pay the bill. Usually you pay it in the morning and the company turns the service back on some time in the afternoon. Every few minutes one of the girls picks up the reciever to see if it's working. They keep looking at the phone - expecting it to ring and they're calling the line with their mobiles to check too. hehehe...

So, for those that are complaining that they can't reach me... keep trying! I will soon have a landline again but most likely the line will be busy because the girls will be calling everyone they know to tell them the phone is back.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Never a dull moment

Today started out as a normal day. I had an appointment to be someplace that in the end turned out not to work out. It was a matter of crossed emails, or emails that went unread (not by me). Of course one thing I have learned about living in Libya is that you never walk out the door without having a PLAN B, and possibly a PLAN C too. So I decided it was time to pull out good old PLAN B.

I called Tara, told her I was on to PLAN B, which was to take her out to breakfast at a place we call the Libyan IHOP, but is actually named O2. They serve an assortment of pancakes and sandwiches and it's right on the beach. I went to get Tara and we decided that since the weather was so nice we'd just go in her Jeep and enjoy the breeze.

We had a nice time eating breakfast. Tara was of course all the while busy playing on her phone.

BFF @ Libyan IHOP!

While we ate our breakfast we discussed what else we needed to do to complete PLAN B. We decided we'd hit Marks and Spencers and see what was on the racks. We parked the Jeep across the road and went in. There is a pretty good assortment of clothing in the shop and the prices are actually pretty good too. Since Tara and I don't share the same tastes in fashion we both went off in different directions.

At one point I turned to look to see where Tara had gotten to and saw that an old man was following her. He looked creepy; shabbily dressed with really beaten up shib-shibs. This guy did not fit in with the typical Marks & Spencer shopper's profile. I watched him for a minute to see what he was up to. He was definitely following Tara around the store. I walked up to Tara and as I was about to tell her about her admirer she said 'That guys following me around the store'.

Tara continued to look at clothes and I did the same, all the while keeping track of the guy we decided to name 'Creepo'. He was definitely following Tara around. I assumed that it might be because she was wearing shorts. Creepo would get close to Tara but he never touched her. I decided to play his game and follow him around. I planned to clobber him with the nearest mannequin if he touched Tara, or anyone else.

At one point I turned and looked straight at Creepo's face - he had red, bloodshot eyes. He knew we knew, so he slowly made his way to the store's entrance, stopping periodically to look at the women's clothes on display (as if he was buying?). I continued to follow him out. I waited in front of the shop's doors and watched him. Creepo crossed the street and stood next to a rather beaten up looking truck that was double parked next to the Jeep. He spent about a minute looking up and down the road, at me and at the Jeep. I wondered if he was planning to take anything from the Jeep. In the end, he finally just got in the truck and drove off. I went back in the shop to find Tara.

Tara paid for her purchases and as we walked out the store I told her about Creepo's behaviour in the street. We decided to consider it an encounter with some weirdo and forget about it.

Our next stop for PLAN B was to pop over to a strip of shops in Gorgi. There is one particular shop we go to that we've named TJ Maxx. It has an everchanging assortment of name brand clothes that can be bought for huge discounts. We were in there for about two minutes and I turned and looked up, straight into Creepo's face.

I walked over to Tara and said 'Our friend is here.' Tara said, 'No way!' and I said 'Yes, I'm absolutely sure it is him'. It was a repeat of the scene from the previous store. This time the guy just wandered around the shop, looking at clothes and watching us - while we watched him. After a bit of this game he walked out the shop and we followed to see him get into his truck and pull it around and park it so that he could follow us down the road when we left.

We got into the Jeep and decided to drive down the road a bit to where there are some cheap shoe stores. Creepo of course followed along behind us, but some cars managed to pull in between us and we didn't see him. We got out and went into the shoe store. The smell of glue in those cheap shoe stores is overpowering. After a few whiffs of the glue you're hallucinating into thinking the gaudy shoes on display are beautiful and you willingly part with your money. Creepo didn't appear in the shop. Tara bought some glitzy looking sandals and we headed back to the car.

Lo and behold! Creepo! Parked on the road in front of us! I had had enough and marched straight over to the truck. 'What is your problem?' I demanded. 'No, no problem. I don't have a problem. I'm just working. I'm just doing my work.' replied Creepo. He held up a big wad of cash. I told him to leave us alone and stop following us. Then I walked to the front of the truck and pointed to the license plate and read off the numbers in a loud voice to Tara. We turned and walked back to the Jeep. As we pulled out we took Creepo's picture (mobile phones can be useful things!). He held his hands over his face and said 'Sharika, Sharika.' (Company, company).

Another day, another adventure! I hope we don't see Creepo again. I wonder who was paying him to follow us? Weird.... sigh...

Friday, June 06, 2008

Stumbled over a nice quote today

I use iGoogle as my home page. Today I changed it to Edward Monkton's theme. When I scrolled down to the very bottom I found this quote:

Yes indeed, it's the glory of the ride!

Beach time coming soon

Soon the beaches in Libya will be packed with summer beachgoers. I always have found it weird that most Libyans have no idea how to swim, especially since Libya has such a long coastline on the Mediterranean Sea. Many will tell you 'I know how to swim!' and you find out that their idea of swimming is moving their arms and splashing about, all the while their feet are still firmly planted on the bottom. That is NOT swimming.

Every summer you hear of people drowning, usually because the person was swept out to sea by a strong current called a riptide. Most of these tragic events could be prevented if people were educated on how to save themselves from these powerful water currents.

Here's what you need to know: Survive a Riptide

Unfortunately I don't have a link to such information in Arabic, which would be helpful to most Libyans. Maybe someone can point one out in the comments.

Please share this information and have a safe and happy summer!

This looks interesting

iPod Traveller Documentary has been launched as a new documentary podcast hosted by iPod Traveller's Nick Hall. He will be retracing the journey that his grandfather made during WW2 after being captured in Tobruk, Libya in 1942.

In this four month series, he will be travelling to see what remains of the ex-prison camps in Italy, Germany and Libya, if anything at all. He'll meeting with locals both young and old to try and get a feel for how people feel about the terrible events of 60 years ago and how it affects their lives today.

Tune in for regular updates as he takes listeners with him on this journey of discovery.

Podcasting News Link:


Monday, June 02, 2008

More results

Yusef passed! Now we wait for Sara's results.

Nora started her finals this week. She says the girls are all just giving each other the answers and the teacher is just sitting there letting them go for it. That's just disgusting. Sigh...

By the way, I'm doing much better. Having two days of rest did wonders for me. Thanks to all who commented, sent emails, called and texted to wish me well.

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