Monday, December 29, 2008

Upside down

We're painting the entryway today... covering  fingerprints, grime and crayon drawings that no one will admit to have drawn. Is the grammar on that right... sigh.. it's been one of those days. 

Of course about half an hour into the process the doorbell rang. Why, oh why does someone always turn up as soon as the house is completely upside down????

Sunday, December 28, 2008

2008 Looking Back

Another year is coming to an end. I took a look back in my archives to recap what this year was like. 

Shopping, weather and school were what was on the agenda for the first month of the year, but the biggest news was the shops on Jaraba Street coming to an end with the beginnings of the demolition causing a shopping frenzy and traffic snarls.

Time spent behind the wheel in my car; the trials and tribulations of driving Ibrahim to school and the scary incident of being attacked by a lunatic while I was driving one evening. 

The cat had kittens and then disappeared, leaving us to find them a new mommy, but in the meantime we frantically scrambled to keep the poor little kitties fed. The  year's weddings commenced with me trying to find a wifi hotspot to keep myself from being bored to death.

Another enjoyable trip to attend Nalut's Annual Spring Festival. More traffic troubles, child brides and other wedding stories.

An earthquake in east Libya, exams and school, my sister's son was born, I posted a lot about feeling homesick and I ended the month with a mysterious virus.

The strangest story for this month was when Tara and I were followed by a weirdo while we were out shopping and the it only ended when we finally got fed up and confronted him. My blog saw it's 100,000th visitor. Nora got the news that she'd passed her senior year of high school. Tragedy struck our family that ended in a funeral. Tara and I took a trip to Gharian to buy souvenirs. I spent some time contemplating summer and safe swimming, a post which prompted  all kinds of controversy with interesting comments both positive and negative.

More adventures in shopping, Tara and I went out to buy some last minute things before she left Libya. Some readers of my blog posted a beach safety video - this creativity was sparked by my post about beach safety and riptides the month before. I had a walk down memory lane posting the story and a picture of me in kindergarten. Ibrahim found some new things to keep him busy while the rest of us suffered in the heat.

The weirdest story was of the hamster that got lost in my car and died (poor thing) and the bribery that led to it being found and extricated - but not until after my car wreaked of death. The long hot summer days were getting to us all, especially me when I ended up with an eye infection. Other items of news were more funerals to attend, the first rain in Tripoli in months and the job of getting ready for Ramadan.

This month started out with the beginning of Ramadan - surviving the month in September's heat and facing caffeine withdrawal. There were more funerals to attend. A nice way to break up the monotony was spending an evening out with some of my students. Finally we reached the end of Ramadan which meant shopping for Eid.

A new school year began and we stressed out over sorting out the kid's schedules. Our new cat finally got a name and it turned out to be one we already had in the house. I nearly had heart failure when I saw the gates my husband had installed - there were lots of comments made by readers and all in support of me.  

I'd gotten bored with Libyan cuisine and started out the month with a post about how tedious Libyan food seemed. There was the election in the US to keep me and the rest of the world watching the news. I worked a lot and was feeling run down and tired but pushed through and was revived by an evening spent with a friend watching movies and eating birthday cake. I wrote a piece about funny old wives tales for pregnant women that were still practiced in Libya. There were both Eid and Thanksgiving to think about and plan for. Finally, the month ended with a refreshing and much needed day trip to the countryside.

We celebrated a quiet Eid as the weather finally began to grow colder. The Internet suffered a shortage in service that was frustrating to say the least. And I wrapped the year up with a break from work and spent quality time with family and friends.

Well, I must admit my bloggable life is not very exciting. I'll leave you to imagine what things I didn't blog about....lololol... Maybe my New Year's resolution should be: 'BE MORE INTERESTING' or 'GET A LIFE!'.... lolol

Happy New Year!
Wishing you the very best for 2009 and always!


Relaxing by the fire

Last month the girls and I went to visit  friends and have a movie night (we'd brought DVDs and the DVD player and snacks). We enjoyed ourselves so much that we decided to do it again last night. The nice surprise was that when we arrived they had just lit their fireplace for the very first time since they'd moved into their house. It was lovely - and we had a wonderful and very relaxing evening sitting by the fire and watching films. 

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas in Libya

In my family in America Christmas is celebrated for the most part on the eve of Christmas. I think this tradition mostly began because my father was too impatient to wait for Christmas day. My father loved Christmas - I think it was a holiday he anticipated for months before the actual day. He truly had the holiday spirit. As a child I remember that we always opened our gifts at night and often times we had guests, but not always. On Christmas day we usually went to my grandmother's house.

When I was twelve we moved to Florida and slowly our tradition changed. Many people moved to Florida as we did, or pensioners retired to the warm climate of Florida leaving their grown children and other family members in the north. This separation from family is most noticed on holidays. My immediate family was in Florida but my cousins, aunts, uncles and the rest lived far away - too far away to celebrate with us. My parents began to invite people who were alone to join us on Christmas Eve. It became a festive event and no one felt left alone. My parents didn't invite just Christians, they invited people of all faiths and nationalities. The house was full of guests. Together we celebrated this special day.

In Libya Christmas is also celebrated, but not by Libyans themselves. Libya of course is a Muslim country but there are many Christians who live and work here. It's a regular working day for most companies. Even though it is a low-key event, there is still some evidence of the holiday. 

I was invited to celebrate Christmas Eve with some friends. Of course I wanted to buy a gift and stopped in a gift shop that is near my home. The windows were open but the door was locked. As I turned to leave a boy who was standing nearby said 'Oh, they are open. You have to knock.' and he reached over and rapped on the door. It was opened by the shopkeeper who apologized to me saying that he'd had to lock the door because he was selling Christmas themed ornaments, decorations and gifts, and that was against the law. 

Apparently, there has been a crackdown on non-Muslim holidays in the country. The fear that Libyans would begin celebrating Valentine's Day and Christmas has caused them to pass some kind of rules, or laws that shops are not allowed to sell anything related to these holidays. But they are forgetting that non-Libyans make up a great proportion of the population of the country. Shouldn't they be allowed to buy things related to their holidays? And what about people like me who want to buy something for a friend or colleague who celebrates? Especially that they were so kind to me for my holidays, Eid and the month of Ramadan. So sadly people resort to having to be sneaky.

With gifts in hand, my daughter Nora and I arrived at the address of my friend just as others were arriving. We spent a lovely evening with a group of people from many different nationalities and faiths all having come together to help our friend celebrate a holiday that was so dear. Many of the guests were here working in Libya. One woman found herself in Libya for a two week business trip and was invited so she wouldn't have to spend the holiday alone. I was truly honored to be a guest. It reminded me of how the day is celebrated by my family back home. 

The house was decorated, candles lit, the story of the birth of Jesus was read and Christmas songs played on the stereo. Good food, company and conversation were shared by the guests. We all left shortly before midnight as many of the guests were heading toward Aldahara to hear the church bells. For the last two years the church in Aldahara has been given permission by the government to be allowed to ring their bells at midnight on Christmas Eve. They are also allowed to ring them on Easter. So twice a year the bells can be heard in Tripoli.

I hope you have a very merry Christmas!


Tuesday, December 23, 2008

An Interview

SJ over at Pseudotherapy has an interview meme going on her blog and I thought 'Hey what the heck?'  The idea is that she could ask me any five questions that she wanted to and I would post the  questions and answers of the interview on my blog. I'd also post an invitation for anyone else that wanted to give the interview meme a go - but this time the questions would come from me. 

SJ was worried that some of the questions might be sensitive and said she'd change them if I wanted different ones - but they were fine. SJ, by the way, is an American that grew up in Libya and often posts on her blog her fond memories of her life here. 

Thanks SJ for taking time out to send me the questions. Here's my interview:

1. How did you meet your husband?

It's rather boring I guess, but here goes. I met him in the US he was a student and so was I. A friend introduced us. We hit it off right away. After about 6 months we got engaged and we stayed engaged for two years before getting married. Our anniversary is the same day as the anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbour... lolol..

2. You left your home and culture behind to move to Libya. Was that a difficult decision for you, and have you ever regretted it?

It really wasn't a difficult decision - it was something that was assumed would happen long before I even married my husband. There are times when I regret coming to Libya which is only natural when you leave your country, family, friends and life and move to another one that's completely different and in a third world country to boot. The first year was miserable - but then so was the first year I moved from Illinois to Florida when I was twelve. Change is often difficult. But I have settled in, finding my niche here and I'm quite happy for the most part, although I do complain a lot! It's been over 12 years since I've been to the US for a visit - that's a long time. The Internet keeps me connected with my family, thank God for the Internet - without it I would have probably packed up and left long ago.
3. Why do your daughters have American names and your sons Arabic names?

The girl's names in fact are also Arabic. I wanted my kids to have names that would be known anywhere they might find themselves in their lives, nothing difficult to say or hard to remember or spell. I always say choosing a child's name is almost more difficult than giving birth - the discussion, arguments and interference from everyone while you choose the name is almost unbearable to me. Hubby and I nearly had a war over naming Nora (he wanted Noralhuda and I wanted Miriam and we settled on Nora in the end after having a big argument) and My father in law was none too pleased that I didn't name any of the boys after him. I had to tell him that if I named one of my sons after him than the next son would have to be named after MY FATHER - 'So if you want a George in the family we can name one after you.' I told him. That shut him up and he never brought up the subject again! 
4. Other than being with the man you love, what is the #1 thing you most love about life in Tripoli?

Hmmm... there are more reasons than one! I could make a long list. But at the top I would say that I can do what I want here. I'm fortunate enough that I only have to work because I choose to - my husband would be perfectly happy if I just stayed at home - and I could do that if I wanted to. Here I can do the things that I want to do, things that make me happy. I have time for interests and hobbies and have a large family too. If I lived in the US I wouldn't be so lucky - I would most likely be forced by circumstance to work just to make ends meet, and have limited time to pursue hobbies and interests - and most likely I would have had to stop at two kids. 
5. Have you ever experienced prejudicial treatment because you are American by birth?

Never, ever! Actually it's quite the opposite. Because I am American people go out of their way to be helpful, make sure I am comfortable, taking care of my needs and are just plain friendly. For example, if I go to a medical clinic the receptionist or nurses make sure I'm moved up in the line (which is embarrassing sometimes). Also, many times shop keepers have given me things for free- they are so happy to have an American walk into their shop. 
And here's the requisite tag:
If you’d like to play along, just follow these instructions:
  1. Leave me a comment saying, “Interview me.” (I won't post your email address in the comments.)
  2. I will respond by emailing you five questions. I get to pick the questions.
  3. You will update your blog with the answers to the questions. Be sure you link back to the original post.
  4. You will include this explanation and an offer to interview someone else in the same post.
  5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Cut Cables? Or Something Else?

The Internet is back but the connection is slow. Some people have suggested that the problem was due to the recent breakage of an underwater cable between Tunisia and Sicily. But when I read the news reports about it Libya wasn't mentioned as one of the countries being affected.

TechnoLibya, a blog that focuses on technology in the country came up with a plausible reason for the outage and subsequent slowness of the service. They blamed it on the system being overloaded while Wimax is being tested and tried out and suggested the networks need to be upgraded before anything new is added. Wimax was intended to be out last September, delayed until December and then delayed once again. Now they say it will make it's debut in Libya in January 2009. 

The Internet's back, but it's crawling. I hope we continue to have usable service - it's holiday season and the Internet is the only means I have of 'being with' my family back home.   

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Happy Holidays

Originally uploaded by inkrisout.

Best wishes to all of my readers who celebrate Christmas. May we all have a safe and peaceful holiday season. [The picture is of my nephew, who played the baby Jesus in a Christmas pageant recently]

Coping with a 3rd World Day

I got up yesterday morning and got my cup of coffee from the kitchen and went to 'my office' and turned on the computer. The house was still quiet - the only other person that was awake was hubby and he was busy doing his anal-retentive laundry routine (that's an entire post by itself). I settled myself into my chair, listening to the hum and click of the computer booting up.

One of the things that I missed when coming to Libya was the daily newspaper. Sitting with a cup of coffee and reading the paper every morning before starting the day was a routine that I've only been able to somewhat duplicate since Internet arrived to Libya and became affordable for people to have at home. I'm content to start my day reading the news digitally. I'm happy to settle for what the Internet brings me, but I do miss Wednesday's coupons, and the Sunday edition that's stuffed full with the colourful comics section and all the rest of the extra goodies.

So what happened yesterday? NOTHING.... NO INTERNET! 

I checked the settings and everything seemed fine. I rebooted the computer and still nothing. I decided to try my laptop... same thing... the computer in the kid's room... nothing worked. The only website that would open was LTT's. So I clicked on their contact page and filled in the form, sending them a complaint (not that I expected that they'd care). 

I reached for my mobile phone thinking I could use the Internet that Al-madar offers. That wasn't working either.

There's a holiday, I can never remember which one, on which every year the Internet and international telephone calls are all stopped for the day. Was this it, I wondered. 'Hey Honey!' I called out to my husband. 'Is today some Libyan holiday that we aren't allowed to be connected to the world or something?' I asked.  'What's the date?' he wanted to know. I told him what day it was but he couldn't think of any national holidays for that day.  

Sigh.... life in the third world sucks sometimes... yesterday was one of those sometimes. 


Thursday, December 18, 2008

Cappuccino View

Dark to light
Shady seaside
Cool to warm
December cafe

Friendly chat
Warm words
Happy smiles
Good friends

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Hours Spent Driving

I'm on a break from work and I'm enjoying it. 

What have I been doing during my break? Mostly I've spent my time in the car. Since I'm free I've taken over all the driving - first I take Jenna and Sara to school at 7:45, then swing back home to pick up Ibrahim, who I find waiting at the curb for me. I usually stop at the bakery and grocery store. By the time I get home it's about 9:30. Nora has to be at uni at one o'clock so we have to leave no later than 12:00 to get her there on time. Then I come back home again for a few hours only to have to go back to the uni to pick Nora up at four. Ibrahim comes home by bus and Sara and Jenna walk home (and get some exercise).

The hours spent in the car are not wasted. We've been listening to audiobooks. The latest is the book 'The Secret Life of Bees' by Sue Monk Kidd and read by an actress named Jenna Lamia. We've seen the movie but the book is oh so much better! The recording of the book is about 10 hours long and we're halfway through, savouring every moment.

The next book on our listening list is 'Hannibal Rising' by Thomas Harris. This one also has a movie based on the book but we've not seen it. 

I'm turning the tedious job of ferrying kids back and forth into something enjoyable. The kids are enjoying the ride, getting wrapped up in the words, everyone is quiet and the ride is peaceful.

Have you listened to any good audiobooks lately? 

Friday, December 12, 2008

Officially Over

Eid is officially over for me now. I've finished making the gadeed, which is a kind of jerky or preserved meat. I make it every year (and sometimes twice a year). It's really not that difficult and once it's made it will last unrefrigerated for a year or more. It never stays that long in my house because the kids go in and help themselves. Jenna in particular likes to snack on gadeed. 

It's fairly easy to make. First you take the meat and cut it - opening it up as though you were filleting a fish so that the pieces of meat are flat and no more than a centimeter in thickness. You can also dry the fat from the sheep's tail in the same way. This is useful because you wont have to use as much oil in the final process of preservation. When you get the meat all cut you add salt and oil. It doesn't take that much salt - I think I used about a cup of salt for 20 kilos of meat. You can also add red and black pepper, turmeric, garlic and vinegar if you like. Mix all this up with the meat so that it's evenly coated. 

The prepared meat is then hung on a clothesline or rack to dry taking care that the line is high enough so that cats or other animals can't get to it. You'll have to check the meat from time to time, turning it so that it dries evenly. Flies avoid the meat if it has enough salt and oil on it so if you notice that it seems to be attracting flies sprinkle it with a bit of salt and oil. If the meat seems a bit thicker and drying slower in some areas you can cut it open with a knife and add a bit of salt.

It should take a few days to dry, depending on the weather. Once it's dry  remove it from the line and cut it into usable sized pieces. Rinse the meat under clean running water to remove any dust and drain off any remaining water. Put the meat in a large cooking pot and heat it over a medium high heat until the water evaporates. Then add oil until it's nearly covered. Lamb tends to be quite high in fat so you will need less oil. Use a large wooden spoon to move the meat and make sure it's not sticking to the bottom of the pot.

Boil the meat in the oil until the fat just starts to turn golden. Then remove the pot from the heat. It will continue to cook because it's still hot and bubbling. 

Strain the meat and place into enameled pots or ceramic or glass containers. Remove any of the pieces of fat if you like. Then pour the oil over the meat to cover it. Don't cover the pot until it has cooled completely. 

Store covered at room temperature. Make sure to use a clean, dry, slotted spoon to remove meat from the pot. It should last approximately a year. When you cook with the meat make sure to adjust the salt and other seasonings. Remember that you only need a small amount of meat when you cook because once liquids are added to it it will reconstitute and expand.

Anyone that has another method - click on comments and let us have it!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Making Changes

I've been changing colors on my blog and added a background. It might stay this way, or it might change. I'm feeling moody these days.

Tara thinks this background makes my blog look like the inside of a casket:


Hmmm.... certainly not like any casket I ever saw in America and definitely not one from here. In Libya they just toss you into a wooden box that looks like it was made out of the same kind of wood they use to make orange crates. I guess it doesn't matter anyway because they take you out of the box before they bury you here - it's just for transportation. How depressing. Maybe I should do the happy face background I had considered for all of 3 seconds. 

Naaa.... that'd be just annoying. 

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Mustafa goes to the farm

Jenna and I got in the car this morning and waited for the rest of the kids to pile in. Mustafa (our cat) got in the car while we were waiting. I guess he wanted to come with us too. So we decided he could come to the farm with us. 

He liked the ride. And he's having fun at the farm. We left him to camp out with the boys. 

The Aftermath of Eid

How long would it take for a Tyrannosaurus Rex to digest your corpse?

A Quiet Eid

The sheep has been slaughtered and the meat has been cut up. I salted and hung up quite a lot to dry. The rest is in the freezer. It was a quiet day. The kids and I watched movies in the afternoon. The girls and I went home towards evening, leaving hubby and the boys to camp out at the farm. Which meant we had a peaceful evening -no boys or Aljazeera!

This morning I'm letting the girls sleep late. I'm enjoying the quiet. 

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Last minute stuff

Ibrahim and I went shopping for some last minute stuff for Eid. 
We stopped and got a hamburger too! 

Eid Mubarak!

Wishing all a very happy and safe Eid

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Getting Ready

Eid is nearly here. There have been all kinds of stories about sheep with diseases - and the big question is to buy one or not to buy one. Yesterday I cut up beef to make traditional Libyan 'gadeed' or jerky. It's hanging on the line drying. You start out with a huge amount of meat and by the time it dries, it shrinks, and  looks as if you have hardly anything left. 

Hubby has gone out to look at some sheep with his brother. The knives have all been sharpened and I'm ready for whatever is thrown at me. I expect I'll be very familiar with the workings of a knife by the time this is all over.

The kids and I went to the shops that sell DVDs and got some movies to get us through the holiday since we don't have satellite at the farm. We'll bring the TV from the boy's room and the DVD player with us. Anything to break up the monotony of the holiday. 

Work, work and more work... sigh... I'm ready for it. Baaaa! Baaaaaa! Baaaaaa!!

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Slipper weather

It rained today. There was thunder and lightening too. And of course the streets in my neighbourhood all flooded (and everything smells like open sewers). 

I took Ibrahim with me to work this evening because I figured with the bad weather it would be quiet - most people would rather just stay home. I was right - we had a small class today but we got quite a lot done and had extra time to focus on things. 

Ibrahim didn't want to stay in an empty classroom across the hall and draw on the white board. He wanted to sit at a desk behind the students in my classroom - so we let him join us. But in the end we threw him out because he was disruptive. He kept poking the boy in front of him in the back with his finger. I wonder how his teachers at school manage him - he's more than a handful.

On the way home we drove through the pouring rain and stopped at a shop to buy Ibrahim a pair of slippers. Now that the weather is getting cooler the tiles are cold on his feet. I wanted to get him something special to wear to keep his feet warm inside the house. He had wanted 'Spiderman' slippers but there weren't any in the shop. He settled for something else. 

Near the shoe store was a toy store, and of course Ibrahim insisted on going in there too. As usual he insisted on getting a remote control car. He's obsessed with remote control cars... Unfortunately they only last about 10 minutes and then they get broken. He owns a huge collection of broken remote controlled toys... sigh... I managed to get him out of the shop without buying another one and without a huge temper tantrum. Now that's a miracle!

We got home and it started raining even harder. Ibrahim modeled his new slippers for everyone in the house. As soon as he took them off Jenna put them on and has been wearing them ever since. It looks like we'll be buying another pair of slippers tomorrow.

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