Friday, September 30, 2011

A day at the beach & finally Tripoli gets some rain

Last Saturday my girls and I got together with some friends for a day at the beach. We went to a beach near Garabali and as we weren't sure about the situation on the road we all met up in the morning and convoyed out together - safety in numbers.

The ride out was uneventful and pleasant. There were only a few checkpoints, one we found interesting near Tajoura because it was made out of stacked empty shipping containers. We passed through quickly, the men manning the checkpoint were friendly and polite.

Near Tajoura- a checkpoint made of stacks of empty shipping containers.

The day was lovely, the weather sunny and mild, the water warm. It felt so nice to be able to relax on the beach and enjoy the day. I hadn't seen most of my friends since before the war and some of them since last year - we had lots of catching up to do. 

Jenna had arrived at the beach looking pale but within half an hour her cheeks began to turn red and her freckles popped out - like magic! 

Jenna on the way home - sun-kissed cheeks and wind blowing through her hair.
We had planned to leave at four o'clock, but as the ride out was uneventful we decided to extend our time at the beach, leaving as dusk was approaching. Again we passed through the shipping container checkpoint - this time at night. 

The checkpoint at night. I love the lighting on this shot.

Later during the week the weather changed. It got cooler and cloudy with some really fabulous thundershowers. Thunder and lightning while the rain poured down. It was as though the air were being cleaned of the summer. Finally it feels like autumn has arrived in Libya!

Usually toward the end of summer teams of cleaners set to work along the major roads in and around Tripoli. They open up the drain covers and dig out all the sand and debris that clogs up the works. But because of the war this wasn't done this year, the result was floods just as soon as the rain started to come down. 

Flood water near Fornaj Circle, Tripoli.

I got stuck in floodwater near the Fornaj Circle (recently named University Square). Everyone drove through carefully. I've noticed a change in the way most people drive nowadays; people are much more patient than in the past.

The war still continues in Sirte and Bani Walid.

Please keep Libya in your prayers!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Pouring Their Hearts Out

I've been busy getting myself back to some kind of normal. Life in Tripoli is improving everyday but it will take a while for everyone to get back to work and on their feet again. 

I went back to work last Saturday and resumed classes that had been interupted since last February. Not all the students have been able to come back yet. Although stability is returning to Tripoli, the war continues in Sirte and Bani Walid as well as part of Sebha.

Some of my students are fighting at the front, some are involved in getting supplies to the fighters and some I haven't heard from at all -  I pray they are safe and well. The rest are coming to class and we've been doing some review to get us started again. But most of all the students want to practice their speaking/communication skills.  They finally have something to talk about! Never before have I seen such an outpouring of thoughts, feelings and ideas from my students. They have discovered the freedom of being able to speak their minds for the first time  in their entire lives. It is an amazing thing to be a part of this, to hear them express themselves like never before. It's so wonderful!


Monday, September 12, 2011

It's the little things....

We have Doritos in Tripoli again!

Yeah! Woo Hoo!

Now if only they can bring Fritos here too....

Fritos... look at that package Mr. Supermarket man... get some to put on your shelves next to the Doritos. I guarantee the customers will be snapping 'em up!

I was out and about this morning. Almost all of the shops have reopened. The shelves are being restocked, slowly but surely. People look so happy to be out and getting back to work and soon school will start again too. And there's the smell of autumn in the air too. It feels wonderful! 

Thursday, September 08, 2011

A Big Fat Libyan Wedding

Well, I finally got my invitation to Aisha Kadafy’s wedding. It was a long time coming. You’re probably wondering what on earth this is all about. Well, here’s the story:

Over the years, every once in a while, I would come across someone that would ask me ‘Do you like The Leader (Moamar Kadafy)?’. Of course in Libya talking about the leader has always been a taboo subject. You didn’t even dare to say his name; usually he was just referred to as ‘The Leader’. Of course, all that’s changed now – you can call him whatever you want, and most times it’s not something nice.

So here I would be, faced with this rather awkward question, wondering if the person doing the asking planned to report whatever I said to internal security. I didn’t want to lie and say I loved the man, or that I even liked him. So I finally decided that when faced with this rather inane question I would reply  truthfully ‘No’.

This answer always provoked a look of shock and disbelief. And then I would add ‘I wasn’t invited to his daughter’s wedding.  I have always done my best to promote his country and to do whatever I can for Libya and its citizens. The least he could have done was to invite me to the party. And you know in Libya if you aren’t invited to someone’s munasabat (occasions) you can just cross them right off your list. So he’s off my list.’ They would spend about a minute contemplating my explanation and then have to agree with me because I had explained it in such a way as to include their very own social custom. And of course, thinking I was joking they would also laugh (rather nervously).

Would I have gone to the wedding if I had been invited? I’m not sure. I hate Libyan weddings and this would have been a mother of a wedding. But in a weird way it would have been nice to have been asked. After the start of the Libyan uprising a video of Aisha’s wedding was leaked to YouTube (here and here).  The wedding had an underwater theme complete with a golden mermaid throne for the bride and groom to sit on while they watched their guests and were entertained by famous Arabic singers. I’m sure it must have cost a fortune, but the overall effect looked really shlafty (Libyan word for redneck).

So where is this story going you are wondering. Keep reading, keep reading….

After the rebel fighters stormed Moamar Kadafy’s compound, Bab Al Azizia, and secured it, people poured in to have a look at all that was there. And there is a whole lot to look at! The place is huge.  And while they were having a look people went crazy and started looting the place. They drove in with trucks and hauled off the furniture, carpets, air conditioners, TVs and anything else they wanted (including arms and ammunition). Kadafy’s house was full of the leader’s personal effects; clothes, books, medical records, they even found his personal photo album devoted to his beloved Condoliza Rice. People and journalists started riffling through all the personal documents and secret files and records that were stored there too.

At first, when I watched this free-for-all on television I was appalled. Then my husband said ‘Let them take it all. Let them get this rage out of their systems. Let them see for themselves what’s been kept from them.’ Apparently, the future plan is that they will demolish the site and turn it into a public park. I suppose it would cost a fortune to hire a company to come get rid of this stuff – why pay? Just let the people haul off what they want. Of course files, and other things of that nature need to be preserved and archived. And weapons need to be secured. But the rest of the junk… let them take it.

As we watched the looting on tv my kids wanted to go to Bab Al-Azizia and see for themselves like everyone else, but I said ‘Not yet. Wait until things settle down a bit.’ We took the kids to Martyr’s Square instead and they had a great time joining in the celebrations. And then we just forgot about going to Bab Al-Azizia. We were busy getting on with our lives. So when my son Yusef came in to the kitchen for breakfast a few days ago and said he was going there with his cousin I was surprised. I asked him what he was going to do and he said that they wanted to explore the place and see it for themselves.

So off he went with his cousin on an adventure that lasted the entire day. And he said he still had not seen everything. The compound is huge; by some accounts over 6 square kilometers. He had a great time discovering what was there. He even sat in Kadafy’s  jacuzzi . That family must have been obsessed with jacuzzi’s – they had them everywhere!

Despite the fact that it’s been over two weeks the looting continues. Yusef wasn’t interested in plundering the compound, he just wanted to explore. But at one point he looked down at his feet and something caught his attention.  A cream coloured envelope, peeking out was a card engraved in gold. He reached down to pick it up and discovered that it was an invitation to Aisha Kadafy’s wedding. Obviously he couldn’t pass that up; he had to bring the invitation home to present to me.

So that is the story of how I got an invitation to Moamar Kadafy’s daughter’s wedding!

Remote control is to show scale. 

Monday, September 05, 2011

Keep praying for Libya

We've been pretty busy lately. We got through Eid celebrations and family visits. This year they were kept to a minimum because of the gasoline situation. Best of all we joined in the celebrations at Martyr's Square. It was amazing and wonderful! 

Ibrahim proudly holding the flag in Martyr's Square, Tripoli.  Peace! 

The last few days I've been getting the house back to a post-Ramadan state and rearranging our schedules. Unfortunately I seem to be the only one interested in changing our time schedule. I prepare lunch only to find no one's gotten up and had breakfast yet. It will take a while I guess. Yesterday and today were so hot that we only felt like eating sandwiches anyway. Maybe I should keep it light for a while.

I went for a drive to see what was going on in my neighbourhood. Some of the shops are reopening but they still haven't been restocked and the prices are still quite high. There are more cars on the roads because Tripoli has gasoline. There are lines at the gas stations but they seem to be moving quite quickly and no one's queue jumping and no one's threatening anyone with guns like in the old Kadafy days. Everyone's being patient - that's really amazing! There are check points everywhere. But the guys manning them are smiling and friendly. They're also doing a great job directing traffic. I also noticed that they are beginning to fill potholes with asphalt. 

I hear that the water situation in town is improving. Thank God we have our own well, but that of course depends on having electricity to pump the water into the holding tanks. We're still having problems with the electricity but it's getting better. We have power most of the time now, however, the electricity fluctuates and sometimes is so weak we have to turn off most of the appliances and unnecessary lights. This might be caused by high usage - the weather has been over 40 degrees C (104 F) for the past few days. Everyone is running their air-conditioners. Hopefully this will be worked out soon.

We've got internet! Yeah! The connection isn't very strong, especially with Wimax, but we're expecting that to improve. Mobile phone coverage is on again off again too - but also improving. I think everyone is trying to call each other and internet all at once. And I'm excited to finally be able to use all the apps on my phone. Yeah!

I've been reading about Kadafy's personal nurses. Link HERE
How ridiculous to think he needed FIVE personal nurses while in Libyan public hospitals there is approximately one very overworked nurse for every 20 to 40 patients. tch.. tch...tch...tch...

Keep praying for Libya. Pray that Kadafy forces in Bani Walid and Sirte put down their weapons and surrender and also that they capture Kadafy and his mob. Pray for a free and liberated Libya.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

The Missing Months

We didn't have internet for about six months (March 3rd to August 22nd) in Tripoli, so of course I wasn't able to post on my blog during that time. I did however continue to write... and write, and write and write. It was daily therapy to sit down and type out the day's events. 

I thought about putting it all together and publishing it as a book. But as the war comes to an end and a free Libya opens up to a new beginning I've decided to put the past behind me and post these missing months on my blog. I need to get on with my life. The future is just too alluring for me to be dwelling on the past - but the past definitely needs to be recorded.  

I wasn't able to take as many photos as I would have liked because it was too dangerous to be running around with a camera in public during the war for anyone - imagine if an American was caught taking pictures. It would have made me an instant target and probably would have been the end of me and/or my husband.

The internet connection is still very slow so I'll be uploading the images I have as soon as I am able and post a note that new pics are on.

*** UPDATE, September 3rd, 2011:  I have added the images. ***

I've posted each month separately and put them on my blog as tabs at the top of the page. Or you can find them here:

Please keep Libya in your prayers!

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