Thursday, December 29, 2011

2011 : Recapping My Year

It's that time of the year again... time to recap my year's events. I really feel as though I have lost a year! But looking back it was not a lost year, but a different one than I had ever expected. The war in Libya has changed everything. Now it's 'Before the war .... ' and 'Since the end of the war....' It has become one of life's markers - a point in time used to measure events. So we'll start with before the war........

I didn't post much in January. It was what I didn't post that was interesting! The revolution in Tunisia and Egypt had begun and I suspected that the revolution fever would spread eventually to Libya. But of course I couldn't write much about it which was very frustrating! I reminisced a bit about time I spent in Tunisia in the past, wishing that I could write more.  Instead I spent time stockpiling in case something happened in Libya (and I prayed something would happen!). I bought cases of toothpaste, shampoo, soap, and deodorant, as well as food. I figured we'd use it regardless what happened but I wanted to be prepared for just in case. On my blog I wrote only three posts -  which only vaguely touched on revolution and unrest - although it was very much on my mind.

By February my posts were mentioning the unrest in Egypt and as the month progressed my posts became a bit bolder as I reported on things happening around me. We were glued to the television while we watched events unfold. On the sixteenth I posted about the 'pro-Leader' demonstrations I witnessed on the way home from work (using the name Kadaffi was taboo!). I didn't know it at the time but it was my last day of work for a very long time. We mostly stayed at home where it was safe, while in the distance we heard gunfire, and rumours and news found it's way to us from family, neighbours and friends. Phone and internet service started to become intermittent and I worried about friends and colleagues that were stranded in Benghazi. I was relieved when all of my colleagues finally made it safely out of Libya. In the meantime I was still here, watching the news and Kadaffi's ridiculous speeches - Zinga Zinga! Outside the safety of my house, Tripoli and the rest of Libya were erupting, helicopters were flying overhead, gunshots and unrest... Libya was in - the Arab spring continued.

March : HERE and HERE

The third of March marked the end of internet in Tripoli. The day before the internet service came to a halt I posted about a 'normal' day in Tripoli (which was far from normal). After that I began to write a daily journal that I kept  on an external hard drive that was kept stored away, hidden in a safe place, in case our house was ever raided. While the unrest in Libya continued I did my best to try to keep our lives as normal as possible. We got haircuts, I did laundry and gardening, and we watched the store shelves empty of goods. We worried about how long our stockpiles of food and other supplies would last and we prayed for the UN to impose a no-fly zone (which finally happened). On the 19th we witnessed the first NATO bombing in Tripoli - we thought it would all be over quickly but it was just the beginning. As the month progressed we settled into a routine of being bombed, watching the news and getting on with survival.  


The war continued, and we wondered whether we should evacuate. Food supplies continued to dwindle and  some subsidized foods began to appear at neighbourhood cooperatives. I got together with a friend to try to establish a packing up service for those ex-pats who had left their belongings behind when they fled. It proved to be unsuccessful and we scrapped the idea because without internet it was impossible to coordinate with those living outside Libya and by this time most places where ex-pats lived had been looted by Libyans - It was heartbreaking and I was so disappointed in the behaviour of those Libyans who believed that whatever was left behind was fair game. Meanwhile, I spent time cooking, reading, gardening and getting on with life. The TV news was on 24/7. The challenge to get gasoline had begun as people waiting for hours in long lines. And the war and bombing continued....


The war dragged on, NATO bombings became a regular event. There was a constant worry about supplies and gasoline. A friend and I found ourselves in the middle of a very dangerous situation at the gas station - one of the scariest events of my life.  Spring was ending, summer was beginning. The kids found interesting things to do on the farm (that involved scorpions and snakes!) and I did some major spring cleaning, sorting out  papers and books. One good thing happened - I finally managed to get my salary. We settled into a routine of nearly nightly air raids and lots of missed sleep.


There was a lot of bombing this month as the weather got hotter and hotter. We also started to suffer from power cuts which meant no air conditioning. On the 15th we were treated with the total eclipse of the full moon. We watched in awe as the full moon slowly disappeared and then reappeared. I spent a lot of time worrying about my mother who was in hospital in America. It was so frustrating being so far away and without internet. There was lots of TV news, reading, gardening and cooking as we wondered how much longer it would continue - and we planned for Ramadan.


The kids had final exams and we wondered how they would manage as they hadn't been to school for the lessons - just going for the exams. We also wondered whether we'd have enough petrol to get them there. With the heat and nightly bombing the kids found it very difficult to study. At one point NATO dropped leaflets on the military camp next to Sara's school asking that the area be evacuated. The leaflets were collected and destroyed and no one was told to evacuate. School continued as usual. The best thing about the whole month was that we had a house-guest who kept us busy. It was fun to have a visitor to spend time with. Power cuts were a constant problem, we switched on the news as soon as the electricity came on to find out what was happening. We geared up to face Ramadan.

August : HERE and HERE

Ramadan began on the first day of August. It would be a Ramadan like no other. We spent whole days without electricity. Cooking gas was getting scarce and gasoline was almost impossible to get except at very high prices on the black market. We did our best to cope with the situation while NATO continued their bombing raids. The most terrifying night of my life was spent when NATO bombed a nearby military camp that was being used as munitions storage facility. The deafening noise of explosions could be heard the whole night long and into the afternoon the following day - rockets and debris spiraling overhead. I feared that we would not survive. When we had power we were glued to the TV news, we watched the rebels' progress and worried about what would happen in Tripoli. We prayed to be saved from a bloodbath and our prayers were answered when Tripoli was freed. Not long afterwards the internet was reconnected and we were finally able to communicate with the world. Ramadan ended and we celebrated Eid and freedom, but although Tripoli was free the war still waged on in other parts of the country.


On the first of the month I posted the daily journal that I had written during the months without internet. We attended celebrations in Martyr's Square and my son Yusef toured Bab Al Azizia. I finally went back to work and was thrilled to witness my students exploring the freedom of expression; finally being able to speak their minds for the first time in their lives. I also spent time with friends at the beach. The war was still not over but we were putting our lives back together in Tripoli.


Tripoli celebrated, the city was decorated in flags of red, green and black. Graffiti and murals adorned every surface. My husband and I rushed out to document what we could of this artistic expression. On the 20th Kadafy was finally captured and Libya was liberated at last.


There was a lot of catching up to do on the internet, I spent lots of time reading articles and blogs that I had missed during the internet blackout. I posted about unexploded ordnance. Good news as Saif Al Islam was captured and on the 23rd as Libya's new cabinet was announced. I spent time with family and friends and had time for the garden too.


There were only three posts this month because of the poor internet service. One was a tribute to Libyan female bloggers, another a post about the education system (lack of) in Libya and the final post of the year was a complaint about the internet service - which is still giving me headaches!

2011 was one heck of a year. I'm happy to see the end of it, but honestly I can say that I have so much to be thankful for. And I discovered something about me: I lived through a war and I am a stronger person for it.

Best wishes to you all for a wonderful 2012!

Friday, December 23, 2011

A plea to LTT

I'm getting really fed up with the internet service these days. I know that Libya is recovering from a civil war and all of that - but is it too much to ask to have the internet up and running? Since the internet has come back on the provider has been offering free service while they work on gettting running properly again... so should I complain? We've heard that within a month we will have to pay for the service once again.... but what service???? 

It's off more than it's on and when it's on it's so slooooooowwwww that you all you can do is the very basic things. Forget watching a video - click and wait for it to load.... and wait... and wait.... and wait...... and then finally give up. 

Once in a while the connection will apear to speed up and you get excited, your heart starts to race, and you think 'Oh yeah! It's working!' only to find that it works for about a minute or two and then shuts down completely, switching your browser to the page that says in BIG BOLD LETTERS 'This webpage is not available'. And then you wait, and wait some more for the service to resume. Go off to have a cup of coffee and come back to check... still nothing. Go start a load of laundry and come back to check.... still nothing. Then for an instant or two, or maybe three if you are lucky the service will kick back to life and you think to yourself 'Ahhh... they've fixed it... finally' But then the service stops again.... 'I guess they're still working on it.... sigh....'

The internet is my link to my family and friends abroad. Christmas and New Years is a blink away. I want to be able to communicate with the outside world. Please LTT... get your f***ing act together!

This message was sent by a browser plugin called scribefire... without it I would never have been able to post this because the connection is too slow to log-in to Blogger. 


Monday, December 19, 2011

Enough school holidays.... let's get back to class

We're finally having some winter weather here. Yesterday it rained all day and the weather is cold. The dogs huddled on the porch trying to stay warm and dry.  

Nora started back at university last week. She said the university is still a mess. She had hoped this would be her final semester but because there is a shortage of lecturers she has to take fewer classes and now it will add more time until she finishes. At least she is studying and the extra time will give her more time to think about the next step - master's. The other kids are still waiting and who knows when they will return to the classroom... January... March... Apparently there are still no books. No books, no school. What a mess.

We have to find a new school for Ibrahim because his old school has no students for fourth grade this year... School for Ibrahim is a big problem. There are no schools that specialize in teaching kids with autism. If we put him in a regular school the teachers have no time to focus on his needs. Another option are schools for the mentally retarded - but he's not retarded! We recently had him re-evaluated and the 'specialist' suggested sending him to the mosque to study but we are afraid the shaikh will just abuse him. Libya has no national organization for autism. My husband's looking into options and researching what other parts of the Arab world are doing - maybe we can start something here. If you're interested in helping us start something for kids with autism in Libya please let me know.

In the meantime we are looking for a school with small class sizes and a patient teacher. Ibrahim is bored and very tired of staying home. He needs to be in a classroom. Until then my husband and I have been taking turns doing 'life skills' stuff with him and getting him into as many social situations as possible. A constant change of scenery is good for him. A few weeks ago he went through a popcorn phase - he made every kind of popcorn you could imagine! He went through 4 kilos of popcorn in two weeks... he was making popcorn in the middle of the night.  Popcorn, popcorn, popcorn.... I never thought I'd get tired of popcorn. Thank God we finally ran out!

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Very Very Versatile! - Libyan Bloggerettes!

I've been awarded the the Versatile Blogger Award. Twice! First I got it from Expatlogue and more recently it was given to me by Jean from 2012: What's the 'real' truth? blog. She started reading my blog after a quest to find the 'real truth' about Libya. Unfortunately my internet is so slow that it's hard to get much blogging done - so now I'm finally catching up.

What is it?
The award is a kind of pay-it-forward award. Those who recieve it are asked to thank and link to the giver and then elect 5 to 15 other bloggers with the Versatile Blogger Award and let them know by leaving a comment on their blog.

Well, first of all - Thank you Expatlogue and Jean

Who get's the award now?
I've decided to award some of the wonderful Libyan female bloggers with this award because they are truly versatile! 

Here is my list... not in any particular order:

Enlightened Spirit  says she's 'a soul visiting this world, happened to be a libyan girl...Wish to make this earth a better place for living ...

Fragola says: I'm not a perfect hair does not always stay in place..and i spill things a lot..i'm pretty clumsy and sometimes i have a broken friends and i sometimes fight and maybe some days nothing goes right but when i think about it and take a step back i remember how amazing life truly is and that maybe just maybe i like being unperfect.

Happymoi whose blog sees her through the transitions of being a single girl, then engaged, then married and now a working mom. 

Crowded Mind says she's: a traditional sounds like crazy life..I'd like to back to school one day I'd like to do every thing

Ema a Libyan architect who loves design, her cat Tutu, and cooking - she has a cooking blog too called Happy Baking.

From the Rock - one of the longest running Libyan blogs. She's been blogging since 2003 about all kinds of things including topics about Libya, the north African region and the Arab world. 

My Enchanting Sereeb  A Libyan/British writer, artist and culinary lover. She lives abroad and gives an interesting viewpoint from outside Libya looking in. 

Lebeeya - another Libyan girl who lives abroad - but her heart is very much in Libya. Bright, sunny and sarcastic; it's always fun to read her views and ideas.

I'd like to offer a post-humous award to Hannu from D-Log  Hannu passed away last summer. She was a vibrant addition to the Libyan blogosphere. Active in promoting young Libyan women as the face behind the TIBRA scholarship award, a wife, a mother, a career woman. She touched the lives of many. She truly is deserving of the Versatile Blogger award.

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