Monday, February 27, 2012

Our farm in the fog

We woke up the other morning to a blanket of fog. I didn't get a chance to go outside until the fog began to lift. It was so quiet and peaceful. Here are a few pictures that I took of our farm in the fog.

by Edwina Reizer

Fog, settling in the air all around.
Fog, covering the earth like a blanket on the ground.
Where did you come from? 
Why are you here? 
You feel so misty.
The air's unclear.

Fog, I wait patiently and use my eyes.
Fog, you're lifting now and I can see the skies.
Everything looks like it did before.
No more mist
the ground's been kissed
by fog. 

Friday, February 24, 2012

Making Libya a Safer Place

Last November I posted about unexploded ordnance that was being stored in a munitions dump right next to the main road in Ainzara. The camp had been targeted by NATO during the war and there is still a huge amount munitions there. The site is visible from the street as you drive by, and the past few weeks I've noticed that there's been some activity there. Workers and equipment have been on the site and some of the bombs have been removed and rearranged.

Today I came across some images on Flickr of work that is being done by Handicap International, an independent international aid organisation.  They were co-recipients of the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize as a founding member of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines which led to the signing of the Mine Ban Treaty. They also received the 1996 Nansen Refugee Award, an award given by the UNHCR,  for their work with refugees and victims of landmines. 

A team of six worked to neutralize some anti-aircraft missiles that were sitting precariously on their launchpads, still loaded, and just metres from the main road to Tripoli. Each missile weighs almost 600 kilograms and measures eight metres in length. Two cranes were used to remove the missiles from their launchpads. They were then laid on the ground so that the workers could neutralize them which took between two to three hours to deactivate each missile. The team was made up of Libyans who were recruited and trained by Handicap International. 

Libya: neutralizing anti-aircraft missiles
© J-J. Bernard/Handicap International
Libya: neutralizing anti-aircraft missiles
© J-J. Bernard/Handicap International
Libya: neutralizing anti-aircraft missiles
It takes about two to three hours to neutralize each missile. It is a painstaking but necessary task to ensure that civilians are out of danger.  © J-J. Bernard/Handicap International   

It will take months for the work to be completed but already in just a few weeks they have identified more than 600 explosive remnants of war that posed a danger to the people of Tripoli. They are also planning to launch a risk education campaign to warn people about the dangers of these weapons, especially for children who are the most common victims. Two more teams will begin working in Sirte which is one of the most highly contaminated areas in the country. 

Thank you Handicap International for making Libya a safer place! For more information about the work being carried out in Libya by Handicap International visit their Libya page.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

What should I bring? Everything and nothing... bring yourself!

I recently received this comment:

I have a request 
Can you please make a post...
a list of things that you should bring to Libya ( from electronics to food ) If you've lived In the US or Europe your whole life, but decide to live in Libya. I'm getting ready for my trip now...seems like a never ending list please.. Thank You

This is something I get asked quite often. And I'd have asked the same thing before I came here (but there wasn't internet in 1989). The result for me was that I brought all kinds of things that I didn't need and left behind things that would have been useful. 

When I arrived, life in 1980's and 90's was miserable in Libya. I came to Libya pregnant with my first child and brought nothing related to babies with me thinking that Libya was the land of big families and there was sure to be tons of everything related to babies.... wrong! There was practically nothing. Luckily, my husband had to travel to Egypt and came home with a suitcase full of baby clothes and I also had my mother send me cloth diapers from America. I had six kids in 9 years and it was a continuous struggle to clothe, diaper, and feed them simply because the shops didn't have the merchandise to buy. I never threw out any of my kids clothes as they were all handed down to child next in line. Whenever we found baby formula we would buy cases of it and stockpile because we never knew if we'd see it again. Thank God I'm past all that now. Over time things changed and products are being imported. 

Nowadays you can find almost everything you need for babies here. And there is a lot of everything else too. One problem is that you may find something one day and then not find it again. This happens a lot with imported specialty foods, cleaning products, toiletries and cosmetics. If I find something I like, I stock up on it. 

When they first brought Doritos here my American friends and I were thrilled beyond belief. And then the supply dried up and we were all having Dorito withdrawal (yes, that really happens!). By chance one of my students was working for a grocery distribution company and I told him to be on the lookout for Doritos. When he found them I bought 14 cases - enough to completely fill my car so there was barely enough space for me to sit and drive! I shared them with friends and we were content for a while. The shops have Doritos all the time now (thank God!), but they still haven't brought Fritos.

When I came here I made the mistake of bringing small appliances with me. First problem was that the current is not the same here as it is in the US so we had to use converters and these didn't always work very well. I had bought a super duper blender mixer do everything appliance that cost a small fortune.... and then one of the parts broke. The only way to replace it was to get one when I visited 'home'. Needless to say, the part was expensive and could only be ordered and sent by mail - it arrived a day or two before I travelled. Then when I got it to Libya it worked for about two weeks and broke again. What a waste of money. I learned my lesson and buy appliances here. You can get a warranty on most appliances and they are reasonably priced. We did have to hunt to find a waffle iron which we found after a twenty-year search. We've used it about 4 times so far and probably could have lived without it, but if there's space in the cupboard we've got to fill it. 

If you like to read books I recommend bringing an eBook reader. I had a Sony reader for quite a while and now I have a Galaxy Tab that works even better and I bought it here. You can get iPad and Galaxy Tab here but they are probably cheaper outside Libya. The same goes for iPods.  Most small gadgets are costly here if you can find them. 

Medicine is another thing. I suggest bringing enough to last for a while and when you get here look around to see if your meds are available here.  

Quite honestly, I think that most ex-pats should travel light anyway. The more junk you bring with you means the more junk you have to move again in the future. We all like to surround ourselves with 'things' and pieces of 'home' - but is all that really necessary? Being a minimalist when you're travelling and living in various places is a really good idea! I cringe when I think of all the ex-pats that, at the beginning of the uprising, had to leave all their belongings behind and pack up only the absolute essentials in a carry-on bag. Most of their houses here were looted after they left and they lost everything. 

If you're an ex-pat worker you're probably travelling in and out of here, and you probably have colleagues and other ex-pat friends who travel frequently and would be willing to bring you back things you needed. But if you are moving here with plans to stay for a while chances are you will eventually run out of all the things you hoarded in your suitcase or shipping container. Eventually you're going to have to learn to make do with what's available. A big part of moving to a different country is learning how to survive on what's around you. It's all part of the adventure.

What do you think? What is there that you cannot live without?

Monday, February 13, 2012

Avoiding the Crossfire

Twelve checkpoints slowed my way home last night. Traffic crawled at the approach of each stop. In the darkness, men who were  manning each checkpoint peered into my car and then waved me through. I was only stopped once. I pulled over and they popped the trunk open and searched through the back of my car. They were stopping most of the cars driven by males and giving them a more thorough check. There are normally only one or two checkpoints that I go through on my way home, but with the upcoming anniversary of the uprising, as well as Saadi's threatening remarks about his eminent return from exile in Niger, has got all of Tripoli on heightened alert.

Despite the extra security I feel uneasy and nervous. In the past two weeks I've been witness to three situations in which men, who were having arguments in the street, drew weapons. Seeing men shouting, waving guns and pointing them at each other just because of a silly argument is frightening. Twice, I happened to be in my car with my children when these incidents occurred and I quickly sped away from the scene. The other occasion happened near where I work and I ducked inside the building as men from every nearby building poured into the street to watch or help dispel the argument. No gunshots were fired that time - but there could have been, and that's unsettling. 

There are times every day when I hear gunfire in the distance. It makes you stop whatever you happen to be doing, you listen, trying to figure out which direction it's coming from, and you wonder why they’re shooting. In Tripoli, NO GUNS signs outnumber NO SMOKING signs and no one pays any attention to either of them.  

Instead of looking forward to celebrating the anniversary of the uprising my family will be staying home, safely inside, until it's over. These are still early days in the new Libya. Hopefully by 2013 we'll have a gun-free February 17th.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Bad Weather & Good News

We're having unusually cold weather this week. Yesterday we had gale force winds, rain, hail, sleet and in some areas there was even snow. I got up in the morning and sent my husband and kids off into the world, only to have my husband and Jenna return home a while later. Jenna's school was closed because of flooding and bad weather. There was ice (or maybe snow) on the ground nearby too. 

Jenna in Suk Juma looking really cold!
The electricity in my area shut down in the morning and was off all day, so we huddled under blankets and I read a book. Our poor dogs were freezing outside. We had to fortify their shelters as best as we could against the wind and gave them some old carpets and blankets to burrow under. I tried to get Rita and her puppy into the laundry room but she would have none of that - she insisted on being on the front porch, where she had full view of the gate and the main entrance to the house.

Today the weather is better. The winds have died down and the sky is blue but it's still bitter cold outside. We have electricity today - but it's so weak that the heaters aren't heating and the microwave oven isn't microwaving. I'm wearing a sweater over my pajamas and thick socks with my Crocs. I look hideous, but warm. It's supposed to be cold for the next few days.

Good news: In my last post I reported about my daughter's friend and her neighbour who had gone missing - kidnapped without a trace. Finally, after nearly two weeks the girls were able to call home. They've been recovered and were returned home the day before yesterday. I still don't know all the details, but from what I understand, the crime was politically/tribally motivated. What kind of sick people would do such a thing? Barbaric!  Thank God the girls are safe and well. I hope and pray nothing like this ever happens again.

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