Sunday, December 29, 2013

The past 12 months - Recapping 2013

Here's a recap of my world, 2013...

 My single post for January was about the weather... as usual it was a rainy January and I spent quite a bit of time in the car, traversing on very bad roads.

The month began with a post about a historical landmark near Tarhouna.  Later on in the month I posted about a childhood remembrance. There was Libyan Revolution Day to get happy about, and fun times with my son Ibrahim. We waited for Nora's exam results to come out while we devised plans to scare off marriage proposals.

An anniversary this month - 24 years in Libya which is nearly half my life! I enjoyed springtime in my garden and tried (in vain) to buy the most exquisite lamp I had yet to see in Libya.

A big milestone for my daughter Sara - braces! After some dust storms that were so bad they closed down the airport I spent time cleaning up in my garden.

We went hiking in the mountains on a dusty day, but still had a good time anyway. There was some drama with my in-laws that turned out not to be very dramatic after all (thank God!). And I requested some ideas to get me through writers block.

We had some foggy mornings and my husband built some bird-feeders for the garden. I wrote a small poem called 'The Libyan Waiting Room' and started my annual stocking up for Ramadan. We had a morning picnic at the seaside  with a good friend. I wrote a 5 minute adventure story and reported on life's annoyances in Libya (drones and houseflies).

Ramadan preparations are well underway at the beginning of the month. The Minister of Electricity announced that there would be no power cuts during Ramadan - he didn't mention which year though because we had power cuts nearly every day. It was hot, usually over 40C and we suffered our way through the month. There were assassinations of activists in Benghazi and  unrest in the country and even close by -  right down our dirt road.

The Heath Minister announced that "Libyan hospitals were not fit for human beings" and said a contract was awarded to a British company to try to remedy the situation. I posted a list of things I had written in the past about my hospital experiences in Libya. I had a guest post regarding the rights of foreign wives of Libyans (we hope there will be changes made soon). Ramadan ended, we had a quiet Eid and then it was time to get back on some sort of schedule.  The new school year was about to start and I reported on a project to build portable classrooms in Libya. It was time to plan my trip to Florida to visit my family there - I was counting the seconds till it was time to leave as the temperatures in Libya got higher and the power cuts got longer.

The power cuts in Libya continued (seems to be the theme this year) and to top that off the water supply to the capital was cut off, but I was on holiday -  far away in Florida. I had spent a few days in the UK on my way to the United States. Unfortunately I had the flu and so didn't really get to enjoy my visit to Cambridge as much as I'd have liked, but I was 'home' in Florida recovering.

This month was spent with family and friends. I didn't post much during this month because I was too busy. This is what I was up to: We spent time shopping, picnicking, attending music festivals in the park, and spending time with friends.  My mother had good news from her doctor and we decided to take a 5 day cruise to the western Caribbean visiting the Cayman Islands and Cozumel, Mexico. We had a fabulous time and hope to go again in 2014. Here are some pictures that I had planned to post, but never got around to:
Cambridge when it wasn't raining was really nice. 

I took this picture while taking a walk on the beach about 5 minutes from my mother's house. I'm going to have the picture printed and framed to put over my desk.
This was a big milestone for my mother. She has health problems that require her to use a walker, which is fine for the house, but make shopping difficult. She had refused to use the motorized cart  - but she finally gave in and we got her on one for the first time. She was all over the store!
Too many pictures of the cruise to post here... I will have to upload them someplace. 

Back to Libya. I spent time sorting through my house and getting rid of junk. Mid-month, Libyans demonstrated, demanding that the militias leave Tripoli - people were killed in the process and many were injured. The militias pulled back and Libya shut down for a general strike that lasted about 2 weeks.

I posted about  how the situation in Libya made posting anything difficult, how unfortunately, the new found freedoms in Libya don't necessarily include the freedom to publish your opinion. And lastly... a post about the gasoline crisis and having an empty tank.

I'm hoping that 2014 will be a wonderful year for all!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Libya's Running on Empty

Tripoli is suffering from a gas crisis this week... it seems ridiculous as Libya is an oil producing country. My tank was on empty yesterday, but my son managed to get me 20 litres of gas from someone who drove all the way to Khoms (a 2 hours drive away). I'm hoping that it will last me until the gas crises is over and I can fill up my tank again.

The gas indicator light was flashing....
Looking on the bright side... I have an excuse to do nothing and be nowhere... I'm going to relax and enjoy reading a book - the weather report says rain tomorrow. I see a nice warm blanket in my future.

Friday, December 06, 2013

Libya Hurra! ... Libya Free!

It’s almost the end of the year. Usually at this time of the year I look back at old posts and recap my year’s events. This year I haven’t posted very often. Not because there hasn't been anything to write about, but simply because nowadays writing about events happening around me might not be a very bright idea.

A great deal has been happening in Libya over the past year, and I've had quite a few interesting adventures here, but posting these days is risky, especially if you are expressing any kind of opinion because there is always someone who just might not agree with your views and take offence – and that doesn't necessarily mean they will just make a comment.  In this year alone, there have been reports in Libya of journalists being kidnapped, shot at, and even killed. The head of one of Tripoli’s local radio stations was found shot to death recently. You don’t even have to be part of the media to be a target.  This past week an American teacher was shot and killed in Benghazi – reason and assailants unknown. 

During the Gadaffi era there was a fairly tight muzzle on the media, but I was still able to pretty much express my views about things (although sometimes I had to do it in a rather vague manner).  Right after the liberation, Libya witnessed an outpouring of all kinds of stories and reports in newspapers, on television and on the Internet.  Everyone was thrilled with their newly found freedom to say whatever they wanted and to be able to express themselves in ways they never thought possible. Numerous new television and radio stations opened up and there was also an increase in the number of newspapers in the country.

Despite all this new-found freedom, I've noticed that over the last year or so, that the Libyan blogosphere has slowed to a crawl. Few Libyan bloggers have been posting in the last year, possibly because they’re expressing themselves more on social networks such as Twitter and Facebook.  But I wonder if the reason for the absence of blog posts, even for those bloggers who post anonymously, is because they just don’t feel safe to write anymore. 
My posts this year have been mostly about the weather, my garden and complaints about the continued power outages. I've got lots of opinions about what’s happening around me but I’m keeping my thoughts to myself. Also, I've had some interesting adventures during the past year that I’m keeping to myself too.  

I hope the situation will change... soon, I hope… (Insert sitting duck image here).

Friday, November 15, 2013


I took this picture this afternoon. The weather was perfect, but it wasn't an enjoyable day. We could hear gunfire and explosions in the distance. In Tripoli, after the Friday prayers, demonstrators gathered, singing the national anthem and chanting 'Libya'. They marched and demanded that the militias leave the city. The militias opened fire upon them. Various reports of injured and killed - the casualty lists grew throughout the day. 

As the sun set and we could still hear fighting and heavy artillery coming from the city. Later in the evening the Prime Minister gave a televised address which didn't go over very well and was later followed by a second address. Still the shooting continues. There is talk of a general strike and the launch of a civil disobedience campaign until the militias leave. 

It's been more than two years since the end of the revolution, but has Libya really been liberated? Oh Libyans! Put down your weapons and embrace one another... then you will finally be free!

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Back again

I'm back and over jet-lag. Nothing changed while I was away except for the addition of a few new potholes in the roads.

I'm doing a Fall clean out - it's amazing how much 'stuff' accumulates. I've been rearranging furniture and I bought a carload of new plants to replace the ones in the house that had seen better days. The old plants are in rehab, hopefully they will recover.

Yesterday the rains started. The roads are flooded and the kids couldn't get to school this morning. They're enjoying a day off. Maybe I can put them to work... the kitchen cabinets need to be sorted out...

I'll post some pictures from my holiday soon. It was a great 6 weeks!

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Still at home...

I've been enjoying spending time with my family in Florida. My son Yusef thinks we should be spending everyday at an amusement park (isn't that what Florida is all about), but who can afford that? Relaxing on the back porch, a walk along the beach, window shopping at the mall, communing with nature at the park are so much nicer in my opinion. 

In the shade of Southern Live Oak trees along the Pinellas Trail.
The end of my holiday is approaching and soon I'll be trying to figure out how on earth I will fit everything into the suitcases. I'm going to spend every moment I have busy with family and friends, but... stay tuned because there will be an interesting guest post on my blog soon. 

Wednesday, September 18, 2013


I'm back 'home' visiting my family and son in Florida for a while. Time to catch my breath and relax for a change, time to spend with family and friends.

The weeks up to my trip were filled with work and gettting things done around the house. We had a small house fire in the bathroom caused by an electrical short in the lighting of the bathroom mirror (most likely the result of a power surge). The damage was mostly from smoke and required a lot of cleaning. My husband cut his foot on broken glass from the mirror when he ran into the bathroom. It could have been a lot worse! We counted our blessings as we cleaned up the mess. 

For weeks and weeks there have been power outages all over Tripoli and the surrounding area and to top that off the water in the capitol was cut off. Thankfully, we have well water at my house, but it caused a huge amount of problems for many people. The water came back on two days after I left. I hope they get the electricity and water situation sorted out once and for all.

I'm trying not to read the news of what is going on in Libya, but everyday I check at least once. And news doesn't look good! It's very hard to remain optimistic about the situation there. It just might be time to look at other options...  but for the moment I'm planning on heading for the beach to watch the sun set. Time to chill out.

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Making Predictions

I've been counting down the days until my vacation. Time seems to be going slowly and quickly at the same time. There is so much that needs to be wrapped up that my days are filled without much time to breathe. I have a list a mile long of all that needs to be done. Unfortunately, we've been having frequent power cuts and that isn't  helping me accomplish as much as I need to. In my neighbourhood we're having daily power outages that last four to six hours at a time. I head off to work and find there is no electricity there either. Often times I go out to run errands and find the shops, banks, and offices haven't got electricity either. Many companies and private individuals have invested in generators, but even so, Libya is slowing to crawl. It's the hottest part of the year with over 100F(40C) temperatures. Everyone is hot, grumpy and complaining. 

If I'm at home I usually just give in, go to bed, read a book, take a nap, relax and wait it out. If it's night time we don't even bother to light candles anymore. We've become so accustomed to walking around in the dark that candles are no longer needed. 

If I'm at work it's a different story. The heat is stifling no matter what you are wearing (and when you wear hijab that means you are wearing a lot!). Work piles up while you wait for the power to return and then you try to get all the printing, photocopying and other work finished. Tempers are easily ignited and moral is low. I keep reminding myself and others to look deep inside and count their blessings. 

There are all kinds of speculations about why Libya continues to suffer from problems with the electricity. There really isn't much anyone can do except grin and bear it..... meanwhile... the lights flicker, you look up and then they are off. Everyone lets out a sigh, then looks at their watches and tries to predict how long it will be until the power comes back on again.

It won't be long and I will be 'home' again. I've been watching the weather and checking in with the National Hurricane Center's website. I'm keeping my eye on that orange spot on the coast of Africa (see picture below).... it might be heading towards Florida too.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Making plans

Last summer when I was visiting my mother I promised her that I'd be back the next year. It's almost time to start packing. I'm excited!

Friday, August 16, 2013

Back to school soon in Libya - I'm excited!

Ramadan and Eid are over and people have started to get back to their regular schedules. In a few weeks the new school year will begin. This year it's supposed to start on September 1st. Even though it's right around the corner the shops haven't started the big school supply and uniform displays - maybe next week. I want to get all of that shopping out of the way as soon as possible so I plan on getting as much of the stocking up done this weekend. Uniforms will have to come later when we can find them.

The beginning of the school year is an exciting time. Kids will go back and see all their old friends, get new books and supplies, new teachers. But not all children in Libya will face an ideal learning environment. Schools in Libya leave a lot to be desired, even in the capital. Let's just talk about the buildings and facilities themselves: dirty classrooms, many without electricity (Yes! Even in the capital!), broken desks, boards and even windows in the classrooms. Do you need to go to the bathroom? Go ahead.... at your own risk. Don't expect to find a gym, media centre, or even a library... sigh...

Schools here are pitiful...  sad..... depressing.... and I'm just talking about the schools in the capital. I keep reminding my kids to count their blessings because the schools outside of the capital are much worse. 

Some schools don't even exist anymore as they were damaged or obliterated during the war. Some Libyan kids don't have homes or towns to go back to - many internally displaced refugees are living in camps with schools set up in tents.

A tent classroom in a refugee camp

A school destroyed in the revolution in Zliten, Libya

Damage to the University in Misrata from the war. Photo: Reuters

After the revolution the Ministry of Education did a study of Libyan schools to assess needs and pinpoint problems. They looked at 4,800 schools for their survey and reported that:

  • There are about 5 pupils to one teacher (many Libyan females become teachers and are just on the payroll - not actually teaching.)
  • Fewer than 1 in 20 schools have provisions for special needs children and there are significant shortages of psychological support and special needs staff - critical as many children are suffering from psychological stress since the revolution.
  • A mere fifteen percent of schools have one unisex toilet per 90 students - not always functioning, and fewer than 1% of schools had a functioning toilet for children with disabilities
  • Drinking water is often not available, nor is running water of any kind
  • One third of the country's schools do not have a system for waste collection - garbage is just left to pile up
  • Resources in most schools were found to be substandard, lacking in teaching materials and textbooks
  • 40% of schools sustained damage during the revolution and are awaiting repairs
  • there is a huge demand for teacher training and development

Educating Libyan children is essential to Libya's future. The entire educational system in Libya needs a make-over and many projects are underway. Last June the UN signed an agreement with the Ministry of Education and UNICEF to start up projects aimed at improving education and offer teacher training

One promising project that is just getting underway will create classrooms out of shipping containers. Libya has ports all along the coast and ports are stacked high with empty shipping containers which can be turned into classrooms, libraries, offices, study centres, media centres - you name it, the possibilities are endless!

These are empty shipping containers that were being used at a checkpoint along the coast road near Garibaldi during the revolution. Last week I saw something similar in Wadi Rabia.
Tommy Jordan, an American who had been working on infrastructure projects in Libya before the revolution (and who I know personally), was contacted to help work on projects for the new Libya. He is working on setting up these amazingly innovative classrooms. The project will also offer training to Libyans who will then be able to take over once it's underway. Along with the classrooms will be the introduction of technology to keep them running, provide educational materials and programs for teacher training and development. I'm really excited about this - this is something that won't take years - it can get underway in months! This is something Libyan schoolchildren will benefit from and thus push Libya toward a better future. 

They are calling this project: Project Phoenix - the name derived from the Greek myth of the Phoenix, a long-lived bird that obtains new life when it rises from the ashes of it's predecessor. 

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Is the holiday over yet?

Another Ramadan and Eid are over. The time flew by this year. Now we have to get back to a 'normal' schedule again. 

I got up early this morning and found the girls still awake watching TV... they hadn't slept all night long! Now I suppose they will sleep all day. Soon enough they will start complaining that they never get to go anywhere and that they are tired of staying in the house. To which I will respond "Get out of bed in the morning if you want to get things done or go someplace!" It doesn't help that it's summer holidays and they don't HAVE to be anywhere. 

Oh to be young and free to sleep all day..... 

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Thursday, August 01, 2013

A Very Important Guest Post

In the past I've had a few guest posts. Today is another guest, a very dear friend of mine with an important message to the foreign wives of Libyans and also to any Libyans facing issues of inheritance and property rights. She asks that you read her message and pass it on to others in the hopes that her situation will change and other wives of Libyans will not suffer the same fate that she is. Below is her post and includes a video made by her husband. The video is partly in English and partly in Arabic. I'm afraid it's not subtitled, any translations would be appreciated in the comments. Thanks. UPDATED: Translation added below the video.


I am Susan Sandover married into the Libyan family Shkuka. My husband and I had been married 33 years and had lived a loving, happy life together we were a real team. Last September my husband was diagnosed with lung cancer and in March had pneumonia. At that time we made a video asking his family to please allow me to inherit his property

The response of  Shkuka and Yusief  family was to try and invoke sharia law even though Bashir was still alive. They used delaying tactics in the hope that he would die before matters were resolved through the courts. They want to live off the proceeds of our honest hard work without having to lift a finger themselves. They refused to talk to him despite his last text to Lamin one of his brothers ‘I hope you will speak to me soon’ sent just two days before he died.  

Bashir died on the 2nd July very suddenly.  He wanted to sell his property so that we could buy a small flat in London and live simply for the remainder of his short life. Both of us have always worked excessively hard and I am known in Libya for my efforts in the area of teaching and developing English. I think I deserve to retire at 65 years. Added to which I paid from my grandfather and father’s inheritance for all of our property in Libya. 

Shkuka and Yusief family, by denying my husband his rights have given me no choice but that I shall have to continue working and will have no place of my own in which to live.
For those unaware London property prices are some of the highest in the world. I am a Londoner born and bred and I want to be surrounded by my family and friends.  

Some time ago, I sold my flat in Hampstead, London in order to buy a house in Libya. Currently a small one bedroom flat outside the centre of London is at least over a quarter of a million pounds without the monies from Libya I will be destitute and homeless. I cannot understand how brothers and sisters can be so greedy and lacking in compassion to my husband’s wishes and desires. I would beg you to talk to all of your friends and contacts and forward this message on your facebook, tweets and blogs in order to shame this family Mohamed SHKUKA/ ShabanYusief to have mercy to my situation and to Bashir’s wishes.

I write this additionally and importantly to warn other women married to Libyans to make you aware of your lack of inheritance rights and ownership of property in Libya. No one should have to suffer the cruelty, lack of compassion and greed that my husband suffered whilst battling cancer - he died with a deeply saddened heart. Obviously the family SHKUKA/YUSIEF believe they are above God’s justice.

Foreign wives married to Libyans this too could be your fate!  Until now despite the best efforts of many of us you are not entitled to own property in Libya even if you financed the purchase. If your husband dies prior to you and you have no children then you will be entitled to a quarter of his property and if you have children 1/8th. Since this dreadful event has happened to me I am hearing almost daily of Libyan families who have stolen their siblings property on the death of a brother or sister not to mention story after story of foreign wives demise.  

If you are a foreign wife you need to protect yourself at least a little now by:
  • opening a bank account in your name,   
  • Have a power of attorney for your husband or else his relatives will be the executors of his property not you. 
  • Know a good lawyer who will be able to help you.  
  • Set aside savings in your name abroad.  
  • You must be registered with your embassy.  
As we are all too well aware as foreign wives we have no rights and have to rely on the goodwill of our Libyan family under current Libyan law.  You are probably saying but this could never happen to me. My husband believed in his family all of these years and what a fatal error this has been.  

Pass the dangers written in this article onto others and protect yourselves as best you can under the present circumstances. Things do change with lobbying, but it takes time for right over wrong to be acknowledged and rectified.

Here is a translation of the main Arabic portion of the video message:

May the blessings of God be upon you and all the members of our family. Ibrahim, Ismael, Mahmoud, Lamin and Khadija I appreciate your desire to show compassion to my wife and to fulfill your obligations to her. However, if you look into your hearts perhaps you will find that God's will is that she should live in familiar surroundings in London where her brothers and cousins reside. She sold her properties in London to enable us to live in Libya. Justice would allow that we sell our properties in Tripoli and the funds to be transferred to our account in London to allow us and when it is God's will her to live in London after my death.. 


Some good news about the future of Libyan health care

Well here's some news: This week the Health Minister, Nuridine Doughman, made a statement at a press conference admitting that some of Libya's hospitals "were not fit for use by human beings".  A contract has been awarded to British company, International Hospital Group (IHG) to build new hospitals and reform old ones. Story: here 

This is going to take quite some time and a huge amount of money to accomplish, but they have to start someplace. It's a step in the right direction, I hope. It's good to have some positive news for a change!

Over the years I've had many experiences with the Libyan medical system. All six of my children were born here and some of the kids have had surgery here -  as well as myself. There have been some positive experiences, and some horror stories. I've posted some of them on my blog in the past. Have a look at the links:

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Disturbing the Peace(?)

I had been planning to take the kids out shopping this weekend, but we're staying home because of widespread protests and keeping away from any violence sparked by protests following the assassination of an activist in Benghazi. I saw this online recently:
There are reports that early this morning (approx. 06:00Hrs) the airport road, and roads in Gergaresh and Gurji were closed by burning road blocks. Furthermore, the offices of the Muslim Brotherhood were attacked by protestors in the Ben Ashour and Ras Hassan Districts. Protesters in the Abu Salim District have been seen carrying small arms weapons. It is reported that some protesters are now making their way towards the Qatar Embassy. The protest are reported to be non-violent currently, but, as always, the potential for violence remains.

Reports are indicating that protest are taking place in the following areas: Tripoli, Benghazi, Zintan, Tobruk, Ajdabiya, al Marj, al Bayda, Jalu.

I guess we will put off our shopping trip for later. 
Yesterday was a day without electricity. We prepared our meal and set the table in the garden. Shortly after the call to sunset prayers we heard a car racing down our dirt road. We continued eating but a few minutes later we heard two huge explosions and then bursts of gunfire. It was so close that we all jumped up and took cover inside the house. We could hear women and children screaming and crying. My son and husband tried to find out what was happening but it was too dangerous to go out in the road and they could see nothing from looking over the wall. The screaming and crying lasted for about an hour. Later my son said he had heard there was a fight about drugs and as far as he knew no one had been killed. There certainly was plenty of drama!

I don't know where all this is leading to.. We had nearly five hours without electricity again today. Let's just hope the neighbours behave themselves - there's no 911 to call here! 

Monday, July 22, 2013

A Gaggle of Geese

We were driving home the other day and came across some geese crossing the road.... a gaggle of geese. The geese made it safely across the road and Nora snapped a picture.

Later I wondered about the term 'gaggle' and looked it up on the internet. A gaggle refers to a group of geese, usually more than five together that are not in flight. Groups of geese can also be called a flock, a plump, a skein, a  team, or a wedge. Actually there is a huge list of collective nouns here: Collective Nouns I'm glad I came across the list... it's interesting and a bit peculiar.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Progressing through a Libyan Ramadan

We're getting through Ramadan. It's almost halfway over with an so far it's been pretty good. I've been so busy that the days seem to fly by rather quickly. But it's not been without it's trials, namely the daily power cuts that are annoying and seem to happen right when you really need to use something that runs on electricity. Also take into account the daytime temperatures have been 40C (over 100F) or close to it.

For God's sake! This has been going on for years now, surely they should have the power sorted out! I have given up trying to believe the stories the officials tell as to why we are still having power outages. Lately we have been having our fast breaking meal in the garden so that we can see what we're eating as it seems that they frequently shut off the power around sunset. In a way it's kind of pleasant as the air is fairly cool and there is a bit of a breeze, the bats are flitting about and the owls are just coming out for the start of their nightly hunt. We can hear the prayers and Quran coming from mosques in three different directions. But I said fairly pleasant - often times in the distance we can hear explosions and gunfire coming from one direction while in another direction we can hear and see fireworks. Some people fighting while others are celebrating... or maybe they just are obsessed with noise and danger? Who knows, I'm not so thrilled.

Apparently there is still some fighting going on in different areas from time to time. Who's is to say whether you might go out one day to work, or run some errands, or to visit someone and unwittingly get caught in the crossfire and what if all this happens in your neighbourhood? You could get killed by stray bullets while you are cowering in your house. Don't they realize that this is not going to move Libya forward?

I keep hearing about people who have decided that 'enough is enough' and they are packing up and leaving. Lately I've taken to looking at real estate adverts for houses back in my hometown.... at this point I am just looking. I keep telling myself that I didn't go through all this to give up. But when will it reach the point of the straw that breaks the camel's back?

I need to take the kids out to buy Eid clothes. In the past we worried about the crowds, traffic, pick-pockets, beggars and getting ripped-off by unscrupulous shopkeepers.Now we can add the threat of gun-toting shoppers, possible bombs, shootouts, and drive by shootings/assassinations...who knows.... We'll just have to say 'Bismillah!' and get on with it. 

Friday, July 12, 2013

Adjusting to Ramadan

We're adjusting to Ramadan in my house. A different time schedule, different times to eat. And there is the electricity to deal with. The announced that there would be no power cuts during Ramadan... as soon as they announced it the electricity went off. It's been on and off for the last few days. Usually when it's on, the power is so weak that the lights are dim and the air conditioner is all but useless. Hopefully they will sort it out.... but I'm not really that optimistic!

Meanwhile, I've come down with a head cold. Pounding headache, stopped up nose, runny, watery eyes and a fever.... which is miserable enough as it is, but remember the power keeps going off and the air conditioner is barely there. Mostly I stay in bed with a box of kleenex next to me, dozing and waiting for sunset. I did manage to get up yesterday and make a casserole, but I've been relying on the girls to help out. 

It doesn't matter whether we have power or not, or if I have a cold or not, because the first few days of Ramadan are truly a test.... coffee! I'm not really missing coffee so much this year - I think the withdrawal symptoms are being masked by the cold symptoms. I'll manage somehow to make it through.

Ramadan Mubarak!

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Ramadan wishes

Wishing a peaceful and blessed Ramadan to all who celebrate.  Ramadan Karim!

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Ramadan Preparations Underway

Ramadan is right around the corner, less than a week away. I've been stocking up the house with basic foodstuffs, spices and buying new dishes to replace some that we've broken this past last year. There is always a big last minute rush to get things done.

In a recent post I wrote about wanting a BBQ grill that I had seen. I went back to the shop but it was gone. The shopkeeper said he might get some more in about 10 days. I will have to check back sometime soon.

When we built our house we added a small room off the terrace to be made into a kitchenette. It's still just a small tiled room. This week I bought a small stove/oven and a kitchen sink. I'm leaving it up to my husband to get the sink installed. He'll also have a piece of marble or granite cut to make a counter-top... and have it installed as well.Maybe... maybe... it will get done so we can use the kitchen this year??? Maybe....

I noticed that the International Capture the Spirit of Ramadan Photo Contest is gearing up for this year's competition. Last year quite a few Libyan photographers took part in the contest. I enjoyed seeing all the stunning photos that people from all over the world sent in. This year the focus is on Islamic architecture. Libya certainly has some beautiful examples... so I hope to see lots of submissions from Libya this year... I might even send in some photos too.

For more information see below:

The 2013 “Capture the Spirit of Ramadan” International Photography Competition™ (IRPC) categories for photo submissions are: Architecture, Spirituality, Culture

Architecture was one of the earliest artistic expressions of Islamic cultural identity inspired by the teachings and values of Islam. This year the IRPC aims to convey the splendor of this monumental art form by dedicating a section of the competition to celebrate the great Islamic architecture around the world including mosques, souks and khans, palaces, forts, monuments, mausoleums and other structures including their grounds and landscaped gardens and details such as arches, domes, mosaics, minarets, mihrab, muqarnas, columns, frieze, stained glass and gypsum carvings. Photo submissions may or may not include human elements.

The top 100 photos entered into the competition (as chosen by the competition committee) will be judged by a jury panel of international artists & photography experts. Photos are judged on the following criteria: Impact and Message, Creativity, Photographic Quality, Technical Expertise.


  • The First Place winner for each category will be awarded U.S. $1,500
  • The Second Place winner for each category will be awarded U.S. $1,000
  • The Third Place winner for each category will be awarded U.S. $500

There will be three (3) Viewers’ Choice winners as well as two (2) honorable mentions (although no prizes will be awarded to the latter). The Viewer’s Choice winners will be chosen by IRPC fans on the Facebook page,, those with the most “Likes” will each be awarded U.S. $200. The honorable mentions will be chosen for demonstrating a high caliber of quality and creativity. All winners will have their winning photograph and names published on the competition website and in affiliated media. Winners of the competition will be chosen within one month of the close of the competition and will be notified by email and public announcement on the website and social media platforms. Decisions of the judges are final and binding.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Life's annoyances in Libya

It's house fly season in Libya. No matter what you do the house seems full of these awful bugs. And they are annoying - dive bombing your head, buzzing around your ears, doing their best to get into your eyes. 

As the weather warms up so does all the garbage that litters the streets around town and this encourages the proliferation of the little beasts. There is also the fruit that fills the trees in the farm lands, overripe fruit drops to the ground and provides the perfect breeding grounds. No matter how hard we try to keep the windows and doors tightly shut we are still plagued by the swarms. It's the time of year I dread.

We've tried fly traps but that just attracted more flies! And we've tried fly paper strips - those long curly, gluey strips you hang around.... they only work if the flies land on them and they are unsightly and there is always the chance that someone will get tangled up in one... a big sticky mess! What seems to work the best is turning all the lights off in the house and waiting for the flies to try to get out the closed windows and then spraying them with a lethal dose of Raid. But is that good for us, we wonder. My vacuum cleaner is full of the nasty little bugs.

There is some respite if you sit outside in the garden, but not much. And in addition to the buzzing of the flies you have the buzzing of drones overhead. Life in Libya these days.... sigh... 

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

A 5-minute Adventure

Whenever the receptionist at work steps out for five minutes you can bet that there will be a constant stream of visitors. Today a man walked in looking distraught. He started in on a story about his family being outside in the car and he needed to get something but he needed 20 dinars to pay for it "It's important - this is an emergency. My wife and kids are waiting outside in the car". He opened his vest and pulled out his family book and said he would leave his family book with me and come back with the 20 dinars. I decided to give him 2 dinars and see if he'd take that and leave. 

He shook his head and said "No! No! Wallahi (I swear to Allah), I only want to borrow 20 dinars. I will give you my family book and come back with the money. It's an emergency. My wife and children are outside" he again opened his vest and took out his family book to show me. This time I noticed that I could see through the lining in his vest pocket and sitting there plain as day was a 20 dinar note. I shook my head and said sorry and turned away from him. I wondered why he was asking for money when he had some in his pocket. He asked if there was a Libyan that he could talk to so I went inside and sent one of the students out to talk to him. 

A minute later my student came back and said the man had gone. "Did you give him any money?" I asked. "Yes" he said. "Did he give you his family book?" I asked. "No - I only had 15 dinars and he took that and left." he replied. We let it go at that and went back to our lesson.

Later, after class, when I had time to sit down and think about it and it hit me like a flash of bright light. The guy must be using this as a ruse to change the banknotes that are no longer valid at the bank. He gets people to give him 20 dinars and gives them his family book and then returns awhile later and hands the unsuspecting person the bad banknotes. The person probably doesn't realize it until later - the whole time thinking they've done someone a good deed. And although he wasn't interested in my paltry 2 dinars he pockets the 15 that my student gave him and took off. I imagine a lot of people just hand him 20 dinars and say "Please, please take the money. Wallahi!" and of course he then takes the money and off he goes. 

What will they think of next? 

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Beach weather

Yesterday was the longest day of the year. In the morning the girls and I, along with our good friend Sally, had a leisurely picnic breakfast at a picnic area near the sea. It was lovely, the breeze beautiful - perfect weather.

Afterwards we went down to the beach to have a look - the usual garbage everywhere with Libyans happily sitting in the filth. Plastic bags and dirty diapers floating in the water along with the swimmers who seemed totally oblivious. What on earth is the matter with these people?

NOTE: For those of my readers who will complain and say I'm being negative about Libyans... please go down to the beach and have a look yourself... but please remove your blinders first!

I think my daughter took some pictures. I'll ask her if I can post some.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Just around the corner

Ramadan is just around the corner. That means it's the big mad rush to get everything ready. I'm not in the mood this year. But I did see a nice big gas grill in one of the shops... it had a rather expensive price tag and another tag that said Walmart on it.

We could do with cooking out this Ramadan... grilled chicken, hamburgers, shish kabobs,  steak.... easy quick meals that will go great with the 30 days of Libyan soup. With my luck I'll go back to the shop and find the grill gone, but I'll look this weekend.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

The Libyan Waiting Room

I'm waiting
Waiting for the situation to improve
It's turning into a longer wait
Than I ever expected
But I guess I'll wait
A little while longer

There are plenty of chairs in this waiting room
And room enough for everyone
All that's required
Is patience

Friday, June 14, 2013

A quiet morning surprise

I woke up early this morning to a quiet house and looked outside the window...everything was white. There was a heavy fog. I made myself some breakfast and put it on a tray and headed outside to sit on the front porch and eat breakfast while I watched the sun come out and burn off the fog.

The past few days my husband has been busy building a bird-feeder and I was delighted to see he had finished it last night (after I had gone to bed) and set it up in the front garden where I could watch it from my chair on the porch. I hope he makes a few more. 

My new bird-feeder - still a bit misty as the fog cleared.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Ideas anyone?

What would YOU like me to write about?

Let me know by telling me in a comment.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Duty calls...

I arrived home after a busy day. I put down my bags and went to see what the kids were doing in the TV room. The television was blasting a Turkish soap opera and everyone was staring, not at the TV, but at their phones, tablets or laptops. Sara looked up and said 'You need to visit Maima (my mother in-law) because she broke her foot.' 'When did this happen?' I asked. 'My cousin said she woke up in the morning and her foot was broken.'  It didn't seem plausible that you could wake up in the morning to discover you had a broken foot and I said so to the kids. But Sara said she had heard that Maima had dropped a pot on her foot not long ago - so maybe that was what happened. I went outside in the garden to find my husband and ask him what was going on with his mother. He said that he had seen her the other day and she was fine. 'Let me take a shower and change and we'll go over to see her' I suggested.

Customs in Libya require that you don't show up to your mother-in-law's house empty handed. We stopped at a shop and I got an assortment of crackers, cookies, juice and a big tin of halwa shamia, a mixture of tahina and nougat, that is my mother-in-law's favourite treat. 

At my in-law's house the garden was full of kids, nephews and nieces, ranging in age from toddlers to pre-teen - too many to count. They had bicycles, scooters and balls. Some were running around chasing each other, a few were fighting and a couple were poking at the dirt with sticks. 'It looks like the whole clan is here' my husband said. I left him to go find his brothers while I headed upstairs to my mother-in-law's, carrying her bag of goodies. 

I found three of the teen-aged nieces watching TV in my mother-in-law's house. No one else was there. 'Where's Maima?' I asked. 'She's gone to a party. We're babysitting.' said one of the nieces. Apparently all my sister-in-laws had gone to the party too and left the three girls in charge.  'Doesn't she have a broken foot?' I asked. 'No' they responded in unison, faces turned toward the TV (same Turkish soap opera that was on at my house). 'But we heard she had a broken foot. What happened to her?' I asked. One of the girls turned her head towards me and said 'Oh, I think her toe hurt her this morning.' I walked down the hallway to my mother-in-law's bedroom and put the bag of goodies on her bed. On my way out I said goodbye to the girls. There was no point in staying.

On my way downstairs I called my husband to tell him that his mother wasn't home and he met me at the car.  'Where's the bag of stuff?' he asked. I told him I had left it for his mother. 'I doubt she will see it with all these kids here it will be gone before she gets  home' he said. 'Never mind' I responded. 'Kalam frukh... should never listen to kids and their gossip... kalam frukh' he grumbled as he maneuvered the car around all the kids in the garden.
Duty done!

Thursday, May 09, 2013

A drink of inspiration

I stopped at the supermarket yesterday and picked up some different kinds of herbal tea.  One of the herbal teas is verbena... it's supposed to be calming, which is perfect to drink while I sit in the new lounge chair. Oh, did I forget to mention that I bought myself a lounge chair for my front porch?

According to wikipedia verbena has some other useful aspects... "In the Modern Era, it is sometimes considered a powerful "ally" of poets and writers, as its relaxing effects can relieve writer's block." 

So look out... I might be inspired to post more often.

Saturday, May 04, 2013

Two trees

I spent yesterday with family and friends - a picnic and a hike.The day started out dusty, but it rained a bit while we were hiking and the air cleared some. There hasn't been much rain this year and everything is really dry. I'm expecting a very hot and dusty summer. 

Friday, April 26, 2013

Finding some respite in my garden

I've been feeling depressed lately. Events in Libya (the French Embassy bombing among other things) are enough to make anyone here feel depressed, but the weather hasn't helped as we've had days of sandstorms and dust so bad that it even closed down the airport for a while. I had a busy week too, but I woke up this morning and decided to tackle the dusty house.... but first I had a look around my garden to see how things fared through the dusty, windy hot weather.

The morning glories are glorious as usual. Nothing seems to get them down! 

My succulents all seem to be thriving this year. Purslane seems to be growing in almost all of the potted plants. It's edible and many Libyans cook it in a tomato based sauce and eat it with bread or rice... it tastes similar to spinach. Nutrition facts about purslane: here

More cacti and purslane.

We've been trying to xeriscape as much as possible which means we are choosing plants that need as little irrigation as possible. So we've got quite a lot of cacti and succulents as well as plants that are native to the area (which most people think of as weeds!) We still need to water though. More about xeriscaping: here

Yep, this one is a weed, but it grows well and I love to put sprigs of the lacy flowerettes in flower arrangements. 

We found these growing wild and dug some up and planted them in the garden, since then we've been reseeding. My husband loves yellow flowers and quite a few of the plants and trees that we have are yellow. 

No garden in Libya is complete without mint and geranium to add as flavouring for tea. We've just started these in small bed in the side garden. We've also got some rosemary and sage. In the past I had loads of basil but this year I have none.

The honeysuckle vine that I got as a gift from OTE is finally starting to grow over the garden wall. 

More cacti in pots on the front steps.

The climbing roses are doing well, just a bit dusty.

Ahhhh... how nice! A walk around the garden always makes me feel better.... now to get down to work and attack the dusty house. 

Saturday, April 06, 2013

A Milestone for Sara

So much to do this weekend, but the exciting thing was Sara's braces. She'll have the bottom ones put on at the next appointment. 

Friday, March 29, 2013

Things that make you go 'Hmmmm'

Libya lacks a lot of things, one of them is customer service which drives me crazy sometimes. I wrote a post once in 2006 about my shopping experiences: here. Nothing much has really changed since then. Maybe I should look at it as kind of a challenge - but there are days when I really don't feel up to the challenge. 

Two weeks ago when I was on my way to pick up my son from school I popped into a shop that sells lighting and electrical supplies to buy a few light-bulbs  While I was in there I saw the most exquisite lamp hanging behind the counter right next to the cash register. It was gorgeous - I was mesmerized! I asked the little old man that ran the shop how much it cost and he said 'We just got that. We haven't put a price on it yet'. This is something that happens quite often in Libya. The shopkeepers usually don't even bother to try to check the price for you either and I find it so annoying. I left the shop with my light-bulbs and decided it just wasn't my day for an impulse buy.

Yesterday I was running a little early and decided to stop in at the shop to see if the lamp was still there. Sure enough it was hanging right where I left it two weeks before with the same old man standing next to it. We exchanged greetings and then I asked him how much the lamp cost. 'We just got that. We haven't put a price on it yet' the man replied. I just looked at him in disbelief. I examined the look on his face to see if he was joking. Nothing! Blank! I stood there for a few moments waiting for him to do something... check the price in a catalog maybe, or call someone to check on the price.... but no - he did nothing. Finally, I said 'Asalamualaikum' and turned around and walked out of the shop. I decided that there was no point in discussing it with him. 

I'm still thinking about that lamp.... I'm so tempted to go back into that shop again and see if he says the same thing. ... am I feeling up to the challenge?... maybe... it's a fabulous lamp... I really want it.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Finally have some time to enjoy spring

I've been busy the past few weeks, but I am finally finding some time to settle down and enjoy my garden. The rose bush next to my front door is covered in huge blooms and the garden is full of daisies. 

One of the cacti in the front garden is in bloom too - it's covered with very odd looking flowers.

We've been having typical March weather this year - all four seasons in one day. I never know what to wear when I get up in the morning.  But overall, the weather is warming up and I'm predicting that we'll have a very hot summer here. So I'm going to go out and enjoy my garden while the weather is good and spring is here....

I need to get a swing for my front porch... 

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