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:

My Link List