Thursday, September 28, 2006

Weddings and Funerals

As I mentioned in a earlier post there was a funeral while I was in Libya. Well we got the privilege of having two deaths in the family and we went to a second a few days later. This time it was a family member from the other side of Tajura. Not that it was that far mind you but more the bunch that keeps a distance. I still don't know who he was but a male member died within a week of losing beloved Hadi. I went to that one too but it was more demure in atmosphere. The family was reeling with the loss of one and now another in such a short time. That night my father in law became ill. I went down to spend some time with my mother in law always trying to get along and she mentioned that my father in law was shaking. Ok, maybe he is cold. I went in to check on him in a small room off the main guest area. He was resting but with a rapid breath. I felt his forehead and he felt a bit warm but no alarm to me. And I do know quite a bit about fevers.

I tried to speak to him but he did not respond and I thought oh he is just still mad with me. So I left the room. A short time later my son went in to see him and said he was shaking. I went back into the room and found he would not responded to anyone. I asked my son to go get my brother in law Otthman. When he arrived with Khadijah they tried to talk to dad but he still did not respond. So we ordered the boys to go get the car. I was thinking he may be in a state of shock. They took him to the car and left for the local medical facility. A short time later they called and said they were taking him to another hospital. But we were given no more word on what was wrong. After about an hour my son returned and was in tears. He was begging that nothing happen to his grandfather. I told him all things depend on Allah and if he lived it was by his will. About 3 hours later he returned. They said he had febrile seizures and was malnourished. So they had prescribed some medication for fever and a vitamin C tablet. Well at least he was home. The next day I went in to visit with him and he informed me that my son Suhayb would be the one to come back to Libya and he knew because he had cried for his grandfather. I wanted to tell him how much my son hated it there but I didn't. I guess only time will tell.

Well the few weeks later I was finally getting the chance to attend a wedding. A relatives daughter was marrying. I entered the house by chance as I was walking my brother in laws mother home. They invited me in and we went out to the family courtyard. They had covered the area with tents and were setting up cushions. They asked me to stay and soon guests I later found were beginning to arrive. I was aghast. I was in a plain house dress. If you are there you will know which ones I am talking about they are for sale along the main street for 3-6 dinar and they are comfy but not anything you would want to attend a wedding party in. As the night progressed they began to play music and the ladies danced. They asked me to join in. Oh what the heck. So I got up and did my best to copy their moves. Later two of my nieces dressed up with another relative and played the part of the man and two women. We laughed our hearts out watching them parody old women and men. I told my sister in law Kahdijah I felt out of place not properly dressed. She informed me that this was the first night and that the next day I could dress up and don't worry. Well the next day arrived. And I dressed for the evening in a skirt that I had bought and a blouse. Still not what I wanted to do but it was all I had. I went to the house with the girls and the family was scolding my in laws as to why I had no henna done yet. Well it was always the excuse that my sister in law Foozia would do it when she came. Yet every time she came we never did it. So the ladies proceeded to do a henna job for me. I will explain that chore in another story. So that evening went pretty well. The next day was the last day of the wedding. The one where they bring in all the decorations and the bride is dressed so nice. Funny it was like she was never there until I realized who it was that was getting married. She had pretty much sat and watched everyone. That evening I was told that I was to dress nice for the next evening. I informed my sister in law Aieysha that I had no nicer clothing and that I did not know what I would do. She told me to come to her house the next day and she would lend me some clothing. Well the next day I hurried through my chores and readied me and the girls and prepared to leave the house. Downstairs my father in law sat outside talking with my mother in law. He asked where I was going. I told him I was going to Salim's house to dress for the wedding this evening. He told me that if I was to go to their house I was to be taken by car or not at all. I told him Salim did not have a big enough car to take us so we could just walk it was a few minutes walk from the house. He ordered me back into the house. I was furious. I stormed back upstairs and threw my things on the bed. Why was he being so mean. I explained to him how I didn't have the proper clothing to go to the wedding. So I sent word with my daughter Khadijah to tell everyone I was not coming. I listened that night as music played and laughter rang out. And cried. The next morning I left the house for good. I took what I could carry and walked out when my father in law had left for salat. I went to Salim's home and cried. They said I could stay with them as long as I liked. So I did. That was the first time since I had arrived where I truly felt welcome. Two weeks before I left was the last chance I had to attend a family wedding. They had sent a message with my son and again I was angry as they knew I didn't even have my clothing let alone a dress. I had not gone to the house since that day and all of my belongings were still at the house. We had made a few attempts at retrieving clothing and each time landed me in another battle. So I had given up on getting more clothes. About time for the wedding to start my mother in law called my cell phone. I explained that I was not coming as I had nothing to wear but jeans and a t shirt. Sorry. After a bit of harsh words with my brother in law I told them it was their fault that I had nothing to wear and no time to prepare to go and with no car how was I to get to the wedding as it is on the other side of the main road after the Baladia (a government building). Well they could send the cab. No, I was not going I had nothing to wear and was not going to disgrace myself again. Just a half an hour later my whole evening changed anyways and I was so glad I was there. A young relative was sitting on a ottoman and his brother pushed him off onto the floor. He got up grabbing his arm and ran crying from the room. I heard his wails from the other room and went to see why he was being such a baby for a 9 year old. I went up to him and asked to see his arm. It flopped like a wet noodle. Oh my god it was broken and both bones too. I quickly held it flat with my arm and told my son to grab the loose board from the kitchen doorway and asked my daughter to go and grab her elastic bandages. I asked for a scarf and made a quick sling. The men had just left for prayer and we were desperate to find a driver. A family member arrived and we hurried him to Tripoli to the main hospital. It was cast and later in the week he went to another hospital where it was reset and another cast was placed on. Well so much for celebrations!

Friday, September 22, 2006

Trying to Remember the Past

You know how the mind has a way of forgetting the past events? Traumatic events can cause a person to even forget who they are and all about themselves. Well I do remember some things that have transpired but I am sure that had I had access to the internet or even some blame paper I would have had so much more to tell. So I shall begin where I left off to the best of my abilities.
One bit of advice for anyone is to start a journal if you go abroad. Buy a few of those journal books and take them with you. I thought some days that even if I did not have internet I could use my computer to log my thoughts I had so much problems of having one converter for all the electronics that I lost myself after some time. I have always been told I should write a book about my life, some days I wish I was a better writer. I may not get rich, but I could show others how adversity can make you a stronger person. I think this is why I had so much trouble with my father in law. I have had a series of events in my life that made me very independent and stubborn and in many ways he was the same type of person. At one time my inlaws were among the riches people of our city. Time and losses made them what they are today. Greedy for the dollar and stingy with spending. Thankfully their son understands my past and knows how even the lack of food affects me.

When I was first married I weighted around 95 lbs. Years of living on the edge of society had made me quite lean and vunerable to illness. As Ramadan approaches I wonder how I will fare. I was four years ago 165 lbs. And with the idea of traveling abroad I decided to lose a few pounds and get back to a reasonable 145. I had accomplished this and felt great about myself. I need the extra weight so that I don't become hypoglycemic. Many years I struggled with food. I had been on the streets for two years after a divorce from my first husband who starved me and my body was stressed from lack of proper nutrition. So there are times when I would pass out even though I had eaten recently. Doctors tried to find out why this happened but never found a answer. But I noticed as my weight increased my dizzy spells went away. My body had reserves to rely on and so my sugar levels were more constant. My biggest problem was the lack of sufficient food. It was not that we did not eat. It was the amount we were given. Plenty of watermelon was available but that is all water. Then a big bowl of pasta was normal but it was always too spicy for us to eat much of no matter how hungry you were. Then as for meat we were given a chicken neck and two legs as meat for 6 people. A family who was used to a whole chicken at dinner! And it wasn't because we could not afford it! I gave my father in law 700 dinar to buy things for us while we were there. I also later found out that my brother in law had been bringing food as well but my mother in law was hiding it.
A morning meal consisted of eggs and bread and tuna fish. 1 egg for each person and one can of tuna for all to share. And all the bread you can eat. Even milk was hard as it took about a month to find one that the kids liked the taste of (Juhayna) was the best brand we found. We went from 6-8 gallons a week to less than a quart a week. So in that way they lost a lot of nutrition too.

Breakfast was around 11 am as people slept late. Considering they went to bed at 2 am usually this is not bad. Lunch was made around 4 pm followed by a afternoon nap. We woke and if we were lucky got to go out. Then it was back to prepare a meal and then we sat until 2 am then went to bed. So much for all the plans I had of visiting the country and seeing sights.
I did go into Tripoli a few times. For the brief time that I worked I saw the freeway system. Then we did get a few trips to pick up the much my desperately needed money.
One trip I went to the bank and we were informed that the system had been down and since it had returned, it had been so busy that the bank needed more funds and had closed. So can we go to another location at 1 pm. Ok so we drove around for a few hours. We were taken to one of the better hamburger places by our driver and we had our first hamburgers. They are nothing like the pictures they display. We laughed as the photos showed a hamburger with bacon! They were a chicken/beef burger with cheese and harrisa (hot sauce paste) and the much talked about egg! They were too hot for me to eat. And I had forgotten to ask for no ketchup. So I gave mine to my son. Hamburgers and drinks for 2.50 not bad for four people. At home I would not have gotten one hamburger for that price. After the burgers he took us to the shopping district. This is street upon street of stores catering to the home. Thank god I did not have money. I would have spent it all in about 5 minutes. I drooled over the furniture and the fabrics for drapes. Thinking of my home in the USA I could have redecorated the whole house for less than a few thousand among those stores. I did see that quality was a thing that I needed to watch out for. I told him that if I was going to have something made I would want to see the work of the craftmans before I commissioned any work. Some of the men knew how to tuck corners on furniture and some just folded the material as they saw fit. I guess I am picky. Well we proceeded to go back to the bank and found they didn't have money till 6 pm. Ok so more driving around. We drove round and somehow ended up back on the main freeway not to far from the home and we decided to check out a kids store. Talk about high prices. I guess toys are a new thing there. Again quality is a issue. Mostly imported from Asian countries the toys are cheap. I did see the middle eastern version of Barbie her name is Fulla. I wanted one but never got the chance to buy one. I saw one that had the abaya and a set of inside clothes. My daughter collects Barbie and see would have been a nice addition. If anyone is coming to the states soon let me know. Well after we finished we decided we better get back to the bank. My son and daughter had gone with me and he was suddenly not feeling well. So I asked if we could pull over and get some water. We were at a light one of the few I saw in the Tajura area. We proceeded to pull out of traffic and low and behold I guess we did something wrong? We were whistled at by the officer and told to pull over. My son was in great distress but we listened. After showing his papers and explaining why we had moved out of traffic our driver returned to the car and we went to the store. Beats me why we were pulled over. But we got our water and returned to the bank. We went inside and after a short wait we were able to get my funds. And we proceeded to go back to town. Before we left our driver took us through the street of September One.
Getting ready for the first of September all the streets in the main section of the city had been decorated with lights. And it was quite a site to behold. Sadly we missed the celebrations. We proceeded back to Tajura but I had one last stop. I needed to see if the gentleman at the plumbing store had my much needed lock yet. No he still did not have it so we were forced to go back to Tripoli again as no one had them in Tajura. I went not to far from the street that I had visited earlier in the day and found a strong lock. We returned home.

This lock became a point of breaking between me and my father in law and I will go into more details in another story. I promise you it warrants its own blog. Well I need to get my sons off to their first day back to high school so for now I will keep you hanging. I am still trying to go through the pictures I took and freaked out yesterday when the whole group disappeared. Some photos have mysteriously disappeared from my camera but I hope that they are there. Somewhere. Keep reading and I will return soon.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Returning to Normal

Well sorry, I had a very difficult last three months and I hope that now I am back in the USA I will be able to catch up with all that happened while I was in Libya. In some ways I am happy to be back home. But I think that each day away from Libya will be only wanting to return there. May sound strange coming from me when I do get the chance to catch everyone up on all that transpired while I was there but my heart will have a place in Libya and I hope that I will return again. Hopefully to live if not to visit on a regular basis. I got back on Tuesday evening and it was a long and difficult journey coming back. I have kids to get in school as soon as possible so I will need a week or so to begin writing about my adventures. I have many pictures to share and some stories too and hopefully I will shed light on a life that few experience. My children are of mixed feelings now and I will share their thoughts with everyone soon. Keep looking and I will be up and running in the next weeks.