Hey didn't I move to a warm place so I could get out of the cold? I mean come on im freezing my tushie off here and its not even morning. I woke up early well not for me I guess seeing as most mornings i'm up with the roosters and hoped to get online while we still have it. Internet is a commodity not easily acquired here. I quickly decided to go make a pot of tea and went and checked the thermometer I brought with me, It's 61 in my kitchen and 51 outside. I think I will go buy a few more heaters today. No such thing as central heat or a furnace or a fireplace here. I'm so darn cold. I am thankful I bought the few blankets I did but we surely need more or how about a shipment of long johns?? Anyone heading to Libya soon?
I finally got into my blog account so the last four posts were made since I arrived and was unable to post or have internet access. I need to go in and change all my passwords now that the war is over I need something I can remember. Maybe like "Carolyn misses her buddy" or "Grandma misses her babies" yeah no one would ever get those passwords :)
Thanks to a new friend we have internet. We set as-side the money and waited for the store to open the next day only to find out that for some reason the darn place is closed and has been now over a week. Another dear lady Ameenah loaned me her usb account and I gave it to my nephew to add more money to it but its over a week now and I haven;t heard a word from him so I will have Suhayb call him so we can return it to its owner now.
Things are settling in and yes we have our days here. The other day I wanted to just sit and cry but I was at my sister in laws house and a sad face is met with "What is wrong" looks and how do you explain your bone tired, cold, weary from walking everywhere and waiting for people to get things done?
I could go in the kitchen and do my dishes from last night, nope for some reason the water is down to a trickle again. And my brother in law comes home this morning. Happened once before the day Taher left for the states and by the time he got around to fixing it we had been two days with no water and could not shower or use the toilet or wash dishes in our apartment. The rest of the house was fine but try running down five flights of stairs to go pee at 3 am. So me and the kids went to various family members houses to stay until he got it fixed.
My poor house needs an overhaul. Windows are cracked or shutters will not close due to broken parts and its hard to keep the cold out. As I said we came with very little and even though we have been given a few items its not enough to keep the cold at bay. Yesterday I tried to use a ladder to replace some light bulbs that had gone out in the girls room and got a big scare. Three were out and I had taken the covers off to wash the dust off of them and one bulb just didn't want to come out of the socket. I grabbed a light towel just in case it wanted to break in my hands and was finally able to twist it out but it took part of the socket with it. I am somewhat handy folks so don't be alarmed. Voltages here run 210-240 and very few sockets are grounded and most homes are death traps electricity wise. I am fortunate my father in law knew about fuse boxes and trying to ground the house when he built it long ago thanks to working with the US Airbase here he learned better ways. I can't say that for some of the family here. Anyways I replaced the socket and the bulb and climbed down to switch it on. I flipped the switch to hear a loud pop followed by a exploding bulb and a pop at the fuse box followed by black acrid smoke. Bits flew to the ground and scorched the blanket on the bed below. I ran into the room to see if any of it was on fire not like we have any fire extinguishers here. The bulb lay on the ground blackened and had flown directly towards the place I had been moments ago on the ladder thankful that I had no one to assist me and I had gone to turn on the light. I can only imagine my face covered in bits of glass. I went into the living room where the fuse box is and saw a triggered fuse so I left it that way until my brother in law can look at it. Maybe a week.... If I knew how to shut off the whole house I would take all the outlets and fixtures and redo them myself. I notice at night when we turn off the bulbs that hover over my bed they glow for a bit, residual power.
I had gotten cold enough and said to my son we will go and buy a heater today. I had seen some electrical units but my buddy who speaks english said the oil radiators were better and Suhayb suggested we go to his friend who sold us the washer to get one. That was at the end of the city on the main road that goes to Tunisia as they call it the Tunisia road. I live just below the coastal road and this is a road farther inland that runs across the country as well. Needless to say it was a walk. My son suggested he try and call one of the young men to see if we could get a lift and he said come back im 15 minutes away. Well we were already a distance from the house and told him no can he find us along the street. The line cut out and we had no answer. We got a bit further down and he told us meet him at the mosque but we where way past that by then. We lost signal again and proceeded to walk the rest of the way to the store. When we arrived we asked the man there to tell our friend where he was located since there is no such thing as addresses its by local info if they can find your store. Otherwise stand out on the street and wave to them and hope they can find you. We looked around the store while he helped a customer and eyed a deep freeze that should be next on our list of needs. Since it will be up five flights of stairs Suhayb steered me to smaller units. I didn't like any of the units I saw but he finally got the idea that I needed small and smart. I hate to jam stuff in and not be able to see where that package of burritos is at (not like they have those here but you get the idea). He showed me a upright unit that had drawers in it and I was great one drawer for each type of item. We then proceeded to the heater units and he showed us the various models he had. Turkey and Italian seem to be the new "best to own" and China made well leave that to another blog story. We ended up getting one due to cost more than anything else but I went with the brand they feel is the best of the worst. I got it home and we hooked it up and it ran for three days yet I felt little heat from it. Yesterday was Friday and I swore that if I didn't have some heat I was going to take it back and ask for another unit. Not something you can easily do here, no receipts and unless you know the person I doubt you can take things back. I kept seeing the light was off yet the room was cold and I checked and the unit was cold yet was on. I moved it to another plug and lo and behold it worked better at least. Its the second to the largest unit he carried yet in the main living area we are barely warm now. Think I will go and get a few of those 15 dinar electric units for the rooms today if I can find a store open. Another long walk and heavy load. Can;t wait til my car arrives.
Friday, November 30, 2012
Not having a car seems to be our biggest issue. Few family members have cars and those who do work or go to school and the young ones are always out with someone. Taher was now realizing all those issues I had spoken to him about 6 years earlier were in fact reality. Everyone says “Tomorrow” “Later” “Next week, Inshallah” and in truth few things get done. But hey I’m only a woman what do I know. J Now all those things we needed time to take care of we are down to the wire for Taher to return to the states to finish up our obligations there. We still are working on the Kitab al Ailah or Family Book. It’s a book that carries the names of members of your family Father, Mother and as you have children. Taher all these years had still been the only name in his father’s book not removed and put into his own. Now we had days to finish this task that under normal would take weeks to months. Again the word “Wasta” comes into play. Every Libyan will know what it means.. Who you know, or who you are. Thankfully the family still has some good connections and we raced through red tape in hours not weeks. Taher had to also come to the reality that in a matter of weeks I would be illegal and he would be gone and we would have a problem on our hands if I needed something. Taher hates Wasta but we had no choice they had waited till the last moments to heed our pleas that things needed to be done and they had to pay the piper now.
Among our issues, is the fact that when I became Muslim I chose a Muslim name equal to my English name but in Arabic and when my first child was to be born we wanted Muslim names on his certificate so we went to court and legally changed my name. Also I took my husband’s last name another thing not done in Muslim countries. When I prepared to return I knew I needed a birth certificate so I had sent in all the paperwork to show my name change and had all the documents to show it. Many states don’t show a lot of info on records and I was now down to mothers name, fathers name and a document that said my name has been changed to this. All that sweet info that us genealogical people love like birth time, weight, parental info was pretty much washed away. Also another glitch hit me. When my mother was born they had not decided on a middle name by the time she was released from the hospital and they family didn't want to pay the additional fees to add a name after she left so unlike many she has no middle name. Over the years she used her maiden name as her middle name but tell that to a court in the Middle East. I was drilled on who were my parents, where were they from, when were they born why wasn't all this info on my papers????
I told my husband her father’s name was Clem add that if nothing else. Tell them we don’t add that info to records each state is different. I knew their birth dates but why wasn't it in the papers? I don’t know…..
Then to top things all off we were not legally married as far as Libya was concerned. Come on…I have my Islamic marriage certificate, I have my legal USA certificate, isn't that proof enough? I have 5 children you want me to marry again? Sure….last night a man came to the house. I was given four pages to sign while I sat in another room. My nephew Ali happened to be at the house and he became a witness to a wedding. I told my husband where was my Mahar? He laughed, he told his brother what I was saying and Asaid commented “Taher, where’s the ring to your keys?” You know that metal ring that binds keys…they laughed as Taher handed me the ring. The man left and we hustled out to eat at a friend’s house for dinner. So November 1, 2012 add it to my list of wedding dates. On a final note this day has one more item. My grandson Beau James would have been 15, as always “Happy Birthday, Grandma’s little angel”.
For 26 years we had waited to celebrate Eid with family. I guess in many ways things were not much different than had we sat alone back home. I tried to ask Taher to find out what the family did customarily so we could be somewhat prepared for the coming days. I was told the first day we would kill the lambs spend the day cleaning and gutting them and putting the meat away and then the next two days first people would come to us since Taher was older and then we would pay respects to his older siblings on the last day. And of course, Lamb would be on the menu for days.
We got out the first lamb and grandpa came and cut his neck while the children who chose to watch looked on. Aieysha watched but was unhappy with how they were killed after watching videos online about the Islamic way to properly kill an animal she felt they were doing it wrong but how do you change years and years of the way something is done? (if I can find the video I will post a link for those who choose to see it) It was humane and quick but not with the style and flair she had seen online. So she walked away refusing to watch the rest of the process. Plus the smell bothered her. Khadijah refused to even go to the pen to watch but Fatimah and I and of course the boys lent a hand in the process. Grandpa for some reason was teasing Suhayl and he got angry feeling grandpa was picking on him so Suhayl was asked if he wanted to go help our cousin who was also cutting his sheep just outside in our common area. We were half way through the gutting of our second lamb when we heard cries of Taher, Taher!! Taher looked over the wall of the pen and ran out of the pen. I was in the far end of the pen cleaning out intestines a task no one wants but if you like Ausban someone has to do it. A few moments later Taher and Suhayb half carried in Suhayl to the courtyard bleeding profusely on his arm. I was told to drop what I was doing and come now. I dropped the things in my hand and ran fresh water on my hands and ran to my son’s side. A long gash about two and a half inches ran across the upper part of his forearm just under the elbow. I grabbed the wound with my fingers to clamp the blood flow and told the kids go get the medical kit from the kitchen. The bleeding stopped with pressure and I waited for the medical kit. I quickly bandaged his arm and we calmed him as his brother had freaked out saying you need to go to the hospital its deep. No, it wasn't deep only through the layers of derma but not into muscle thankfully. I cleaned the wound and bandaged him and they helped him into the house. Then me the gravity of the moment settled in and I had to go into the wash room where my pile of clothes was waiting to be washed and tried to keep from passing out. I’m great at spur of the moment catastrophe but I do feel it and it washed over me. My mother in law was saying something to me and I was trying to tell her if I didn't lie down I was going to pass out let me be a few minutes.
Since he wasn't going to bleed to death and we still had lambs to take care of he was left to rest while we finished the task. His sisters at his side if he needed anything or his situation worsened. Later on I cleaned and redressed the wound and determined that one I sure needed more medical supplies that I thought I had brought and two that it was deep but didn't really need stitches, and besides being a holiday except for the hospitals in town all clinics were closed. The next day he could not move his arm up or down or rotate it at the elbow but I knew he had all of his shots and except for some antibiotic ointment to help heal his skin he would not had any problems. His arm was simply stiff and injured at a bad location. He was due to start work that week but with his injury we delayed it a few days.
I still have not found out much about what transpired after we left the last time and all that has happened since but even to mention going to Salem’s house leads to a heated discussion. A few days after our arrival I decided to take Fatimah and go out the gate to the little family market and get an ice cream. As we approached the gate a man walked in and Taher was there to greet him. I saw immediately it was his brother Salem. I hugged him hard and asked where Aieysha was. He informed me that she was at the house and I dropped the idea of going for ice-cream and headed immediately to his house. They were worried I would not find my way I told him I looked at that path a thousand times over the past 6 years I would not forget where he lived.
The path had changed but the things you look for along you way had not walk till you find the road that goes to the school, past the school, the house will be on the left past the women’s mosque. The two houses that were once in front of him now were gone and new ones were being built in their places. This was one of the homes Taher had lived in as a baby and it was gone. Tajura seemed to have a building boom and new houses were everywhere and many new shops have sprung up along the way.
I came up to the gate and tapped on the door it was open and I slowly walked in speaking so as not to startle anyone as we approached. By the time I had reached the enter door the kids had alerted the women that someone was at their door. The girls were happy to see us and it took a few minutes to recognize each of the girls. Six years and war had put a few signs of stress on each of them. After a few minutes they brought Aieysha into the room and sat her near me. Her eyes were weak and she had to be told who we were.
Cancer you are a witch of a woman. How can you destroy all you touch? How do you suck the life out of infants and children? How do you understand the lives you leave in ruin for every finger that you touch a human life with? I’m sure everyone has seen what cancer can do to a loved one. Strip them of their hair, their beauty, their health and in most cases all that is precious to them. She had now lost the upper pallet of her mouth and I looked into her face and saw only the twinkle of her eyes clouded that they were with Glaucoma the woman I had remembered all these years.
We spend millions on weapons but a human life we seem to not value. We find better ways to kill more people with less but to save a life we seem to hold tight to the money and skills and technology that could save many from misery.
She spoke to me and I knew deep inside that weak body she was there lost in the cloud of pain and medications that did little to ease her suffering. Shortly after, the boys came in and I met Alah her oldest son who we had not met before but had chatted with on the phone over the past year. Now except for the youngest daughter all had married and there was a gaggle of children running around and cuddled in arms to sort into who was whose child. She asked for Taher and I told her he was at the house with Salem and Inshallah soon would visit. Another time, that my words would not become truth and we would lose her before he saw her again. Two short weeks later she was in a return trip from Tunisia for more treatment since it was the only place they could take her since we had yet to get permission to take her to the USA she died on the way back. They had pulled into a local hospital and there she was pronounced dead but due to the heat they would not release her body until a refrigerated vehicle could be brought.
I remember that morning. I had opened the door to the room that we keep the baby kitten in and I noticed that she moved slowly creeping towards some unseen prey. As she moved across the room I began to follow her and she went out onto the balcony that is outside that room. I looked around the corner and saw a dove sitting seemingly stunned on the floor. I watched as she slowly approached the bird. I then saw it was a fledgling and went to keep her from doing any harm to the baby bird. I tried to take it some water but the bird just seemed so tired and kept distance from us if we approached. Shortly after, it was startled by the cat and flew off the balcony into the wall of the family attached to our common walls and then it bounced into the courtyard of their home, unseen after it fell.
You see in old superstitions for a bird to enter your home is a sign of pending death. But all that I felt at that moment was sadness that she had fallen and I was unable to reach her to help her.
About two hours later we had a knock on the door and Abra my niece told Taher something but the words “morta” and Aieysha I understood. Since my mother in laws name is Aieysha I thought something had happened to momma during the night. He told me no its Salem’s wife. I was told that I was to dress and go with my mother in law and my sister in law to her house soon as we could.
I met each of the girls and cried rivers of tears all those “I’m going to go over and see her as soon as she is back,” promises gone out the window. And sadly Taher had never made it over to see her. For three days the standard for mourning we greeted women coming in and out to pay respect for the family. The girls grieved and we had a few problems with them refusing to eat or even drink and I scolded them saying they were all mothers if they refused to eat and got sick would their children not only lose their grandmother but their mother as well and what about their father did he not have enough grief? One of the girls I seemed to feel she was someone I knew but oddly I thought her to be a daughter in law but she was later I realized the second to the youngest and was pregnant with her first babies. The youngest was the most grief stricken as with all young ladies to think that your mother will not be around for not only your wedding but the birth of your first babies I felt hit her most profoundly. I told her I could not take the place of her mother but she was like my sister and if ever the girls needed me I was only a phone call away.
In the end whatever had been said or not said it was too late to ask and even Salem I greeted and told if he needed anything I was only a call away. We saw each other again on Eid as he was oldest so we visited his house along with the last Uncle of Taher left and his oldest sister Shareefa who had lost her husband the year before during the Revolution. The girls had moved past their grief and as always life moves on.
I remember someone on Twitter saying they could not wait to hear about my first impressions and to be honest I was so tired and stiff and worn out from travel to have many. Our final entry into Libya we flew in over the east maybe close to Zawiya and finally through the windows of the plane I saw Tripoli and the airport. Our flights unlike last time went pretty smoothly and except for some bad turbulence prior to landing in Frankfurt we had an easy trip. We made all our connections on time and had only brief layovers at each port. Security seemed highest in Frankfurt where they went through our bags pretty well. I remember one lady picking up a magnifying glass from my daughters school supplies and putting it to her eye and looking and laughing at her co-workers. I guess she thought it was comical the items we had in that bag. Wires, batteries, measuring tools and clay among the assorted items in the bag for education. We proceeded along and got up the next flight of stairs and Suhayl said, “Hey where’s my ticket?” Khadijah had the fewest bags and went back quickly along the route we had just taken and found it on the ground just past security. Thankful again no one had grabbed it.
We arrived in Tripoli and walked down an actual ramp this time and looked around, no familiar faces yet. The assorted men told us move this direction and we wandered along the halls till finally I recognized an area I told him last time I met your brother here. A group of men ushered us again to a direction and we followed instructions. Finally I saw a familiar face. “Here Taher, this man is your brother Asaid.” I smiled at the man approaching and the two brothers finally met again after so many years. They thought we had all the bags in our hands and I had to remind them we still had 8 bags to pick up from baggage. Down that hall we showed our passports and had no problem this time with them and we went to claim our bags. A few dollies later we had them and men of the family scrambled in various directions through the hot stifling heat to cars parked who knows where. The kids and I were split up to different cars and off we went on our first view of Tripoli in six years.
I will be honest here, TRASH was the first thing I saw it was overwhelming the amount of garbage there was it seemed to have multiplied and tripled since we had last came but again I remembered that we had just came out of a war and many services have yet to be restored and waste was one of the many items that was already a problem. The heat was unbelievable it was 108 the day we arrived and we felt every degree of it. It didn't matter how dry we had stayed and how nice we may have smelled that trip home we sweated bullets and rivers of water.
I can honestly say with as much time as I spent looking at the streets of Tripoli on Google Earth it still didn't help me figure out where I was too often. The route I thought he was taking was not the same maybe it was but roads had been built since who knows. He ran through so many back roads and streets I don’t know why he didn't take the main roads to go home it didn't seem that busy for the time of day. I sat in the back with Aieysha and Fatimah and Taher sat in the front with his brother chatting like they had seen each other a week ago not 32 years. Aieysha suffered the most the ride home she was chaffing from the heat and was almost in tears wanting to get somewhere and wash off the grime and cool down. Finally I saw the traffic light in Tajura that I had remembered and we were off to the last few blocks till we arrived home. The main street has changed so much, many more shops than before and people everywhere men and women and children all chatting and walking around the city. Shops that I had never dreamed to see where everywhere and you could see the “money” had finally came to the people.
I saw the government building or as they call it Balidiyah on the corner from our house. I thought he would turn there but he went on. He turned on now what I know was a unfinished road above our home and came down to the house and through the gates of the family compound. Zargoots rang out as the women and men gathered around the cars how we all arrived a few minutes from each other I never will know none of the others seemed to have followed our path. Familiar faces now a bit older and worn came forward and I joyfully kissed and hugged all the family we had waited so long to see. Momma was among the faces but where was Dad? Finally he shuffled out of the men’s lounge on the side of the house. Dad was alive. I was so worried he had not lived this long and the family just didn't want to tell us, he was much older and slower and not in good health but he was here to finally see his son home. I kept my promise.
We walked into the main family room and it had changed and was remodeled now shorter to accommodate a room for his parents and finally a bathroom on the main level where a closet use to be. We were ushered up the stairs but not to our old level one more floor up to the third floor now. I was concerned as to why we had changed levels but later found out all along we were to have the top floor. We now have five flights of steps to go up and down when at home in the USA 13 steps was a challenge on many days for Taher.
Showers and a change of clothes was in order and finally we ate and the family stayed late into the night and many into the next few days. One family member was visibly missing and Taher refused to ask where they were. Salem’s family, his oldest brother and all his children were nowhere to be seen. For now the mystery has not been fully dealt with so I will leave it for later discussions.
Within a few days the same old issues settled in and I was thankful that this time around Taher was here to help me deal with them. The kids have their own likes and dislikes and variety of food has yet to arrive for his family I can only say his cause who knows maybe you will have something we don’t.
First Impressions are Libya is FREE and it will take time for those who have lived abroad to adjust to life here. Patience is a necessity here. Look past the decay and trash and heat and sand and you will see the birds, the grass growing in patches all over town and look to the smiles on people’s faces. That is worth every penny.