Friday, November 30, 2012

First Impressions


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.

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