Wednesday, August 26, 2009

You What???


Really wish I could elaborate on the story which I desperately want to write here. Unfortunately, discretion is going to prevent me from doing this. But let's just say I found the perfect picture to sum up the story and therefore I had to at least put that up!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Back to Blog!


It has been far too long since I entered into the world of the Lost in Libya blog. . my favourite form of reflection and escapism.

The reason for the blog being "shutdown" temporarily was due to the fact that I was indeed "discovered".

Apparently my blog comes up in google alerts for Libya. (Slightly proud, slightly mortified).
My complete inability to be anonymous means that even people I do not know, know that I am the phantom blogger.
_
However, after serious consideration and numerous discussions and re-reading of my blog I have realised that there is nothing really offensive or risky discussed in my blog and it would be a shame for me to stop documenting my journey so, on that note.. . . . .
_
. . . . there is almost two months catch up on..


Viva La Blog

x

Friday, July 31, 2009

Montgomery Mountjoy Seamus McGuigan


Introducing Monty

Today's intention was to venture into the centre of Tripoli to purchase some new DVD's from the 1 and 1/2 dinar (75p) DVD store, where you can get good copies of good movies.
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However, due to the mice escapade, I ventured back into the horrific "pet abbatoir" I mentioned in my previous post "Of All the Pet Shops In The World" (dated Friday, April 3, 2009), in an attempt to buy some form of normal mouse traps for the little visitors to my apartment.
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I however, ended up with Monty. (And no DVD's or mousetraps!)
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Monty is a tiny little maltese terrier who looked barely alive in his cage when we initally stumbled upon him - he didn't respond to our attempts to rouse him by tapping on his cage and cooing at him.
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The heat, stench, noise and overbearing atmosphere of the crazy pet store made it impossible not to rescue this gorgeous little pup. (He was surrounded by overcrowed cages of animals, alsations barking with their heads hanging out of their chewed metal cages, a great hawk was sitting proudly on top of another cage with just a metal cuff on his leg). The workers in the shop care nothing for the animals, they will just pick any animal you are looking at out of the cage and throw them to the floor.
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Underfed, overheated, salivating with thirst, flea and tick ridden with patches of his hair missing Monty marched happily out of the pits of his hell with us and started his journey as the luckiest pup in Libya.
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Without even a glance back . . .
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After a good bath and a much needed shave to remove the matted clumps of hair on his body. This shows the state of his skin from the endless gnawing at the ticks, fleas and uncomfortable clumps.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Bugs, Jumping Spiders, Cockroaches and .....

MICE!!!
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As if the bugs, jumping spiders and hideous cockroaches were not enough to deal with, I now have mice!

This is due to the unfortunate humongous gap underneath my front door which seems to be a welcome sign for any creature to come in and bring their families, friends and associates in for a party. Not ideal for a complete paranoid android like myself who finds a wasp back in the UK very hard to deal with (much to the amusement of my lovely brother and sister who think I am the world's biggest chicken).

Given the fact that I have decided to move out to North Africa, I know a certain amount of "bug" toleration is mandatory but MICE??? Far too much for me to deal with....

I have had maintenance from my company around to my apartment to get rid of these delightful little visitors and the result has been a couple of Libyan mousetraps - a small square of cardboard, a huge dollop of extra strong superglue and a chunk of cheese. This means that said little mouse crawls up to get the cheese and then gets stuck in the glue and your job then is to kill the mouse by beating it over the head.

I'm not happy but am trying to maintain my cool.

For now.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Wimax Your Way Forward


Returning from London was made 10 times worse by the fact that I no longer had the usage of my neighbours wireless internet connection as he had moved to another apartment.

A week later however and I found my wireless saviour in Wimax.

It cost me 550 Libyan Dinars for a years subscription. (Which is the equivalent to £274 - and therefore a monthly cost of approximately £22) Not cheap conisdering where I am but at the same time it is perfect for me and keeps me connected.

Wimax speeds vary but as a whole it is quick (certainly alot quicker than the adsl provided here) and it is reliable. I have had about 3 occasions where the wimax was down and this usually is at times when the rest of the mobile and internet networks are having issues.

Highly recommend this as a source of internet for anyone who comes to live in Tripoli for a year or over. No phoneline necessary, just a plug in dongle which you can take with you anywhere.

For more details go to:

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Filing Cabinet Safety Tips

Always remember to open only one drawer at a time.
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Opening all drawers at once leaves one at risk of looking like a silly blonde twat, jammed in between an enormous collapsed filing cabinet and a desk, with a very red face, a scratched chest and a hysterical assistant.

(One of those things which will only ever happen once!)

Monday, June 1, 2009

Summer is Coming..

I have certainly picked the hottest place to be, in fact the highest temperature ever recorded on earth was 57.8° C (136°F) in Libya.

Due to the sweltering heat in the summer my working hours have changed today for the next 4 months.

I start at the same time - 7:30am but now finish an hour earlier at 3pm. Absolutely delighted with the change and the only minor negative difference is we now have a half hour lunch at 13:00.

Not a biggie considering today I got to chillout by an outdoor pool, swim 11 lengths and then stuff my face afterwards.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Fire! Fire! Fire!


Well health & safety executives in the UK would have been appalled at the so called fire drill which took place at my work today.


At lunch time the fire alarm went off, so instantly I was scarpering out of the building without my personal belongings. As I walked down the hall alone I began to wonder if I was following an incorrect procedure but once outside I found a minute gathering of Western people waiting for the all clear. The designated meeting point for fire drills was blocked up by a humongous 4x4 SUV and there was no name check whatsoever (well considering that the other 1,000+ Libyan employees were still within the building it would have been a complete waste of time).

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Right or So Wrong?


Alas, I am a hypocrite. My secret judgmental opinion prior to my arrival on Libyan soil was that people who have cleaners were people who thought that their own “poop” did not stink and I was pretty disgusted that they were happy enough to pay a few bob to have their own mess cleaned up and not bother to do it themselves.


I however, have fallen in to the trap and must eat my own words.


The heat and workload in Libya barely gives me enough energy to cook a meal, let alone start scrubbing the walls and floors. (The first week is not included when I went on the ultimate cleaning, bleaching & polishing domestic goddess binge). So, I have hired a cleaner who comes around to my apartment once a week. She is a lovely Morroccan lady who does not speak a word of English but has a soft smile and a gentle manner (and the fact that none of my valuables have gone missing is an added bonus). I feel so embarrassed that she is cleaning up after me that I have a clean up the night before she comes and I also leave out cakes and crisps and food for her to eat while she is at my house. She arrives at early o’clock and leaves after 5pm and her charge for a days work is 25 LYD . . . which is the equivalent to £12.40 per day, that is £49.60 per month. She cleans absolutely everything, including my duvet and irons my socks. This is a complete luxury to me and one which I was completely against prior to my visit here, and I feel like an absolute hypocrite as I was so against my previous partner having a cleaner back in the UK but at the same time I feel unable to complete anything after work due to my hectic work schedule and the unbelievable heat!

One of the arguments FOR having a cleaner is that it is providing employment to someone who earns very little in Libya and is grateful for all the work that they get...

At the same time I can’t help but think...

Am I participating in exploitation or am I contributing to her personal gain or the economy by employing her?




Saturday, May 23, 2009

Wonderous Weekends


Yet again, I have had a fabulous weekend and a lovely Saturday spent down by the beach. The added bonus to this weekend was an amazingly handsome dog (well he is like a person really) called Bertie Ahern. Bertie is a delightful little maltese terrier who I managed to play Mum to for the weekend as his Mummy is away in Morrocco. He is so playful and must be a great companion to his owner, as he is so loyal and hates to be alone - he follows you around when you walk around the house & loves to be petted and cuddled lots and lots.
I think I've fallen in love ...


Friday, May 22, 2009

Mother & Son Reunited


Today was a big day for my neighbour, her 22 year old son arrived in Libya for the first time to visit for a week. To celebrate his arrival she arranged a big barbeque for him and invited lots of people - there were 34 confirmed. After the major stresses and hassles with arranging his visa it was so nice to see him finally reunited with his Mother on Libyan soil.


However, the stresses did not end there. An enormous amount of preparation went into the barbeque (this included buying a new splendid barbeque (second hand which therefore mean't it needed a good scrub), marinating copious amounts of lamb & chicken, the huge shopping expedition to stock up on food stuffs & goodies, sourcing gas cylinders, chairs & tables etc.


After all of that, it turned out that it was most certainly the wrong day to be holding the BBQ , the security on our Regatta compound would not let anybody in as there was a VIP staying on the compound. In fact, they decided to forget completely even who residents were and we were forced to go get our ID to prove who we were. (This actually is a regular occurence, the head of security has seen my pass and met me on plenty of occasions but still has his power trip days where I'm forced to be interrogated in order to get to my apartment) Even though the majority of the party were turned away by the Regatta Mafia, the barbeque still turned out to be a fun event, and there was certainly triple, if not quadruple portions of food available.


Thursday, May 21, 2009

Happy Birthday Mum!

Hope you have a wonderful day today Mum.. Thinking of you!

You're famous now, in an anonymous way on lostinlibya blogspot.

Love you lots

xxxxxx

Monday, May 18, 2009

Medina Madness..


I ventured back into what is known as the "Medina" in Tripoli today. The Medina is basically a walled medieval market with a few odd bits thrown in, it's a mixture of old and new and I can see it being a paradise for the antique and jewellery conniseur.

(Note - the Medina is smack bang in the centre of Tripoli, sort of a wierd version of Oxford Street to us Londoners)

Despite the dreaded drive throught "DEATH ROUNDABOUT" - (believe it when you see it) I still managed to feel quite guilty that I was more interested in what was in my stomach when I arrived. Luckily I ended up in the most fabulous traditional restaurant which served plenty of bread, a lovely tomato mozzarella salad and an extremely delicious, tender Tajin of Mouton (Lamb) to fill the gap.

Afterwards, I did a very minimal amount of “touristic” shopping (shame on me) – purchasing framed dead scorpions, key rings & Libyan t-shirts for the fam (that's the designer gear you're getting from Libya Bro & Sis).

Saturday, May 9, 2009

It's a Hard Life..

I actually live here now?


But someone has to do it..

I have had the most perfect weekend and despite the flaws of Libya and being away from home,right now I feel blessed to be in a “sort of”paradise..

Well, sun, sea, a terrace sun lounger, fantastic “old / new skool” company - does it really get much better than that?

Friday, May 8, 2009

Actions Speak Louder Than Words



I stumbled across an extremely huge sea turtle today on a walk along the beach. I could never have imagined a turtle of this proportion but unfortunately my first experience of seeing this amazing creature was seeing her deteriorating and rotting away on the shore.

Absolutely amazed at the size but also extremely disturbed to have found out that she was more than likely harpooned at sea. Reading further into turtle torture is really sad, all native species of West Indian sea tortoises are now extinct!

However, turtle meat being considered a delicacy and the high commerical value of the shell means that people will continue to endanger the fascinating sea turtle...

Monday, May 4, 2009

Libyan Ladies Lunch

Clearly Not "Salame"..



My office is based in the middle of nowhere - the only options for food are:

1. Bring your own. 2. Camel or Tuna 1/2 dinar baguettes. OR 3. Risk going through the local council estate (much better than the ones I've seen in London mind you) to get to the local greasy burger joint. So three of the younger Libyan secretaries planned an escape lunch for me today whilst all the management were in a meeting. One of them had a car, so we all jumped in as she "boy raced" her way through town to a really nice, upper class Italian restaurant down Gargaresh road (the Rodeo Drive of Tripoli).

Not only did they insist on me choosing where we sat and what we ate, they would not let me pay a penny towards the meal. I am so unbeliveably touched by the hospitality of the Libyans, they are so generous, kind and sweet (apart from the pervy men of course).

Anyway, one of the pizza dishes I ordered was "salame" - which I though would be a laugh but when it arrived I had a tiny panic attack as I thought it could actually be pork salami and then I would end up fired and extradited from the country, working for a Governmental Oil Company. No fear there, the "salame" was a completely disgusting slimy Turkish Halal version of pork which was enjoyed by all. Along with a pizza smothered in calamari & prawns and some very strange looking green jellyish pizza. Bar the food, I had a wonderful brief lunch and journey to and from the restaurant - even though I didn't understand a word that the girls were saying, I have a feeling I've made a few friends.

Friday, May 1, 2009

May Day


Attended another expat event today but actually had a very memorable and amusing time. It was the annual darts competition in which over 200 expats from all over the world came to watch. The Filipino expats seem to take the event extremely serious, whilst the British/American/Irish tend to prefer the social aspect.

Anyway, it was good fun watching everyone get thrown in the pool whilst I sat back and relaxed.


Have also realised.......I'm not a big fan of darts, they are actually for farts.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

A chop too far..


What the hell was I thinking going to have my hair cut at a Libyan hairdressers?????

I have officially got short hair having had 6 inches chopped right off within the space of two minutes (it literally was “chop” “chop”). So I am lucious locks no more. Initially I was in a bit of a strop, having walked out afterwards without even having a blow dry (mind you that wasn’t just the haircut - the screaming baby and blow dry queue were a real deal breaker).

Oh well, I have resigned myself to the new bouffant and am quite happy without the length in this heat, regardless of the disastrous style. (My hairdresser would have a heart attack!)

After the hairdressers I took on another adventure - a taxi home alone for the first time. Will NOT be doing that again!

My neighbour was slightly worried and told me that I MUST wear sunglasses in the car. Thinking she was being a bit of a paranoid mother figure I ignored her advice and left them sitting on top of my head. BIG MISTAKE!

I have now had my first marriage proposal (which I politely declined) but also almost lost my life as the driver drove at full speed whilst turning around to shout "Wow Boootiful Eyes"! Very amusing in hindsight...

All in a days work!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Wish Me Luck..


I'm going to get my haircut in Libya tomorrow!


Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Office Playground

My assistant is going through a spot of bother at work at the moment. Her three best friends have all turned on her and she is absolutely fuming!

Last week she came in to work wearing her headscarf but also wearing a long t-shirt style dress (on top of jeans and a long sleeved white top). The dress itself was a bright pink colour. Her three best friends are all very strict Muslims who wear the full hijab to work. (See "bedouin hijab" in picture above).

They were extremely disgusted to see my assistant in the bright pink dress (although she wears Western clothes with her headscarf every day, this particular outfit was not to their taste and considered inappropriate, even though it was not tight or revealing in any way). Anyway, she was very unhappy with their behaviour towards her and decided that they were no longer her friends. (But she assured me I am her sister, not her friend – had to love that!)

One of the other Libyan secretaries who speaks English came to explain the situation to me and told me very proudly that there are 3 types of women in Libya.

1. Those who dress like me – western style dress (albeit modest) with hair uncovered.
2. Those who dress like her and my assistant – with the headscarf but with modest western clothing.
3. Those who dress completely covered in the full hijab.

Passionately she proceeded to explain that although you may be No. 1, inside you might be a good person and No. 3 might be a bad person. So therefore, my assistants friends had no right to judge her, as inside, she is a good person (despite the language barrier, I can already tell this). A great statement for life in general, regardless of being a Muslim country, it brings to mind the term, clothes do not make a person, it is a person who makes the clothes.

Well, today, to really accentuate the whole argument, my assistant received a package which was delivered to the office. There was a letter and a booklet. (All in Arabic so my translation may be vague). The letter basically compared her to a Libyan woman within the company who had a very bad reputation (in other words, the office hussy) and the booklet served as a guide as to the do’s and don’ts of how one should dress!

She was crying and shouting (completely the norm in Libyan offices anyway) and I feel so angry for her, this girl is a 30 year old virgin who blares out the quaran everyday in my office!

I know a good 'un when I see a good 'un and this one is a good 'un!


A memo goes a long way!

After weeks of non stop debates with the “transport & services” and the “maintenance” and the “catering and services department” regarding the repairs and refurbishment of my apartment and getting absolutely nowhere I decided to take things into my own hands. No, I have not sworn or thrown a humongous hissy fit . . . . . . . I have written a memo!

I wrote this memo in the name of my boss – and it was quite strong outlining the issues with my apartment which need to be fixed “urgently” and about the negative impact it is having on my well being having workmen entering my private space during the evenings and weekends. Lucky for me, my boss was very happy to sign it (I personally think he loves an argument so it made his day!).

The memo outlined every single minor detail which I want repaired and lo and behold, I have come home to every hole in the wall filled, the house has been repainted, furniture has been removed and replaced, handles are usable, I can open my garden door . . . . I even have GARDEN FURNITURE now!

Why don’t memo’s work with boyfriends?

Monday, April 27, 2009

40 days and 40 nights..

Today is day 40!

Yeah, I'm still counting down..

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Feeling Hot! Hot! Hot!

Flaming Nora it's baking here, and this is just the start of it!

Today was a very hot 35°C (95°F ).

It is like an oven outside, I love it really but it's knocking me out all the time, the minute I step into a car I'm out for the count with my head bobbing all over the place like noddy.

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It is getting very hot here...

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(So keep ON ALL your clothes)..
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Ha...I had to be cheesy at some point (Maybe it's the heat going to my head)

_]

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Boy ♥ Boy


One of the biggest cultural shocks here for me has to be the way in which men and women relate to each other. It is so far removed from the Western world that I am used to.

Men and women are pretty much segregated in Libya, and there seems to be very few women compared to the number of men out on the streets, shopping, at cafes or restaurants. I have not seen one couple showing affection or holding hands in Tripoli but it is SO common to see men being affectionate with each other (not to be confused with homosexuality as that is actually illegal in Libya).

Walking down the street you see men holding hands, with their arms around each other, leaning into each other, stroking each others faces and planting kisses on each others cheeks.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Thought Of The Day!

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;
The courage to change the things I can;
And the wisdom to know the difference.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Domestic Goddess!

I'm loving having my own place now and have spent the weekend being very houseproud! I have scrubbed and bleached to my hearts content, the windows are gleaming and even the front door has been polished.

On top of that I have made a delicious spicy meatball pasta dish, fresh salad with my new salad dressing and just popped a huge shepherds pie in the oven.

Nigella eat your heart out!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

One Month Later..

The View From My Front Door


I feel under immense (self inflicted) pressure to deliver a corny clichéd reflection on my first month here in Libya but .................. I can’t be bothered!

I have at last graduated into the adjustment phase having successfully passed the where the hell am I phase?!

There is so much for me to learn still, I feel like a real idiot half the time when I make silly errors (like putting an English newspaper on top of an Arabic newspaper – not good – the English newspaper MUST go underneath the Arabic one).


I’m trying to suss out everything anyway and will get there eventually, Rome wasn’t built in a day. The culture, the people, the do’s and the don’ts, directions, etc – I still have not got a clue but I seem to be getting away with it (perhaps they are saying bloody blonde Irish woman!)

So, in conclusion – I am really enjoying the new experience, everything is an adventure and even though I live here now I still feel like a tourist who asks too many questions and takes out her camera at every single opportunity.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Bleurghhh!

My first sick day off work falls within my first month! Not happy but it’s out of my control.

The day has been full of puking, sleeping and feeling extremely out of it. Don’t know if it’s the water or the food I ate but I know now that I need to start cooking at home for sure!

My assistant called me to see if I was ok, even though she speaks Arabic only she managed to tell me in English that she loved me, missed me and that I was her sister!!!



Saturday, April 11, 2009

I Like Big Butts


GIGANTIC Libyan Cow Udders!

Imagine having to milk them?

Friday, April 10, 2009

Sublime Sabratha

Breathtaking Sabratha!


I have had an amazing day today thanks to my neighbour! At 10am he was insistent that I get out of bed and come with him and another neighbour to Sabratha, and by George am I glad I went!

Sabratha is an absolutely stunning Ancient Roman site just an hour away from the capital, Tripoli. It is really amazing walking around all these beautiful ruins which are surrounded by white sandy beaches and the clear blue mediterranean sea.

There are ruined temples, theatres, churches, baths, houses, olive oil making grounds all crammed in to this quite compact site and you really can imagine what it must have been like back when it was lived in by the Romans (like 450 AD!!).

Libya isn’t a big tourist destination at the moment so I was suprised to see quite a few tour groups at Sabratha, I’m so glad I’m getting to see places here before it changes, as I can really imagine Libya developing, becoming more commercial and a hot spot for tourists.




The Theatre

(this is the only picture I didn't actually take myself, its so difficult to capture the enormity of the whole theatre in one picture)


Headless Statue, Seaward Baths



The Temple of Liber Pater (Temple of Dionysius)



Temple of Serapis

To see all my photos of Sabratha please check out: http://www.flickr.com/photos/36533194@N05/sets/72157616603362240/

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Anyone For Camel?



Camel meat is eaten widely in Libya, I haven’t had the stomach for it as of yet but it is on my to do list. Seeing the dead camel heads hanging outside the butchers is a slight deterrent!


Sunday, April 5, 2009

Everybody Needs Good Neighbours!


Great news! I have proper running water!

This however is not thanks to my trusty team of workmen, but thanks to my super neighbour, a project manager in construction who oversaw the team of workmen putting in the water tank and so forth. He spent the whole day when he should have been at work, I’m so grateful and can’t believe how helpful he has been.

Am slightly worried about the fact that the lights in the house blink when the water is running but hey, I’m not complaining today, I'm off to have a disco in the bath!


Viva La Water!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Good Apples, Bad Apples..



I have scrapped my original blog for this post as it went on for pages and pages and it was all a huge big moan.

Today has been a bad day as a whole, it is my weekend and yet it has it been hardwork. 8:30am was my appointment to get my water fixed, the day has passed (Again! Please see blog entry for last Saturday 28/03) and still no proper running water. Lets just say, the experiences I have had with workmen today has left me feeling less like, "how many Irishmen does it take to change a lightbulb?" and more like "how many Libyan’s does it take to change a battery? "

When I eventually got out to buy some kitchen utensils I felt the wrath of the city centre yet again. Wearing a baggy t-shirt, baggy jeans AND a long cardigan, I still managed to attract too much attention. I was followed by random men who kept trying to talk to me (" I love you", "Sweet like honey", "Be my friend"), touch me, shouted at (one had the nerve to shout, "I'm slut, I'm slut" at me) and stared at me like I was an alien. Going to the shops in town is a huge ordeal and a major hassle, I don't want to become a recluse in my apartment but I can't see myself having the energy for such drama on my days off work.

I’m also thoroughly bemused and quite frankly "pissed off" by the fact that my phone number seems to have gotten in to the wrong hands somehow and I have over 10 numbers which I do not know who constantly call me up until all hours. Grrrrr....

Ok, out with the negative, I’m signing off before this turns in to the scrapped blog! But before I go, on a positive note, a wise woman once told me "There are bad apples and good apples on every tree" and right now this definitley applies....

It doesn't matter where you are in the world, there are good people and bad people everywhere.


Friday, April 3, 2009

Of All The Pet Shops In All Of The World..

"The one who just wanted out"
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I dared to enter a pet shop in Tripoli today and I have to say, I am not impressed, in fact, I am horrified at the treatment of animals here. The picture you see above is a nice one, of a turtle posing for me, although still in desperation.

Entering the “pet shop” I was greeted by cages upon cages, each of which were filled with a variety of animals, one cage alone contained turtles, lizards and pigeons – all thrown in together. Those animals that misbehaved or caused problems were slaughtered, and right before my eyes was a massive rubbish bin, filled to the brim with bloodied animal bodies. The stench was overwhelming and the experience horrifying, as you can imagine, no further pictures were taken as I held my breath and clenched my stomach.


A day in the life of a Libyan Turtle


Thursday, April 2, 2009

Thank Goodness It’s...

THURSDAY???

Yes, it is Thursday and therefore the end of my week. Working hours and days are still not part of my mental routine and today it came as a nice surprise - while everyone was delighted that it was Thursday....I was still wishing it was Friday!

UNTIL...I realised that the weekend is finally here and for the next two days 6am is no longer a time which I am going to see...WOO HOOO!!!!

(In Libya, Friday is a Muslim Holy day which is kept strictly as Allah's day. Therefore our weekend is Friday and Saturday, Sunday is a normal working day and the beginning of the working week.)

How And Ever..I have booked myself in to work tomorrow, there is just SOOO much to do that the workload is on top of me and after my first ten days at work I’m terrified of being inadequate and losing my job (not a bad thing for me so I learnt throughout Uni – dreading the worst made me work harder, expecting an F and getting an A is a great feeling).
I have made a note of a few places which I’m intent on going to see eventually whilst I am here...why come to Libya and not see Libya??

The top four so far are:

Click on the links and you’ll see why!

Monday, March 30, 2009

The Ghibliest of Ghibli’s

It is HOT, HOT, HOT in Libya at the moment as we are experiencing what is known as a Ghilbi or Gibli.

The Ghibli is a sandstorm where there is a hot (40 – 50 degrees), dry, dust-bearing wind sweeping all over from the desert. During a Ghibli there is so much sand carried by the wind that even with your windows and doors closed, you will still find fine sand in your house. It’s absolutely crazy and is far different to any storm I have ever experienced in Dublin or London. (Secretly, I'm terrified!)

Saturday, March 28, 2009

It’s "Libyan Time"

The Libyan people are so generous, helpful, warm and friendly but boy oh boy are they bad timekeepers. The attitudes here are so laid back and thus time seems to be a minor detail of life which is overlooked.

Getting something urgent done at work is like a 4 week process, label a document urgent to be delivered and that document will travel through the entire community before reaching it’s destination – it will stop off for a cup of tea, it will meet and greet the family and get distracted in numerous discussions before finally being delivered.

In many ways laid back is quite nice after living in London for the past 10 years, but as I work for the busiest department, I can’t enjoy all of the luxuries of the slow paced lifestyle. I am actually really happy to be so busy at work, the day flies by and before you know it, it’s 4pm and your home by 4:30pm with the rest of the evening free.

Today however, has been a rather annoying experience of “Libyan Time”, it is my weekend and I’ve spent the day waiting for work men to come to fix numerous things in the apartment today but nobody has managed to show up! I want to cook, I want to shower and I want to wash my clothes, but I have a feeling I may be waiting for a lot longer than I’m being promised. Oh well, maybe my odour will keep the mosquitos away.

See I’m already learning to let the smaller problems I encounter here roll off my shoulders and appreciate the positive. (Even though it smells bad!)

Friday, March 27, 2009

Am I an EXPAT?

One of the many signs at my compound (most commonly known as Regatta or Al-Magrib Al-Arabi Residential Village)


Expatriate; Expat - An expatriate (in abbreviated form, expat) is a person temporarily or permanently residing in a country and culture other than that of the person's upbringing or legal residence. The word comes from the Latin ex (out of) and patria (country, fatherland)

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Last night I was taken out to a dinner party which was being thrown for an expat who has lived here for the past 14 years and is now returning home to Bulgaria.

It was a great opportunity to meet the expat community and also to get some food – something which I ignored all day during the non stop move.

There was a variety of people at the dinner – Scottish, English, Irish, American, Italian, Jamaican etc, all of whom were aged 40 plus. I seem to be the youngest expat that has come to work on a town based assignment – this seems to be the trend with the oil and gas companies recruiting from abroad, they want to ensure that they are taking on someone who will settle down here and won’t get homesick and leave after the expense they have gone to in order to relocate them.

The expat community here is relatively small at 3,000 people and there seems to be very tight knit groups within that again.

It is very segregated from the Libyan society and in a sense quite “inbred”, everyone seems to know each others business with chinese whispering campaigns & a very fluid gossip grapevine.

There is also a certain arrogance connected to the attitudes of some people who are all joined together with one common goal – money. It is as though they are creating there own aristocracy within this country. There is a certain status for people who are recruited from abroad, junior expats earn double the salary of a senior Libyan member of staff. Further more they are given free accommodation , travel and so forth. So it is as if you adopt a certain status here, when really if you return back home – you are just a nobody like everybody else!

That said, I have met some wonderfully genunie expats, in particular, my adoptive Mother, the Irish secretary I spoke about previously. She has been absolutely wonderful , she cooked me breakfast and dinner today AND took me out for lunch and to the market! Her advice, tips and care have gone down really well, I have to say, I’m really lucky to have her here. (Tis the luck of the Irish!)
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Regatta or Al-Magrib Al-Arabi Residential Village

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The longest day so far...It’s Moving Day ....


One week later and hallelujah I’m in my own apartment.

Quite sad to have left Bab El Bahr hotel - it was starting to feel like home for me in Libya! The staff have been so friendly, respectful, genuine and helpful. I can’t think of anywhere where I have experienced such homely hospitality (apart from at home!) Can you believe that they actually called me to ensure that I had arrived at my new apartment safely and that it was all to my liking?The hotel life is not a bad one at all, I can now see what it must be like to be an old fashioned lazy man, come home from work, have your meals prepared, your laundry done....ahhhh what a life!


In terms of the apartment,I finally seem to be able to quote the phrase.."the luck of the Irish", as after hearing the experiences of other expats, I am extremely lucky in terms of the standards and quality of treatment I have been given. (Hate saying it though, as usually when you acknowledge your luck, it quickly runs out!)

This apartment is SO MUCH better than the one I was shown previously, it is practically brand new having not been lived in for the past few years. It has been freshly painted and there is a BRAND NEW toilet, BRAND NEW shower, BRAND NEW bath, BRAND NEW mattress.... I am delighted!

The day itself has been a lengthy haul – on the go non stop since 6am without any food!

There were plumbers, electricians and TV guys in the apartment, fixing up the place for me. Deliveries also came throughout the day including all new kitchen appliances, cutlery, plates, blankets, pillows and so forth. I have been assigned a really nice supervisor from my company who is overseeing my relocation onto the compound. He is a really friendly Libyan who keeps telling me he is like a brother to me and warning me about locking my door and keeping away from men!

Ashamedly at the age of 27 I have never actually lived fully alone, so a part of me is anxious and nervous but then the other part of me is excited to have my own space where I can retreat to everyday after work.

Right outside my apartment there is a huge palm tree and directly in front is the mosque which I’m thinking is good karma and will hopefully bring me blessings and keep me safe during my time in Libya!

Inshallah!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Can’t sleep, Won’t sleep...

So this is why God invented coffee? As a coffee virgin I have to say WOAHHHHHHHHH to the liquid crack for the masses, what a blessing it is!

Throughout the working day today I have had sudden moments where I have looked around me and been stuck in a real surreal moment thinking what the hell am I doing here?

I miss my family and loved ones badly right now. It's not like I have been away for very long, today is only day 6, but I think it's more the knowledge that I won't be seeing them for at least 6 months which makes me miss them so much more.

Still have to keep reminding myself why I am here and the benefits of what I’m doing.

I’m also filled with anxiety about the move to the compound, today I was told I will be moving to a different apartment than the one I have already seen and that it will be ready to move in to tomorrow. Having just settled into the dramatic change and gotten used to the hotel being my safe haven, I am really starting to dread the fact that I have to move now. Change is never easy.

How and ever, a lovely Irish expat has taken me under her wing, she went shopping with me today and has been extremely kind and generous. She also lives at the compound and will be leaving the office with me tomorrow to help me move in and has invited me over for dinner. Decent grub at last!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Libyan Nights

Libyan Night at Bab El Bahr


There was a Libyan Night Celebration at the hotel tonight so dinner was held in a different restaurant than usual. The entertainment was hilariously bizarre and kept my attention diverted from the fact that the food is still unbearably bad. I am absolutely starving and in need of a decent meal - since hearing camel was on the menu I have steered clear of unidentifiable meats.

None the less, it was great to see a bit of Libyan culture. The dining room had an overwhelming smell, a mixture of incense and burning. There was a band, a dancer, some very unhappy children dressed up, some rabbits and chickens and a tent full of Tunisian men in all their gear. (For pictures please see my slideshow below).
My favourite being the lady dancing around with a vase on her head – her name is Faria and she is a really sweet lady but I have to say her act needs a bit of variety to say the least. (I can't stop laughing as I write this!)


Faria dancing with a vase on her head
(Apologies for the sideways video!)

Can you read this?

Neither can I!


Welcome to my new world. This is what my working day is like. I work in a huge office with over 1,000 people in my department alone and a large number of them who have to go through me speak to me in Arabic (regardless of the fact that I speak only English) or hand me Arabic documents. I have picked up a few basic phrases but that’s about it so far. I am going to have to learn some Arabic soon otherwise I’m going to sink instead of swim.

And right now I want to win the race!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Exhausted....


The apartments in the Regatta Expat Community
(Mine looks very similar but not quite as nice)


These early starts are KILLING me so please excuse me if this post is full of babble!

I had my first full day at work today and the language barrier is becoming more and more of an issue as I try to fulfill my role as a Senior PA. The people however are all very welcoming and so sweet, all the women tell me I’m beautiful and nice and bring me gifts of cookies and cakes (went down well after no breakfast again I can tell you!) Libyan women differ as a majority to British – there is no competition, hate or disregard – just a really comforting feeling of sisterhood, I love it.

The employee benefits at this company are also great, as hard as it is, I’m really getting to grips with having a driver! (Beats the tube anyday!) Lunch time is excellent too, the lights are turned out to ensure everyone stops working and takes their break. The majority of employees bring their own lunch but I’m settling with the company lunch for now – tuna baguette, olives and a soft drink – all for 50p! Although eventually I’m sure I’ll follow suit as tuna is the only option on the menu!

I went to visit my apartment in the expat compound as I requested today. The compound itself is quite nice with 3,000 expats living within the gated community. There is a shop, tennis courts, a restaurant and a beautiful private beach onsite. I wasn’t fully happy with the condition of the apartent however – the layout is good, spacious living room, big double bedroom, bathroom and kitchen – but the mattress on the bed looks very used , the sofa’s are stained and the bath has rust and paint splashed in it. So, I have requested to stay in the hotel until all these facilities are fixed. Other negatives which can’t be fixed include – no internet access, no house phone & the satellite TV only has 5 English speaking channels which are all news stations. On the plus side they have freshly painted the apartment and have bought a number of brand new appliances for me to use there -: deep fryer, kettle, sandwich maker etc.




(The view of the sun setting from my hotel room)

Sunday, March 22, 2009

First Day at Work & Fantastic Fish

(Fresh Fish at Tripoli Marina)

Work starts at 7:30am here and as I’m still on UK time it was definitley like starting work at 5:30am. Without any breakfast and completely shattered I was taken to two hospitals to have chest xrays and blood taken, a governmental regulation in Libya for any expat (even though I had a full medical in London in order to obtain my entry visa). All I can say is Thank London for the NHS, you have not seen a queue for medical attention before until you see the “concert crowd” masses waiting to be seen outside the hospital here! Absolutely crazy, but luckily for me as a female and as a member of my company I was taken straight in on both occassions.

After this I went to meet my boss and discovered the HUGE workload that awaits me. Initial feelings were of complete panic but now I’m thinking "bring on the challenge". The department is struggling hard to maintain order and the amount of paperwork is huge. Administration is very old fashioned and traditional here, with signed and stamped memos being favoured over emails.

Having been introduced to all the senior members of staff I then got to meet some lovely Irish secretaries who have been working there for a while (one as long as 26 years). I also got to meet my assistant, an absolutely adorable girl but we have one problem....she doesn't speak a word of English. As we collapse in fits of giggles with her speaking Arabic in response to my questions I realise how interesting this is going to be.

To top the whole day off I got picked up at lunch time by my middle man & his colleagues again, who arranged for me to have the rest of the day off work (result!). They took me to Tripoli Marina where there is a fresh fish market running through the centre of a bunch of restaurants. So I got to pick my fresh fishie and chose how I wanted it cooked! I had a whole divine grilled sea bass and loved it! Now thats what I’m talkin about...
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(Dinner at Tripoli Marina)

Tomorrow morning I shall be picked up to see my new apartment and hopefully if it’s all up to scratch and I am happy with the conditions... I’ll be moving in!

The journey continues.....


PS HAPPY MOTHERS DAY MUM! I REALLY REALLY LOVE YOUX


Saturday, March 21, 2009

Another day, Another Dinar...

Well it’s my final day of complete isolation and being totally out of the loop in terms of my schedule! A representative from my new company will come to pick me up at 7:30am (ouch!) tomorrow morning and will take me to complete any formalities – working visa & medical etc. From there I will at least be given an idea as to when I will be moving in to my apartment in the expat community and when I will begin work.

**Newsflash** I got out of the hotel room tonight! I was picked up by a middle man who has arranged this position for me and two of his colleagues. What a relief it was to see them and to get taken out to see what the city is actually like beyond the hotel.Was still being stared at like never before and it was a freezing evening but we went for coffee and a shisha (which costs from £1 - £3 here!! ) and then I had the best chicken shwarma ever – spicy chicken, potato, onion and chilly in a lovely soft pancake style wrap.


AHhhh the simple things do delight after a few days spent alone!

Very Interesting - Libya's Struggle

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/20/world/africa/20libya.html

Friday, March 20, 2009

Day Two And Nothing Much To Do!

(The View From My Hotel Room)
After a LONG nights sleep I wake up ready to embrace Tripoli – but first I have to eat!
I venture out of the hotel room and grab my first Libyan meal at the hotel restaurant. This consists of couscous, lamb, salad and Libyan soup! Happy that I have tasted the cuisine but really disappointed in the flavours and the fatty, oily meat!

Next, armed with my camera I leave the hotel room in the hope of catching a bit of the local culture – this however turns from a fantastic idea to a disappointing reality. Practically every car that comes by with men in it horns or stops! I have numerous offers of a lift, phone numbers and friendship! Nervous and frustrated, halfway down the road I quickly turn on my heels and head straight back to the hotel.

The weather is lovely and warm, so determined not to retreat to my hotel room I go to the back of the hotel and sit by the sea, watching three fishermen catch fish and crabs. It’s idyllic, calm and completely peaceful – a world away from the hustle and bustle of London. I am the only person sitting at this vast stretch of sea besides the three fishermen in the water!!

Back at the hotel the staff are all extremely friendly and hospitable, everyone either knows my name or calls me "sister". In general the Libyan people come across as a lot more warmer than in the West - they eminate a strong element of goodness and kindness which is very refreshing!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Arriving in Libya



(Bab El Bahr Hotel - "Gateway to the Sea")


Wowsers, the day has eventually come where I’ve abandoned all I know and somehow have ended up travelling to Tripoli, Libya to work for a major Oil Company.The enormity of this doesn't hit me until I arrive in Tripoli International (AHEM!) Airport. Instantly I am in a completely different culture and am completely overwhelmed. The arrivals section is thriving as there are hoards of people surrounding the gates welcoming those arriving from flights. There is a very heavy military presence in the airport and the majority of people there are male. Everyone stares at me like I am some sort of alien arriving from a different planet.

I left the airport, into the warm humid breeze of Tripoli with a representative from my company. A very friendly gentleman however an utterly crazy driver. As he drove me to my hotel I clutched the seats as he swerved all over the motorway and went straight through red lights.

Upon arrival to the hotel he told me he would pick me up on Sunday morning and promptly left. (It is Thursday – Friday and Saturday is the Libyan weekend),

The lack of sleep and emotions surrounding leaving London alongside the total feeling of abandonment at the hotel is all too much as I retreat to my room for the rest of the evening and night.