Tripoli: First 2 Weeks

Let me first state that I write this entry without knowing when I can actually post it on the blog. JG and I recently moved in to our home away from home here in Janzour Village in Tripoli, and as I write, we have yet to get internet connection thus the case.


So we have now been in Libya for two weeks, and generally speaking I am currently undergoing some serious adjustments. Truthfully, I have been naive to to think that my problems would be the parties and social obligations I have to attend to as a Diplowife that I neglected the important things. Them being how to buy household essentials like utensils, food, and keeping your wits about when your cargo (that has 85% of your clothes in it) does not arrive on time.


The first week seemed like a breeze, we stayed in a hotel, and ate take-out from a Turkish restaurant. All we had to do was get up, get dressed, go out, eat, go back to our room, and watch satellite TV until we fall asleep. But we were only given a week to adjust, and by that time we had face truly living in Libya.


Lucky for us, we found a nice little Mediterranean house in a village where most of JG’s co-workers in the embassy lives. The house is owned by a Libyan doctor, who lives next door in his big white house. JG and I both feel very fortunate to have found him and his house because JG’s staff tells us that most Libyan landlords are not as kind and helpful as the owner of our house. (more on that in following posts).


Despite that, our first day at our house wasn’t exactly ideally romantic. It was in fact one of the most frustrating day of my life. The plan was to buy the essential appliances needed (e.g. air conditioning system, as Libyan heat can reach as high as 42 degrees in Fahrenheit, a washing machine, again due to our lack of clean clothes brought about the delay of our cargo, and beddings), and then buy the needed things to survive like plates, towels, chairs, and toiletries. But nothing went according to plan as we got a big dose of Libyan culture shock.


But first let me explain the root of all the dilemma. Back home, when you make big purchases like household appliances, they would usually just deliver it right at your doorstep. All you have to do was give them your address, perhaps point them to a close popular landmark like a big mall, or a historical monument, and then all you have to do is wait. Here in Libya, they don’t exactly have a detailed address system. Houses don’t have an assigned number, nor do they have a street name. (I could be wrong, hopefully I get it right someday).


Okay, most establishments like embassies use a mailing address or a P.O. Box, but you see the point. That is why, on the day we bought our stuff, we had to go back to the store so we can guide their truck via convoy the way to our house. But that wasn’t the least of our problems, I mentioned the Libyan way of things? That day we learned the hard way that in Libya, some storekeepers have a laid back way of doing business. The first store we agreed that they have the appliances ready for transport the day after at 11 am, when we came back the next day at 11 am they got around to doing it two hours later. The guys who were to deliver our bed, we agreed to meet in a specific place at 3 pm, but they made us wait outside, under the scorching heat for almost three hours. Filipino time, had nothing on these guys.


And because of all the delay, we didn’t have time to buy all the other things we needed to buy. If it wasn’t for the help one of JG’s office mate in the embassy who also happened to be our neighbor, we wouldn’t have survived. They gave us towels, bed sheets, plates, even a gas range to cook with. I will never forget what they did for us as long as I live. I have a lot of complaints about Filipino habits, but our helpfulness towards our Kababayans especially when in foreign territory is truly a great trait.


Nevertheless Libyans are still generally nice and hospitable people. They will try to help you even if you can’t speak a word of Arabic, and unlike in the Philippines they will not pressure you with coy-fulness or appeal to your sympathy into buying their products. The other day, JG and I couldn’t find salt in a local grocery near our house, none of the employees of the store knew how to speak English, so I was already making a small crowd who was watching me making sign languages and playing name that word, when a middle-aged Libyan woman, dressed in their usual black burka approached us and with a smile and declared that she can speak English. As we were walking home, JG mentioned that he saw a number of Filipinos in the store, and I found it ironic that it took a Libyan to help me, when there were a number of others who could have instead.


Also, I mentioned my landlord who has been very helpful with the house and our questions. He even helped me apply for internet connection today, and got his friend to fix our sink free of charge. Another new Libyan friend is the friendly cab driver Mr. Mohammed (I am hardly giving away his identity because it seems that almost everybody is named Mohammed here in Tripoli), Mr. Mohammed is a phone call away and will take you wherever you need to go which is very useful to getting around for commuters like me; he speaks a little English, enough for a good conversation, and he also drives like he is in an F1 circuit which is why someone from the embassy dubbed him the Shumacher of taxi drivers. But him being my on-call cab surpasses any transport service; today he drove me to the mall, told me he will wait for me so I wouldn’t have a hard time finding another cab, but also told me to take my time, even helped me find some items as my translator.


There are also fellow foreigners like me who have found their home here in Libya. Today I met Almed, who owns a nearby vegetable store. Almed is Egyptian, and shook my hand, introduced me to his cousin, and said that he was very glad to meet me (complete with hand gesture). Then there are the colored Africans from the south, who JG explains are like the OFW’s of their countries, leaving their homes and families, to find jobs here in Tripoli. My heart always goes out to them because, now that I am living far from home, I understand how it feels to be homesick and be confined to the notion that you are not in your comfort zone.

 (sorry still no pictures to post for you yet, haven’t gotten around to charging my digicam…)

So far that is how life is here in Tripoli, I still have a lot to write about but I’m beat, so to be continued…


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