One of the many things JG and I looked forward to coming here in Libya is visiting the historical ruins. Last week, we finally got the chance to do so when we went to Sabratha.
JG is a big history geek and he really gets a kick out of places like that. In fact, I think that if he were to choose between being posted in Los Angeles where he can live five minutes via train ride to Disneyland or here in Tripoli where he can visit Sabratha an hour away by car, he’d choose Tripoli.
I, on the other hand is not a very big fan of History. Next to Math, I never liked History when I was in school. I always thought I sucked at it, compared to my smarter classmates who could memorize tons of facts; by that I mean dates, names, dates, places, have I mentioned dates?
But when I met JG he showed me a very simple way to appreciate the past – and that is to look at it as a story. Looking back I realized that none of my teachers ever made look at History that way. I am a product of the public school system, and however proud and grateful I am of the opportunity to free education, our history class would often involve 40 minutes of reporting in front of the class, droning everything from the book. And since quizzes and exams always requires you to fill the correct names, places, and of course dates on the blank; I just kept highlighting every proper noun I could spot while skimming and listing as many dates as possible.
And so ever since JG, whenever we would see a movie based on historical events, stay at home on a red letter day, or in last week’s case visit a historical place I need not check the books or hire a historian as a guide – for I had my own personal factual story teller. Through JG names, places, and dates became heroes, landmarks, and dates of commemorating a celebration, others of mourning, or simply a day of remembrance.
If I had went to Sabratha ten years ago, I would just seen well-preserved rocks. And there was a possibility that since I have a thing for nice beaches, I would have probably ignored the entire ruins and ran to the shore and took a dip. Actually, I still would have (in fact I brought my swimwear complete with my snorkeling gear just in case, it was too cold however that day so too bad for me). But because of my new found perspective, I was able to appreciate our visit to the amazing remnants of the Roman Empire.
I could imagine the people watching in the old theater, enjoying performances like dancing, comedy scenes and some divinities.
The now empty streets and small alleys, were probably once bustling with people; vendors, tradesmen, seafarers, philosophers, and foreigners from the other side of the Mediterranean.
There were some parts where we could still get a glimpse of everyday things and norms like small baths where they would lounge around or use the outdoor benches with holes used to taking dumps even in public.
Or even the corners and small rooms which were probably used as dungeons for prisoners and even wild animals.
I would also like to add how impressed I am with how the many generations of Libya was able to recognize the treasure that they have in their own backyard, and preserve it for the future generations others like me and JG to see.
I cannot help but compare; back home in Antipolo where JG and I lived, they have a small waterfall that was once a great place to spend an afternoon swim with the family. Today, the waterfall smells of detergent and at its foot are piles of garbage dumped by unappreciative residents living nearby.
So anyway I really had a blast in what was for me a very unique and much more interesting History class on the Roman Empire’s way of life in 1st century AD. Hopefully in a few months we will get to visit Sabratha’s bigger sister at Leptis Magna. With my trusty tour guide with me, I look forward to getting another glimpse of the past.