Out of Towners – Benghazi

Part of JG’s job is to represent the Embassy and the Ambassador whenever he cannot attend functions or programs. Last weekend JG was sent to Benghazi to do just that. And since we both haven’t there, he took me along.

Benghazi is an hour’s plane ride from Tripoli where a number of Filipinos are either stationed there for work or has found their true calling and made it their permanent home. We were told that the program would be an awarding ceremony for a basketball tournament that they organized for the Filipinos there. When we arrived, they also explained to us that it is also a fund-raising event, but most importantly a way for them to bond and celebrate the spirit of camaraderie.

I’m not going to go into details, but I would like to mention how much of the camaraderie they spoke of shinned not only in the program but also in the small unguarded interactions I noticed among the people there. Awarding programs are usually formal and at times very serious, but it felt more to me like being a guest in a family reunion; everybody seemed so tight and warm amongst each other. I also can’t help notice how truly simple everybody is there. Even the way everybody spoke is so grounded. Those who know me well would tell you that I can be very boisterous; but because everybody there spoke so softly, I couldn’t help but watched how I spoke, it was so contagious.

As I sat there and watched JG hand out trophies and medals, I looked around hoped that every Filipino community (especially small ones such as in Benghazi) has the same kinds of gatherings as what I was joining at that moment. I can only imagine many of Filipinos abroad living alone, away from their loved ones and family. But because of communities coming together like that, at least they can find solace in the company of others, and join an extended second family.

The Khamsa-khamsa store was a treat for me; khamsa is Arabic for five and the store is a bargain clothes shop that retails different kinds of apparel for as cheap as five dinars. In the Philippines, stores like these are called Ukay-ukay. Unfortunately, since owners are only selling bargain products, you really can’t expect the stores’ ambiance to be of the posh kind. But in the Khamsa-khamsa, bargain shopping was such a comfort because the store was as clean as any signature shops in malls.

Unfortunately, due to unexpected minor health issues, JG and I wasn’t able to see as much of Benghazi as we had hoped to. Mind you, we tried; well at least JG did. See our perhaps perpetual challenge as a couple is how we always have two different ideas of how to go about things. But since this my blog, I must insist that my dear husband (no matter how much I love him) can be really difficult sometimes. He makes up his mind and nothing can talk him out of it. He insisted that we explore the city (despite him feeling sick), but also wanted to do it after we checked out of the hotel with only an hour to spare since we were going to be picked up by then.  We didn’t bring much, but I already foresaw how things were going to go. He would complain how heavy my bag pack is, making me feel guilty since he’s sick eventually carry it anyway, walk slowly in the heat of the sun, and then be the grouch that he is when he isn’t feeling 100%. To which all this I’d rather avoid, and just hope to come back some other time. Nevertheless, being the supportive wife that I am, of we went.

We stayed at the Tibetsi Hotel and got as far as the bay near the July 23 Lake (Yes, some places here are named after significant dates like the September 1 road in Tripoli. So don’t get confused when you ask where and be answered when). By that time he was starting to show signs of fatigue and grouchiness, ignoring my attempts of small talk. With his Lonely Planet in hand, he asked me where I wanted to go. Hesitant but still cooperative, I pointed to the Old City and thought that could be interesting to see, but mostly because it was the closest thing for me enough to set a realistic goal to go to. At about 30 paces per 20 minutes, I kind of thought that there is no way we can get to the Old City at that rate. So I suggested we just try to eat at the Italian restaurant close by, to which he thankfully agreed to do. Five more steps and another ten used up minutes, we realized that it was a Friday morning, which in Libya meant, no store open yet. So I asked him if he was still up to this. Defeated, he said no and we ended up settling for the backyard of the hotel and then found ourselves back at the lobby.

The rest of the afternoon we spent in the living room of the nice Filipina who invited us, eating an entire lobster, and watching The Filipino Channel.

It was kind of frustrating that we weren’t able to see much of Benghazi, but unexpected things sometimes just really happen. But it is always nice to be part of a coming-together especially where there is obvious warmth and camaraderie. The site-seeing part, we can always come back for.

View of Benghazi from out hotel room

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