My Libyan Neighborhood

So since I can’t go very far, I thought I’d write about my neighborhood. I mentioned before that JG and I lives in Janzour. The said village is about 30 minutes away from the city, about 20 minutes away from the Sabratha ruins. However, you can’t really pinpoint where I live because Janzour is a big place. I think I mentioned before that the address system here isn’t exactly accurate, so it wouldn’t be smart to tell you my address but even if I did wanted to tell you,  I couldn’t because I don’t know it.

Expats and Diplomats are stationed everywhere here in Tripoli, some live near Qarqaresh, near where most of the nice shops are, some are lucky to live in the more exclusive villages like Regatta,  for a more suburban feel.  JG and I on the other hand chose to live in Janzour for the simple reason that most Filipinos, including almost everyone in the embassy live there. It’s more practical, not to mention safer to be a stone’s throw away from people you know, especially when abroad.

In the city, many of the locals live in tall buildings like a condominium, I’m not sure if the buildings are provided by the government but there are a lot of constructions happening everywhere. In Janzour however, most houses are the stand alone stone ones. Unlike in Qarqaresh, where the homes are a little bit near each other, the houses where I live are bit farther apart from each other. And unlike in the exclusive villages where the houses are all alike, the stone houses in Janzour vary in size, architecture, style.

For example, the house we used to live in I always describe as cute, a small one story stone house painted Mediterranean yellow with a little touch of green, with small white windows looking out a small front garden. In front of it, is a two storey house, designed with colorful tiles, and wide glass windows on the second floor.  Outside is dusty road similar to the last one you passed, so it is important you make note of the houses with unique styles to avoid getting lost.

Of course houses here have similarities as well, aside from it being made entirely in stone, even the ceiling. Most homes have small windows, the kinds that closes almost airtight I guess to avoid the dust from seeping in the house all the time. And every home has both water tanks and a satellite dish on their roofs.

What is new to me living in this neighborhood a year is the very different schedule of the people activity. Where I grew up, my neighbors are up and out at the crack of dawn; grandma’s sweeping the front of their house, kids going to school, someone walking by with still drowsy eyes carrying a bag of hot pandesal (bread) back to the house for breakfast. In the afternoons, the older boys play basketball at the corner basketball court, in front of the resident sari-sari (a little of everything) store are the much older men around a small sharing a bottle of gin, last night’s leftover, and exaggerated stories of their machismo and manly philosophy.  It can still be very busy at night but mostly everyone is insider watching the local news while waiting for the popular telenovela. Point is, where I come from everyone is out during the day, and not at night.

But here it is exactly the opposite, I suppose it’s because of the heat, you look outside and during the day, and the most you will see are occasional passer-bys. I wonder what they do in their homes all day, wonder if they are like me who am contented in staying inside; or if the big families were like mine, loud chaotic, never dull. But of course come night time, everything comes to life, but of course the most I can see since I don’t go out much at night either. Sometimes I see my neighbors with their kids, whenever they come out to ride their car, occasionally when they open their gates during weekend clean up.

Although from what I can tell they are very nice. Like today, I hear that someone has been watering the plants in my backyard. Turns out my landlord’s wife has probably noticed my neglect to her poor vines and plants and hoses them from her side of the fence. I have heard her do this in the past but afraid that she’ll scold me when she sees me since I don’t take care of her plants, so I just let her. But today she did it with little Hadi.

Hadi is her daughter maybe about 8 years old. I met her a few days after we moved when she stuck her little head out on the other side of the wall on the front yard. She looked adorable with her pigtails and bright smile, she said hi, so I said hi back.  We made introductions the best way we can, “I’m Joanna”, pointing to my chest, “Isme Hadi”, she says pointing to hers. Turns out Hadi wanted to ask if she can plug their hose in our water pump to fill their little pool.  We’ve been saying hi ever since.

So anyway today, I could hear Hadi calling me out from the other side of the wall. I was washing our clothes so I was wearing rags (an old shirt three times my size and a pair of JG’s shorts).Reluctant I opened my window and said hi. Long story short, her mom nicely told me that she wanted to make sure to water the plants and through Hadi if they can move the carpets they left in my yard. I said yes, and suddenly found myself opening the gates for the mother-daughter pair and being hauled in the gardens. In the best way they could they told me about the plants around, whilst I kept apologizing for not taking care of them as I should.  She showed me the Olives, the Grapes, the Lemon Tree, etc. During the little tour, she pulled a pomegrate from one of the bushes and handed it to me. I thought the least I could was eat it, in return to my neglecting her plants, and it wasn’t so bad. Very good even.

I could tell that she loved her plants and knows about them a great deal, so I guess by showing them to me, I now found some appreciation for it and promise to do my best to take care of them from now on. At least for the woman who planted them and loves them.

I told them the best I can, although I do not know if they got what I said, that they are welcome to come over if they like, and since it is her plants after all can come and pick whenever she wants to.  I really hope this is a start of a good neighborhood relation despite the language barrier between us. Who knows, maybe if I keep talking to them I might learn Arabic from what I pick from them?

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