Archive for the ‘Libya’ Category
Posted on August 10th, 2011 by admin. Filed under Libya.
Posted on August 4th, 2011 by admin. Filed under Libya.
Where approximately 2-300 women and children sleep (some dads too):
& how the rebel fighters get on sleeping on the rooftop of the boat:
After experiencing both, I’ll stick with the rebels. They’re actually quieter.
I had no intention of coming to Libya, more less Misrata, a place I followed in the news nearly all of April and May. I associated Misrata with vicious street battles, journalist’s deaths, and an apocalyptic downtown. But after becoming friends with so many Misratans in the hospital in Tunis I began to associate it with something else: unparalleled bravery, warmth and generosity.
One thing I heard over & over again from my friends in hospital was that they would gladly die for Misrata. They were not full of hot air or bravado. Many had already paid with their lives and limbs. One man I met with lost both legs. He kissed his fingers & pointed to the sky, “Allahu Akbar. I love Misrata.” I was shown a cell phone video of him just moments after his amputations, still under anesthesia; he moaned “Misrataaa… Misrataaaa… Allah.. Misrata…” Damn, I thought: I could care less about San Francisco. What is it about this Misrata that so many would die for? And not just anyone would die for, but these men, who i have grown to think of some of the kindest people I’ve ever met in my life. Growing up in America I don’t feel that sort of passion about nearly anything. I wanted to get closer to it, to understand it & inshallah maybe even experience it for a moment.
Misratans in hospital told me “Welcome anytime” over & over. I had over a dozen families who would take me in, including some of my favorite patients who had since returned to Misrata after 2 months of recovering in Tunis. Everyday a hospital I grilled Libyans with questions about Misrata. Sure it’s not 100% safe but many assured me that the city center for the most part is, minus the occasional randomly falling rocket. I wanted to hear what I wanted to hear… and, when I dug deeper, the news backed this up.
The frontline is now more than 30 kilometers outside of the city – though the city is surrounded by fronts on three sides. The fourth side is the Mediterranean Sea — the only way to reach Misrata these days is by boat. I met men who made the sea journey “all the time,” they invited me to go with them. It began appearing more and more viable and safe. I reached out to an NGO & made potential arrangements to volunteer in a field hospital to have some some semblance of purpose and safety.
It took a week rather than 24 hours to get here, but after a few taxis, planes and boats, I eventually made it…
Posted on July 27th, 2011 by admin. Filed under Libya.
Hi from Benghazi Libya… flew here from Tunis early yesterday morning after the Sfax, Tunisia – Misrata boat hit a snag. My place on last thursday’s boat was sabotaged by over-protective Libyan friends, but it was a blessing in disguise. The boat left 3 days after schedule. Many of the injured, and even a dead body, patiently waited on the boat those 3 days because they couldn’t afford hotels in the meantime.
I had been told the boat was small, sexy, fast. But friends on the boat told me otherwise. They said it was like one of the boats refugees take to Lampedusa: unsafe, too small. Once they set sail waves were reportedly 7 meters/21 feet high. Water actually began crashing into the boat. Those on the boat were survivors of war and injury, yet many said the boat ride was the scariest experience of their lives. The captain informed them that after 9 hours at sea they would need to turn around or the boat would sink.
They tried to dock in Djerba, but were refused. They could only get permission to dock in Gabes, about 3 hours from Sfax, where they began their journey. Many couldn’t afford the bus fare to Sfax, so they are still on the boat, asking that the next boat — an old, slow, giant, but secure one — stop in Gabes before Sfax. They’re waiting until Thursday with fingers crossed. The dead body was transported back to Tunis, it won’t be going to Misrata.
What can I say about Benghazi? Sadly, my first impressions are more about cost than anything (it’s blood expensive). I only know people in Misrata and Zintan, so not really gelling w/ the city so far. It wasn’t my plan to come here, but i was told I’d have much better luck catching a boat to Misrata from Benghazi. Unfortunately boats aren’t running as often as they were from Benghazi either. I may need to catch a flight to Malta to catch the boat to Misrata. Inshallah i make it to the famed city of heros (my friends), Misrata. It’s all up to the logistics Gods now…
I’m in a hotel room overlooking Tahrir square in Cairo. Just a few hours earlier there were more scuffles fires, glass and rocks being thrown, not to mention man grunts and yelling. There are a few hundred out there still cheering, screaming & occasionally roughing someone up. This used to do it for me. Do it for me, meaning, make me feel i’m in the midst of the action, something remotely part of history (this is Egypt after all). But to tell you the truth, I don’t find it very interesting anymore. Maybe i’ve mellowed.
I spent the past month in Tunis, Tunisia. At first i thought: what is up with this place? there are no protests like in Tahrir, people seem more subdued, and, let’s face it, it’s a gorgeous & relatively clean city. Usually nothing very attractive to me, but then i relaxed a bit, saw that the same issues exist, except they are dealt with very differently than in Cairo. I made friends with wonderful Tunisians & even Americans, Germans & Italians. I ate great food, spent much time at the beach… quieter conversations, but still meaningful and deep.
Some of my more memorable conversations and moments were occasionally under an umbrella drinking a fresh strawberry juice, but more likely, it was at the hospital. I could spend hours, days & lifetimes sitting with the group of Libyan Freedom Fighters who are healing in hospital in Tunisia. First off, their bravery to fight for what they feel is right — and often pay with their lives — is something i know nothing about. More than that it’s who they are as people. Caring, generous, hospitable, heart-felt, and even funny despite the grave circumstances. I will attempt to put these experiences into words in the coming days. But most of all, what I’m trying to say (it’s late & i’m tired) is that being in there presence was healing.
I became friends with a man who used to race cars, spin wheelies in parking lots and collect traffic tickets while completing his last year of law school. 2 months ago he was hit by a Rocket-Propelled Grenade (RPG) in the chest. His heart stopped beating. A doctor in Misrata pulled his heart out and started pumping it in his hand. He made it. He can’t see, his speech is slurred & he can only move his right hand, though it shakes… still, he smiles, has a great sense of humor, and is gorgeous. He could be any of us. A normal guy going about his life. And then he had no choice but to fight rather than let his city, family & friends be wiped out. His brother always sits with him, also smiles & is genuinely interested in interacting with visitors even though he is witnessing something so heart breaking.
I finally declared one of the Freedom FIghters my boyfriend. i don’t know why i chose him, i just did. Later i found out he was leader of his group. He showed me video footage of the exact moment he was shot by snipers on Tripoli street in Misrata & I watched as many who respect and admire him came to visit. I never knew someone so brave, more less declared one my boyfriend. On top of all his amazing qualities, and his handsome looks, he is absolutely hysterical. And is sweet like no other. My last nite in hospital he made me sit down as he spoon fed me his salt free hospital dinner. By far the romantic dinner I’ve ever had. I must note he is not actually my boyfriend. He’s not the type to have any girlfriend. I’ve so much to say on that topic & will soon, but…
I’m catching a flight to Kurdish Iraq in the morning. So i must go. Wherever i go i’m always thinking about not just these two men, but the dozen of others (& women) i met too. Will do my best to tell their stories in the coming weeks. And, i will definitely without a doubt make it back to Tunis after Iraq. It’s impossible not to. So this is my little story why I’m not so interested in the yelling & screaming & honking testosterone-fueled crowds in the street below.
The majority of the Libyans I’ve met in hospital are males (of all ages & backgrounds), but there are also women who have been injured by Gaddafi’s bombs, bullets and tanks. Not only are they dealing with life-altering injuries, most are grieving the loss of sons, husbands and fathers in a place far from home.
The other day I met a sweet Libyan girl who’s in hospital for different health reasons. A change of pace, we had a tea party. She made us all drink tea, then juice, then she de-seeded my pretend watermelon, washed & dried the dishes, made the rounds to be sure we ate every last morsel of ‘food’ and finally, insisted we have one more cup of tea before we left.
- Some photos from Misrata… stories to follow.
- The Boat to Misrata (Libya): Men’s quarters vs. Women’s quarters
- Why I had to visit Misrata (Libya).
- Greetings from Benghazi, Libya
- Just another day in Cairo…