Jun 22, 2009

Libya & Power of perception

Lately we hear a lot about integration issues in some European countries. We all know the story. Sad to say it is mostly people with Muslim religion which find that they have problems "integrating" in life in their country of choice. Even sadder to say it is mostly people from quite rich European countries which have the problem with "integration" of this particular group of immigrants.

Now, in my opinion these kind of problems existed, exist and will exist in any country in the world. Forever. They are probably never going to be solved completely. So many reasons, one of the less obvious ones is - What are we all going to talk about then? Imagine the boredom. No talk about "these Moroccans coming to France and being rude", "Those Arabs coming to US and bombing stuff", "Those Turks in Netherlands tsc-tscking to Dutch girls", "Those black Africans coming to Libya and breaking in the houses", "Those Algerians in Libya, lazy bastards" "Those Egyptians in Libya, sweet talking liars". (And I guess I better point out here that I am being sarcastic now.) Even if you go to a pure tourist country, where foreigners stay only few weeks at best, locals will always make fun of them, grouped by, say what? Nationality of course.

Integration is not a nice word any more, since it got negative ring to it over time. To start with, the whole idea was born a bit too late. That's how things are done I guess. Most governments are reactive, not proactive.

On the human level, I believe it is the fear of the unknown and fear of change in many of the countries that causes people to behave in strange ways. I hear it in Libya as well- "Go Home Comments" I mentioned in one post is a perfect example of it. The fear that there is someone different, with different culture, opinion, religion and family background who comes often in big numbers to your country that makes locals go berserk. You hear them whispering on the corners "What will happen to us all?", "This is bad..", "She is different..", "What if some of us change..", "What will become of us?"...

So why am I writing this then?
Integration problems in Europe are established. How to solve them, is something that we will be hearing for a long time. Many governments talk a lot and do little. But there is other side of the story as well. "The other way around". How do home countries of these immigrants to Europe treat their own immigrants?

I am an expat, not an immigrant. But as one, I face very similar problems as any other immigrant. I lived in several foreign countries for extended periods of time. Most of those countries were culturally and politically very different from mine. Admittedly, I did not like some of them. Admittedly, I did not "integrate" well in some either since it is easier to just move in expat circles. As expat, I know that I am not going to live in current country forever and that, at times, influences my integration attempts. Expats are a curious sort. We are temp immigrants. And because of that, we are always in minority and at the receiving end of discrimination. As one Libyan told me once - we come, take their money, behave different, generally cause problems (not specified which ones), and then we leave. And to top it off, it's their own government that gave blessing to us being here in the first place. And that can cause resentment.

Not that there is no resentment towards thousand of real immigrants from Algeria, Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, Turkey. They are looked down to, since Libyans as we all know are after all a superior beings. Immigrants from Mali, Niger,Togo, Chad, Sudan, Benin, Ghana, Gabon etc are treated worst. Most of them are here illegally and most are barely treated as humans. I had several illegal workers doing some work for me at different times and the way that their boss talked to them was disgusting.

My personal resentment toward life in Libya is directly linked to how locals behave to me. If someone yells obscene things at you in the street, if people generally stare at you it will not be long before you start disliking the country. And even taking into account the differences in cultures, there is a bottom line in all human relationships - decency and respect. And neither one of many prejudices I face on everyday basis here is caused by having either. These are just some of them.
I am white and blond and do not cover, so I am a slut. I am foreigner, therefore I am rich and should pay higher price than local does and have to resort to bribery to get things done. I am atheist, so I must be what? Insane? Soulless? I am here for the money so I am less worthy. The list goes on.
And all of this examples are disrespectful towards me. Would you treat your mother the same? Hell, maybe you would....

So trust me, I understand how a Muslim person might feel living in some of European countries. There is discrimination against them as well, there are prejudices.
They are backward because their woman "have to" cover. They are stubborn since they do not speak the language. They are at times, even terrorists because several fanatics with Muslim religion blowed up something. Their children are more likely to grow up criminals (dubious statistics), therefore all are criminals. They form strong communities with each other, therefore they do not "cooperate" well in local community.

The only difference is that governments of some European countries are trying to rectify things. Put up laws against discrimination. Help immigrants integrate. Give more opportunities. Form support groups. They at least try to rectify things on legal level. It is not enough, the damage is done and much more has to be done much faster. But at least there is talk.

You want to wear a headscarf to school and to work and not be stared at. I want to be able to wear what I want as well and not be stared at. How does that sound? Could it be, uhm, Same?

The bottom line is that both situations hurt us all on a personal level. I don't give a shit about your government, and you don't give a shit about mine. What we do care about is how citizens of a country we live in treat us. That's what matters.

You want your culture to be respected, your religion to be accepted, your lifestyle to be left alone. And I want the same for myself. So we could all start by extending this courtesy to immigrants in our own countries.

I always treated immigrants (if I am bothered enough to distinguish) in my own country with human decency and respect. And I always will. Because you see, I know I am not better than them. And because I do not believe that treating someone else as bad as I am treated here will make things better. For him, for her, and most importantly (humans are selfish beings) for me.

Apr 27, 2009

Libya & Trash Everywhere

Lately we noticed people working next to airport road. They seemed to be collecting trash along the road. They pick up vast amounts of trash along the road and pack them in blue plastic bags. Shocking, no?
Shocking because even the most newbie expat (and non-expat) to Libya notices culture of trash here.

Only recently and only in some areas of Tripoli there is organized trash collection. Well, organized to an extent. The trucks used for collection are more often than not run down DAFs from the 60s. The sides of truck-bed are made higher with cardboard boxes or old spring mattresses. The crew stands on the trash pile in the back (!) and poor guys have to use their hands to sort through the trash so it wouldn't fall of the truck. One guy is on the street level and he is in charge of getting the trash bag and flinging it to other guy on top of the trash pile. Sometimes people do not use plastic trash bags but just pour their trash in the can. Then, the whole can has to be flung to the top to be emptied. It is horrible job and no one should be working in those conditions. But hey, they are not Libyans so thats ok!

Now, when we go on trips out in the country, very often we see huge piles of trash strewn across the nature. It sure makes it difficult to snap trash free pic. It looks like some of those "organized" trash collection companies are taking shortcuts to deposit. If there is an official trash depot in Tripoli, which I doubt. Maybe there is even a high-tech trash burning facility hidden somewhere?

Now, this organized trashing of the Libyan nature aside, there is also unorganized and much more personal trashing going on. Every day, anywhere you go there is a huge chance that you will see a Libyan casually flinging coffee cup, plastic bag, cigarette, cigarette box and what not out of his/her car window. Once I counted 23 trash objects flung out from 21 different car windows while driving or waiting on the traffic light. 2 of them threw out several things in a succession. Spring cleaning perhaps? And you know what, none of these people looked even slightly embarrassed.
It is considered normal here. They just do not understand the concept of a trash bin. Maybe they do not understand it because there barely are trash cans put up by the community. Maybe because they just do not get that what they throw out of their window will end up in their plate in the end.

I can not comprehend how can people be so uneducated about the effect of the trash. Hell, I take it back, this is not only education, this is pure common sense. If you do not want to have it in your bloody car, why do you want to have it next to the road?? Why can you not wait until you can put it in a trash bin?? This approach as it is not-their-problem once it is out of the window is mind boggling for me.

I have seen cats with plastic bags hanging out of their buts. They eat the trash which is flung all around the nature in Libya. I have seen dogs with plastic bags hanging out of their buts too. Shocked with vulgarity? Do not be, you probably help it happen. How many plastic bags you have in your car after you finished shopping in Tripoli? 20? 30? You think I am exaggerating?
Here, individual bottle of shampoo is packed into separate plastic bag so it would not, god forbid, touch yogurt bottle. The fact that fridge in which said yogurt bottle sits in, is not working half of the time is not a problem. But hey, we would not want it to be touching with something so dangerous as a closed shampoo!! I had tugging wars at the beginning where I would pack everything in the same bag and packing helper would take it all out (!) and spread it through 10 different plastic bags. I tried bringing canvas bag into shops, but I admit I gave up after too many strange situations.

Here, we have a big garden and by default, every time wind spell ends I go around and collect flown in trash. I climb the trees, I crawl into bushes, I fish it out of the pool. Plastic bags, cookie packages, crisps bags, ice-cream cartons, coffee cups, chocolate wrappers etc. My trees looked this winter like haunted Christmas trees with all the plastic stuff hanging and dancing on their branches. Now, the leaves came out and I can pretend I do not see it anymore.

When they do not fling it out, they sure burn it. My northern neighbours are experts in it. Every week several times they pile up their trash and light it up. Of course the smell aside, trash burned on low temperatures tends to emit toxic chemicals which then end up in my lungs. And sadly, since children absorb 6 times more pollution through their lungs than adults, it also ends up in their childrens lungs. The health impact is staggering, but no one here cares. Some of the most dangerous things to burn are PVC products, coloured papers, and food wrappers. Hm, could it be....

When we first came here, we looked for a nice private beach where I can sunbathe. We eventually found one west of Sabratha. It was cool place and I enjoyed being there. But. To get there we had to drive through salt planes which were covered with so much trash of such amazing variety that for first several times we went there I had to snap tons of pics. Just so people back home would believe me.
Now, situation has not changed for the better and we stopped going there.

It is devastating situation, and one that will have influence on every human being and every animal that will live in these areas for hundreds of years. But hey, all is good right? As long as Libyans get nice new cars and some extra petty cash from oil. That is how it is now.

I believe you can see development of a country by how it treats its trash. And immigrants, but that's another post. In Libya it is crystal clear how developed it is. Current priority of citizens is to have flashy new cars and mobile phones and spend as much money as they can on trivia. Its all about money here and how you show it to your neighbors. And its fine. It is human nature. And understanding what happens with trash when we are done with it does not mean you can't have that flashy car..

As for Libyan government? They will eventually realize the escalating problem with trash they have on their hands and start to deal with it. Now the priority is to put enormous amount of oil money into urban development of Tripoli in the vain hope Tripoli will one day resemble Dubai . So it is understanding that there is nothing left to build one decent trash plant? Recycling yard? One pathetic plot of land? No?

Apr 7, 2009

Something nice

*Courtesy of YouTube.

Apr 1, 2009

Libya & Spring

P.S. Maybe some of you noticed that some pictures from this post are missing now. Well, that would be because blogger is acting out again. Will fix it another day..

Mar 29, 2009

Libya & Heat Wave

I mean - What the heck?!

I am sitting in my living room sweating like a pig. I try not to rest my hands on laptop as I type since it is too hot. I try to keep my feet planted on the floor tiles which were cool few hours ago. Now in order to cool my feet I have to move them a bit left and then right once I heat up the spot. Even my head feels hot. I drink ice water with lemon wedges.

However I refuse to put airco on, since it is only March. MARCH. And since it will just make matters worse if I go out for even a sec.

We measured 38C yesterday. In shade. Today is a bit cooler (but house heated up since I figured its going to be cool today and left all doors open all night - HA!!) - 32C. That bloody gibli was blowing yesterday adding more sand into the house. At least I think it was gibli - sure was hot enough.

Its all making me feel like its summer. Only its not. Ah, the beauty of Libya.

If only I had cold beer in the fridge...

Mar 22, 2009

Libya & Power of Speech

I noticed this pattern in behavior long time ago. And it has been bugging me since. I am referring to comments that Libyans leave on different blogs (mine included). Now, this is about Libyans that leave comments, I am sure that there are plenty out there who think differently but do not bother to comment.

Every time I read about some even slightly sensitive topic (and trust me, ALL topics on Libya are sensitive), there are at least 10 comments telling that person off. And its always the same. Commentator will say something along the lines - you are wrong, its not like that.

Once I stumbled upon a blog entry of local Libyan girl. She was saying that (some) young woman in Libya are not happy with having to wear head cover. She was saying that there is no real choice, because if a girl/woman does not wear it, society (often male part of it) pushes it on her. She wished that Libya is more tolerant and that young woman had more choice in their lives.

The answers were as usual. Several comments just claimed that - Libyan woman like to wear head covering so she is wrong. Several commentators said that that men do not care either way, but woman in Libya are free to do what they want and they ALL want to wear it. Between these 2 types of comments there was a third one - "We love Libya, Libya is beautiful country". I see it often here, this need to proclaim that Libya is best country in the world. Even if it would be, that is not an argument, but mere statement not supported by fact. Anyhow, it was just weird to read.

On blog entries such as that one, poor blogger is going to be attacked from all sides to "show" that it is not like that in Libya.

The whole thing reminds me of sheeps. One goes certain way and all have to follow. "Black" sheep is going to be attacked from all sides and pushed back into the herd. And clubbed over the head for misbehaving. But that is if Libyan says something "wrong".

But if you are a foreigner and you write something Libyans disagree with? The response is swift and to the point - leave Libya! (emphasized by stomping their little leg on the sand road).

I must ask - why is that? Why is it that if I write something you disagree with, your comment is so extreme? Not only I should stop writing it, I should LEAVE Libya completely. Why can you not handle different opinion or point of view?

I have received several comments which end with - Go Home. Some of them are published, some are not. So I ask you - are there only 2 options here - agree with Libyans (that comment) and write only what they "approve of" or Go Home?

Mar 10, 2009

Libya & Why Me God?

Ah, there we go. You know how every bad deed goes punished? Or so they try to teach us in primary schools? Well, maybe not any more, but they used to.

Well, I obviously did something wrong. And now the Wrath is upon me. Or it is just a coincidence?

First there was a toilet. Then it broke. And not just broke, no-no, it leaked. Leaked! All over the floor. And does our bathroom have a drain on the floor? Well of course it does. And are the tiles tilted towards it? DON'T BE RIDICULOUS!!!!! Naturally, they tilt toward the bedroom. And did the toilet at least have the decency to leak loudly so I can hear it and start jumping around in a clown manner? (You know, that little frantic dance you do when you are pissed off and no one is watching?) Well, of course it didn't (insert manic laugh here)!! The bastard leaked in silence.

Just when I moped the floor and calmed myself down (long process mainly including fantasizing that I live somewhere else) dishwasher leaked. Luckily for me the dishes inside were not dirty. They were caked-up mushy drippingly dirty. And where is the kitchen floor tilted to? Why yes, towards our new fridge of course. And did that happen loudly? Of course not! I must however, acknowledge the luck I had when I walked in the puddle (it came under the fridge but then apparently decided to invade the center of the kitchen as well) and did not fall on the slippery slope and hit my head in the kitchen counter. If I did, I would surely realize while wiping blood from the cupboards, that the leak was actually in the cupboard and not under the dishwasher. In that case I would not keep squeezing mopped up puddle into the sink....

I must have been watched by the snickering Gods (yes, plural) when the amount of fluid I squeezed in the sink finally decided to overflow from the cupboard on my clean pants. And feet. And the surprise of it made me finally slip and fall.

The End.