Saturday, March 31, 2007

In Memory of...

The last two months marked the departure of some dear ones I have grown up around and known for almost all my life.

Houston, Texas, June 14, 2001
Abdelmajid Bugazia
On March 28, we lost 3amo Abdelmajid Bugazia, an old and dear friend of the family and my father. Although I didn't remember him personally before coming to the US, I've known and heard a lot about him. Apparently, he left Libya when I was very young to remember him. He was very dear to Baba. In June, 2001, I flew to Texas specifically to spend the weekend with him and abla Nazeeha. It was a pleasant time and worth the visit. He kept recalling the times when he knew me as a very little girl.

Houston, Texas, June 14, 2001
Incidentally, he was a friend of Elio, the Benghazino-Greek, and that brought on my meeting with Elio and my stay in Greece. He has a daughter, Najla, whom he was very proud of, and didn't hide it. He was telling me all the time that I am like his daughter Najla, intelligent, determined, and successful. I was so touched. My heart goes out to his family, in the US and Libya, and specifically to abla Nazeeha who had spent with him 56 years.

This is the email message I received from Baba:

"الأخ الكريم السيد عبد المجيد بو جازية انتقل الى رحمة الله تعالى يوم 28 الجارى رحمه الله رحمة واسعة وانا لله وانا البه راجعون والفاتحة على روحه الطاهرة"

Sadaina Staita

On March, my maternal grandaunt Sadaina Staita passed away. Khalty Sadaina was a very interesting, very intellectual lady despite her limited literacy. She was a poet, and a thinker, among many other things. She had a special place in my heart, and I know I did in hers. I felt closer to her than to my grandmother. Maybe because she lived in Banghazi while my grandmother lived in Derna and I didn't get to see her much. We used to visit Khalty Sadaina and spend lovely evenings with her and her daughters abla Nagiba and abla Soad Staita. I always adored and admired her daughters Nagiba, Soad, and Fathia for their sophistication, intellectuality and manners.

There's a funny story behind khalty Sadaina's name. She was the fourth daughter. The first one, was named Zainab (she is the mother of Mustafa el-Bteir of Angham al-Shalal band); the second, Hamida, which means thanked for; the third (my grandmother), Magboola, which means "accepted"; and the fourth, Sadaina, which means "we've had enough!"

Last year, I started the process of approaching khalty Sadaina to feature her in Tibra. Abla Nagiba told me it was not going to be easy to convince her to accept, but she will try her best. I never got to following up on that and pursuing it seriously... while she was still with us. I still hope to feature her someday.

Badi'a al-Hesadi
On February, an old family friend, Abla Badi'a al-Hesadi passed away. Abla Badi'a, was the wife of 3amo Yousef, and mother of Nisreen, Narjes, and Ryad al-Hesadi. We kind of grew up toghether. I have a lot of memories visiting them and spending times with the girls, who were about Fairouz's and my age, on their balcony while our parents visited in the living room inside. We grew away through the years, after moving out of Libya and marriage. However, Baba and 3amo Yousef never lost contact. I believe their friendship goes back to their college days in Egypt, if not to before then in Derna. I don't think one day passes by without them getting together. Abla Badi'a was relatively young--a victim of cancer.

People leave, but their memories remain. Those people were part of my life at some point or the other, and the three of them left an impression somehow. I wanted to write about them, to document their memory and make sure it remains. Hope they are all resting in peace and their memories are cherished by their loved ones!

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Libyan Mental TV... Blog!

Very original and unique blog. There are two videos on the blog so far. Both are hilarious and funny as hell. The videos are a depiction of today's Libya and its youth--with all the contradiction there is! It might not be representative, but still it is part of life in Libya; a part not publicized and not much heard about though a lot know it is there. I hope they make more videos. Go ahead, visit the blog, you'll like it. The headbanger got me big time... I can't get over it, a Libyan headbanger!

Saturday, March 24, 2007

B-Day Delights!

Ayman, Amel, and Safoo

It seems like life is really different after forty. There is calm, there's content, and most of all, there's more self confidence. My birthday this year had been very pleasant and tranquil. I am so touched by how everyone important in my life wished me a happy birthday in a completely different way. What else could one wish for but to be surrounded by wonderful thoughtful husband, children, parents, siblings, nephews and nieces! It is not the physical closeness that matters, but the connect and the tie that surpasses the chronological and geographical separation.

Yesterday, I received my first e-card from Baba. It's animated. I played it over and over, and over, and... I couldn't capture the animation itself to save it, so I just added the text to the card image. I can now read it over, and over, and over... I was in tears when my parents, Noha and her gang called me at work and sang Happy Birthday. I got home, and found a phone message from them singing again!

Shosho greeted me in the morning with this post on her blog. Later when I was leaving work, She and Fairouz called me on the phone. I got home and found A FedEx package on the kitchen island. Inside it was this beautifully-wrapped, nice-smelling gift that had "fairy dust" all over it. It was from Elmagris wrapped by Shosho!

I got an email from Lui saying : "... wish u have a gr8 year full of joy success and happyness and i just realized some how we both are the oldest :P..." Hold, on, I though. I'm not the oldest; what's he saying. I read on, "... since u r ma oldest aunt and im ur oldest nephew." A ha!


Friday, March 23, 2007

Happy First, Hannu (after forty)!

Hana A. Naas

Born: Wednesday, 23 March 1966, Tripoli, Libya.

Yep, Hannu is now officially in her forties, plural, not just forty! From all of us: Happy birthday, Hannu! We love you always.

This is also a good opportunity for some catching up and updating. Today completes Hannu's third week at work, and the fourth week of having the nanny with the kids. Things are finally starting to settle down around here, just as they start revving up again for the next cycle. Spring quarter starts Monday, and the kids soccer/T-ball pre-season practices already started.

Hannu started work on the last week of classes, so it was a little bit of a rcoky start. Having finals and starting a new job is quite stressful, no doubt! On school days, Hana has to get up at 5:30 am, drive almost an hour to work, then drive straight to school, and ultimately get home after 8 pm for a quick bite before our special time of G&G--gurma and green tea. Incidentally, one side benefit of entering a new environment is getting new gurma material. We can give all the bloggers a break now, lol lol. Hana and I both have low blood pressure, and she thinks it has to do with our regular drinking of green tea. I tell her it's not the tea, it's the gurma ya Hannu! :)))

In a tornado some things get picked up, and others get dropped. On week two of having the nanny, Ahmed decided to drop her cell phone in the fish bowl so Gus the fish can talk to him. The next day, Tala decided Gus needed to have a little refreshment, so she got the lemon juice bottle and gave him a few squirts. Luckily Alecja was nearby and got to Gus before he turned into Sushi. So, on some level Hana's transition seemed like a gradual change, but I knew better than anyone that it wasn't just another step. I wanted to write about it on Hannu's first day at work, but I wasn't quite ready... Then I had drafted a post that talked a little bit about Hana's professional background, only to see her beat me to the punch. But there are still some things to say...

When we first got married, Hana did not have any desire to get a job, even though she had worked before and actually had done quite well. Her last job before coming to the US had been the one in Greece, which she already wrote about but left out something interesting, which I'll tell you because it relates to how proud I am of my wife. While in Greece, Hana's family friend and Lebanon neighbor, Uncle Lameen took her to meet an interesting guy. Good old Uncle Elio (or maybe Elihu) is a Greek guy, born and raised in Benghazi, then forced to leave when it was fashionable for Arab dictators to dress like Nazis and oppress! In Elio's case, they could take the boy out of the country, but they couldn't take the country out of the boy. Elio is 'Ayyel Blad, a Benghazi homeboy all the way. Hana said, at dinner, Elio was chatting with Uncle Lameen about old acquaintances in a perfect Benghazi accent, as though he'd never left, remembering gurma details a Libyan, OK? "Aaah, so and so married the son of such and such, had many kids, and her step-cousin from her mother's side was caught selling moonshine in Birka,..." Old Elio left a strong impression on Hannu because of the genuine pride he showed when he found out she was hired from Benghazi to help the Greeks on a technical problem. "'Allimeehum!" he would say emphatically (teach them!), "Warreehum!" (show them!). I don't think he'd ever met her before, but she probably represented every curly haired, chubby little girl in the Benghazi he loved and never lost. Oh, what he might say now!

After having the kids and staying home a while, Hannu (Ms. zerbaza) started to change her mind about working. A little over two years ago, we decided she would go to graduate school, get a degree and enter the job market. She wasn't sure at first what she wanted to study, especially since her BS degree was in computer science and she had really drifted away from the technical side and more into the management side. Of course, I knew from day one :-) her real passion was project management, even though I didn't push her one way or the other. I also knew that she could compete at the highest level in any graduate business school. At first, Hana was a little cautious, maybe a little apprehensive or scared even, and she needed to take little reassurance steps. So she started taking evening continuing education classes for warm up. She took French, then some business communications classes, and she had a great time. She was ready and felt ready then. She started her evening MBA program almost two years ago, and she will graduate in August, right around Tala's birthday. What a life lesson for Tala and Ahmed. I hope they always remember, Mom finished her degree just as they were starting their schooling. I could talk to them until I am blue in the face about determination, the desire to learn and grow, independence, self regeneration, etc. Or I could say, look at Mom!

I wouldn't say it's been an easy ride, but it has been a good ride. I generally like to see the process of learning and personal growth around me, that's why I like teaching. But seeing growth in the ones you love is a whole 'nother' thing all together. I never had a shred of doubt. Hannu is an A student in a ranked, fiercely competitive program. She has been active in and out of the classroom, awarded one competitive scholarship, currently in the running for a Pace Setter Award, and the Fisher School's magazine wants to run a piece on her. If you think I'm proud, you're damn right I am, but not at all surprised! I knew from day one, :-) and I know there is a lot more to come.

A couple weeks ago, the Libyan government decided to weather balloon a ban on women under 40 from traveling without a chaperon. They have since reversed their apparent position, but not before a lot of public reaction to the move, both for and against. Now, most publicized actions of the Libyan government are orchestrated acts for pure publicity, nothing else, and this whole affair may be no exception. But it still brought out some of the caveman mentality that still permeates Libyan culture. Another reason for suspecting the whole affair is that the law and practice of banning women from traveling solo is really nothing new. Of course, there has never been a law banning young males from traveling abroad and doing as they please, or for some of them, doing as much as they can afford in the red light districtis of Valetta, Cairo or Timbuktu. That's why some people say the travel ban is designed to "protect" women, meaning protect them from the kind of behavior that they accept for men. I'll be damned! Do they know that a virtue untested is a weak virtue? Do they know the meaning and taste of being an independent, self-made, self-respecting individual? They really don't know because their life experience never taught them the difference between a dependant and an equal partner. That also means, they never experienced true love, the one that comes by choice not through need, dependency or circumstance. That's the reality of the crippling mud that Libyan women must wade through to get a taste of self realization. Therefore, today, kiss a Libyan woman near you! And to every one who strives toward higher and higher levels of self respect, starting with my Hannu, say after me: 'Allimeehum, Warreehum!

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

From Ennis!

مَلَكٌ يَرِفُّ عَلى سَريري
يَحْنُوْ بأَنْفَاِس الْعِبيرِ
سِرُّ الإلَهِ بِمُقْلَتَيْهِ
وَنَعيِمُهُ في راحَتَيْهِ
أغْلَى مِنَ الدُّنْيَا عَلَيَّا
وأَحَبُّ مَخْلُوقٍ إلَيَّا
أفْدِي الْمَلاكَ السَّاهِرا
قَلْباً عَلَيَّ ونَاَظِراَ
لَو كُنْتُ يوماً شَاعِرا
أَبْدَعْتُ أَجْمَلَ ما تُغَنِّي
عُصْفُورَةٌ في مِثْلِ سِنِّي
وَسَقَيْتُ ضُوَءَ الْفَجْرِ لحني
وحمَلْتُ أُغْنِيَتي لأُمي
أَحْلى أَنَاشيِد الْهَوى قُبُلاتُ أَمِّي

Mother's Day

The kindest face I'll ever see,
The kindest voice I'll ever hear.
The one who cares the most for me
Is my own mother dear.

All through the year
I'll try to do
The things that show
My love for you.
And not be happy just to say,
"I love you, Mother," on Mother's Day

Happy Mother's Day!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Happy Birthday, Nahla!

My little sister, Nahla is 24! She got married last August to Omar, and she is now expecting! I have not seen her wedding pictures yet... so the whole thing is not real for me.

Happy Birthday!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Equality Not!

Recently, there had been a lot of discussion on Libyan blogs, and other pages, of a new Libyan law that bans women under 40 from traveling without mahrem. So, what’s new? What’s all this commotion about? This law is no surprise at all—not one little bit.

I have experienced gender discrimination first-hand in Libya, and in more than one occasion. Let me first set the stage before going into the story of discrimination so you see the ludicrousness of it all.

During my transition from Lebanon to the US back in 1998, I decided to go to Libya and spend some time with my family. I quit my job with Temenos SA as a senior project manager. Temenos, however, didn’t want to let go of me, and offered to hire me as a consultant and send me in short assignments as needed.

One of the assignments was in Greece. Everybody in Benghazi, and their mothers, knew about it. Why? How? Temenos and Informer applied for a visa on my behalf and sent details about my contract with them and the pay to the Greek Consulate in Benghazi. The peeps at the consulate found it amazing that a Swiss and a Greek companies were hiring a consultant—a woman—from Libya and paying her so much on top of covering all her expenses. It was unheard of!

Another assignment was in Egypt, and it was Temenos’ first attempt to introduce Globus there and gain a share in the Egyptian market. The Egyptians sang high and low of how proud they were to see a fellow Arab woman coming in with a European company.

In all the projects I was assigned to, I led meetings with the highest executives in the banks; I conducted demos and training sessions; I led implementation projects. I stayed at hotels in different countries, sometimes for extended periods of time. My professional status and my professionalism was all that mattered to the people around me. I was treated with respect at all times and by all I interacted with.

On my way out of Libya, a second-cousin of mine, Hamooda, drove me to Djerba from Tripoli. At the Libyan border, he instructed me to say that he was a taxi driver, if asked, and not a cousin. He said we could be held and delayed if they found he was my cousin—he was not a mahrem! Oh, I got it, a taxi driver is OK, but a cousin is not? Makes perfect sense!

Come November of 1998, and it was time for me to go back to Libya and head for the US shortly after. I was flying from Athens to Tunisia and then by road to Libya. It was the time of sanctions against Libya. As it happened, 3amo Lamin, a good and old family friend, was traveling on the same flight. It was a pleasant coincidence. I grew very close to amo Lamin and his family while I lived in Lebanon and they became a family to me. Once in Djerba, my ride, Hamooda, didn’t show up, so we took a taxi to Tripoli. We arrived there at the early hours of am, 2 or so. I was supposed to go to sister Fairouz’s but didn’t know the way. I was not familiar with Tripoli. We drove around in Gergaresh for a while, but I couldn’t recognize any landmarks that would lead us to Fairouz’s house, so we headed to a hotel.

At the hotel, the he-receptionist refused to check me in, insisting it was against the law to provide a room to a woman with no mahrem. Amo Lamin offered to give me his room once he was checked in, but the clerk announced that he would call the police if that happened. We got him to wake the manager up hoping he would be more helpful… We were wrong. The manager apologized profoundly and sincerely for there was nothing he could do. He offered me to sit in the lobby till 6am when the breakfast buffet opens, and offered breakfast on him. How generous! I sat there, and amo Lamin refused to go to his room and stayed with me. He couldn’t go and rest knowing that I can’t have that, he said.

I was so humiliated and belittled. In my home country, I was merely a prostitute or a sex-seeking creature until proven otherwise! Now you tell me, would anything surprise me coming from that rotten place called Libya?

Dear Um Dania, before you sing away how wonderful Libya is, how much freedom and respect Libyan women enjoy, and how blessed and privileged they are to live in Libya; please think about this story. Soad, my dear, care not what others think of you, especially the hateful ignorant ones; care what you think of yourself! To my other fellow Libyan females: Stand up for your rights and the rights of all of us Libyan women. Even if it's the right to call a jackass a jackass to his face. Demand that we be respected as complete human beings. Respect never stems from submission or cowardice.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Happy Birthday, Sol!

Sol is 47... well 48, but really 47.

This picture is from his fishing trip in Minnesota back in September 2003. I arranged the surprise trip for him with our dear friend Bagzi. Wish he could go again!

Happy Birthday!