I connected with Khadija Teri through Facebook and my Libyan friend here in Los Angeles, Mahmud Abudaber. It’s been fascinating comparing notes on life in Libya and to read of her experiences during the recent war in Libya. I suggested we swap blogs and she agreed. One of my blogs describing my Tripoli adventures in the 1950s is on her blog site today (the link is at the end) and her reminiscences are below:
I met my husband on a humid Florida evening when I was sixteen. A friend of mine introduced us. She’d been telling me about him for months and begged me to meet him, but I wasn’t interested. Then one evening when were working together on a school project, she went into the other room to phone him and invite him over without my knowing. We met and it was like magic. I was intrigued by this man from Libya. He was so different from any guy I’d ever met and it wasn’t long before we knew that we wanted to spend the rest of our lives together.
Two and a half years later we were married. There was never any doubt that someday we’d move to Libya, but we never really made any plans. We held off having a family while my husband studied and I worked. Then, after being married for six years, our lives changed; our first child was on the way and it was time…time to make the move to Libya. I’d never lived outside of the United States, in fact the only time I had ever even left the country was when I was thirteen on a family trip to Niagara Falls. Libya was going to be a whole new adventure.
Sometimes, I take time to stop everything, find a quiet place, relax and think about all the many blessings in my life. Lately I’ve been thinking about how over thirty years of my life has been spent with my husband, and how twenty-three of those years have been spent in Libya. Wow! That ís a long time, nearly half of my life in Libya.
I remember the day I arrived; actually it was nighttime when my flight got in. I was all alone and the security at the airport led me to a waiting area and told me to have a seat. I had arrived without a visa and had to wait for my husband to sort it out. The lighting was poor, and everything was coated in a layer of dust; the floor looked as though it had never been swept, ever. Hanging on a bracket on the wall was a television blaring patriotic songs. A woman wearing traditional dress was singing with her arms outstretched, the camera angle shifting from left to right. Several similar songs later I was still waiting, and waiting and waiting. I’d stepped into a different time zone with an entirely different concept of time than what I was used to.
Finally my husband arrived. He looked really harassed but I somehow knew not to mention it. We headed towards the luggage claim area. By this time all the other passengers had gone. My suitcases were the only ones left, the sides had been slit open with a knife and the contents had spilled out onto the floor. We collected all the bags and tried to shove everything back into the openings and proceeded to customs. The customs officer let us through without looking at anything – probably because they’d already looked.
We made our way to the car, a very, very old Peugeot, where some of my brothers-in-law were waiting. I can’t remember how many there were because by this time I was so overwhelmed that I didn’t really care. I just wanted to go to wherever my new “home” was and rest.
The drive “home” was fast and crazy. It was dark and the roads were a blur. When we finally slowed down, I could see streets full of garbage and old junk cars abandoned on the sides of the roads. I asked my husband “Is this the slums?” He looked at me and replied, “This is our neighborhood.” What a shock! Only later would I find out that all of Tripoli looked that way.
Upon arrival at my new home, I was greeted by the rest of the family. My mother-in-law gave me a warm hug and then held me at arm’s length to have a look at me. My husband had always said that his mother was tall but the top of her head was at the level of my chin. “This can’t be your mother,” I exclaimed. “She ís not tall enough!” I laughed and my mother-in-law looked puzzled. When we explained it to her later she said, “A little boy always looks up to his mother, even when he’s a grown man his mother appears tall in his eyes.”
I lived in a room in my in-law’s house for the first year I was in Libya. Those were difficult days of adjustment and I often look back and think that it was the longest year of my life. But, in reality, spending a year with my in-laws was an important period in my life. It helped me to learn a new language and adjust to new customs, but more importantly, it immersed me into my new family. While I learned to accept them, they learned to accept me.
I’ve been through a lot during my life in Libya: adjusting my entire life, beginning a family, raising my children, building a home, living through a war and now facing the changes that Libya will have to make for a better future. God has given me many challenges along the way and I’m thankful for each and every one of them, because every challenge that I conquer makes me a stronger and better person.
For more of Khadija Teri’s thoughts and adventures in Libya go to her blog: http://khadijateri.blogspot.com/