Hosted by: Cynthia Swanson & Andrew Swanson

Once Upon a Time in Libya – Part 1

Our memories are made up of stories–moments in time that are so vivid they forever live within us. When I think about it, it’s kind of amazing, really. One of my most vivid memories of childhood are from the years I was eight and nine, when me and my family lived in Libya, right before Qaddafi kicked the Americans out of his country for good.

My first memory of Libya was driving to our villa in a village near the Air Force base.  I was almost eight.  As we drove through the village, three things struck me: the butcher shop had partially butchered meat, heads still attached, hanging outside, flies swarming around the carcasses; the women wore clothing that completely covered their entire body, except for one eye to see with; and the men bathed outdoors in an open pool.  Talk about culture shock.

Our house was one of four villas set in a quad, each separated from the others by tall fences and metal gates, with a central courtyard between them.  The ceilings were so high, I felt like I was living in a palace.  I had my own room, with a brand new bed, while my two brothers shared one (the youngest had just been born six weeks before).  We had a dog–I don’t remember what kind–but I remember I adored her.

And the tall walls around the place?  They were supposed to keep out the lizards–not the teeny ones you see in the pet stores, but big ones.  It didn’t always work, and we had several of them in the yard.

My dad was always one to make friends wherever he went, and this was no different.  By the time we arrived, he had made friends with the village mayor, who roasted peanuts.  He would always bring us a bag of his fresh roasted peanuts when he came to visit, but before he would enter the house, he always took off his shoes and washed his feet.  He and my dad got on very well.

I was in second grade when we moved to Libya.  We had to wait outside the quad for the schoolbus, which shuttled us to the school on the base.  Waiting for that bus in the mornings was where I first experienced fear, as a taxi cab driver started trying to run us down.  The first time it happened we thought it was a fluke, but it happened again and again, so we told our parents.

My dad had a word with the mayor.  We never saw the taxi driver again, and were left alone after that.

But that was nothing compared to what came later.

Categories: Random Thoughts

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