Salaam to Libya
The people of Libya are very friendly and welcome foreigners with open arms. Theirs had been a closed society and under the long oppressive regime of Gaddafi, they had very little contact with the outside world.
Now that they have gained their freedom, granted that there are still battles to fight to gain control over Sirte and Bani Walid before the whole of Libya is liberated, free from the grip of the dictator; they are free to express themselves. In days of old they could not even trust their neighbors and Gaddafi's name could not pass their lips for fear of being reported and arrested.
In my last run in Misurata, I walked into a building that suffered quite a bit of destruction and did a little bit of exploration. It must have been used as a battle ground. The ceilings were down, shattered glass covered the floor and papers strewn all over the place. It is not unusual to find spent shells and cartridges on the ground. On the second floor more of the same except up here were windows through which shooting and firing must have occurred. Through one of the windows, I could see the school that Walid said Gaddafi attended and the gate to a garden on which were scrawled "Fxxx Gaddafi".
A few days ago I ran past the make-shift war memorial that displayed captured Gaddafi's weapons. A father was looking over the display with his daughter and son. When he saw me, he enthusiastically opened the gate to the display and narrated to me what he knew of the various kinds of weapons in his broken English, that Gaddafi had used the heavy machinery to kill his own people and how Libyans captured these weapons and used them against him. He was so into the narration that his daughter had to remind him that she might be late for school.
During my last few days in Twarga and Kararim, I worked with Dr. Muhammad, a Libyan from Tripoli who spent his free time volunteering all over Libya. Volunteering made him happy, he explained that helping people touched a chord in his heart. He showed up one day at the clinic and rolled up his sleeves and worked alongside me. He was quiet, gentle and reflective. He spoke with a calm demeanor and without a trace of bitterness about the situation of Libya then and now. He expressed his hopes and desires for his country and for the people of Libya, that they would respect their new-found freedom and the rights of their neighbors, that they would not harbor malice or ill-will towards pro or anti-Gaddafi factions, that they would look past all that and work together to build a new Libya.
Muhammad was also opposed to big families which he thought was one of Libya's problems. Each family consists of eight and ten members and some men have multiple wives. He recalled the biggest family he knew was a fifty-year-old man with four wives and thirty-five children. One day the man called a boy over and asked him, "Who is your father?"
The boy replied, "You!"
Angrily he said,"Go to your mother."
He had so many children that he could not recognize one of his own.
It rained fairly heavily one afternoon for about twenty minutes, at the end of which a rainbow appeared--a rainbow of hope for the people of Libya? The cool breeze was welcoming. A tabby cat lurked at the gate of our clinic. I offered it my spaghetti lunch, by this time she had run and hid under a car, she did not care for it. I peeled three pieces of laughing cow's cheese and that she ate heartily. Even a war time cat became rather picky unlike the undiscerning camels.
In my last few days in Libya, I felt in my bones that the war was nearing its end. I wished very much to remain for a few more weeks to witness the victory and the joy and relief of the Libyans. In any case I am glad to be here to witness history unfold for the Libyans. The Freedom Fighters and the medics are tremendously brave people fighting for freedom for their country and saving lives in the front lines. The people who are forced to flee the cities are suffering now and I hope it is not for long, insh' Allah that peace will prevail and all of them will return to their homes to rebuild their lives and to enjoy their freshly-minted freedom.