Ten Years Away From Libya

Libya toughened us up after an indulgent few years in Asia. Both G and I have speculated that perhaps once we’d got through those first three months in Tripoli, we realized we could accomplish anything if we stuck together.

One of my strongest memories and perhaps a pivotal moment in our marriage involved G arriving home from a particularly harrowing day. We were in temporary housing and just about everything that could have gone wrong, had gone wrong. I didn’t have a car, a telephone, and we couldn’t find a permanent house. It was stinking hot and I was trying to entertain a 2 year old and 8 week old in a house that had recently hosted a goat as its guest. I felt like I was under house arrest.

We had been taken back in time. No cell/mobile phones and a very dodgy computer with an almost non existent network. The week had began with me infecting G’s entire workplace with an email virus. G had warned me not to open anything suspicious that arrived in my inbox and to be particularly careful with attachments as he really wasn’t meant to give me the password to the office network. I opened the wrong attachment.

I think that nasty little worm had done about two hours worth of damage before G came flying through the door saying “Disconnect from the network!” I couldn’t face any of his colleagues for over a week and it took his boss about a month before he could make eye contact with me again. Oh happy times.

In the same week we were of course told our shipment was yet again delayed, we’d been promised it would arrive weeks before. My visa hadn’t come through so an escape was out of the question and one of the girls was sick. There wasn’t a person left in Libya that hadn’t seen my boobs, the second little traveller was refusing to take a bottle and maybe because of the heat was feeding every couple of hours. We were all sleeping in the same room because we knew there was a rat (or two) wandering around the house.

I was desperate to get home, more than I’ve ever been before. I was lonely, pining for our life in Asia, and sick of peeling carrots that were the size of my finger. The only thing that kept me hanging on was we’d finally been taken to a house that we thought we could rent, I knew that once I could set up something of our own it would all get better. We just needed a home.

And then the house fell through.

When G arrived home that night from work looking shattered. I could sense immediately that something had gone wrong. He just looked different, defeated. I found out later that he’d been sitting outside in the car for ages. He was sure that this was going to be it, that I’d ask to go home. When he asked me to sit down I felt a rush of fear. I’d never seen him look the way he did, I was sure someone had died, that the news was really bad.

“The house fell through, we can’t move”.

I was disappointed but overcome by the relief that the news wasn’t fatal.

“Oh well, there must be a better house out there waiting for us, everything happens for a reason, right?”

G was crying, G never cries. He was looking down towards his lap, his hands were shaking and a single tear rolled down his cheek. His voice was quiet.

“I thought you were going to leave. I didn’t want to tell you. I thought that this would be it.” It was a voice I hadn’t heard before.

“Oh God, it’s going to take more than that to get rid of me. Sorry, you’re kind of stuck with me, I’m never going to leave”. I was smiling but I had matching tears.

I think that’s maybe when we knew we were going to be okay. There on a borrowed couch in a rat infested house in Tripoli. No booze, no friends, no furniture – just us, together.

We were out walking the dogs last night, the little travellers were at the park. G who is usually thinking about food was wondering about his next meal. What to eat next.

“Maybe you might like to take your wife out to dinner?”

Over one of the best meals I’ve had in Doha we scanned the restaurant and tried to work out the stories of our fellow diners. We made up the bits we had no hope of knowing. We talked about the children, about guns, holidays, technology, play dates and how much we love food. We wandered over to a jazz club and both sat absolutely entranced by the music, world class musicians in a smoky, dark bar. We could have been anywhere. We were ten years away from Libya. We had three more moves and two more children, but it felt the much the same as it did that night on the couch.

“Sorry, you’re stuck with me. I’m never going to leave”.

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  1. Beautiful, just beautiful! x

  2. I know what you mean, for us it wasn’t particularly Libya (almost 3 years ago now), but we have had moments like that at the beginning of every posting (and some during). The worst moments we had were when we got split up due to evacuation (happened twice, last time from Tripoli). That is when we realised we are only good at it when we are together.

  3. Hey lovely K, I know exactly what you mean & why you remain together.. 43 years ago today I met my b & ups, downs, all the things that can go right & wrong have… Yet. We remember what it is to be US. Wrote on my FB status today. Love D xx

  4. This was a LOVELY post. A great story, loads of heart. Thank you for sharing. I think I can now reward you with a few photos of what I see as I sit and write 🙂 … my alps, as I promised you some weeks back … If I can find your Facebook page, I’ll load something up before I eat my lunch.

    Oh, and before I go, thank you again for a heart-warming story,
    Ali of the Alps

  5. Awwwwww what doesnt kill you makes you stronger. How heart breaking that he sat outside for so long thinking the worst.

  6. oh my God this touched very inner chords of my memories of moving abroad with Pawel..actually our last move to Poland is the first time ever that we manage to move having already a home waiting for us..the two previous time we found it basically on the verge of being homeless and with our belongings in the (borrowed) car. It helped the experience, it helped that Pawel is polish so he could deal directly with agencies on the phones (to rent an apartment in france if you are foreigner and no, you dont have any french person that can guarantee for you its made terrible by the fact that you need a french bank account, but you cant have a french bank account if you dont have an adress in france.in bruxelles it was more complicated because it was our first time ever in a francophonic system) and mostly it helped that we didnt want to go through those first painful moments of not having a place of yours that is so fundamental when you are a new foreigner outside the whole day.. having the two small girls with us

  7. Isn’t a partnership just the best way to get thru the day/week/life ?~! My husband and I (jokingly) say we share a brain and the other has it right now! The hardest moments of life are rendered doable with the love and support of a committed partner.

  8. So true, so true. I love the brain analogy. xx

  9. My pleasure!

  10. I know, and I can still picture his face. As if I’d leave?! 🙂

  11. “we remember what it is to be us” – I love it Denyse, just beautiful.

  12. I just can’t imagine the fear involved in being separated in an evacuation. TWICE?! I have a feeling G and may only be good at it together as well. xx

  13. Thank you gorgeous. One day we have to get together for a coffee, I need to start planning a Dubai trip. x

  14. After the second time I swore I would NEVER go on another posting again…a few months later we moved to India (and I love it).
    This expat life has a lot of pro’s and con’s, but the one thing I really value about it is that our family-unit has become very strong. The 5 of us have been through so much together and we are the only ones that know what it was like.
    Making friends is another important part of my life abroad. I found I need at least 2 or 3 good friends to be able to stay sane. Friends that I can call upon in good times and in bad times. To be able to just drop in for a coffee and a chat unannounced. Friends are like an extended/replacement family away from home.
    I love reading your blog, because I recognise a lot in what you write about. I try to write on my blog on a regular basis too, but can’t seem to keep up writing on a daily basis like you.
    Thanks for sharing your life and your thoughts through your blog!

  15. Beautiful blog post! It made me teary… I recognized the feeling so much. Thanks for sharing. It made me realize we’re so much stronger together since then!

  16. Really sweet. This one deserves an “awwww” 🙂 “You’re kind of stuck with me, I’m never going to leave.” I’m so glad I have someone to say that to as well.

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