Saturday, September 02, 2006

Africa: Day 55 (Happy Independence Day) [Written 9/1]

Green Square Prepares for Independence day

Greetings to all of you back in the states, and now I must add "Salem" to those of you in Libya who view this blog. I compose this message while sitting on the kitchen patio at 12:15 in the morning on September 1st, 2006. Today is independence day for the Libyans. Today marks the 37th year since the Libyan revolution. Sitting here in the relative quiet, I can hear the noise of horns from passing cars, the occasional cheers of what must be festive crowds, and the thunderous resonance of fireworks being fired from the seaport docks. April and I just went to the window in Gregg's room to watch as they fired off quite an american barrage of lights, very similar to an American July 4th celebration. Due to our travel arrangements this year, I missed being able to spend July 4th with April or with my family, so it was nice to have a small piece of it here. Although, I feel it necessary again to thank Bridget for making sure I didn't have to spend American Independence day alone while I was there in the states this year. I just now remembered that. Her and I went to washington to watch them at the docks this year before I left.

Tripoli has been a myriad of lights and sounds these last 24 hours. The locals here have been extremely busy hanging lights from any surface that would support a strand here in the city. Greens chase reds, which follow yellows, pinks, and oranges, in an ever-changing display of wanton celebration. All decorum is lost here in this country. We americans would spend hours and hours perfecting the look of our lights, while the muslims here just spend that time finding more strings to hang whereever there is available space. The scene depicted to the left (or above depending on your resolution) shows a shot down Green Square last night. All the streets in this part of town have their arches of lights glimmering furiously as soon as the sun goes down. The added stadium lighting, provided as part of Gadaffi's speech, makes downtown Tripoli at midnight look like an american football stadium on Superbowl Sunday. It's amazing here how many people just spend time sitting in the public gardens together, enjoying the lights and the sounds of celebration.

Tripoli Castle lit up for the Celebration.

Tomorrow is officially their independence day, so unfortunately, we Americans will be sitting inside our apartment in the air conditioning, hiding from the celebrations. While quite lively, it is generally considered not good to be out and about if you are of the lighter-skin persuasion. While Libya has presented itself as a gracious and mothering country since we arrived, we have it on good authority that the overall population present for tomorrow's festivities are not necessarily the congenial, friendly muslims we have become used to. Celebrations like this present a human resources nightmare for a country like this. All the preparations and excitement is built from the enthusiasm of the locals, not from a nicely-scheduled public events coordinator. Hence, tomorrow will bring many hundreds of thousands of traveling muslims into a small location without adequate seating, water supply, food sources, and other accoutrements that we are familiar with in the United States. Of the 14 million people currently living in Libya, best census information available estimates that 70% of the country's population lives here in Tripoli, so it would be very akin to moving all of the residents of California into downtown Washington DC for the 4th of July, not exactly guaranteed to be a friendly atmosphere. However, overall I have to say that Libyan sentiment for Americans has thus far been completely friendly and welcoming. Not once have we been made to feel unwelcome or out-of-place.

Anyway, I hope all of you there in the states can enjoy a little piece of Libyan independence with us. I'm posting photos here at the end, so you can see what the town looks like. It should be noted that April took it upon herself to make sure there were proper photos of the event. When the rest of the team went home after dinner last night, she comandeered a cab and made him stop all over town so she could take photos of the lights and the attractions.

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