Saturday, January 27, 2007

Africa: Day 2 (Getting Settled)

It took me longer than anticipated to return once again to this journal. Delays in airports, "special random security screening" processes, and the general hubbub of international travel left little time for prose as we scrambled madly to get to our gates just in time to be herded into our uncomfortable seats like so many sheep in a pen.

The flights were fine, if uncomfortably long, but that is to be expected. While at JFK, I tried to upgrade our seats from Coach to business class but the fee for that was in excess of five thousand dollars each. As you can imagine, Tim and I crammed ourselves in coach instead. The flight was surprisingly empty thankfully. Apparently few people choose to take the red-eye to London this time of year. Once the plane departed the gate I was able to move over to a center row where all four chairs were unoccupied, upon whence I waited for dinner to be served and then stretched out across all 4 chairs and soundly slept most of the entire trip, only waking 40 minutes prior to landing in London. The flight attendant in our section was a little light-in-the-loafers, as the British like to say, so he greeted me upon waking and promptly offered me the breakfast that I missed while sleeping. As usual, I have the habit of projecting some trait that tells gay men exactly where I am at all times. They can spot me in a crowd with little to no trouble. One would think that a three day beard, dusty leather cowboy hat, wrinkles in my clothing and the general unwashed state I was in after this long on a plane would have the same effect on men as it does on the softer sex. I certainly don't see women going out of their way to bring me breakfast when know it's almost time to land and all the food has been put away in preparation for descent. Regardless of the reason however, I was quite glad to accept his hospitality and his offered breakfast.

The genteel steward was about the only interesting thing about the flights. The rest of the trip went uneventfully forward without much of a headache and we arrive in Tripoli on time at 3:00 PM local time.

A Note About These Posts:

While my mind is digressing on this point I feel I should point out the way I will be structuring these journals during my trip. Due to the pace I plan on working this team while I'm here, I will have little time during the day to communicate with you, my friends and family, through the usual channels of Yahoo and Email. I still have yet to procure Internet for the apartment here due to local telecommunications issues. However, they have recently installed wireless Internet at the El Saraaya restaurant about three kilometers from our apartment. So while I will be communicating less often, I'll try to make sure that I communicate with greater detail on those rare chances when I can get online.

I compose these posts offline on my laptop and then post them on the blog when I have time, which will usually be at night. To keep them in order, I'll post the dates at the end of the message, since blogger will automatically post their creation date as the date when I upload them, which may often be days after their creation.

Coming Home Again:

It seemed wonderfully exciting to be returning to Libya again after so long back home in the states, however I found myself experiencing a different kind of nostalgic emotion when I once again laid eyes on this sand covered coastal city. I expected in foresight to be seeing the sights with the fervor of one who is unused to the experience, glancing around in curious wonder at the strange architecture, the myriad of local garb, the language which is so different from our own.

Instead, I stepped out of the gates of Tripoli International Airport with a more nostalgic feeling affecting my senses than I had anticipated. Rather than experiencing a new wonder and inquisitiveness, I was instead immersed in a feeling of "home" as I smelled the air for the first time here. The desert winds carry with them a dry "sand" scent, if sand can be said to have a scent. I can't describe it in easy terms, but it is very different than the scent of a Carolina wind which has been blowing through the pines for two hundred miles before reaching your senses. Instead there was a sweet after-scent which I equate to the smell of the date palms and the plains grasses that frequent this region.

Rather than seeking our our public relations agent, who wasn't actually there, and worrying about how to get a ride to our apartment, I was instead immediately at home here. I walked out of customs, accosted the first cabbie I saw standing readily at the gate before he could accost me instead, handed over my bags and started bickering over price. Agreeing to our terms of one cab and twenty dinar rather than the two cabs they were trying to sucker us into, he packed our luggage and began the trek to the east side of the city where we live. The radio sparked to life outside of the airport and my reverie was then accompanied by the beats and rhythms of native Egyptian music. Rather than listening and trying to understand all the individual words as I did when I first arrived here eleven month ago, I sat back and let the harmonic sounds wash over me as I glanced pleasantly out the passenger side window at children playing with sticks in the sand, shoufa-covered women walking through the streets, and cars vying for position on the highways in a mad frenzy as if everyone here were playing a real life game of pole position. All the while our cabbie was pushing the little kia sedan at 160 kph down the bumpy and pothole-laden roads towards home.

This is not to say that I do not first and foremost love North Carolina and all my friends and family that make my life as wonderful as it is when I'm home. I tell you all this only to say that after spending six months of the last year here, it is much more reminiscent of coming home than of going away on a trip.

Shortly after our arrival, Tim and I began the worrisome task of unpacking, checking the stocks of our supplies, turning on the appliances in the apartment, and preparing to go to the Venizia for dinner. I have been yearning to sit in my corner booth, which isn't really a smoking section at all but the locals love my team and they let us sit wherever we like. I happily slid into my corner section of the restaurant and exchanged pleasantries with the staff, whom we have all gotten to know during our travels. Mohammed, Hussein, and the others asked about you all who have been here before. April, if you're reading this I am supposed to inform you that the locals miss you dearly and hope for your return. They also congratulate you on your new job in America and wish you well. Chris and Mike, you too were thought of and asked about by the staff. I informed them of everyone's status at the time and they asked me to be sure to keep them updated on events with you guys.

After dinner, we performed the normal rituals of procuring supplies from the Sooq Mahari, stopped by the El-Saraaya to check on the reality of the wireless Internet, and returned home to stock the shelves with our supplies.

In as much as this trip is filled with wonderful nostalgia and comforts, it is filled with longing for you, April, to be here with me. I didn't feel it until I looked out the window of our room here and admired the gardens that dot the landscape of the Ambassador's lawn. While standing there my first reaction was to say "Hey, baby, come look how beautiful this is." Only, as I started to turn I realized that you aren't here to share it with me this time.

That's when it hit me how different it will be without you here. The king-sized bed is uncomfortably too large without your side of it being occupied with your presence. I stood there in dumbfounded stupidity wondering how I was going to sleep here alone. When I walked to "your" side of the bed I felt out of place and lonely.

Having been the chief cook and cleaner when we were here before the last time, April had taken the role of being the one to look after our personal needs; washing the clothes that needed it, making the bed, folding my underwear in those ridiculous little squares and placing them neatly in the drawers of my dresser, making sure we had everything ready for work each day, monitoring the usage of laundry detergent, dutifully spreading out the shower curtain so it would dry after one of us louts would leave it clumped together in the corner.

It's not that I miss your presence cleaning up after me and the rest of the guys, but that I miss knowing you were there. The absence of these things are poignant reminders that you're not present with me this time. There's no one here for me to share a milk-shake with any more. And who's going to tell the cab driver how to get to the Murina restaurant? I don't even know how to find that place and it's my favorite restaurant! You became my walking GPS, so I had made it my priority to remember the details about work while you became my counterpart and handled the civilian sides of life here in Libya.

Without possessing the literary skill required to tell you exactly how much I am going to miss you while I'm here, I will have to shamefully suffice with "I love you and I miss you so much already." While the excitement of spending time in a foreign country is amazing and tantamount to nothing else I've ever experienced, there is an obvious hole in my presence here that nothing but you could adequately fill. (I just had a mental picture of trying to put a square peg in a round hole when trying to think of any way to be fill the void that is created with your absence. I'm not sure if that makes you my square peg or my round hole, but you're definitely one of those two and it's not the same here without you.)

Well, in order to avoid transcending into a personal gloom of loneliness, I feel it best that I end this here at this time and return to the mundane tasks of cleaning the house and preparing emails to send to my CEO back in the USA.

Until next time, know that I miss all of you very much.

Much love,

Tommy: 1806HRS GMT+2 012707


  1. I guess maybe I'd be the square peg in this instance.... LOL

    I miss you too! Part of this being so hard is that I've had the opportunity to be there and see all the places and everything that you're back seeing, and I miss it just as much! I think I was there just long enough to make it feel like home, and I'm kinda homesick.... LOL

    Anyway, I'm sure you'll manage having the whole bed to yourself... you're used to trying to sleep in the middle here, and that bed isn't long enough for you to sleep regularly, so now you can sleep sideways.... hehehehe. Be safe, have fun, and I'll talk to you again soon! LOVE YA BABY!!

  2. Oh and tell all the guys I appreciate the warm wishes. :) I'm glad I made an impression... LOL


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