Saturday, February 19, 2005

libyan onions

Wee Paul, who teaches on the afternoon/evening shift, and therefore has his mornings free, managed to get my ticket changed to the Thursday: so I’m off home in 26 days. And counting.

Watching the clock, and the calendar, is not a satisfactory way of living, and I wish I wasn’t. The trouble is, there’s nothing else to do. I’ve lived in several countries: Spain, France, the Czech Republic, Turkey. In each, you slowly – more slowly in some countries than others – become assimilated into a community. You have a local bar; you get talking to people, you learn the language. Usually, there’ll be British or American or Antipodean teachers who’ve settled there, perhaps cohabiting with or married to a local; there’ll be parties and outings involving a mixture of locals and foreign teachers like yourself. It’s a right laugh. It’s very interesting. It’s why I do this job.

But in Libya… We’ve stayed in hotels, mostly, so automatically, you’re isolated from a community. And we get moved on every ten weeks. There are no bars, of course. The cafes are men only, and not that friendly. After a while you realise that Libyans have gradations of social contacts, like the rings of an onion: first the extended family; then the tribe or town wherein they were born; then, Libya; then other Arabs; finally, most remotely, their co-religionists, regardless of race. As a European and a Christian, you’re in the outer darkness.