Tuesday, May 17, 2005

how i got to be where i am today

After a briefing in Cambridge, we were transported to the Sheraton Heathrow. The beer there being £3-odd a pint, and the atmos. non-existent, we went in search of a pub and found a wonderful real old place, called (I think) the White Horse – in a proper village, incongruously close to the horrors of Heathrow. I drank several pints of Bombardier. Then two or three more at the hotel, and then I stumbled off to bed, and though somewhat the worse for drink, had a bath. So God knows what time it was when I went to sleep but I had mis-set my alarm anyhow, slept in, and dashed unseemly to the Airport… Where all was well: these madly long check in times (two and a half hours for Libya), are not, one learns, set in stone. So there was a chance to browse WH Smiths, and have a couple of pints…

It might seem a trifle decadent to have beer at 7.30am, but with ten sober weeks ahead, it feels appropriate. Also wine with the meal on the flight. And some after the meal to wash it down properly… This is all very jolly until you reach Tripoli, the heat hits you, the cheery effects of alcohol wear off and the poisonous ones kick in. Animal metaphors come out to get you: the hair of the dog is far away, and a cold turkey is a rotten fowl. The first night here is always horribly depressing therefore.

From the airport we were whisked off without very much ado to Zawiyah. “We” are Ted, Padraig, and Your Correspondent. There should be a fourth teacher, called Tom, but he’s been held up. We’re staying in a pleasant house, with a fig tree, an acacia, and two nascent date palms in a small garden. There’s a kitchen, but we can eat for free at a nearby hotel, the Funduq Something or Other. (We had lunch there today: a good salad, lentil soup, beef in pepper sauce with chips, and Efes beer – sin alcohol, of course). The house has satellite telly, de rigueur in Libya, which has BBC Prime – hurrah! EastEnders I can take or leave when I’m home, but the streets of Walford are blessed to look upon out here.

This is the fifth ten week ‘cycle’ I’ve done out here and it’s a lot like all of the others: the teaching centre is a newly refurbished building with some facilities but not others. Here for example we have no telephones at the training centre. And no water to flush the lavvies.

We were told breakfast would be laid on. It wasn’t. When I pointed this out to the local GECOL manager he said, “Why?” I’d been rather hoping he’d tell me. Eventually, a driver was sent out and came back with three large carrier bags full of stuff: about twenty bread rolls, marge, twenty kind-of ‘croissants’, twenty pots of apple sauce. Three sachets of coffee. That was just between the two of us. It’s not that I won’t or can’t make my own breakfast, it’s just that we were promised. In Libya, assurances are given as freely as cigarettes – which work out at 20p a packet – and kept as long.

However… Enough carping. It’s shaping up reasonably well. The first week is always difficult. Finding a shop that sells sandals, and another that sells mugs (Libyans take their tea and coffee in little girls’ dolly tea sets), would improve my life immoderately.

Management arrived this morning (Tuesday): our Acting Project Manager, Jeremy, and the local GECOL Training Manager, Ali Sed. Things got off to a bad start from my point of view when Jeremy told me that my Libyan Survival Kit, which had been left in the manager’s office during the eight week break, could not be found. This is bloody irritating. It contained Bisto gravy powder, Marmite, mosquito repellent, an electric kettle (curiously difficult to obtain out here), electrical adaptors and God only knows what else. Shite.

Things then got bad-tempered between the two managers, and I got the idea a quarrel was being continued. A big problem is lack of a telephone in the accommodation. And in the training centre. There’s also confusion over transport, arrangements for food, laundry and cleaning services. The timetables are in a state of flux. We lack essential teaching materials. Business as usual, really.

Oh yeah, and I’ve got a cold. All of these troubles notwithstanding, it’s not so bad. The climate’s excellent at this time of year, and the people of Zawiyah are friendly.

Spoke to Herself on an incredibly clear line last night, and the 20 week scan showed that all was well… So I’ve nowt to complain about.