This is Africa!
It is now my third day in Tripoli, Libya. For those who couldn’t help it, please stop worrying, as some might have guessed, I simply did not have access to internet until now.
Let me recount to you my arrival. First of all, I got to the airport on Monday morning at about 6a.m. I saw my boss waiting in line not far away from me and I smile at him since I noticed he was looking towards me; unfortunately, no reaction. He might not have seen me might you think… once he checks in, he got out of the line and passes right in front of me, therefore I say: “Hello Mr L.” No reaction. He might not have heard me! Then in the shuttle from the airport terminal to the plane, I met the other people from work who all said hello, he came in last, shakes hand with everyone BUT ME! HE IGNORED ME! I was getting confused, what was going on! Once on the plane, I heard a little “Salut Ali” and everything got back to normal. WEIRD.
Getting off the plane in Tripoli, everyone from the company gave their passport to a Libyan intermediaire who takes care of getting us cleared easily at customs. Funny parenthesis: when I handed my passport to the man, he thought I was trying to snitch in the group and avoid the lineup, he even handed my passport back saying “Areva?” I answered “Yes”, and he did not take it back until my boss mentioned that I was part of the group (my name was missing on the list that was handed to him). We avoided the huge line up thanks to him. But over 45 minutes later, the lineup was cleared and we were still waiting. Myself and one of my colleagues had regular visas that we had asked for a longtime ago. The 6 others (all of them with big responsibilities) had special “airport visas” that means that they received a fax in Paris a few days before the trip and that the real visa would be done at the airport. To make a long story short, after almost an hour waiting, we managed to get out. For my visa, it is getting clearer, I have to get a resident visa (because I will be based here), but I will have to ask for the authorisation to exit the country every single time!
Tripoli’s street are quite dirty (a little smelly), but similar to arabic countries I know (Morocco, Tunisia, even Yemen). As in most of them, everywhere in the streets you can see huge posters of Kadhafi, most of them having the number 36 written in big letters next to him. This number stands for the years since his takeover of Libya. Considering that the president is over 64 years, this means that Mr Kadhafi has been ruling for over half of his lifetime! Can you think of any “democracy” in that situation?
The Libyans I met are quite nice and welcoming, and I am getting used to people assuming that I am a local (or at least that I speak Arabic fluently) and making me quite uncomfortable making long sentences in Arabic. I had to make them switch to french or English sometimes. The only person who was surprised to see me struggle in Arabic is a young secretary. Can you imagine, I saw three Indian workers speaking an almost perfect Arabic (with an accent), one of them was proud telling me “mashi alhal” (those who speak Arabic understand) when I asked if he spoke fluently Arabic.
We arrived on Monday at about 3pm, went straight to the hotel (I am staying with my colleagues during their stay, I will then move into my villa). When we split at the elevator they said “see you later” so I was not clear if we would meet immediately after checking in the room. Luckily I rested for no longer than 5 minutes before going to the reception desk and we left shortly afterwards. Arrival at the office at 4pm, and meeting (start of the audit) until 9h30ish. Then business diner until 11pm; considering that I woke up at 5am and went to bed at 1am the day before, it was a tough day for me (making sure I appeared awake and aware all day long)!
The next morning, we had to leave the hotel at 8 a.m., and we all met for breakfast at 7h30. Since my cellular phone cannot be used without a chip that I did not buy (and I did not keep the one from Paris), I figured out I would call the reception and ask them to wake me up at 7am. “Thank god” I did not sleep deeply and woke up naturally at 6 a.m., because the phone in my room DID NOT RING!!! Everything went well, we had a long day (from 8am to 8pm on site next to Tripoli). We were lucky to see some trucks bringing boxes and containers; those of you who know, one of my tasks in Tripoli will be to make sure that all the material gets on site well. As lucky as I am, one box fell while getting transposed from a truck to the storage area, and broke. The big material got slightly damaged, ie: less than 24h in Libya and an unexpected task turns up for me (I will have to file a report… this is in my scope, but it is not supposed to happen if all goes well) lets hope that it will not be too frequent. The meeting (audit) was for almost 12 hours with a short 1h lunch-break, it was very tough for me (2 nights of bad sleep in a row, considering that I am a big sleeper needing 8h sleep!), I had a long hour after lunch (around 3pm) when I had to fight to keep my eyes open! That night, when going to bed, I called the reception at the hotel without being convinced that they would wake me up. Once again, I did not sleep deeply, woke up at 5am, and back at 6am, but surprisingly, the reception guy called to wake me up at 6h55, I stayed a little in bed and napped until 7h15, and then rushed to catch up my colleagues.
Today, I sat in my office, set up my computer, did my first tasks in Tripoli and called my parents (who had no news for over 60h, so Marwan and others, DO NOT COMPLAIN).
One Egyptian subcontractor really got yelled at right behind me while I was checking my e-mail; that was weird (but did not keep me from checking my inbox and answering to a few mails). It is now 9pm, I cannot wait to leave the office, but I still hear my colleagues discussing in the meeting room. I am considering walking in and say: “COME ON GUYS, ENOUGH FOR TODAY! LETS GO!”
For the moment, I am feeling like anyother short trips I had in different offices in France. It has been 3 days, like my other visits; and I still do not realise that I am here for 16 months!
I cannot wait to see my villa (I hope that I won’t be disappointed), as well as my car (I think I will drive a Peugeot 307). One of the guys I am in touch with from the french consulate told me that there is a group of french (VIEs) who regularly go to the gym, I will happily join them (they probably will be better gym mates than you Marwan and Min Sik, keep on not going!).
I thought I will write on more instructive subjects once I got here. WRONG! No matter where I am, I seem to keep on writing the same stupidities.
PS: Nevine, this post is for you. Did your father tell you that I would have such a hard time in Libya for 16 months? Hopefully the answer is no, so don’t worry for me. I know you will miss my “Video Gag” personality, but Marwan can be as funny as I am (at least as stupid).
PS2: Mariam, please note that I did not include you in my previous last mass e-amil because you were the first person I e-mailed (PERSONALLY) once I got my visa
PS3: Nadia (Mariam and Olivier’s friend) thanks for checking my blog, I appreciate. Hello to everyone I barely know (or know at all) and who read this blog.
PS4: I cannot believe I wrote this post again (it mysteriously previously disappeared)