12 Feb 2012

First Day in Libya "Misrata" - Poetry Workshop (Part 1)

First of all; the kindness and the hospitality of the Libyan people seriously blew me away, I was stunned by how generous and welcoming they are, even under the current poor economic climate and the fact that they as people have very little and have lost so very much, everybody I met in Libya (literally everybody) invited me to their home for a meal, even the laundry guy! Okay so maybe the laundry guy had something else on his mind other than generosity! But seriously everybody else was sincere.
But why would I need to go to the laundry to have my clothes cleaned just a day after my arrival to ‘Misrata’ ?  Well the airport lost my bag! Yes, I had everything, all my belongings in my bag and it got lost in the airport, it has my £500 Canon camera, my favourite clothes, my laptop charger and my underwear, and now that it’s lost I have to wash my underwear every night and put them on half wet and creased in the morning! Fun!

Luggage drama and soggy underpants aside, Libya is GREAT, I arrived in “Tripoli” on Saturday 11:00am got stuck at the airport for a very long time in hope my bag would show up, when it didn’t and I lost hope, the Libyan British Council representative “Abdulraouf” drove me to “Misrata”, which is 200 miles from “Tripoli”. “Misrata” is where the poetry workshop takes place and it is also  the most affected area by the revolution the amount of destruction, loss and pain is staggering. When I spoke to the people, I couldn’t believe all the horror stories they told me; for almost four months Qadafi prevented electricity, water and food, at one point they ate cattle fodder just in order to survive. Every family in ‘Misrata’ has lost at least one son or daughter in the conflict and those who did not lose their lives, lost, a leg and arm or an eye. There was a time during the revolution when Qadafi was so desperate to win over ‘Misrata’ in order to keep the eastern side of Libya that held all the oil riches under his command, he ordered his troops to enter the homes and rape the girls, women and in some cases even the men  in front of their families. The tragedy was mammoth and yet everyone I met in ‘Misrata’ had a huge smile on their face, they speak with so much hope, with some much expectation and possibility, with so much passion about their future. The children I work with in schools kept saying that their lives before the revolution meant nothing, they could not dream, or hope and had no ambition to succeed, but now they feel strong, able and want to be everything they can be. The children I worked with today astonished me with their ability to write (Arabic poetry) and a good number of them were extremely good performers! I was so pleased with how in such little time we bonded and they talked to me about their feelings, hopes and ambitions for their new country freely, and were very capable in transforming their feelings on the revolution into poetry. I’m so looking forward to tomorrow, and very soon I’ll be able to share with you some of their work.

Note: Couldn't upload pics here, but they are available to view on my twitter and facebook account.