Saturday, January 26, 2013

Libya Ledger: Day 3

Yes, it's a camel head and neck advertising the wares of the butcher shop.  The cow heads were
gone the next day, however, so perhaps they are more than advertisements... 

[To protect the privacy of friends and colleagues and because of the sensitive nature of Lorianne's work, this post has been edited from its original version.]

Tuesday, January 22, 2013 – Day 3
Tripoli, Libya
by guest author T. Lance

We woke at 5:00am, snacked on fruit and nuts and enjoyed our hotel room and the view of the Mediterranean.  We both took advantage of the hotel’s gym, and I took the liberty of going for a solo swim in the hotel’s beautiful indoor heated swimming pool (Lorianne did not have a maternity swimsuit, unfortunately).  We met up with with Jon (our “fixer,” see Day 1) and his colleague Matt in the hotel’s Executive Club at 9:00am for breakfast.  The purpose of the meeting was for Matt to give us a thorough briefing on the situation in Libya, particularly as it related to our safety and security.  Matt is British and has lived in Libya for 4 years.  He denies being a Libyan expert and says that anyone who claims to be an expert on a country as complex, multi-faceted, and chaotic as Libya is lying to you, but he is about as expert as they come in fluent English-speaking form.  Over the next hour he gave us a thorough briefing on the country and the security situation and sufficiently put the fear of God in us.  Matt advised a number of precautions for us including getting home by a reasonable time at night, minimizing driving time with drivers we didn’t know and trust, and not ever having Lorianne walk alone in the streets.  Interestingly, he also advised that we always have our passports and marriage license with us just to document who we are and that we officially belong to each other in case we ever unexpectedly get hassled by authorities.

After Jon and Matt left the hotel we met Jamal at 11:30am to drive to “Coffee Time”, a coffee shop [for a meeting]...I fell into a support role during the meeting to keep things running smoothly.  I grabbed a table for us outside, I took the poor seat in the glaring sunlight so Lorianne and [her colleague] could talk more comfortably in the shade, got Lorianne another fork when she dropped hers, took her jacket away when a bird pooped on it, and took her plate away when we discovered the B-52 bird had accurately blitzed her food as well.  I felt like I might know what running advance for a politician might be like.  It was a successful meeting and Lorianne felt like her ideas on a path forward were beginning to coalesce.

We returned to the hotel and Lorianne made a number of calls (to task her intern in New York City with research for the next editorials as discussed [in her meeting at Coffee Time") while Lance napped (running advance and sitting in the sun is hard work).  More work, writing, and study was done in the hotel throughout the afternoon.

The plan for dinner had been to meet a General National Congress (GNC) Member Langhi at the Rixos Hotel.  The GNC is the current elected, transitional governing body of Libya, consisting of 200 congressmen.  This particular congressman had read Lorianne’s series of eight editorials in the Libyan Herald and asked if they could be translated into Arabic.  Lorianne subsequently had the articles translated into Arabic and the purpose of the meeting was to hand deliver the articles to the congressman and speak with him about further helpful contacts or pathways for Lorianne’s work.

[The meeting was postponed till a later date, but we ended up eating at the Rixos hotel.]...(Note:  The GNC offices are across the street from the Rixos, and it has become a popular hang-out and meeting place for the congressmen.)  We arrived around 7:30pm, found a table in the café and ordered dinner....Eventually, at 9:30pm, we...had Jamal drive us back to the Corinthia....

That night we also received an email from [a church authority, hoping we were OK]...We also thanked him for coordinating authorization for us to hold private weekly church meetings in our home.  There are no organized church units in Libya; there is really no religious freedom to speak of here as Islam is largely the only choice officially, practically, and culturally.  There is only one other member of the Church in the whole country that we know of...  [The church official] authorized our partaking of the Sacrament in our home and our holding our own private Sacrament meeting, something we plan to do on Fridays, which is the day of worship here.  

Lorianne...had grave reservations [about accepting a speaking invitation on religious freedom at an upcoming conference] in that anything she might say even from within the confines of constitutional legal history might be misinterpreted or lost in translation and possibly put her and us in a vulnerable security position.  [She] decided to decline the invitation to speak on this particular panel.  Then we were off to bed.

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