February 2010

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MAUREEN AFLECK

FROM NORTH AMERICA TO NORTH AFRICA

In this archive we take a look back at one of our expats who has since moved on from Tripoli.  A native Canadian, Maureen and her husband are now living in the Netherlands.  Maureen came to Libya with her husband’s work and lived in Tripoli from 2008 to 2009.





What made you decide to move to Libya?  We were transferred to Libya with my husband's work, and thought it would be an interesting challenge, with the potential for other business given that it was just emerging from decades of embargoes.



What were your perceptions of Libya before you arrived?  We expected that Libya would be a difficult place, like any developing country. We were interested in having some exposure to Muslim culture, as we had never lived in a Muslim country before.



What were your first impressions of Tripoli?  Dry and dusty, with crazy driving! Certainly the camel heads in front of the butcher shops also caught our attention.



Did you find it easy to connect with others outside your company socially after you arrived? I found it very easy to meet with people from a number of different companies and countries, which really made the experience. Other expats were very open to meeting people and including new people in their social circles.



What are your thoughts on raising a family as an expat in Tripoli?  I had a new baby, and so didn't deal with schooling issues in Libya. I found it a great place to have a new baby, as baby groups were a good way to socialize and meet people. Plus, I found the transition to a new baby easier in Tripoli, because it was a place where you couldn't do any of the things you can't do with a new baby anyway: go to movies, fine dining, pubs, live music, etc. All the entertainment was socializing at people's houses, and most of the time that is amenable to bringing along a baby, especially one that will sleep in the next room in her car seat! Plus, I found that the Libyans love babies, and many even stopped to take photos of our little blonde, blue-eyed babe. They do also like to touch and/or kiss babies, which I know bothered some people.



Are there any items you wish you'd packed or any you frequently had to resource outside of Libya?  We did a lot of general shopping outside of Libya, e.g. for clothing etc., although by the time we left many good shops were opening there.  My husband (an Aussie) also had to bring along his Milo and Vegemite. There were a few annoyances with things we couldn't get there, but the fresh fruit and vegetables are fantastic. Most of my recipes seemed to include pork or alcohol! We were pleasantly surprised by how much we could get there, as we were expecting it to be much worse.



What did you find to be the most difficult thing about living in Libya?  Most difficult thing would be not being able to interact with the locals other than on a very superficial level. It made the whole experience seem surreal, living in a country where you only interact with other expats.



In hindsight, is there anything you would have done differently? Anything you wish you'd taken advantage of? We didn't travel as much as we would have liked, didn't do a desert trip or get to some of the more distant ruins and villages. Much of this was due to our hesitation to travel with a new baby, but we also would have liked to do more travel in North Africa while there.



What one piece of advice do you wish you'd had? I don't really know. I had a friend who moved there a couple of months before me, so I had lots of input before I came. Such as no need for a jogging stroller, as nowhere to run! I was able to ask all my questions before coming.



What do you miss about Tripoli?  I mostly miss the weather, our large yard (especially for the dogs), and the pool. It was also such a huge luxury to have someone (our guard) around to help out all the time, with my daughter Sophie, carrying groceries (and Sophie), to take care of the dogs when we were away, clean the car... These things were very easy to get used to! Plus, I miss my expat friends!!



Would you consider another posting here? Yes I would consider another posting. However, my husband found the work environment very difficult (disorganized, impossible to get anything done), so I don't think he would be too keen!





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