Thursday, December 30, 2004

Libya/Tunisia Road trip

Committee meeting Libya

Highest point in Tunisia....800 something metres

Tunisian president

Star wars site

Pierre Pettigrew inplace of Paul Martin

Medusa head

Notice the star wars type dress in the back...filmed in this area

Tunisian ladies

Ghadames Liyba

Saharan speed bump

cork trees

Roast camel....Feast for Paul Martin

Jan 6/05 Happy New Year to you all! Thank you for all your Christmas cards and letters about what you&#8217ve been up to the past year. Here is ours, along with a few details of our recent holiday road trip through Libya and Tunisia. YEAR IN REVIEW: Maria continued with her running career, obtaining personal bests in the 5, 10km and ½ marathon distances. Here are some of the races she did in 2004.-Stanford 5km in LA-Yokohama Eikeden Japan-World XC championships Brussels Belgium-World ½ Marathon Championships New Delhi IndiaAfter 3 years of &#8220working&#8221 (can you call it work when you get to talk about running all dayJ ) at Gord&#8217s Running Store, she made a detour to Benghazi, Libya (after a few weeks with a friend in Germany) on her way back from India and has been volunteering at the school and tutoring a few students. For the time being, she has given up competitive running, as there are no races here and very few people who run. We were in Colombia during the beginning of 2004 visiting Maria&#8217s family. In February I left to finish my BEd by teaching English at Hunan University in Changsha, China&#8230.a wonderful experience and also found some time to see some the sights of SW China and the eastern fringes of the Himalaya. I returned at the end of June and we took a long promised trip up to Chetwynd BC to visit Uncle Skippy&#8217s family and some old high school friends. I then went back to China for a one month contract to teach more English, this time to the Harbin Institute of Technology way up north. Two weeks after returning to Calgary, I left for Benghazi, Libya where I have a 2 year contract to teach grade 2 at the Benghazi British School, where I recently found out I am teaching one of Ghaddafi&#8217s cousins who happens to be the slowest kid in the class. I was robbed at gun point (9mm browning-made in Belgium) 2 weeks after arriving here, making off with a new car and my new camera; one of the 3 thieves was shot and killed by the police a few months later and the car recovered, although the school replaced it with a new one. After some extended time apart from each other, Maria and I hope we have overcome some of the difficulties we have had in this, our 8th year of marriage this past year and look forward to a happy future. This year I managed to visit the world&#8217s biggest jungle, mountains and desert and have now been on 6 of the 7 continents (not hard to guess which one I&#8217m missing and will likely never go to!) ROAD TRIP: With 23 days off, we planned to tour around Libya for a number of reasons.-Get to know and understand more of our surroundings and the culture-Use of a new car which is included in my contract-Gas is cheaper than water (almost) We headed off to Tripoli as I managed to get an invitation to a reception in which Paul Martin was to speak. Unfortunately he had to return to Canada for a funeral and I was left to shake Pierre Pettigrew&#8217s hand instead. Free lunch (camel meat) in the swankiest hotel in town though, so I couldn&#8217t complain&#8230.especially since we were staying in the cheapest hotel in town&#8230.the youth hostel. As it turned out, we spent ½ of our time in Tunisia, which was a real surprise as we were told that because the car is registered to the school, that we likely wouldn&#8217t be able to take it into Tunisia. Not so. In fact Tunisia has a strong tourism based economy and readily welcomed us, providing us with a permit de circulacion without any problems. We ended up doing a counterclockwise loop of the country. To the island of Djerba, up to the Roman Coliseum in El Jem, to the long beaches of Hammamet, around Cap Bon, into Tunis and the medina, Carthage, up to Bizerte and the northern most tip of Africa. West to Tabarka and the Algerian border, where they wouldn&#8217t let us in without a visa, which was OK as we had driven far enough. Through the eastern reaches of the Atlas mountains and forests of cork and back into the Sahara to climb some peaks and dunes, explore some canyons, relax in some desert oasis&#8217s and visit the film locations for Star Wars and the English Patient. We then blasted down to Ghadames Libya, &#8220The Jewel of the Sahara&#8221& old oasis that was an important stop on the Saharan Caravan route, with a fascinating old town to explore; I felt like a kid playing in a fort, checking out the derelict houses that were open and enjoying the ones that have been maintained. We then drove back to Benghazi in one day! 1552km in 13 hours&#8230.average speed of 119km per hour, which included stopping for gas and slowing down through towns. The reality is that Libya, as backwards as this country is, has excellent roads to go along with its cheap gas; wide, smooth and usually very straight, which allows drivers to go any speed they want. For us that was 150km per hour&#8230.and we were constantly passed by people who just flew by us, likely doing about 200 kph!!! Just have to watch out for camels and sand that has drifted and accumulated on the road. All in all we drove 6400km (Vancouver to Montreal???) with gas in Tunisia being the same price as Calgary ($35 to fill the tank) and try as I might, I still can&#8217t get more than $5.00Can in the tank in Libya! The tank is 45L and it was down to 42 one night and it cost 4.80 Dinar&#8230.about 4.00Can at the moment. We camped 8 nights and hostel/hotel the rest which cost us less than $200. Our trip cost us less than two nights accommodation in Paris, which was the case for some friends who went there for xmas. I took 700 photos&#8230..far more than I would with my old Nikon, but not to fear, I&#8217ve narrowed it down to 20-30-40? to e-mailJ (Note the many different uses for camels&#8230.titles/explanations are attached to each photo) We were very surprised by the level of development in Tunisia (the most developed country in all of Africa???) Very European, with a strong French influence and gave me the opportunity to practice the French I had learned over 10 years ago& truly amazing how it comes back when you don&#8217t have a choice, as my Arabic is non-existent. They actually follow the rules of the road and have police to enforce them, which did make driving painfully slow there, but then the roads are narrow as they are in France. Nice to have road signs we could read too. School starts Jan 9, so we are taking a few days to prepare for the coming term. Egypt and the pyramids during Easter with the car, or Malta as I have a ticket there included in my contract&#8230.not sure yet. Happy new year everyone&#8230..enjoy the photos! Steve and Maria minus Chico.We dance round in a ring and suppose,/But the Secret sits in the middle and knows. Robert Frost