When I first began thinking about my favorite places in Libya, I had beautiful flashbacks of all the places I spent time in during my childhood. I thought of the park that my friends and I would play in while our fathers played their weekly football games, I thought of the home that I spent the first 9 years of my life in, I even thought of the school I went to... what these places had in common wasn't that they were extraordinarily-built architectural buildings, they were simple buildings that held extraordinary memories within their walls. And it seems to me that is a common theme in Libya; we may not have modern buildings, but our humor and love makes it all worthwhile. We decorate our walls with laughter and love, that's the beauty of Libya.
I recently went back to visit after 5 years of not going back and I didn't have a lot of time to go back to all the places I spent a lot of time in. Truthfully, many of those places no longer exist. But I did go to my grandmother's house - to say it was nostalgic bliss would be an understatement.
It was a place I spent a lot of time in: sleeping over with my cousins on Thursday nights, staying up late and being noisy while annoying my poor grandparents who were happy to have our company anyway. Playing hide and seek in the garden (jnaan) and running around... it was simplicity at its finest but it was a pure brand of happiness that unfortunately gets harder and harder to find as you age because it wasn't about instant gratification, it was about seeing every little thing as an adventure. That house had held so many memories of laughter, learning and childhood.
What was most special to me was seeing the younger generation of my little cousins who are now playing the games my cousins and I would play, running around the same jnaan we did. They are cultivating their own memories and laughter that they'll hold so dear to them the same way we do now. It's quite strange too, because it seems that the garden is so much smaller than what it seemed like when we were younger. Everything seemed so much bigger and every staircase, every door, every little corner was a conquerable challenge that held endless opportunities of new games and bizarre ideas. It was so special to see how they're finding the same hiding places that we did, and they see it with such bright eyes.
I'll admit that it was painful to see how everything had changed when I went back to visit. The streets I grew up around that were once full with za7met el nas, the air constantly filled with loud laughs, happiness and excitement that it's finally Thursday and the weekend had begun, they were dull and tired. And it was a quiet sort of sadness, it was a subtle difference that you only notice if you have had distance to the contrast of the two. Nonetheless, seeing that my little cousins are looking at my grandmothers house through the same curious, excited, happy eyes that my cousins and I once did, made me realize that although the big picture may have changed, the small things that truly mattered haven't.
To be fair, I know our country isn't perfect right now - everyone has a very strong opinion on could've been done and what we should be doing, but I know that every single Libyan has that favorite place that is near and dear to their heart. And most likely, it's the people that we were with that made that place so special. So despite all the despair and negativity around right now, it's that place and those people that make everything more bearable, and they make hope a little bit more tangible.
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