Unrest in Africa hits home

Elizabeth Hale, staff writer

Moving from the suburbs of Houston to the deserts of Africa could be a challenge by itself, but imagine living over 6,000 miles away from home, with the country’s people rebelling against their leader.

Sophomore Sarah Webster was nervous when she was told she would have to move with her family to Libya, but she knew it was a possibility since she was 13.

“My dad works for BP, and there is a lot of oil in Libya. That is why we had to move.” Webster said. She had only lived in Libya for seven months before the revolt against Muhammad Gadhafi began, when a portion of the country’s population protested and eventually ran Gadhafi out of the country. Still, seventh months was all she needed to experience the culture on the other side of the world.

“There really is no way to compare Libya to Katy. Libya is a desert environment, and everyone dressed differently,” Webster said, “Another big difference was my school. There were a total of 19 in the entire high school, with only seven people in my class.”

And while Webster eventually adjusted to a new lifestyle, she did not always enjoy it. “The big thing I missed was American food.” Webster said. “There was no McDonalds, Starbucks, or Chick-Fil- A. There was one pizza place, but other than that, the food was really weird.”

Webter also had trouble keeping in contact with her friends in America.

“I really missed my friends,” Webster said. “I rarely got to talk to them because of the eight hour time difference between Libya and the U.S.”

Webster also had to deal with the friction of being an American in a country where very few Americans resided.

“I did not have the opportunity to just walk outside or go shopping. Everywhere my family went we were constantly stared at because we were Americans. We also had to cover up when we went outside. For example, we had to wear sleeved shirts and jeans everywhere we went, even when it was 100 degrees outside.” Webster said.

When asked about the signs of future liberation, like the protest against Gadhafi’s government, Webster admits that at first she was pessimistic.

“I was not scared at first because I did not think a revolution would actually happen,” Webster said, “In the beginning of February revolutions had started in Egypt and Tunisia, which are on either side of Libya. Starting soon after that were rumors that protests would start; however the U.S Embassy assured us everything was fine.”

As time pressed on, Webster began to suspect that trouble might be around the corner, and started to fear the worst.

“Gaddafi had the phone lines, internet, and TV shut off on the 20th.” Webster said, “This worried me because it meant that there was a good chance that something was happening, but Gaddafi didn’t want us to find out about it.”

That day, Webster’s father tried to go to work in downtown Tripoli, but was stopped by a group of men with AK 47s. Just as she was starting to fear for her family’s safety, relief came to their rescue.

“Around 7 pm on February 20th my dad’s company called our family and told us that we would be evacuated first thing the next morning.” Webster said, “We had less than 12 hours to figure out what we wanted to bring with us, and what we wanted to leave behind, not knowing if we would ever see any of our stuff again. Since we brought everything with us it was even sadder since it included childhood memories and pictures. We just got one suitcase each, which was little space to try and fit everything you have in. We were hopeful that things would calm down and we would be able to return to our home in a week, but that never happened.”

Although Webster was relieved to be out of a nation at war, she could not help but be sad for the things and people she had left behind.

“I think the saddest part was leaving my dogs and not being able to say goodbye to my friends since I never saw them again, although we did get our dogs back a few months later.” Webster also feels relief for her friends knowing that Gadhafi is out of power, and hopes to one day return to the country.

“I feel better about my driver being there still, whom we get to talk to every once in a while to see how he is doing, and also with some of my friends still being there.” Webster said. “Since I do consider Libya one of my homes it’s a relief to know that now it will become a greater place and I hope someday I can go back and visit.”

Webster has also found comfort knowing her fellow friends she attended school with are safe and have gotten out of the country.

“Most of the friends I made while I was in Libya did end up evacuating before or a couple days after we left. We were lucky that our whole family despite our dogs got out on a flight safely. Some of the people I met though did stay in Libya mostly because they were Libyan themselves and they wanted to stay and fight for the well-being of their own country. I was easier for me to talk to my friends from Libya because they were going through the same thing as me and they could understand what I was going through. ”