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Journal from Libya: Part 1

In celebration of National Midwifery Week, Medelita presents daily entries from the journal of Becky Carlton, BSN, CNM, an American midwife recently in Libya during the ongoing revolution. April 29, 2011 8:17am If you had told me a week ago that I'd be where I am right now, I'd probably have laughed. Not that my life hasn't been an adventure so far, but who'd have thought Egypt in April? MSF (Doctors without Borders) called me at 7:15am on Friday, April 22. Yael said to my sleep-washed brain, "Can you go to Libya on Tuesday?" Now, I've always wanted to visit North Africa, but you have to keep in mind that a civil war just started in Libya. After some 40 years under the rule of Muammar Gaddafi, the people decided that they didn't want him in charge anymore. The situation is bad enough that they are showing clips on Libya and Egypt on American television. So, Yael is waiting for me to respond. My foggy brain is trying to make a snap decision. Ummmm....sure. It's only for a month. It'd be bad PR for MSF if I got blown up, so they probably won't let that happen. I'll probably not get another chance to ever visit Libya. Maybe I can help some people. Why not? I hum to myself, "I'm Libyan on a jet plane...don't know when I'll be back again...." Ever since I saw the song "Libyan on a Jet Plane" listed in a Philippine karaoke book, I've thought it was funny. Of course, I have an itinerary, but life is uncertain. You never know when you'll die in a car accident, bust an aneurysm or get blown up by a mortar. Now, I'm headed to Libya, in an Egyptian taxi. Life is interesting. April 30, 2011 11:13am In Benghazi, Libya watching Aljazeera news feed: Gaddafi claims to have the port in Misurata in his troops’ control. NATO claims there is no evidence for this claim. Gaddafi is saying that humanitarian workers trying to access the harbor should come by land to be “protected” by his troops or risk shelling. He has mined the harbor. This is not exactly the thing a person wants to hear just before setting out in a humanitarian aid boat headed for that port. Gaddafi’s tactics are well-aimed at the psyche, I’d say. We are planning to leave today for Misurata with a proposed 20-hr journey. Nothing like wondering if he’s actually mined the harbor to make a person nervous! I think in my head of the “worst night of my life” that happened back when I was 19 on a small boat traveling from Majuro in the Marshall Islands to the atoll of Ailinglaplap, some 200 miles away over open ocean. It might not have been so bad, but I’m pretty sure that I had Dengue Fever at the time. After a day out in the sun, a night out in the rain trying to sleep on a wooden crate, temp 103.3, my bones aching so badly that I thought they would explode, I almost wished I’d get washed overboard into the sea and disappear. I anticipate that this trip will be better. Met the other midwife today. Daphne. I liked her immediately. Things seem so normal in Benghazi, but a couple blocks away the buildings are pock-marked with bullet holes and the windows recently blown out. Gaddafi’s troops were stopped at a bridge 3 or 4 blocks down. As we drove into Benghazi yesterday, the main road was blocked by demonstrators who were “happy firing” anti-aircraft weapons and AK47’s. I could feel it in my chest when they blew off the anti-aircraft guns. Today, a car passed with a little girl hanging out the window. She smiled happily as she fingered her plastic machine gun. Things continue to disintegrate in Syria, now Uganda, and Yemen. The Arab world is a mess, and I sort of hope my parents are not seeing things about Libya in the news. Becky Carlton, BSN, CNMMedelita Guest Blogger: Becky Carlton, BSN, CNM. Becky is currently working as the Midwifery Dean at Gimbie Adventist Hospital in Ethiopia. Becky has been doing missionary work for many years, with such organizations as the Peace Corps and Doctors without Borders (MSF).