Ten days or so in Benghazi, another ten in Tripoli, and maybe a few days in London on the back end. That was the plan. And I did have a plan; I didn’t just up and decide to go to Libya, that would be ridiculous. A family friend invited me, one of my older brother’s compatriots when they were teenagers and I was just a little tyke. I had some concerns about security; back then our interactions often involved having my head stuffed into a toilet. (No hard feelings – they always offered a courtesy flush.) But we’d seen each other a few times since then, and we’re about evenly matched now, so I figured I’d be okay. We exchanged a few emails over the summer. His company has been active in Libya since shortly after the revolution, helping develop local industry as the country gets back on its feet. They had a rented villa in Benghazi – plenty of space, he said. Come on over.
I figured it would be an adventure, and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see a place I’d never have the brass to visit on my own. I’m not exactly an international vagabond. Prior to this trip, my excursions outside of the U.S. had taken me as far afield as Rosarito and exotic Vancouver. I figured maybe I’d get a few stories out of it, and a few useful contacts, and if not, well, it would just be a very unusual vacation. And either way, I’d get to have a birthday in Benghazi, which sounds like a Dead Kennedys song, so that about settled it.
I finalized my plans exactly one day before news broke about the attack on U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens, who was killed – note the parallels – in a Benghazi villa, not too far from where I was staying. I’d be lying if I said there weren’t second thoughts. But pretty soon my plane tickets were booked and there was no backing out. Besides, you can’t believe what you see on TV. Reporters are always worked up about something or other. It probably wasn’t as bad as all that. I’d be fine. Right?
I’ll end the suspense right now – it wasn’t as bad as all that. It was great, actually. I’m not going to do a full play-by-play here, but over the next week or two I’ll be posting some excerpts from my journal, as time permits. I didn’t come back empty handed either, so I should have some actual reported work forthcoming. In the meantime, I’m posting a few pictures I took along the way, and getting back to my stateside reporting. It’s easier here, where I can communicate with words, instead of spastically waving around my Arabic phrase book and pointing at things.