Can We Really Skip School and Go to the Theme Park?

"Amal Mansour"

I spent my childhood in Tripoli during the 1980s and early ‘90s. It was one of the most beautiful times in my life, full of adventure, play, karate movies, and lots of cartoons. 

In the summer, I would play football with the neighbors and ride my bicycle with my cousin around the streets of Zawyet Al-Duhmani. In Gurgi, at my grandmother's home, Mama Zahra, my best friends were the sons and daughters of Uncle Mahmoud. Our parents made us take naps in the afternoon and forbade us from leaving the house. We had to wait for them to fall asleep before we’d slip out to the garden and play. 

We were obsessed with brewing a make-believe poison. We’d fill a Pepsi bottle with dirt, ants, weeds, water, and detergent, screw the lid back on, and shake it very well. I don’t recall who we were making that “poison” for, but we all believed we had to be prepared for our enemies.

My cousin, Khaled, would then round us all up for our ninja sessions. He would show us the moves and ask us to repeat them back to him. Whoever made a mistake would have to start their training from the beginning. Khaled was a very strict coach. 

Then, we would start looking for the key to the pantry, where our grandma, Mama Zahra, kept plenty of treats hidden. Whoever found the key first would sneak in quietly, open the box of chocolates and distribute the bars equally amongst the “gang members.” They would then close the box and return it to its place, as though nothing had happened.

In winter, we rejoiced when it rained heavily, hoping our parents would keep us home from school in fear of us catching a cold. Time off school meant more time to play and watch cartoons. When it rained hard, the streets filled up with water. 

When the warm, beautiful sun came back out, its rays reflected in the puddles, the boat race would begin. We each made a boat out of paper, and the child whose boat could cut the longest distance across the puddle, before being completely submerged in water, was the winner. The contestant whose boat would reach all the way to the other end of the puddle was overcome with pride, as though their boat had crossed an ocean from one continent to another. 

At that time, Tripoli had only one theme park, which was apparently built by the Italians. We’d go there once a year during Eid Al-Fitr, so those trips were incredibly special. The photo I’ve shared here is of a memorable day from my childhood; it was a winter day in the late ‘80s, and I was in my first year of primary school. 

That day, it had rained heavily since dawn, flooding the streets, so our parents decided to keep us home from school. Once the rain stopped and the sun came out, we managed to convince our parents to take us to the theme park. We were bursting with happiness and couldn’t believe that we were actually skipping school and going to the theme park.

In the photo, the last row from right to left shows Hamouda, Sanaa, then Khaled. In the front row from right to left is Hanaa, my brother Ahmed, me, Amal, and then Zahra. So many years have passed since this photo was taken, and we’ve gone on to live in many different countries; from the U.S., to the UK, to France. Still, we all remember this moment as one of the happiest memories from our childhood. 

Born in Tripoli, a civil activist, a consultant in physical therapy in Los Angeles. She obtained her Ph.D. from Mount Saint Mary’s University in California, United States.

Amal Mansour
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