Wednesday, March 28, 2007


(Written, on March 23rd, posted on 28th) Picture ion left, is of me at work in survival mode without shower in 144 hours trying to concentrate

So complicated, so frustrated …………

Out of the respect for the organising committee, I don’t feel its appropriate to place this all on my blog. However through the course of my rantings, I may change my mind and you will thus find this posted for the world as opposed to in a personal email.

I attended my first Tunisian Wedding last night, it was also the first Tunisian wedding I attended with bags in my shoes. I’m sitting at my computer with a heater between my legs because apparently the bags have done little to thwart the rain. The water probably isn’t doing me any harm though, seeing as my last shower was Monday morning and its currently Friday afternoon.

The pants I wore since I got here 32 days ago, I have had dry cleaned and am currently wearing them. Putting them on was heavenly. Like a desolate individual on a deserted island, finding some morsels of food. I have been here for 32 days, and I have washed three articles of clothing. Last night walking along the railroad tracks, someone said “careful, there is a train coming “. I said “I don’t care, I put on new socks this morning, I’ll die a happy man”

“Is that another Canadian expression he asked?”

“ No, I said, I put on new socks this morning, I’ll die a happy man”

As mentioned, I spent Saturday and Sunday in Hammammet at a hotel conference. I spent Monday at work, and Monday night, I got in a car with Heni, his uncle Dyssum (Dee-sum) and another gentleman. I was in the back of the car, day dreaming as the Arabic conversation continued up front when my daydreaming was stopped when I heard…. Aaahhhh Metro.

Dyssum is from sfax, they don’t have metro in sfax. I guess for this reason I should give him a little leeway for driving his car onto the metro tracks and being quite surprised when a metro train was coming in our direction. I stuck my head up in time to see him drive off the tracks as the train past by. I spent the next ten minutes watching Dyssum take a laughing seizure… while driving. All would be okay for a minute then he’d just start laughing and Id hear Arabic for fifteen seconds muffled with laughter, then I would hear the word Metro and he would go into convulsions as would the rest of the members in the car. I laughed too, at his laughter more than at the predicament with the metro, but I was much more involved in contemplating whether or not the character driving, whom I had met only minutes before, was drinking, or consuming some form of mind de-habilitating chemicals. I knew when in Rome do as the Romans and I shouldn’t make a fuss, but also knew drinking and driving is dangerous no matter where you are, and I didn’t think anyone could have this much fun Sober…

I guess I just didn’t know Dyssum, in reality he never drinks, and he’s always of this mood. The laughing fits, followed or proceeded by Arabic and the word Metro, continued until I left Kerkhana Thursday morning.

Kerkhana, undoubtedly spelled wrong, has a population of 30000 during this time of year, and 200000 in summer. While we toured the island; it was brought up that Heni is running on a diplomatic passport, which actually says, you can not arrest or detain this person. Dyssum, knows all 30,000 people on the island, and 3 of each of their cousins who have since moved to sfax, and I, clearly a foreigner am able to claim ignorance at any time for any infraction, so between the three their was not much stopping us.

We were on the beach in front of a hotel, when a security guard approached. I heard the guard say interdit ( not allowed ), Dyssum said a mere few words to him and the security guard said “shookcran” ( thank you ) and walked away. Friday night, I drove my first car in Africa: As coincidence would have it, I also, squealed my first tires, passed in a no passing zone and broke the speed limit for the first time in Africa. Intermittent with this law breaking we hung out at the police station. As per usual, a frank conversation started discussing Islam, and chaos in the world. A conversation, which I wont discuss, took place that would probably have me exported, and the other individuals killed if they were lucky. At one point, I somehow managed to get a clothed police officer to say in all seriousness that he loved Santa clause, but not as much as Saddam Hussein. Or was it the other way around ? None the less, the comparison had me well entertained.

The weekend was quite relaxing. I’m finding I enjoy nothing better then being invited into Tunisian family life. Theirs always lots of laughter, usually a sample of all ages; aunts, uncles, grandparents and grandchildren. Always quite happy, and a guest is always well treated and more importantly, well fed.

Dyssum, I learned, has a very persuasive personality, and because of this I was concerned when he started telling me that I couldn’t leave Wednesday night, I had to stay for “Barsha Jow” ( a lot of atmosphere in Arabic). And that I would take the 6.00 boat in the morning and be only 2-3 hours late for work. I reasoned out in my head as the following; I can leave right now, on foot, ill offend Dyssum, and ill miss dinner, scratch that. I can leave at 8 tonight, sleep in the bus station and take the 1.30 am train. Hanging out in the train station late at night sounds pretty unstable. It didn’t take too long, too rationalize it all in my head, and enjoy the jow at one of the local hotels setting ambitious plans to wake up for 4.30 for the 6:00 boat.

Jack Canfield says, too many people aim aim aim and then shoot. Sometimes you need to aim, shoot and then while the others are still aiming, take your second shot with what you learned with the first shot.

Heni and I missed the first bus, to the ferry due to some slow waking. So we walked to town and wait beside the parked bus. Its 5.10,5;15, and now 5.30 and the bus is seeing no action. I’m getting nervous and I start discussing a shared taxi, as shared taxi after shared taxi leave the bus depot. We know it will be more expensive and continue to hold out for the magical school bus to start back up. Finally at about 5.35 we give in. Heni talks to the shared taxi driver who says there’s not enough people and he’ll wait until the next boat at 8.

Keeping in mind the dollars are all relative to CDN, I ask Heni to discuss renting the entire shuttle. Heni reports back to me that the driver wants 8 dinars, but he says, every person that enters on the way, he’ll give us their fare.

Too much Heni says.

The guy comes back, okay, you give me 4 and I keep all the money we gather. What is this? Kerkanah gambling ? Before he wouldn’t go for less than 8 but now he’ll go for four, if its possible hell get as much as 10.

None the less, the shuttle in Halifax is 12 dollars for one person and I will be late enough as is for the 11:00 arrival I had speculated to my boss, let alone missing the 6:00 ferry. We reluctantly accept, and climb into the empty van. I watch my watch frantically, on the drive to the ferry. 5.40, 5.45, why is this guy stopping . ill pay the bloody 560 millemes for this passenger. 5.50, 5.53, 5.54 5.55 just one more turn. phew, the boats still here.

By the time we reach the ferry, the van was full and Heni didn’t want to pay the 4 D. I had agreed to pay. I though it was a little wrong not to pay, but thought it would be an entertaining argument, so I not entirely guilt free told Heni, ill give you 4D you do what you want with it. Turns out the driver got his 10, but not before having to argue with Heni about why we should pay for seats we couldn’t actually use. Certainly I would have liked to lay down on the drive since I had rented the entire van.
As I knew what we had committed to the driver, I felt a little guilty as voices raised and I avoided the feeling by entering the ferry. Still watching my watch, and think about the next train, shared taxi, or bus going the 3 hours to Tunis so I could take a 30 minute train to work. If all goes perfect It though ill be at work by 11.30.

And quite evidently, if things don’t go perfect ill get to work shortly before 2. But really, its okay said my boss. I thought it was okay too, until I tried to leave at 6 and he made me stay until 8. And as a nice going away present he asked me to work with him on Saturday and Sunday. Sure I said through clenched teeth . Thanks Dyssum I said in my head.

On the drive home, I learned that the guy I’m staying with has travelled South….with his keys… that open our front door. Granted it his house, I’m a vagrant and I didn’t call him to let him know I wouldn’t be around, but still its unfortunate.

The consequences of this you ask ? Well aside from the fact my belongings are in the house until Monday and I’ve been wearing the same undershirt since Friday….? Not that bad you say; however, sometimes I find clothes of mine that I decided were dirty weeks ago and then I smell them and smell what I’m wearing and its quite clear that I previously made an error and this was not dirty at all. So in reality, this shirt may have regained cleaned status more than once before. Its like dry cleaning with absolutely no water… or soap. I’m sure my Tunisian friends think I’m a homeless dirt bag telling stories like that, but I am one, so….. in my defence, I do not live like this in Canada.

as I was saying, aside from no access to belongings, its piss pouring rain, and I have no home. Hopefully Emines parents are home I think as I start my march to their house. Basically I will go door to door to my friends houses requesting leave for the night until I am reunited with the space I call “my room” on Monday. I am grateful I am in a Muslim country, as I wouldn’t feel as so comfortable doing this in Canada. It is not that I would worry about being left in the street in Canada if in the same situation, but I would feel a lot more as if I had imposed than I know I will feel here by the time Monday arrives. If my hosts are reading this and are saying, no it’s the same as in Canada, and you are imposing, let me know and Ill try and get off your couch.

In an effort to protect myself in these situations, I’ve realised that I have been creating little nests around the city. If I want to charge my camera I have to go to work. Passport and books are kept here too. The majority of my stuff stays at redouanes house (sorry for spelling). But if I want to change my shoes, I must go to the house of Mahdi and Ismail. However, my umbrella and select clothing stay at Emines, including the socks I was so grateful to find last night (actually new, not just new to my newest degraded standard of living ).
And now…..I feel that load of complaining makes an excellent segue for the following …..

The plan now is to leave here May 25th and I had visions this morning of kissing the floor of the hfx airport. I am Stoked to go to Calgary. But this journey has helped me clearer understand that whatever my place is, its on a global stage. And although, I say now, I miss the amenities, I suspect upon leaving I will miss the Emines et company as much as I now miss the amenities.

In my first 12 hours here, I’ve made friends comparable to ones I’ve known all my life. If George Bush could visit and stay alive for a few weeks in this country, he may be awestruck by the kindness of the people of the Islamic religion he feels obsessed to persecute.

Unfortunately, it is far more likely, that he would set him self up in a 5 star with guards at every door afraid to get a taste of the culture, ordering in MacDonald’s from neighbouring countries. The only thing extreme I have noticed about Islam, is the misconceptions me and the western world have about it. Dyssum said that there are no thanks between friends, and I don’t believe it could be any more true than it is here in Tunisia.

I sometimes contemplate staying here for a month to learn Arabic, but ill probably be too strongly missing the comforts of home by then. It could change when I get an apt. But at the latest, the end of June I’ll hit NS, but far more likely it will remain the 25th of May and then Calgary no later than the 8th or so of June.

If you’re asking where I find the time to write 4 pages, its my bosses fault. I told him I was done my task, but his computer has crashed and he as left me to interpret check over your work how I wish. Besides, Ill make it up on Samedi and Dimanche.

All the best, Luke

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Pics II Sfax and K island

Lunch Break is always to short. went to sfax in the south this wednesday and thursday. great time/ second pic is a souq or a market the building is near a thousand years old. In the mlix of it all i foudn a staircase. they said it was interdit, but what a view when i climbed it as shown in third pic.

fourth is in kerkanah, an island off the coast. fifth is on the boat on the way home. Good food, another friendly family. A hillarious character, Henis uncle named Dyssum as shown in the first pic.
Ill try and get it more lengthy next time

Monday, March 19, 2007



f youre looking for the continuation of last weeks story, its one blog back, titled cardell the camel has three humps

Picture one . I slept 2.5 hours last night. I look like a homeless person... however i am? so its okay.

Henis birthday, hes in the middle enjoying as we sing happy brithday. not sure what language this was.

Good clean wholesome fun. Tunisian traditional music
I saw my first camel in a taxi with three strangers and bit my toungue to keep from laughing/ didnt realize id never seen one until i saw one .

Old structures, immature boy. No really, mom, it was all thought out and totally safe. Im sure youre thinking of the horror stories of the canadian kids in mexico with broken legs that cant get home

PRobably a little less snow than in your front yard.

I apoligise for hte names. Rosenberg from comumbia, Heni is tunisian but lived all over. H___ is tunisian.

Luke working hard

Notice that this is 2 left hands. Certainly shows some international cooperation

Look mom, Church . i even went inside. Built in around 800ad i think. Check out the freaky tunnel in the wall.

Beautiful SIDI BO SAID/ its law to paint your house white with blue shutters here. Somewhat looks like monaco i think



Hotel zhara, All gone.

cardel the camel has 3 brothers

(last week I wrote a story and stopped half way through. The beginning is found in the last blog. At this point, I’ve been stopped by a Tunisian and he’s feigning interest in the idle conversation was having, and I’m feigning that I don’t think he has ulterior motives. )

He was pushing the issue pretty hard. Just show me the money man he says.
I don’t want to flat out disrespect him, as I’m not sure what that would bring. Reaching into the pocket he is staring at, I try and add up the coins I have by feeling them with my fingers so that I take out enough money for the tea but no more.

Showing him the equivalent of a CDN Dollars or 2, and having already shown him that I don’t trust him, he starts to feel that his time is being wasted.(….My sincerest apologies Cardel. )

Three girls walk by and he says something in Tunisian. None of the three bat an eye or turn around.

At this point, I know he is trying to con me,

and he knows he’s not going to be able to con me.

I would prefer he left so I can at least enjoy my tea in peace

And he would prefer to leave so he can go rip someone else off or whatever it is Cardel does on his Monday nights.

We both stare into the street contemplating the next move. I don’t think that he thinks that I thought that he was actually conning me ( did you get that ? ), And trying to save face, he doesn’t want to just get up and flat out disrespect me after feigning some interest.
The British accent breaks the silence.
“I uh I need to go check on somethin. Y’kay here? You got enough money for that tay?”

I think he really would have felt somewhat bad if I had said no I thought you were paying, but I didn’t want to give him any reason to stick around.
“ yeah I have enough”

“ you going to be right here?” he asks picking his teeth. “I’ll be back in a few minutes I just have to check on something “

“ Ill stay for a few minutes but will have to be getting on to meet my friend shortly” ( My friend about as authentic as his brother in Canada)
“Sure mate ill be back in a few minutes you can just stay here ill be back “
“ yeah for a few minutes I say, after that ill be gone” knowing full well that im going to jet at the first opportunity

He gets up and walks towards the street, then erratically turns left and into the restaurant. He walks up the stairs to the second floor, and then seconds later comes back down and goes for a door on the side wall that would allow him to leave without me noticing.

I want to know which direction he goes so I can go the other. I don’t want him to know I am watching so hell feel free to part. Neither of us wants to be in the same place as the other, but as no disrespect has blatantly been shown neither will up and leave if there is chance the other would notice.

The door is locked he walks up to the bar for a few seconds before heading towards the only exit which I am sitting beside. I casually turn to my right so he can go left without me noticing. He walks very slowly, as if he really is “going to check on something “

His initial intentions are all but confirmed in my mind, and I waste no further time picking up my things and paying the waiter before bolting in the other direction.

The next evening, a friend of mine , Rosenberg, and I were in the same area at a table exchanging stories of people asking us for money on borguibas. A few nights before, Rosenberg from Columbia was there with a Tunisian, Emine, when a dishevelled older woman approached and spoke Tunisian with emine. Rosenberg thought Emine had the situation under control until she looked at Rosenberg, hesitated, calculated her position and quickly extended her arm grabbed the sandwich off his plate and took off. At least you know she can’t spend the sandwich on alcohol.

Following the laughing fit following the recollection of this situation, my condescending suspicions about the aforementioned “cardel” were confirmed.
Cardel approached are table, and used the same line, Sir do you have the time?
No I said, glancing at him to see if he remembered me. Not at all it appeared.
Where you from ay ?

L,estat unit I said (US)

Oh yeah, he said I have a brother there. Hes married to a Spanish girl.

Really I said feigning surprise. Do you have a lot of brothers?
"No just the one" he replied thinking there was no substance to my question.

That’s funny I replied, because last night you told me that you have a brother in Canada married to an English girl.
I have a lot a lot of brothers he said.

Thank you I said, laughing in his face. But im busy.

Another time maybe he said, not fully understanding what just happened.

Sure I said.

Each night on borguibas is a myriad of incidents like this. You watch someone put away their phone (which obviously has a clock ) and ask you what time it is. Someone hears you talk about the beach and will try and relay some story about the beach to break the ice. When you tell them you’re too busy, they tell you you’re racist. I lost my cool a little bit on that one. Not so much lost my cool but took the time to explain to the gentleman that he was racist by only talking to me because I was a foreigner.

I began to keep my eyes on the ground as much as possible. The slightest glance in an individuals direction was liable to invite a request for me to marry their sister. Some people have asked, why do you talk to these people? But really, when you’re walking down the street, and there is someone on your right going, Monsieur, Excuse moi, monsieur, you can only ignore them for so many blocks before its obvious they want your attention and nipping the bud is the only way to stop the chant.

The next character, clad in a trench coat and an old fashioned cap gave me an ironic salutation. “Ah” he says to get my attention. Then he points to me and makes a gesture as if he is stroking his beard, however he is clean shaven and is really referring to my beard. Osama bin Laden he says pointing at me. I’ve read that many here think that westerners hold the belief that many Muslims are fully behind the actions of Muslim extremists such as bin laden. The two are mere stereotypes. Yes, unfortunately some westerners do believe that the majority of Muslims are supporters of such actions, and yes unfortunately some Muslims believe that all westerners think this. But I need to stress, that it is only very small portions of each group that actually fall under the umbrella of the stereotype.

The above stories are a bit outdated and ive since done some travelling to an AIESEC conference. About as good clean fun as you can have. It was almost refreshing. Anyway, Ill save that for another day.

Hope you have enjoyed,

Best, Luke

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Thanks guys

For the record, the general consensus on me not wanting to complain, was that all my compadres in canada enjoyed it. made them feel good about their life.

Ass ole

None the less, I will thus continue my ranting. and with further foudnation.

Tonight, i will be reunited with my luggage for the first time in over three weeks. (ive only been here four) So the pants im wearing may see a shower... after 26 days.

For the record, anyone whos thinking that its a blessing to travel as a Canadian.. its not really. Last night, i spent four hours on Avenue borguibas. The busies street in Tunis, in my opinion. Home to four star hotels, more cafes than colombia can provide coffee for, cathedrals theatres etc.

None the less, this was my first time spending anytime on this avenue without tunisian counterparts. Clearly a mistake. to this point i havent been really hastled too much. I was looking to purchase a new phone (Tont tell Jessica i los hers). i was following the signs for tunisiana the phone providor. innocent enough. an individual comes up and starts talking to me. okay sure i really care that you know someone in canada, oh your names kaebul great. sure lets shake hands again to that. uh where am i going, not really sure why thats your business. what am i doing here? I collect bottles for a living, mind your business. Why are you folloing me into this shoe store? cant you understand that this is a deliberate tactic e^mployed to rid me of you. Finnaly i am borderline uncourteous and say okay im going to turn around now an dgo the other direction. when he gets the idea, he hands me the bag of candy he had just bought and tries to touch my face. I think i rid him before he actually was able to brief the subject of money, and when he did realize i was leaving, he figured if he stuck his grubby finger in my face id have some immediate desire to throw money at him.

None the less, hand on couteau, i turn around and light sprint, going into random stores to make sure hes not behind me. Make it to th emain ave sucessfully and continue moseying. Here i meet two or three young skateboard style kids, mohawks piercings the whole nine yars. he tells me he wants to work in Cnada to make the big dollars. I said feel free, after all , im making the big dollars in your country (12 CDN / day).

When i departed from them he warned me to pay attention to the people on this street. Theres alot of guys that will pretend to talk to you and try and get your money. Thanks I say, thinking little of it. Thinking im wiser than the tricks of the average tunisian bear.

Enter Cardel. Realy name? sure if you think so. The same line every time. with british accented english. ey man you got the time, and points to his wrist, in case his english wasnt good enough.

Whaere you from maen?

Canada I reply. Oh yeaah, great country my brother lives there with his wife, an English girl.

Meanwhile, i don’t want to encourage further conversation and im talking to him in French. French as broken as a Tunisian internet cafe.

You write better in french or English he asks? Anglais, I reply. Could you do me a favour man, write me a post card. im thinking your fat ass wants me to send you a post card? get real?

After expressing my confusion / disbelief, he clarifies that he wants me to write him a post card in English, for a friend of his. that’s harmless enough I think, so i say okay. (idiot) I tell him im meeting a friend shortly and cant stay long (meeting friend in four hours )

He starts walking into the one of many smoke overwhelmed cafes. and i stay on the street. he returns whay man? you don’t want to come in?

I dont like the smoke i say. although really i just dont want to go into a small space with little exits. He says fine and we take a seat on the terrace. he asks me if i want anything? Sure i say, mint tea. He goes to order it,
While he’s gone i start writing a text to Jaime saying " curse being white, being harassed to write a post card". he returns saying the waiter has the order and i put the phone down.

He makes small talk where are you from? (Idiot) oh yeah, and you speak English do you? (Idiot, he already asked me these things). Oh yeah, Canada, i have a friend there.

I figure he’s messing with me at this point. But that thought process building was halted when he asks if my phone is a nokia and reaches for it. I’m concerned because i just lost my phone and want to protect the new one . but im more concerned cause this guy probably has fourteen other criminal friends within a few feet, and im just ripping him up on a text which is still on my screen.

he starts turning it into the light to read the screen. oh fuck i say, uh is it chagred i say and grab it from his hand.

Composure regained, I start wondering what’s going on. i ask him questions, who’s the post card for, a friend? Oh. Cool. Do you have the postcard, yeah here. and he pulls out a pathetic looking set of post it notes, as if he will re write what i write..... Yeah, Right.

So i start making a sincere attempt, dotting i's correcting grammar he dictates.


How are you doing? Thanks for the post cards and calls. I will call you in a few days.


(okay, by the time the card gets there, it will be a few days. So why dont you tell them that five seconds ago, you decided to call them and now you are. Same logic. SO that leaves us with. How are you doing, thanks and good bye. Right. On a post it note. )

I don’t want to write too much he says. Ill scare her. I understand this, and laugh in an effort to find some common ground and stop being so condescending.)

So where is your friend at that this card is going to.

Shes from From France he says.

Shes from france I say? (Hello? Idiot? Anyone home )

“yeah” he says, reading my mind “but the cards in English”

Okay, Chalk this one up as being messed with I think.

Then he starts talking and mumbles western union. You work at western union do you I ask ? no he says my brother sent me some money . oh the one from Canada I ask ?

Uh , yeah he says thaet one.

Yeah he sent me some money but I don’t have the card. So maybe tomorrow well come out and ill buy you some biere, but I m sorry I cant get you more tonight. He doesn’t commit to not paying for my tea, half implies he will. Not wanting to give away his cards. Hes calculating whether or not I will pay out with charity if he shows his amicability by paying for my tea.

Sorry bud, no refunds.

(cough con cough )

The tea comes, uh you have any change for the tip to give the waiter. Still naively thinking im going to get a free tea for my efforts and ill say no when he asks for cash.

Yeah I have some money for the tip I say. Were both facing the street now. Sitting down with a table between us. How much he says. Some I say Well how much you got mate. And he starts backing up from the table looking at my pocket where my hand is. I pull out a few hundred milliemes CDN 30 cents or so. That’s it he says? I have a little more I say, knowing by this time that im paying for the tea. But I want to give him every comfort in the world there will be no problems if he leaves.

How much he says staring at my pocket? What you don’t want to tell me ?

No I say, point blank.

Whay noet maen ?

Cause I don’t know you I say. He stares at me uncomfortably.

_____________ Sorry, have to leave to be continued, late for work_________


Sunday, March 11, 2007

Vraiment, J'aime mon Vie

The masses have spoken and i apologise for the decline in frequency in blogs.

I had realised that i was starting to complain quite frequently and didnt want to post another blog for fear of sounding quite cynical. no d oubt the situation would have been entertaining. However id like to avoid sounding like a 40 year old lesbian comedian whos always complaining about back fat or menopause. I apologise if that references is a bit abstract.

None the less, I hadf my first shower in 120 hours sunday, then spent the day in the rain. oh and if i havent called you, its because i lost my phone. None the less, life is quite enjoyable. the sun is out today and im off to work. Ill try and get a more comprehensive blog asap.

Good luck with your life.

Monday, March 5, 2007

Right right left right

Salut Ca Va ?

Each time I go into the city of tunis I am offered to be met by a resident. Much appreciated but doesn’t provide much opportunity to explore the place and learn it. Yesterday I made an effort to not tell anyone id be in tunis to give me a chance to learn the place.

Now, you would think that it is not so easy to get lost in the middle of a city. Not lost as in im not sure where my hotel is, and I don’t want to stop and ask someone. I mean im lost and I am probably going to die before finding out where I am supposed to be. Well au contraire my friend. I’m sure there are some alleys in this place that contain a gate guarded by elves and lions and on the other side is a giant blackhole.

This city is a jungle. I had started to notice the trend, that the narrower the alleys, the less likely I had a clue where I was. This is why I became somewhat concerned yesterday when I found myself turning side ways because my shoulders wouldn’t fit the wide way. That was only half the instability. The other half was in the forty year old man guiding me either out of, or into, the core of this jungle.

“yeah it just up here a ways” he says, followed by a slurred tu fume?

“non, je ne fume pas, Merci “I said

“Not tobacco“he laughs “ vous avez cette dans Canada, oui?” and he turns around to me and unrolls his hand to expose a joint. I was having a hard enough time finding up as it was.

I have always found there is something exciting about only vaguely having a clue where you are. Hopefully in most circumstances, you can retrace your footsteps. And hopefully you turned around and noted your path enough times that you can make your way back. But as you get bolder and bolder and go farther and father from your comfort zone its quite easy to mix things up. Was it the right or left of this fruit stand that I left the alley? Was it the green line 4 subway or the yellow line 7. Did he say go right right left or right right right left.

There are no hard fast rules for going on an inner city adventure or outer for that matter. Just don’t day dream, be observant not in awe. And don’t start thinking of what your mother would think if she knew you were following a taxi driver through china town in Malaysia bartering for a rolex that only loses a second every two seconds. Thinking of what she would say, will just make you laugh rebelliously and you’ll forget to take note of the signs, streets, hydrants, goats tied to signs etc. etc. etc.

I believe that I could have at any time retraced my steps and found the train station or another landmark I was famliliar with, but I was certainly on the cusp of not being able to. In fact I had decided I would turn this last corner and if nothing was clear I would turn back. Well low and behold, down the alley was a restaurant I had visited once before last week. Unfortunately I was with people who lived here and I didn’t notice which alley we came in from, although I was certain it was not the one I used now. There are three alleys, approaching the restaurant. I was on one, and one of the other two I knew led to emines. Basically 50% chance of success ( not considering I wasn’t so confident I could go back the way I came successfully. I tried the right, it seemed more familiar. When I came to a T, and saw no light at the end of either way I turned around and decided to try the third of the three allies.

On the way out, the same gentleman who had tried to trade me his euros for some dinars on the way in, nodded ( I think it was a nod to say, youp you don’t have a clue and im going to get those dinars for these euros and then ill let you out of here). I nodded and continued on. Upon reaching the restaurant I went sharp left into the final alley.

Seeing a sign I had recognised the night before, I felt some hope. I might actually make it home before dark I thought. Bread for the lions tonight.

Spoke to soon. The alleys are getting narrower and nothing is looking familiar. Maybe around this next turn….
Well there was something familiar, unfortunately it was the banker with the Euros.

“Vouz avez un carte? “ il m’demande

If i had a map worth a shit I probably wouldn’t be here I said in my head sarcastically. But I humoured him and pulled out the lonely planet. After pretending to understand the index he decided it was best he’d just walk me out to the main drag.

This is smart I said. Im ten feet from the last place from which, I have any hope of finding familiarity and I’m following this gentleman who ive known for all of 65 seconds. Screw it I thought. Chances are im screwed if I do and im screwed if I don’t so I may as well have some faith in my new friend.

IT was about this time when he offered me the narcotics. The fine for which is undoubtedly punishable by worse than the Canadian reprimand of a $500 fine.

After I refused his marajauna and his euros one more time he left me with the wise advice of “ go straight until you hit the market, at the market go right, then right, then left…or was it right right left.

The clarity of his advice ill never know. I reached the market and after a pair of shoes caught my eye I went right……low and behold. Is that the fountain I saw this morning….. and the vendor I bought the banana from? Can it be ?

Oh merci me it is
It is

Thank you european banker

Thank you familiar restaurant

Thank you banana vendor and thank you pair of shoes.

As the storey goes, I did make it out and back home well before dark. After reaching familiarity I stopped and leaned against a wall and had a laugh before texting a friend to describe the severity of the confusion I had just experienced.

I would like to say ill be smarter the next time. But chances are the next time I get the chance Ill take that one last turn one last time just to make sure I have no idea where I’m going.

All the best



Thanks to Kaela and Amene for offering to do some laundry after reading my last blog. It wasn’t the intent but none the less it was much appreciated. Oh and kaela, I think I got some spaghetti on the right collar if you want to work on that. I am told that peroxide will help

Thursday, March 1, 2007

your email answered in a very large large nutshell (nutshell ha, thats where my brain is stored) ... who tries to put a joke in a title anyway

Below you will find an email I received today from an anonymous source. Chances are if there was no such thing as a blog I wouldn’t answer this. But since more than one person will…. Scratch that. Lore than one person “might” reqd this/ its worth the effort/

You said just cause you are on the Med doesn't mean you want to go in the ocean.
What's the ocean like?

The ocean looks very nice, and in front of my hotel it is very clean. I don’t think that locals or non paying guests are allowed to go there. However, on a previous adventure I explored a large portion of the beach and learned that there is a large storm/ sewer drain which drains into the beach about 500m from the hotel. I doubt it would meet current effluent regulations set by the Nova Scotia Department of Environment.

Is it dirty like post-tsunami India?

No, theres a lot les garbage, and theres no large piles of rubble like whole houses bulldowed up like there was in India. Also there is no four pieces of debris every three steps like there was in India. Also less dog feces… at least I think there was. However now that I think about it, I did explore it in the dark and my hotel room did stink that night.

Do bums hang out at the beach?

No bums that I saw on the beach. There are cats on the sidewalk beside the beach and there are dogs on the beach. I saw people fishing one night. They had their rods sticking into the sand sticking straight up like a flagpole. They had buckets full of fish beside them so it appears they were catching something. But im sure there was a social element too.

Are there bums?

My first day out exploring Hammam Lif was pretty interesting. I had been here a week and I was feeling adventurous. I interpreted my journey thus far as successful and at one point, while walking back to work, I said in my head. Man this is a great place, I love life!.

The words were barely out of my mouth and about 100m in front of me, a man was lying on the ground. It was a fairly busy street and beside the train so I don’t suppose he was just enjoying the sun. He was laying on his left side with his elbow on the ground, and his face resting on his hand as if he were reading a book or watching his children play on the beach. However he had his a foot from the curb and his face three feet from the business in front of him. He looked no different than what I imagine the average new york homeless person looks like. Although the image that is stored in my brain under the file of new york bums has pictures of men with white or black complexion where as this gentleman was more of a Tunisian gold brown.

On the inside of his left leg; the one that was exposed to the sky, his pants were ripped starting at below his crotch to above his ankle. Thus exposing a large portion of his leg but leaving the pants from coming detached. As I was on cloud nine, and enjoying the place his presence surprised me. However I believe he was equally surprised to see me as when he did notice me he writhed or wriggled closer to the building farther from the curb all the while with his left check held up by his left hand.

Although we were both surprised im not sure who was in the wrong, him for resting in a walkway, or me for carrying on thinking if life is good for me then this world is great. In retrospect it is not so true. I wanted to give him money, but thought I would offend him. And would a few dinars really help whatever was causing him to lay here.

So in short, yes there are bums. To my knowledge ive never been asked for money. The majority of bums ive seen since this gentleman are missing limbs. The homeless will often sit in the middle of markets. The loud and aggressive vendor next to him will have tables full of everything under the sun, whereas the homeless man, limbed or unlimbed, will sit there on plywood with a few meagre sometimes new sometimes used items such as garbage bags, electric tape, old shoes tools and other such oddities.

Do cows hang out on the beach?

Ive never seen a cow at the beach. Ive seen a goat tied up to a road sign in the middle of the city with no owner around. I had a little laugh. So did the Tunisian with me but I think he was laughing at me more than the goat. Like the homeless man, im not sure if the goat was right to be there or I was right to laugh.

It is not uncommon at all to walk four blocks and see three cows heads hanging at eye level in front of a b utcher. Tongues have turned white and are hanging out of their heads. I very near walked into one while talking on the phone. I think if I get a face full of cow I will lose my mind. Especially if I walk into the back of it and it gets stuck on my face like a cartoon or something. Its bad enough trying to keep my friends from llaughing with my French let alone if I always had a cows head on. Plus imagine the job cleaning your ears? Youd need a mop for each ear.

What are the markets like?

The whole country is a market as far as I know/ Like India. Stores selling gum pop water juice bars phone cards etc. every 50m. coming to these places explains why so often you see convenience stores in Canada run by foreign individuals. That may be a stereotype and I apologise if it is untrue, but I think it would be hard to argue that often in cities in Canada convenience stores are ran by individuals who were not born in Canada. I think it is in the blood. Most people here who have a house will but a store on the front it seems or maybe they,re renting but most often street front is commercial not residential but theres large houses in behind.

The official markets are called sooks. An old Arabic word im told. Theres everything from the aforementioned cows head to pretty spectacular fruit displays where at one thirty foot stretch of frontage you can see the surface of hundreds of oranges apples bananas pears and alike. They are stacked only one layer deep so you can see so many colors and they will start on the ground and rise progressively away from the road making an entire sloped wall of citrus colors. Ive taken some pictures quite stunning and I cant imagine taking it down each night.

The markets are either held in regular st reets where everyone says okay were going to have markets here on this street every day. At days end they all pack up theirs remnants of everything left there.

I visited a sook in Souss it was feet away from the 1000 year old walls mentioned in the last blog. All the shops face into this narrow ten foot wide alley and the roof is usually covered with apartments but occasionally it will break open and you can look up for several stories and see the sky at the top but the sides are all buildings. Tehres everything from people making jeweery at little tables to entire rooms filled with spices. You will also find knock offs for everything under the son from celine dion cds to rolex to ipod to puma. People yell to get attention. Its more like the India markets with this whole “please sir come into my shop”. But I think everyone gets that even the locals. No doubt im a little more popular being quite apparently a foreigner.

Do you bargain?

I wanted a new cover for the phone. There was one for 4 dinars. I offered the guy 2/ he said no and I left. The taxis are metered cars not rickshaws so theres no bartering. I walked into a classy clothing store today and I asked how much and the guy said quatre veingt but for you I will give you good price. I haven’t bought anything large, but when I do you can bet I will be bargaining or walking away. The buyer is the demand the seller is the supply in this country

What has be the scariest situation you've been in?

Read the last blog

Do you like going to the office?

Its in the morning so its you know so so. I don’t bound up the stairs. Or anything (all nine flights ). Its good in the morning. And if I can do the work than its okay time goes bye and I don’t notice. However, the work is ridiculously hard. Over my head that is. And all I have is French text boks. So it gets a little hard and im just stalled trying to figure out the origin of this number or this variable. Then I watch the clock like crazy. I started coming early for work but I was always the fist one there. Everyone Is always late and I would end up sitting on the stairs like john plum with his thumb in a pie. So I started showing up late. However do to the problems with how hard it was I couldn’t wait to get out. At six I would hope noone would see me and sneak out and I run down the stairs like a little kid, as I reach each landing and turning rright I would reach out and put my right hand on the right railing so I could swing around turns faster. All the while left hand on the cell phone preparing the evening.

Do you have some personal space there?

First day I walked in there are five offices lunch room and a washroom. I am introduced to everyone except one. I walk into the last office with my boss Ridha. He says this is lotfi and points to a 22 year old engineer tall thin long hair, later I learn to be somewhat timid. And after introducing us and we shake hands, the boss goes… LOTFI and speaks aggressively in Arabic. Lotfi packs up his shit in a hurry and goes into the other office. Ridha then looks at me and says cette et ton bureau ( this is your office) and smiles.

Its been my office every since.

Work environlent is good. Two guys;+ the boss Ridha and me. There are also three girls who are always giggling. Yesterday we had delicious cheese cake chocolatey as anything with juice. Im not sure why but I think it was because of a cyclone in guadelope one year ago today. The tornado struck near to one of the structures ridha designed and it didn’t fall down wheras other ones did. Therefore we had cake. I didn’t care. It was good, and it broke up the searching for the theta variable in the French text book.

My boss is pretty nice. Hes stern but gives complements when they’re due…..i think theyre compliments He also doesn’t hold back on giving me use of the phone for international and has paid for my hotel for almost two weeks now. Takes me for lunch etc. He seems to be genuinely interested in my well being. He often asks, if my mother is pleased with the treatment I am getting.

How's the dino-computer working?

Never had to use it. The French excel on my computer is becoming more bareable, but looking forward to getting my mp”3 player so I can put on my headphones when people are blaring celine dion or ridha is yelling LOTFI

What do you usually eat for breakie?

When I am with frinds I look forward to walking out to the kitchen or nearest shop and buying a pain du chocolate which is basically a muffin with chocolate in the middle but everyone else eats them so its okay. Also we heat up milk and pour in this sugar wannabe. Also fruit is common.

For the last two weeks ive been getting complimentary breakfast at the hotel
Juice made with sea water
Half a French bread usually stale
Some sort of lemon cake
Glass of milk
And coffee or tee
I usally take half the bread with me to work.
I usually eat breakfast in bed, in the tub, or staring out the window. That or watching French morning shows.

How do you wash your clothes?

I have been here now for 11 days. I have three pairs of pants. I wore my blue ones twice but theyre good so im saving htem. i have worn the same green ones every day other than that. Its okay though, everyone wears clothes 2, 3, 5 days in a row. Even my boss who certainly would have no difficulty in having someone wash his clothes (LOTFI would if noone else would im sure.) I try and change my undershirt and underwear at least every three days. ( sorry im not joking).
I have no way to do laundry since im staying in hotel. A week ago I bought a new t shirt it was great…. Im still wearing it. Ly big school bag has been in tunis without me for a week ro two so I cant change my supplies. I have with me two t shirts 2 underwear and 2socks and 2 dress shirts with me. I got exactly half of that cleaned at the hotel two days ago but wont wear them until I really mess up the ones im wearing.

You do wash your clothes, right???!
Please see above

If anyone read this whole random babbling, you have obviously have way more important thigns to be doing. Stop procrastinating and take hold of your life. You are ion control. If you actually read to the bottom, youre struggling for something better to do. Reading this wont do your assignment. It wont do your laundry. It wont break up with your significant other and it wont drink that bottle of scotch on the table with your name on it. Turn off the computer and go utilize the potential life you have inside of you. Meanwhile ill probably write a ten pager again tomorrow.


Ps. Emails with questions seem to make effective subjects. The only person to contest that would be you but obviously youre still reading

photos and awareness

Cracker Schnaffel

Just lost the blog i had written for you. Alors this one will be shorter. you might even be able to finish this one. I havenùt seen my belongings since monday morning and thus havent got my usb to upload pictures. So to cheat ive got some pics of thigns ive seen in Tunis to give you an idea.

P.S. this is a special thanks to jessica, She told me she dreamed something and that the outcome was that i should be safe and stay aware. she was right and i was probably becoming too comfortable.
Las night i was walking from the hotel to the train. i get to the intersection and there is a guy standing where i will turn right. its about 10 pm theres a street light and this is close to the center of a four way intersection. the guy is about 35 well dressed. i nod and say salaah and keep walking. people are quite friendly so i wasnt suprised when he said ca va i said cava bien et toi? he said cava and kind of stepped a few feet towards me. I was fifteen feet away and walking away.
keeping jessicas advice in mind i cross the street and i put my hand on my couteau (knifes are illegal here so i wouldnt carry one. a couteau is french for knife). I start hearing the guy make this noise, like hes calling a cat. hiss kisst you know how you call a cat? i turn around and he does it again? okay i stop he is clearly trying to get my attention. its prety poorly lit now lots of trees and fences on both sides.
I say excuse me? he does it again i say je ne suis pas un chat. and he kind of jogs over.
he says vous etes aller a le hotel.
oui, je suis aller a le hotel.
vous etes tunisian. i ask?
and keeping jesicas warning in mind im keeping my distance and starting to think its a little strange that hes walking the same direction as me. he keeps saying ca va ca va? i say in french. your french is not good? he says no not good. i ask why are you waing this way he shrugs his shoulders so i move a few feet away and im looking behind me and beside me to make sure his friend isnt jumping out of the bushes or whatever.
Then i ask again in french why are you walking this way and he kind of stops and looks at me and squints his eyes and pouts his lips and makes three quick kiss faces . ... this is where if we were watching a movie you would hear the records skip sqrchhh ALRIGHT BUDDY i say arrete arrete quitter maintenant. i point to where he came from and pick up the pace. non? he says with a french accent. no thank you i said and kee walking away as he turns around and makes his way back to the corner he was apparently working. I walk quickly and in the middle of the street to avoid the dark bushes on the sides all the way to the hotel. laughing as i enter the room i make sure to do the dead bolt just in case.
so. there you have it, i was hoping the first advance i would fend off would be from an exotic looking tunisian princess but no such luck. None the less, thank you jessica for your warning and its a good lesson that if something doesnt seem right... it probably isnt
Enjoy the photos; and stay out of dark alleys.
All the best,

This is the town of Hammam Lif, where I live and where I work. South is left Rlkight is North. its 45 minutes by train to the city of tunis where i will be based sometime next week. My hotel is on the right of this photo, my work is pretty much dead center.
Its not my photo so i have no idea about the boats or why the people are in the water, likely theyre getting water to make the juice i drink in the morning. that would explain some things including the constant fetal position rewuired to keep my stomach from cramping up (chill out mom its not really like that ) (who references their mom in their blog anyway)

This is the city of souss, the courtyard. Visited here las week. the base of the walls were built over 2000 years ago then flattened in the punic wars and then rebuilt 800 years ago.

Last but not least this is the skyline of the city Tunis where i will live in a week or two

Hope you have enjoyed ill get you some real photos in the days to come.



I havent seen my belongings in a few days and my usb cable is with them. Alors its not possible to put up any of my photos. To cheat ive accumulated some photos stolen from other peoples blogs etc. Hope you enjoy

This is hammam lif from plane. i work somewhere in the middle of this photo. Not the photo but the town the photo is depicting. As its not my photo i have no idea wbout the boats or people. Maybe theyre waiting for a tsunami..... i guess thats not a real appropriate joke. anyway moving on.....

This is taken from the mountain seen in the picture above... i think. dont bother using them to hunt me down cause theres no guarantee of accuracy.

This is also hamma lif but taking from lower down obviously. Muy hotel is a little bit to the left of this photo