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