Thursday, September 30, 2010

There will be camel rides for everyone at my wedding.

So I may or may not be engaged to a Berber date farmer. 
Tunisian Boyfriend:  check.

I took the train downtown by myself today and spent a few hours roaming around the Medina (more on that later) and after I grabbed some lunch (ordering food here seems to be an enormous ordeal so more on that later too) I decided to relax on a bench for a few minutes.  This was after I was relaxing on a bench not eating my lunch- that took half my life to order - because it was gross and a guy sat down next to me and would not stop speaking French to me.  Even after I told him I spoke zero French.  Through a series of pantomimes I figured out that his name was Mamadu, he was from Mali and played soccer here.  And once he found out that I was American he said, "Oh!  America!  Party!  You party?  Let's party sometime."  That was the only English he knew.  So I eventually left because it was exhausting trying to hold a conversation entirely in charades.

I found another bench a little ways down and another guy sat next to me.  Is it just me or in America isn't there the rule that you don't sit on a bench if someone else is sitting there and if there are other seating options, even if there is room?  I'm talking about the standard three-man bench.  I suppose it you're bleeding from the head or swooning from the heat and need a place to sit and call 911 you could ask to share a bench and even then you sit on the other end but I just don't see it happening very often at home.  It happens ALL THE TIME here.  (Just yesterday I was enjoying the solitude on a bench overlooking the sea and a man sat down and offered me half his sandwich.)  And they don't sit on the other end, they squeeze in right next to you - which this man did.  It was a three-man bench and another guy had already sat down on the other end and the new guy got comfy in between us.  He was wearing a suit and smoking a cigarette and he spoke a little English.  He started chatting with me - about where I was from, how long I had been in town, how did I like it so far.  He told me his name was Aziz, he was a Berber date farmer from down south in the Sahara and that he was on a week long vacation in Tunis.  And then he said, "I would be very happy if you would let me buy you a coffee."  I explained to him that (thankfully) I had to catch a train.  So I said good bye and got up and then he got up and started walking with me.  "It would make me very happy to walk you to your train."  Um...okay. 

So we start walking and we came to a street to cross (Sidenote:  cars don't stop for pedestrians here.  Ever.  Even when they have a red light.  It is a battle of wills to see who will stop first.  I've always won so far.) and he grabbed my hand, presumably to help me safely across the street because he recognized that I was 80.  I instinctively pulled my hand away and he asked what the problem was.  I explained to him that in America we don't hold hands to cross the street.  And yet he kept on trying, and we had to cross like 10 intersections.  I really do think it was him being the gentleman - he would wave at cars to stop for us and let me walk ahead of him.  So I wasn't too put off by it.  And I've noticed that everyone here does in fact hold hands.  Everyone walks arm in arm or with their arms draped across shoulders.  Men, women, boys, girls - everyone.  It's sweet.  Except when a stranger is trying to practice the local custom on you.

I evaded the hand holding for all 10 intersections, including a dangerously busy roundabout (I'll tell you sometime about how the Party Honda and I were accosted by a blue VW in a roundabout yesterday.) and I was seriously worried that he was going to insist on accompanying me home on the train and I was all set to karate chop him in the neck to get him to leave me alone.  The entire time we were walking he kept saying things like, "I would like to take you to the Sahara."  "You are very beautiful."  "Please come back to Tunis tomorrow so we can go for coffee."  To my great relief he stopped about 100 feet from the station and said how lucky he felt to have met me on his very first day in town and I thought I was home free...

And then he moved in for the kiss!

It is customary here to give a kiss on each cheek for hello and goodbye and I've had people do it to me whom I've just barely met.  So I was afraid this would happen but was hoping I would get out of it.  But he grabbed my hand and with lightening speed moved in and I seriously could not have turned my head any father to ensure that he got the cheek and not something else.  Because it certainly looked like he was aiming.

I broke free and booked it to the station, all the while wondering what constitutes an engagement amongst the Berbers.  If it's a casual conversation followed by a walk to a train station then I am in big trouble.

I realize that this is the type of story that TERRIFIES my parents.  Right now my mom is on her knees saying a prayer of gratitude that I was not carried off to live the rest of my life on a date farm.  So I would like to report to them that I never felt threatened or afraid and there were thousands of people around and he was nice enough, if not extremely forward, and I was serious about karate chopping him if he got too fresh. 

Although, Dad, just think of all the free dates you would get if it did work out.

So I mentioned that I would write about all the other things that happened today (and there were a lot, including another guy very passively hitting on me and I didn't even realize it.  I can't even get a date back home but here I'm Miss America.  Two men gave me their phone numbers today, for crying out loud.) but this is clearly too long already and you're probably bored to tears and I'm tired.  I'll tell you tomorrow.  Maybe.  Bronwyn and Chris are leaving for the weekend and I'll be left with the boys.  It could be pandemonium for a few days.  Especially when Henry figures out that they're gone.  He's a sweet, funny kid and I love him to bits but when something happens that he doesn't fully support he has a look that says, "You better run before I laser beam you with my eyes."

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


We traveled down to Hammamet today.  It's like the Las Vegas of Tunisia.  Maybe the Atlantic City, since it's on the beach.  It's where all the Tunisians go for vacation.  It has some casinos and a medina that is actually a mall made to look like an old medina.  It's pretty kitschy but it was lovely.  I just realized that the picture doesn't make it look lovely, what with all those sad gray clouds.  But those cleared up in a jiff and it was nothing but sunshine and gelato after that.

The other day I was drving around town and I saw a restaurant named Cool Buger and it made me instantly crave a really good cheeseburger.  You just can't find American food here.  I mean, you can,

(Yeah, that says Tex Mex)  but it's not going to be close.

We ordered cheeseburgers for lunch, mostly to see what they were like.  They are cheeseburger-ish in that they have meat and cheese on a bun but it's nothing like the real thing.  (Dear Whoever Picks Me Up from the Airport, Please know the location of the nearest In n Out for my welcome home feast.  Hugs, Rachel)

Also, that "Fast Food" on the napkin is a relative term.  It took about 30 minutes to get our food.  This is typical. 

I did have a very authentic Tunisia dish along with my cheeseburger

It's called brik and it's tuna and an egg wrapped in filo dough.  It was ... not bad.  I mean, I don't think I would go out of my way to eat it again but it wasn't awful.  Our waiter spoke some English but Bronwyn had to still figure out a way to explain to him that we wanted the egg fully cooked.  She said that sometimes it will be like it's fresh from the shell.  Ew.  When our waiter found out we were Americans he said that he really wants to go to California so I told him that's where I was from.  A few minutes later Hotel California was playing over the radio and he came out singing it.  Cute.

Speaking of cute

We saw a whole lot of this

But I kid.  Here's what's really cute.

Me and Sam

And here's Henry trying to figure out how to scale the wall to get to the ships

We took a horse and buggy ride down by the beach.  It was a very Seinfeldian moment for me.


Saturday, September 25, 2010

Frisky Beetles.

Are you getting a little tired of all these ancient ruins?  I've almost exhausted all of them in the neighborhood so it may be the last of them until I actually go to Rome.  Yep.  I'm going to Rome!  In November!  With my BFF Cynde!!!!!!!!  We're meeting up there and spending 6 days reenacting scenes from Roman Holiday. 

Enough squealing.  Back to the old stuff. 

You have to pay to get into all the sites in Carthage but you just pay once and that gets you into all of them but just for one day.  Well, I went yesterday to Byrsa and then the Great Flood of '010 happened and I couldn't go to any others so today I had to charm and pantomime my way in.  Every time I got up to a new site and handed the guy my ticket with yesterday's date on it he would start speaking in Arabic and shaking his head and I would smile and act out the rain (spirit fingers in a downward motion) and the flooding (panicked face, hands going up to indicate water rising, swimming to safety) and then point to my watch wrist like, can you believe it, I didn't make it before that darn rain! and then shrug and smile again.  They let me in everytime.  I would reward their kindness with a jovial laugh and pat on the shoulder and a promise to behave and not pee on any ancient relics.

All that hard work got me into the Roman Theater.

Where I'm sure Ye Olde Roman High School Drama Department put on productions of Our Town and Grease.  But today they were setting up for a different event.

Nope.  Still don't want to see it.  Even in such a cool place.  I can't justify giving James Cameron my dollars or my dinars.

Next up was Tophet.

This is where the Phoenicians sacraficed thousands of wee babies.  Oh, Days of Yore.  You're so charming.  With all your killing and stuff. 

When you go to these places there are always a handful of tour guides trying to get you to pay them to take you around.  I suppose it's worth it, if you like guided tours.  I can't handle them.  It goes back to the 4th grade when I went to the Natural History Museum on a field trip and all I wanted to do was see the dinosaur bones but the guide made us look at old pottery and arrowheads and even at the age of 9 I knew this was some sort of sick joke.  I mean, the dinosaur was RIGHT THERE!  And we're looking at ancient kitchen junk?  I'm clearly not over this.  Anyway.  Guided tours.  Lame.  Especially when I can barely understand what they're saying to me.  So I tend to ignore them.  But this one guide would not be ignored.  He kept following me around and telling me about dead babies and crushing up sprigs of lavendar and rubbing it on my hands and telling me, "This is the plant of the Emperor.  You are now the Emperess!"  Yes, I get it.  Now either show me the dinosaur or shoo.

I got out of there with my a sprig of lavendar tucked behind my ear and enough Punic mud on my flip-flops (thanks, flood) to start my very own ancient ruins site and headed on over to the Punic Port.

This place is actually really cool.  It's a man made port and circular canal that was used by the Phoenians and later the Romans for all the war and trade ships.  There's an island in the middle with just a few ruins on it.  But for some reason this water way geeks me out.  My sister Gina's 6th grade class studies Carthage every year and when I found out about this place I got super excited to tell them about it.  (I get to g-chat with them next month and be the expert on the ground.  I'm a dork.)

The island was a muddy mess but it didn't stop me from roaming and checking out the ruins.  And amid the ruins were no less than 50,000,000,000,000 giant black beetles that were easily twice the size of my big toe.  EEEEK!  I won't tell you what they were doing.  Okay, I will.  They were mating.  Knights of Columbus! I wish I knew how to say, "Cover your eyes, kids!  We've got some frisky beetles around here," in French to warn all the school children present.  And the ones who weren't making babies were scuttling around at lighting speed.  I was wearing capris (who says they're just for men?) with ties around the cuff and one of them was undone and it kept flopping against my ankle and it would give me a heart attack everytime because I thought for sure a beetle, or 30, had latched on to me.  And I didn't want to stop to tie it for fear of that actually happening.  So I just walked as fast as I could across the mud and made it out alive.  Barely.

And now for a visual from your Dork on the Street in Carthage.  Because I love a good map.

Friday, September 24, 2010

I wasn't going to buy it even if he had no teeth

I headed up to Byrsa to check out some more ruins.  It sits on top of a hill that overlooks Tunis.  While I was up there I heard the call to prayer.  I've heard it plenty of times here before but it felt a little surreal coming from so many mosques and overlooking the city and the gulf.  Like I was in a movie about a girl going to Tunisia rather than actually being the girl in Tunisia.  (here is where I am cursing Blogger because I actually have a video of it and it's pretty good but for some mysterious reason (we can blame aliens if we like) it uploads but doesn't show up on the actual blog.  Grrr.)

Like everything here in Tunis is has a long history with several different conquering forces.  So the hill has ancient Phoenician ruins

And bowls

Headless Roman sculptures

And fallen columns

Then the French came to town and built a Catholic cathedral

Then tourists came and a museum popped up, complete with dead guys

And a gift shop with a pet turtle roaming the grounds

And a garden with pretty flowers

And a guy wearing purple Crocs (egads!)

And weird modern art installations

And me

Yep, me and my tragically windswept bangs really are here.  (This is for Laura.  The reason why I don't post pictures of me is because I don't have any.  I am almost always by myself on these outings and I don't care about being in pictures enough to pantomime out, "Will you take my picture," every time.  Although one of my mom's final bits of advice to me before I left was "Make sure you're in some of your pictures."  So this is for Mom too.)

On my way back to the car I was accosted by a guy who maybe had 3 teeth to call his own, trying to sell me some "real old stuff from the dirt!" for just 5 dinars each.  That's about $3.50.  They were a little oil lamp and vase that looked pretty fresh to me.  I said no, graciously.  Then he shoved them into my hand.  Again I said no and tried to take them back.  He wouldn't let me put them in his hands.  So I put them on the ground, again saying no and opened the car door.  He kept saying over and over, "How much?  Just 5 dinar!  How much?  How much?"  Shouting it into the closed window.  Even as I was driving off he was trying to strike a deal.  I felt bad for him but a I have a strict "no junk" souvenier policy that will not be broken, no matter how many teeth he was missing.

I tried to get to another site but a freakish rain storm, the likes of which maybe only Noah has seen, started up.  I tried to wait it out, which may have been a mistake because by the time I gave up and headed home the streets had turned to raging rivers.  The Party Honda barely made it home alive.  And when I got home the basement was flooded with an inch of water and a rather nasty smell was coming from it.  The crackerjack embassy squad was down here in a jiffy and squeegied it all up and Henry's toys were saved.  Hooray!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Gellato on the beach? Magic.

1.) My plan for this afternoon involved more Roman ruins but it ended up being gellato on a bench overlooking the beach. I have given up trying to capture the color of the water here. My camera doesn't do it justice. When I get home I'll get my crayons out and I'll draw you a picture. But until then you'll just have to take my word for it: it's gorgeous.

2.) While sitting on the bench, enjoying the gellato, I heard some German being spoken. So I looked in that direction and Wilf and his mustache were crossing the street!! Could you imagine if this is how the rest of my trip plays out? What if I have random Wilf sightings for the next two months? That would be AMAZING!

3.) I was also up at Sidi Bou Said doing some shopping today and the guying running the place was laying it on really thick. You remember how I said they're all Handsy McGees around here? Will my new best friend Mohammed was a master. Him: "You're eyes! They're beautiful! This necklace makes you look like a queen!" Me: "Uh huh. How much are these earrings?" I must have not looked interested enough because the next thing I knew his arm was around my shoulder and his other hand grabbed mine and he said, "And your lips! Do you have a boyfriend?" And that's when I snort-laughed in his face. I mean, come on! He did give me an excellent deal on some earrings though.

4.) The boys and I hung out in my room for a little bit this afternoon. Sam was nestled on my lap and Henry was fiddling with a toy on my bed. I thought we needed some music so I turned on some Abba and started singing along and shimmying. Sam dug it. Henry gave me a look that said, "Is this a joke?"

Saturday, September 18, 2010


We headed up to Bizerte (rhymes with dessert) this afternoon. It's about an hour northwest of here. It's a port city with an old Medina. That brick structure in the center of the picture is it.

It looks like a fortress on the outside and on the inside it looks like this

Narrow alleyways. People actually live inside it. You know what else lives inside of it? Approximately a gajillion cats. I've never seen more stray cats before in my life. Tunis is also like this but Bizerte seems to be the Headquarters for Feral Cats. I saw a really adorable kitten but I had the good sense to not pick it up because you know that if given the chance it would eat my face.

But this kid was a lot friendlier.

As we passed by he said, "Bonjour!" in the cutest little voice. I pointed to my camera and asked if I could take his picture and he just smiled like he does this every day. I pray he's not eaten by cats.

Here are some boats

But more importantly here are some guys in man-pris. The man-pri is alive and well in Tunisia. I think it's actually the offical uniform of all men ages 15 to 40. You can't throw a feral cat 10 feet without hitting a guy showing off his ankles.

You will occasionally see men in the Man MuuMuu.

You can't tell from this picture but the guy is wearing one. He is also wearing pointy-toed slippers. And smoking a hookah.
Whenever I would imagine Arab markets I would picture mounds of spices.

Immediately after taking that picture this man started talking to us.
We had no idea what he was saying but he gestured for us to follow him into his spice booth and he showed us a picture of him back in 1957 and he said something about Frances, or France, or Lilian. And there was certainly a Fatima in there. But isn't there always? And he kept making the number 8. It made no sense at all. But he was adorable. And slightly crazy. And he let me take his picture but wouldn't stop talking long enough to get a good shot (Dad?).
Pictures I will not be showing you: animal entrails and sheep heads all lined up in a row ready to be purchased. We walked through the meat market and saw them and something possessed me to take pictures but now I can barely look at them without vomitting. You can thank me in the comments.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Also to check off: eat exotic fruit

If your Life of Elegant Leisure Check-list does not include "Bunko Night with Embassy Ladies and Diplomat Wives" you're missing the whole point.

Mine, naturally, did include it and I can now check it off. We played last night and Bronwyn and I both came home with prizes and, I'm just going to say it even though it wasn't officially recognized, the sweet victory of bringing the best treat. Homemade peach jam and cheesy scones. Score! I am not competitive by nature and I feel like I'm a gracious player and loser. But I do love to win.

While we're sort of on the subject of food, let's talk grocery shopping. There are a few options here: 1.) the embassy commissary where we can get some common American products, 2.) the produce market where we get the fruits and veggies, and 3.) Carrefour, the international Wal-mart. I've been twice to Carrefour, once during Ramadan and once after. It was like the difference between the population of North Dakota and the population of India. Madhouse. But a glorious one. And I've been twice to the produce market, this last time all by myself. The guy helping out spoke a little English but I still had to play a bit of charades with him. After he was done bagging up what I'm pretty sure was some form of pumpkin he offered me this mystery fruit. It was about the size and shape of a large olive, it had smooth dark red skin and he motioned for me to just bite into it. Why not? (I'm not writing to you from my cell in an opium den so you know it ended well) (I'm not sure where it comes from but I've always had this notion that all international scrapes end in an opium den. If I do get in scrape (which I won't, Mom) and don't end up in an opium den, I'm going to be a little disappointed.) It was sweet and had the consistancy of a not-quite-ripe apple. Crisp and crunchy. I asked him what it was but he didn't understand, "What is this called?" or "What is the name?" or "Name?" or the universal sign for "What is this?" (point to thing, furrow brow, shrug shoulders). So I had to dig deep into my non-existant French to come up with the word for name and all I could think of was nomme de plume so I said "nomme" and did the aforementioned shrugging and that did the trick. It was a jujube.

I can now check off "Eat exotic fruit offered to me by a stranger in a foreign land" from my list.

Thursday, September 16, 2010


This is Sam.

He always looks that surprised. Today I introduced him to Lyle Lovett and the Spice Girls.

This is Henry.

He likes to jump on my bed while I pretend to be asleep.

Where am I going to get my cute baby fix when I go home?
In other baby news, do not be surprised if I come home with a Tunisian orphan. I went to the public hospital today (where the locals go) to help out with feeding the abandoned new borns. Heartbreaking. Bronwyn has a friend who does this once a week and I tagged along. Because of religious or social customs a lot of babies are abandoned and adoption is unheard of here. So the babies stay in the hospital for a few weeks and then are sent off to an orphanage. The nurses are sometimes overwhelmed with the work so they let us come in to help out. So for a few hours this afternoon I fed and changed and cuddled new-new-newborns. Some just hours old. Some just 3 pounds. All with lots and lots of hair. Bald babies do not exist here.
Bronwyn said that the first time she went she was given the advice to not make it too personal. You can't save all these babies, you can't take them home with you. All you can do is give them love for the few hours you're with them. I thought it would be unbearably hard, that I would be holding back tears the whole time because this over-active imagination of mine can't help but look ahead to what their lives could be like. But it was actually rather sweet to be with them. They just love to be held and I can do that with ease. Snuggling makes everything better.
It also helps that babies are full of comedy. I was changing a little guy's diaper and just as I put a new one on explosive poo shot EVERYWHERE! I managed to deflect it with the diaper. So I put on another new one and just as I was about to tape him up a geyser of pee went off. Again, I had some masterful deflecting. Three diapers later he was all clean and bundled up but I'm pretty sure I detected a smirk, like, "Yeah, I totally did that."

Monday, September 13, 2010

Roman Bath(room)

History Lesson Time! Okay, not really. What a drag that would be. But you've probably, maybe, from way back when, heard of Carthage and Hannibal and the Phoenicians, right? If you don't want to read the Wikipedia article (I barely did) - Carthage was a great city founded by the Phoenicians, then the Romans got their hands on it. And now the good people here have built a city over the ruins. You drive around the neighborhood and you'll see ancient Punic and Roman ruins in between beauty shops and grocery stores. It's charming.
It's also right down the street.
I visited the site of the Roman baths this afternoon.
What's cool about these ruins: you can scamper all over them. I guess that I'm just so used to old things in America being behind ropes and glass with guards and docents telling you not to touch. (Side note: I LOVE to touch things. Especially art work. It has gotten me into a few scrapes at several museums.) So I walked up to the viewing point and thought, well, that's lovely. Then I noticed there were stairs going down and inside. Then I noticed people climbing on top of the ruins to have their pictures taken. There were no ropes, no glass, no bars, no alarms, no video cameras. Just a couple of these signs:

Which everyone ignored, because there were no guards or docents to stop us.
It's a horrible way to preserve ancient history. But it was a fun way to spend the afternoon.

There are several acres of other stuff to look at - mostly old tombs you can climb down into that are litered with giant dead beetles - but my camera battery was dead by the time I got up to that part. Which is an enormous shame because the Presidential Palace is right next door so there were a few palace guards roaming the grounds and I turned a corner on a path and caught one of them peeing near some ancient relics. Is there no greater demonstration of manliness than to pee out in the open with a machine gun slung across your shoulder?

Sunday, September 12, 2010


This has been a long holiday weekend so last night we went to another party at an embassy family's home. It seemed like every ex-pat in Tunis was in attendance.

Including Wilf, the older German fellow with a spectacular mustache and a never-empty glass of beer who has been living here for the last 14 years. He had a gift for saying slightly inappropriate things to all the ladies. When I met him I had the confilicting desires to run away and to ask if we could be best friends. You know he probably has the best stories. I'd have to cover my ears for half of them but it might be worth it.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Fajitas - not so traditional

Last night was Eid-ul-Fitr, the festival commemorating the end of Ramadan. You know what this means, right? The gellato shop down the street will finally be open during the day. Rejoice! Most restaurants and other food places are closed during the day for Ramadan because everyone is fasting. Although someone told me the other day that she walked into a cafe that had newspapers up on the windows and found about 50 men inside eating and smoking. Rebels.
We celebrated last night with a few Embassy families by eating a not-quite-so-traditional meal of fajitas and roasted pork.

In other entirely unrelated news I am finally getting around to showing you the lastest felty creation. Remember how Hannah commissioned a Gandalf Macbook cover for a friend? She commissioned one for herself as well.

I miss the World's Largest Felt Collection but I'm glad the the last one I did before leaving (she picked it up literally minutes before I walked out the door.) was such an awesome one. Thanks for having the vision, Hannah!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Handsy Proprietors

The Medina in Tunis is just like any other touristy shopping place in that it's full of local cheap tchotchkes that if you were to gift to someone would end up in the Goodwill pile faster than that polyester jumpsuit that's been sitting in the closet for decades. Like napkin holders with "Tunisia" painted on it. At least the jumpsuit has some comedic value.

But it is unlike most touristy shopping places in the world in that it is a crazy maze of century old alleyways. You feel like your in an Indian Jones movie and a Wal-mart all at the same time. There's people everywhere and merchandise filling every available space and it's colors and sounds and dozens of different languages being spoken. It's pretty cool. My new friend Denny (she's in my wee teeny tiny church unit. There are 10 of us - six adults and 4 kids - and we meet in the living room. It is awesome.) volunteered to come with me so we took the metro in (it just goes from the sea to downtown and back. Very small and rickety and old timey but it gets the job done.) and then we walk about a mile down the main avenue in Tunis, made a pit stop at this lovely old cathedral then made our way into the Medina.

(That's a bad picture, but just be grateful I remembered to pull my camera out. I had a bit of sensory overload)

The shopkeepers all sit outside their stores and try to lure you in. They call out hello in several different languages and one guy even started calling out English sounding names, "Hey, Elizabeth. Hello Sarah!" They will all tell you how beautiful your eyes are. It must work because every shop keeper said it, normally as I was walking away from a sale.

Speaking of which, I LOVE to bargain. Oh, it's fun. I love giving outrageously low offers and then the shopkeepers would roll their eyes and sigh and look slightly offended only to call out another offer as I'm walking out the door. I didn't buy anything because it's just my first week and I wanted to get a feel for what things are going for but it was great practice. Here's what I've learned about Tunisian shopkeepers - they're handsy. Oh, they love to touch you. They'll put their arm around you and grab your hand and kiss it and gently shove you in the direction of their shop and say, "You're eyes are beautiful. I love America! For America I give a special price. Everyone else - full price. But America, I give it away!" It took a little bit of time to get used to it and to work out a few evasive tactics but I managed. I could have used my nunchucks on a few of them and been completely justified.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

My workout before my workout

I had to do some serious talking to get into the embassy this morning. All I wanted to do was use the gym but I'm not on the guest list yet so I waved my passport and flashed Bronwyn's badge at the local guard who mans the front gate who said, "This badge is not for you." So I smiled and said, "But I'm living with them and they said I could come and use the gym." And he said, "This badge is not for you." So I smiled even more and took off my sunglasses and said, "But it's just the gym and I'm here for three months and you know them, right?" And he said, "This badge is not for you." So then I really pulled out the charm and said, "Pleeeeeease." And he opened the gate. Then once I was inside the complex I couldn't immediately see the gym beyond the pool so I asked another guard where it was. He said something back in Arabic. So I said, "Gym. Exercise." He shrugged. So I had to start doing an elaborate pantomime of exercise. I started pretending I was on the eliptical, which didn't help so then I jogged in place and did a few jumping jacks and finished off by wiping my brow and panting a bit. He just waved his arm in a general direction. I bet he does that to all the newbies and goes home and tells his family and they have a good laugh over it. I would totally do the same.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Just Look! No Buy!

I went out driving today for the first time. This was an adventure in itself because 1.) I have no idea where anything is and 2.) the drivers here are lunatics. But I made it to Sidi Bou Said without any incident. I went to the marina yesterday and today I got up to the actual town.

A view of where I walked yesterday:

Years ago I was at a fireside where this couple who had served a mission at the Navuoo temple were showing pictures from it. They must have shown 15 pictures just of the door knobs. At one point another door knob flashed up on the screen and the lady said, "Gosh, you just can't get enough of those, can't you?" I was ready to try out the Catholics if I had to see another.

I'm telling you this as a warning. There is a possibility that I will become just like this with the doors at Sidi Bou Said.

Arent't they cute? And don't you love the wee little sneaky door-inside-the-door?
The streets are lined with vendors and if they catch you breathing in the direction of their merchandise the first thing they do is ask where you're from. Then you get this, "Hey America! Come look. You don't have to buy. Just look. America, come on, just look. No buy! Just look! No buy! Just look!"
It's a big tourist place so there were a bunch of tour groups from all over the place. I heard Russian, German, Italian, French and loads of other languages I couldn't place. Most of them were gettings tours in their own language but one group had an Arab man guiding them. I didn't hear what prompted this but I suddenly heard him say, "Please! I already have 4 wives. I don't need any more."