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."