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."

17 comments:

Andrea said...

I sure hope you are carrying hand sanitizer with you at all times!

Amanda said...

I love, love, loved this post. More than that, I love Andrea's comment. I'm almost peeing my pants while laughing that that is the first thing that Andrea thinks of while reading this story. I love you Andrea! And you too Rachel! I also think you may want to keep your mind open to date farmers. I don't know about you, but I love dates. I'm just saying.

thefoxkids said...

rolling on floor, grabbing sides and oh now, after reading comments, I have to run to bathroom.. see your not the only 80 yr old... Oh please do not leave us in suspence for too long about the rest of your adventures.. but enjoy the boys..

Camille said...

I was going to suggest that when you are sitting on a bench alone, you should sit so your legs are across the bench to avoid any other bench visitors. But then I remembered your legs are shorter than most and you could still probably fit 2 other men on the bench. Scratch that.

Tammy said...

did you pack your nun-chucks just incase?

Katie said...

I was totally thinking nun-chucks, too, Tammy!

Rachel, you are hilarious. Wow, I'm grateful for the date farmer so that we could have this story.

The Katzbox said...

Awww...the date farmer sounds sweet...I've never rooted for a date farmer before...it could've been worse, he could have been a camel wrestler or something.

Have fun with the kids!

colleeeen said...

Poor Aziz. Was he at all handsome?

Valerie said...

Personal space. No one does it like the Americans.

p.s. I also like dates, just, you know, if this works out.

Stephanie said...

I am loving this date farmer and the story that made me laugh out loud. Do you think date farmers go to Tunis to find themselves a wife? Or do you think this particular date farmer already had a wife at home and was coming to Tunis to find someone who wasn't his wife? We may never know! Shame!!

(And I was just wondering how you could pantomime that you're a Mormon and you don't drink coffee.)

Love to you and Aziz. Good luck with the boys.

Sarah Alexander said...

Ok I have already made your Miss America sash, its waiting for here. And it appropriately made of felt. :) Way to be on your toes around all these swooners! I think I still prefer our American obnoxious whistling to their foreign bench sitting method of flirting. You'll come back and appreciate creepy nods from strangers now. :) miss you rachel!

Laura said...

I'm glad you mentioned how this story terrifies your parents, because as I was reading it I thought the same thing! I could picture both of them reading the story and laughing, but at the same time being so worried about you! Next time someone hits on you, don't forget to snap a picture! Because after all, wouldn't it be great to have a picture of you and your husband on the day you first met?

Mom said...

Oh, Sarah, a sash is a perfect idea. Rachel, I was laughing so hard that I couldn't be terrified. (maybe a bit concerned, but not terrified.) With your amazing amount of social skills, I know you can handle most, if not all situations. Now, let see how you do with those little boys this weekend. Good Luck! Love & Miss you! MOM

Krii said...

I finally see where and how to post a comment! Your comment sections are as great as your stories? You have followers as great as you are. Now, get back to your cliff-hanger! Cuz by the time you get to the next precipice, these other stories may be lost. Keep sharing!!

Krii said...

Oh, and Laura was right on. You -ok, I think I can speak for everyone...WE! - want pictures!

dad said...

Can you get the date farmer to ship direct to me? Let me know when I can start placing orders

Rach said...

Oh. My. Heck. Best post ever. I'm picturing Aziz in a pinstripe suit and shiny shoes with a little moustache (which is a bonus for you, since you love those 'staches). And smelling like some exotic aftershave. It seems like a date farmer could supply you with the slushee machine and chocolate drinking fountain. Hmmmm...And I have an excellent picnic cake recipe that calls for dates. You could make it weekly.