Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Welcome in Tunisia

After a tearful goodbye and a bus ride where I contemplated hopping off and heading home several times, I made it to the Madison airport and onto my flight. I was really sad, alternating between kicking myself for leaving my loves behind and crying because I could just picture our sweet reunion in three weeks. It didn't take long for me to turn around because I sat next to a really awesome environmental studies grad student named Valerie who was heading to Sweden for a forum with Bill Clinton (and other famous people I forget now). We chatted the whole trip to Detroit, then I hopped quickly off the plane and ran to catch my NYC flight, on the far other side of the airport.

My depression returned when I sat down on the flight, again comprehending just how far I would be from the people I love the most for so long. A veiled woman and her husband sat down next to me, and immediately when I heard their Levantine dialect, I started chatting it up with them. I love greeting people in Arabic when they don't know you speak Arabic, because they at first are like "huh?" and then they (usually) get super happy and excited that you speak Arabic. We talked the entire two hours to New York, all about our families and our studies and the war in Syria. Her 8-yr-old son lives in Damascus, and she is only able to see him twice a year, and only after flying into Amman and driving from there into Syria, since no flights go directly to Damascus. And though I still am craving some Lu kisses and Atticus cuddles, it put my whole experience into perspective for me. Three weeks, while my kids are safely tucked into their regular life in an incredibly safe city.... I can handle this. Anywho, she was amazing and we are already Facebook friends and we already planned a future visit to hang out.

On my stopover from Madison en route to Tunis, I stayed a night with my old Cairean friends Jason and Sarah (and Charlie and Milo). We stayed up way too late chatting, and I remembered just how much I love Sarah. She is terrible at Facebook and email, so you have to hang out with her in real life to truly get her full essence. She is the greatest. And her tiny boys were so precious... Charlie was sensitive and espressive and a Superman lover. Milo was a squishy, chubby ball of perfection who still smelled like a baby and not a sweaty toddler. They had moved 90% of their belongings the day I arrived, but Sarah was still up for a long walk and pizza until late at night. They live in this amazing area of Brooklyn in a gorgeous brownstone across from a huge park, so basically the best place ever. Sadly, for all involved except the grandparents, they are moving back to Provo in a week. I am happy my trip coincided with the time before the move though, because it was a really *lovely* visit. We didn't do anything tourist-y, just went to church and ate Chipotle and went to a splash pad. Why are there SO MANY PEOPLE in New York?? I always forget this until I go back again. Do you ever run into anyone you know? I love it, but I think I prefer our tiny Madison city better.

I went to JFK that evening, and our flight ended up being delayed three hours. I sat around, read my Kindle, chatted up some old women who asked me if I was really going to talk to the "native African women" feminists. Yes, why yes I am. One of my favorite parts of the waiting was when the sunset prayer happened, and the waiting room was turned into a makeshift mosque. I sat on my flight from NYC to Casablanca next to a professor from France currently teaching in North Carolina, who is leading a study abroad group in Rabat for the summer. On my second flight to Tunis, I sat next to a Tunisian guy who works in the oil fields in Gabon, and flies home twice a month. Both were lovely to chat with.

I arrived in Tunis late afternoon on May 26th. My host, Salma, graciously offered to pick me up from the airport and I found her effortlessly. We drove to her house where I will be staying during my time in Tunis. I have a nice room with a bed and sitting area, and then I share the bathroom and kitchen with her family (she has two sons, they are 12 and 9, I think). She lives in an area of Tunis called Bardo, and it's not a wealthy area but it's culturally rich. There is a famous museum close by that I plan to visit soon, and the Tunisian parliament is right around the corner.

Salma also prepared couscous with vegetables and (I later found out) intestine and liver. It was so tasty, I ate intestine in South Africa and it was terrible but this was prepared well and subtle but flavorful. The couscous was different than Morocco, a lot spicier and less liquidy. A perfect meal though, because I was hungry but also tired and the thought of having to find something to eat the night I arrived was daunting to me.

After a rough night's sleep (always an adjustment), I woke up and ate some yogurt, then did a little iPad reading and research. Salma showed me the bus stops and metro so I could find my way into town, then we went to the local store to purchase my staples: pasta, tomatoes, zucchini, green peppers. I will eat this every day for the next two weeks -- it's our Middle Eastern staple, easy to make and ridiculously cheap. I also bought some of those weird cheese squares, some bread, and strawberries. A kilo of strawberries is only 2 dinar, which is like $1.50. Woohooooo, cheap produce!

And now, since I have a short trip, it's time to get to work. We will see how many feminist activists I can hunt down, and how many will talk to me.


1 comment:

  1. I can't wait to hear all about your trip. So excited for you!