This week is more of a blur than last week, mainly because I was busier, and also since I was busier I didn't stop at night to blog because I was so tired and spent less time at the house. I had two lovely lunch dates with Ahlem and Emira, two of the students I met at the meeting last week with Madame Halila. I also tried to go to the US embassy to use their library, but was thoroughly rejected even though I did argue for a good ten minutes to several men with large machine guns and body armor. That was kind of neat. Since the attacks by salifists in 2012, the US embassy is under heavy guard, and the doors are all super heavy duty and nearly impossible to open (for me, at least). I went through no fewer than three metal detectors, had to turn my cell phone off, and hand over my bag at the very beginning.
|Awkward photo courtesy of my friend Ahlem|
The weather turned hotter this week too, so there was a lot of sweaty, crowded bus riding. Kind of ready to be back on Madison's overly-ACed buses. No great pics of the week, sorry loyal readers.
|I am very hot in this picture, and tired|
|Eating breakfast with mom|
|One benefit of looking wealthy... you can walk into any fancy hotel to use the bathroom|
|More skyping! I miss these faces|
|The most uncrowded bus I've been on!|
Here are some general observations about Tunisia:
1. As a general rule, it seems like religion is a non-issue (outside of the political realm). You see women wearing hijabs and abayas sitting walking and chatting with women in tank tops and skinny jeans. The clothing is surprising actually, it's weird to see women in see-through tank tops and men in shorts. Though I don't think I've seen ANY short skirt or shorts on anyone. It's still more conservative than the US, but not as conservative as Egypt. You rarely see women in niqab... I think I've seen one or two but not any more. For the most part, people wear western-style clothes and some women wear hijabs.
2. There are feral cats and dogs, but far fewer than in Egypt. It's cleaner than Egypt or Morocco, but according to Tunisians it's MUCH dirtier than before the revolution.
3. Street food is abundant, cheap, and filling. Better than Morocco, but worse than Egypt. I miss koshari, tammayia and fuul. It can't even compete with that.
4. Their is still poverty, obviously, but I see far fewer homeless people here than in Egypt. Also, no one asks me for baksheesh, like, ever! Even when I ask for directions, or when they help me find a place I'm going, or get this! I even used a guy's phone the other day to call my friend, offered to give him money for minutes, and he turned me down and said he was happy to help! WHAT!?
5. Men here rarely look at me creepily, and for the most part are really respectful. Besides that one incident of the 15-yr-old boy, on the metro, they will actually go out of their way to stand clear of me. Maybe it's because I haven't showered in a while though...
Overall, I've enjoyed being here. The weather has been beautiful, my host family has been gracious and easy to live with, I've made some great contacts and visited some neat places. If Tim and the kids had been around with me, and we lived closer to the ocean, it might've been the perfect trip! Tunisia is by far my favorite Arab country to date.