Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Sounds like Home...

Even in Edmon-town, those worlds away when Tiara and I used to call it home, there would be times that I wanted to slink away into my own space and disappear. Art, music, silence, music all that is mine and personally meaningful and nothing more.

It was with this in mind that I treated myself to the purchase of some five cd's yesterday (for under fifteen dinars - less than three dinars a cd - not bad...). Tunes, mostly new, by familiar faces from the world we left behind.

Nothing quite like closed eyes, quiet introspection, a private moment, wearing familiarity and comfort like a cloak to ward away the strange and invasive world as it whips by on its ever-frenzied pace

I'll be back with the real world in due course, but for now I'll let it whisp its way out of my mind...

Alone can be sublime.

Oranges, Dates and Milawi, Oh My!

So if it hasn't been said before, by Loren or by myself, I think I should tell you that I love the food here. Certainly it isn't perfect, and when cooked it's sort of too complicated for me to grasp. But it's not the cuisine that I love, it's simply the FOOD.

For example, I love the oranges. There are about as many kinds of oranges here as apples in the Okanagan. I don't like all of them, just the tangy ones. You see, some are sweet with no tang (douce), some are a little tangy, some are very tangy, some are down right acidic, some are blood red, some are small and soft others are big and firm, and they're all oranges! Unfortunetly the orange season is almost over, and the good ones won't be sold in the markets again until next winter. The only oranges left will be juicing oranges, but they still make nice juice.

The dates are the next favorite. I'm never without a few dates in a stash on my desk. They're like healthy candy, and just as addictive. Do you know where dates come from? From palm trees, big ones. The best dates in the world are produced in Irak. Tunisia produces the second best. They are called Deglet Nour Dates and they are so clear in colour that you can see the pit in the centre of the fruit. They are fantabulous! Nothing like those nasty, dark, dried out, pitted things that come in generic blue plastic wrap at your local safeway or loblaws. They are the jewel of the desert and I am completely addicted! I don't know what I'm ever going to do if we have to leave them. I live on Deglet Nour Dates here!

And the last thing is a rarer treat, though it's not expensive either. When Tunisia experienced a migration of its population from rural to urban areas a certain flatbread called Milawi (Mill-ay-wee) made its way into the cities. It is flour and water made into a dough and then folded over and over with copious amounts of olive oil until it is slick, firm and elastic. Then it is stretched to about 10 inches and thrown on an inverted metal disk (looks like a reshaped, burnt hubcap - probably is) that is resting over a gas flame, and cooked until it is dark on both sides. Then you spread harissa (hot pepper paste) and tuna or egg or cheese or sliced turkey salami (called ham) on it and roll it up. One of these bad-boys will fuel you for hours, mostly from the fat, and costs about sixty cents canadian. I love these things! When we go to the store, the woman is careful to dab on such a small amount of harissa, thinking we Euros can't handle the heat. We waive our arms at her and say Bersha! Bersha! and she smiles and loads it on. Today we were maybe a little over-emphatic and Loren's nose started running from the heat. Hee, hee!

Whoever's coming is going to have to try some of all of these! You just can't imagine how much I love them!

Oh yeah, I really like roasted chickpeas too! They're like a healthy snack alternative to nuts here, and they come in a little brown paper bag stillhot from roasting! Yum!

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Oh, The Things You Can See!

Now that we've figured out how to use picassa2 and hello and how to interface them with blogger and gmail (all lovely features offered by google, god bless them!) we have a bunch of photos to show you. I've been happy just figuring out how it all works, so I haven't put much time into writing about it all. I'll get back to writing soon, though, I promise.

The thing that bugs me is that it's not instantaneous. You're getting pictures from last weekend or the one before of from our first week. For now that's alright, but I'd really like to be able to show you what I mean when I'm writing about it. Maybe that means I'll have to plan my blogs in advance. Who knows? Anyway, I'll try to start thinking about the little things that I want you all to see. I'd love to show you all the district where I work and the poverty, but it's a little bit iffy to have whitey wandering around in Solidarity Town with a digital camera happily snapping pictures of the unemployed, undereducated and hungry. Know what I mean? So I'll see what I can do. It's the part of Tunis I think I like the best, and I like it because it's gritty and real. If you come visit, I'll show you what I mean. I think you'll like it, though maybe not at first.

Anyway, I've posted a bunch of images from our trip to the ruins at Dougga from the weekend before last, and I included two cute snapshots of Loren and I when we were in Hammamet on our first weekend in Tunisia. I hope you enjoy them and remember to read Loren's posting that comes after them. Like before, I wouldn't want you to miss them for the pictures ;)

Last weekend our friends invited us to pile into their car, with a visiting French consultant from the MIX Market, and head out to Dougga and some amazing Roman ruins. In leaving town we passed by the Souk.  Posted by Hello

Souk means market, but The Souk is a place where you can find everything and anything. They have old, new, second hand, custom built, and probably stolen. They set up wherever they can on Saturday, taking up a vast open space in the south-west corner of the city. On Sunday it's a ghost town, nothing left but debris. Posted by Hello

The Ruins of Dougga were amazing. We saw were wowed by the scale and the richness that was concentrated on this hill top and the incredible weath that agricultural fertility can bring. This first shot shows the ruined amphitheatre. Posted by Hello

The amphitheatre from the highest seats. Posted by Hello

Amphitheatre. Imagine the height of it! Posted by Hello

Look way up. Posted by Hello

Some ancient figure, still seated. Posted by Hello

A title: Minerva's Temple Posted by Hello

Underground entrance to the Forum. Posted by Hello

Today the site is still actively used in the winter by the local shepherds who keep goats and some sheep. The contrast struck us as humourous, but also spoke to change over time. A reminder that nothing is permanent. Posted by Hello

Me in front of the amphitheatre Posted by Hello

More vistas. Posted by Hello

You could still get the sense of the old city and it's layout. Posted by Hello

The tile work was incredible and a lot of it was still perfectly intact. Posted by Hello

The tile work was incredible, and a lot of it was still perfectly intact.  Posted by Hello

The beach in Hammamet was beautiful, and there were perfect, pink little shells everywhere! I couldn't help but collect a few as I wandered arround. And Loren couldn't help taking pictures. Posted by Hello

Our first weekend in Tunisia, we were staying with a nice Tunisian couple who had planned to head south. They deposited us in Hammamet, a touristy town south of Tunis on the waterfront. We got great rates through ENDA on the hotel Abou Nawas, but it was winter so we didn't spend much time on the beach. Loren smoked is Cuban, which he'd been saving since Christmas for an arrival celebration! Posted by Hello

sun and the streets

Well, we are rapidly coming up to the two month mark in Tunisia, and time as always to take stock of what's going on.

We are in Tunisia. We actually made it out of our comfortable Canada. We speak one of the major languages here, but the primary language, an Arabic dialect particular to Tunisia and its history of takeovers and cultural blending, is totally foreign. We are taking lessons to remedy that situation, however.

We have a house that is ever so slowly turning into a home. We are getting furniture made to fit it, we have art slowly creeping onto the walls and we are settling in. We like it. It's not perfect - it's small, it's hard to get around from Nasr, the house is a little cruddy, but it'll do. We are making it better and better as we live in it and build it up to something more.

We have jobs, both of us do, which is good because Tiara's job isn't the most lucrative. It IS in her field of passionate interest, however, and that for the first time. For myself, the job is introducing me to quite the sphere of tunisians. Most of the class takers are of the upper crust, which means that they're educated and interested in the world abroad as well as at home. I've met journalists, politicos, judges, students, accountants, business types... the whole gamut. And I've had more than a few interesting invitations - for after the course has been taught. Canadian ethics even approve.

We've bumped over the hump. It was kind of like today as I was walking home from the gym, collected some music "enregistrements" from the big store, and was heading down to grab our daily bread. It was raining huge tropical drops, the wind was significant if not howling. I went in for bread to the boulangerie. As I emerged, so did the sun. The temperature climbed with every passing moment, from a cool 10 or 12 degrees to the mid-teens, the clouds dropped away to reveal an incredibly blue sky. We're home. Maybe not forever, but for a little while at least.

Monday, March 07, 2005

The woman who stole Loren's infamous information

Actually, Tiara didn't steal those photos of my lovely shower curtain and sumptuous breakfast... water. In fact, I sent those, from her computer. It assumed that I was her, even though I had told it otherwise... *sigh*

In other news, work is beginning for me in honest 'round here. Also, the concrete table tops look as though they are not going to happen... which leaves me to try and figure out what exactly I'm going to do with the loads of tiles. Thoughts? Send them my way post-haste!

Further news, we're not yet fully financially sustainable, but we're looking into buying a car on credit. The numbers may yet work in our favour. Would you believe we're paying around 200 Dinars a month on transportation - to say nothing of the opportunity cost involved in the time in transit and waiting for cabs. Plus, it would make zipping around the country over the summer - seeing the Jazz Festival, collecting art supplies, going to the beach - oh so much easier. And repairs here are relatively cheap. Labour costs next to nothing. Thoughts, oh so many thoughts!

And as an addendum to that last little note, financial stability should come soon enough. Every extra class that I take on gives me a little more pocket change - and more than half of what Tiara makes in any given month. Yay! Now I just need the classes.

But before I bore you with the banalities of it all, let's throw in a dash of what we did today. Over lunch hour and a half (it's expected that you need all that time to chew and digest... I'm not really sure what. A cow, perhaps? An hour and a half is a looonng time for lunch. Tiara's thrilled because it means that she gets the priveledge of coming home after six at night), Tiara and I set out into Ettadhamen and just strolled. Seems that strolling is not the kind of thing that people do here in Tunisia, but we don't mind bucking the norm. We wandered around pushed-up concrete, washed out curbs, in the streets, around double-parked beaters of cars (on the highway) in and around a traffic circle of insanity (fully loaded with police whistles trying to organize the chaos), and down the highway for a ways. We passed a glass cutter, two butchers' shops (replete with sheep skins bleeding dry and hanging headside down from the awnings), a few little eateries, a concrete mould pouring place, about six fruit stands, a gravure de disk shop (they burn cd's - this place was music), a school supplies place and a door-maker's paddock... there was more, but I can't quite place it all.

We bought some fabulous oranges - douce (sweet with no sour tang) and Thompson (nice balance of sweet and sour), some beautiful dates and wandered back to the courtyard of Tiara's work. There we sat with our Coca and Boga Light, basked in the sun that was quickly shifting to clouds, and chatted over a cup of "green tea"- the sweetened without kick-ass bitter aftertaste tea.

A good time was had by all. Further comments, as always, will be forthcoming...

every good morning meal, whether at a hotel or whatnot is made complete with safia. If you need water here, you ask for "eau mineral" or Safia. And just look at those darling cuppas. Coffee is delicious here. Posted by Hello

For those of you who doubted my fantabulous shower curtain, just imagine trying to wake up unhappy to this face! Isn't it darlin' and crazy kitchy? Yup and so perfectly shameless... Posted by Hello

Sunday, March 06, 2005

an interesting excursion...

hey there all, I hope you're enjoying the photos - more will be forthcoming, not to worry :-)

Anyhow, I was just reflecting on some of the differences between Canada and Tunisia the other day, when a news item jumped to the fore. Tunisia has just invited the president of Israel to come here for a conference in the fall. He accepted instantly... Which pretty much means trouble.
The article is a pretty good sum of the experience here at the moment - looks like we're in for interesting times ahead.

For ourselves, as we wandered down to Avenue Bourguiba yesterday, we were a little surprised to see an unusual number of police officers. Those that were obviously police officers, that is. There were a whole swack of paddy wagons and police sitting in busses with riot gear. Apparently, demonstrations often begin around the union headquarters which are on that street.

At the same time, the atmosphere seemed relatively relaxed, and we didn't see any sign of organized protest. Which is probably a good thing.

Life can certainly be different out here in the Magreb