Thursday, May 05, 2005

rug dreams

Hey there all,

A minute post from me today, but I put up pictures of the infamous rug.

Hope y'all enjoy! And I'm off to work!

and the camel's hair rug, in the nomad tradition, that we eventually purchased :-) Posted by Hello

fuzzy photo of our carpet store in Kairouan Posted by Hello

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Wild Camels, Deep Sahara and Cell Phones

It's getting past due for information about our desert trek, and with more adventures comming up, I'm afraid I won't be able to get all of it down. Here is a bit of information about the trip. I'll be sure to dig up some of our photos for you in the next couple of days too.

We rode from Tozeur to the famous Tunisian Dunes (where Star Wars was fillmed) in one day and rode back the second day. The total trek was about 110 km. The mounts were not entirely comfortable, and every hour or so we opted to walk for ten or twenty minutes. Loren walked more than Jason or I and I think he prefered it to the hard seat. But it was a challenge for any of us to walk, especially on the first day as we rode through the rough, sparse scrub of the Sahara under a sun burning full overhead at temperatures reaching more than 38 degrees.

We were pouring sweat and consuming our water much faster than we ever would have imagined. We had to wrap our faces up completely in our Touareg scarves leaving nothing showing but our eyes (and Jason even put on sun-glases). The heat poured down and bounced back up, coming at us from all directions. The temperatures had not been expected, and I'm sure our guide would have insisted we leave earlier in the morning had he known.

I would like to mention about our guide that he walked the entire distance there and back wearing plastic flip-flops, the kind you find in america designed for poolside lounging in your back yard. 110 km through the Sahara in two days in flip-flops. Next time you go to the store and look at shoes remember that, and be amazed at what people who don't have much money do to get by.

We saw things that sparked a grand sense of wonder. The vistas, the sun, the dunes in the evening rising up to a clear sky and sunset. But the most amazing moments for me were watching the wild herds of camels. My mount was always able to percieve them before me, and so I kept an eye on the direction his ears were pointed. In the distance on the gentle rises of the Sahara's srub landscape, they appeared to be semi-circles on two stilts with a curved handle protruding from one joint where the semi-circle meets a stilt. Up close they were fabulous, ranging in colour from dark brown to grey and even white. Their enormous humps are hairy on top, likely protecting their water supply from excessive heat. I know it sounds backward, but after 35 degrees you want as much covering on you as possible to trap the sweat next to your body and conserve it. Exposed skin in the desert is a prime area for water loss and it is evaporated off of you as fast as you can sweat it.

There were some very surreal moments in the desert. My personal favorite is when we were riding, four hours into the desert, gasping from the heat and wondering at the expanse of desert scub-land, when Loren's cell phone went off. It was his mother, calling from Canada to say hello. He chatted with her for about 10 minutes before turning off his cell phone for good. The blusey ring tone had been most troubling to our sense of adventure. We wanted to believe we were inaccessible by civilization. Alas, these days that is almost an impossibility.

up in smoke

Here's a novel solution to the problem of waste by the roadside. Burn it.

As I walked with Tiara the twenty minutes or so to her pick-up point for work this morning, we wandered past tiny fire after tiny fire in the ditch on the side of the road. "Doesn't that seem a little odd in a semi-arid area?" She asked. And yes, yes it does. For the environmentally conscious amoung us, it also seems odd to see plastic bags, old chunks of tire, packing foam, shrubs, chunks of tar and cardboard bits all lumped in together in neat flaming piles.

That stunk.

Ah well, welcome to the genuine high-end third world. And in other news the temp here is up in the low thirties to high twenties... which is a little warm, you know? And in the sun... But Janice knows that this makes me smile! No more Edmonton and its insubstantial heat!

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Mount Up!

I can't post much today. Work is exceptionlly busy these days. But I wanted to put a bit down for you about the camel tour.

It took us a while to get ready to go. There were three camels staked to the ground. Two that appeared younger and one that looked much older and shaggy. Our guide had not yet arrived from town where he was buying supplies. We waited about ten minutes before he arrived, saddled up the camels (I know that sounds strange) and loaded the supplies onto the front, hanging from old potato sacks and shopping bags.

I should describe the saddles. It's the same traditional saddle they use on donkeys, a long colourful stuffed cushion folded down the middle and then strapped on to the camel from every direction: over the chest, under the belly and behind the tail. It is held in place on top by a wooden triangle with fitted joints. The saddles were old, but cheerful looking. It wasn't until we were on them that we realized how uncomfortable they are.

Camels are not like horses. They have a huge lump on their back and a strong back bone to support it. If you know horses, imagine a foot tall whither at the shoulders, and you on a cushion folded around the whither. Needless to say I brused by tailbone and my pubic bone. But you'll hear more about that later!

the art of teaching... or not

the Another day, another brief blog.

I've discovered something. I don't particularly like to teach English. Which throws me into a connundrum. It's good work and nicely paying for Tunisia, so I'll certainly continue, but anyway, here's the quandary.

I don't particularly like teaching in this format and so I'm not particularly motivated to do an outstanding job. For anything that I choose to do I feel it is important for my sense of self-worth that I do an outstanding job. I choose, daily, to teach in this format. Would that be a catch-22?

So every day I'm writting lesson plans, evaluating my success with past lesson plans, dragging my posterior to work, teaching (which for anyone who hasn't done it is both elating and extremely draining), and doing art. After all, that's what I like to do more than anything. hmm.

Well, with not too many more thoughts I'll just leave it at that for now and mull over it some more. Maybe I'll have stronger conclusions by tomorrow. Then again, maybe I'll do like a very good friend, one of my bestest, and pack this job into a MEC backpack and blaze the trail less travelled - more perilous and less sure and more interesting by a mile. Probably, I'll stick this out for a bit, support my incredible wife in some endeavour of hers, do art all the way through and then try to ease my way or muscle my way or force my way onto the scene in around five years time. After all, I've got all the time in the world - and time now, means time to grow, develop my craft, develop contacts, and make serious choices.