Thursday, June 16, 2005

The Menace of Chick Peas

So I just have to write this, even though it really was basically
covered in the Science vs. Fact blog. Some things here I just don't
know what to make of...

Often, as a nice little snack over my break, I go to the corner nut
vendor to get 50g of roasted chick peas. These have been cooked, and
then roasted in an oven and he puts them into a twisted paper cone
(usually from a medical journal, and I get to read about neat things
like blood poisoning in French), and I pay the equivalent of 25 cents.

Usually I eat them outside, but it's starting to get so hot that I've
taking to eating them inside with everyone else. Usually my chick
peas don't draw any comments, and most people aren't that fond of
them, so my offers to share get turned down, or people take a single
chick pea to eat.

The staff knows that I'm on a "regime" - that's diet in French - as
I'm no longer eating Habiba's prepared meals, and I pass up cookies in
meetings. Unlike in Canada, people here are really supportive when
you're on a "regime". And they keep sweets, etc, away from you if you
turn them down once. And they don't ask about it or talk about it,
which is also very nice.

You can imagine then how surprised I was to hear them tisking at my
eating chick peas in the kitchen yesterday. One co-worker said
"aren't you on a diet?"

My quizzical look prompted the response from another co-worker: "Don't
you know that chick peas make you fat?" Habiba, the housekeeper who
doesn't speak French, puffed out her cheeks, bowled her arms in front
of her belly, and shuffled around in a circle to show "fat". (Don't
you just love communication barriers?)

Apparently everybody knows that chick peas make you fat. Except the Canadian.

How in heaven's name an entire culture has come to the conclusion that
chick peas make you fat is beyond me. Could it be that when someone
takes a liking to chick peas they become obsessed with them and
develop a compulsive chick-pea-eating behaviour? Or perhaps there is
a special Tunisian gene that, when combined with chick peas, causes
metabolic rates to drop and cravings to jump?

What's more, you don't just get fat generally. No, it's quite
specific. You get fat in a ring around your middle - stomach, lower
back and oblique fat-rolls.

So when Loren descends off the plane in Kelowna in December and he has
to roll me into the airport on my perfectly round tire of fat, you'll
know it was the chick peas that did me in.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

You know you're hooked when...

Last night I worked late, and when I got home, instead of doing my
share of the chores, I chatted with Loren, ate, prepared lunch for
tomorrow and then went to bed. I didn't even clean up after myself.

Loren on the other hand, since arriving home at 6PM, had done the
laundry (by hand, mind you), swept the whole house, cooked a meal, and
prepared 10 canvases for painting.

Out of guilt, though not from any reproach from Loren, I got up at 5AM
to do the dishes before going to the gym. Loren got up at about 5:20
and, half-asleep, stumbled into the kitchen. Without a hello, or a
good morning, he opened the fridge, scratched his hip, and pulled out
the coffee beans. Closing the door, he seemed to stall for a moment,
and then reached past me for the hand-grinder. Then he turned around,
his hands full, and stumbled back to the bedroom.

A moment later, I could hear the sound of the hand grinder pulling
apart the beans. It lasted about four minutes.

It took me 10 minutes more to finish cleaning the kitchen, then,
figuring I could start the coffee, I went in search of the
hand-grinder, now supposedly full of ground beans.

Loren, back in the bedroom, was fast asleep with both hands wrapped
around the hand grinder, carefully, unconsciously, keeping it upright
on the mattress. The covers were thrown back, there was a sprinkling
of coffee bean bits on the sheet and Loren, not a stitch on him, lay
peacefully curled up with his hands protecting his cherished Arabian

I almost didn't wake him. Though he would have been heartbroken, I
think, to not have had coffee after

And to think that only a few months ago, we drank almost exclusively
tea. Well bad tea and fabulous coffee have done their trick. We're
hooked. One of us, perhaps, more so than the other...

And one last comment that remains to be said: Good taste runs in the family.

Like mother, like son.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

squeegee kids do it differently in Tunis

Many things are done a little differently in Tunisia. Squeegee kids, for example. In north American cities they can be seen lurking on street corners ready to pounce on the next victim/dirty windshield - and have been a source of frustration for city lawmakers who decry them as over-agressive and scruffy image-despoilers.

Here, there are no squeegee kids. There are no punk-styled spikey-haired scary kids in army fatigues ready to launch themselves at innocent vehicles. There are, in fact, very few punky kids anywhere. There are, however, street-corner vendors - usually young boys - who sell what appears to be a rotating inventory of stuff. And stuff is the only word that fits.

I have seen them outright begging, I've seen them selling photocopies of pages from the Q'ran, I've seen them selling coffee-cup holders and sun-screens (the fold-out aluminum ones for car windshields - saw one with cute little puppies on it today), and kites.

The latter is the one that particularly cracked me up. They came out about two weeks ago, and I saw the last kite-seller yesterday (remember - rotating inventory. Wherever they get their stuff, they seem to all be selling the same thing at any given time). What really got me about the kites, though, was the pattern: huge rainbow triangles.

For someone with a modicum of exposure to the GLBTQ (gay / lesbian / bisexual / transsexual / queer) community back in Canada, the rainbow triangle is a bit of a loaded symbol. The symbol of GLBTQ solidarity and support throughout North America. The symbol of a fight against injustice, injury and otherwise inequitable treatment. Here it's just a pretty picture.

The contrast, the disconnect, the clash of cultures is often hilarious. Like seeing an older very conservative arabic man wearing a shirt with "Wannabe Spice Girl" as a coworker related to me yesterday.

Old world meets new world. Almost. More like new world collides with old world and the resuting chaos has its little moments of absurdist humour.