Canada day...It's Canada Day Up Africa Way
On the first day of July,
And I'm shoutin' Hooray on Canada Day
As the Maple Leaf flies high...
~Stompin Tom Redux
It was a little surreal to be spending this July first heading off in a taxi, wife in tow (or more like towing) for the Canadian Ambassador's Residence out in La Marsa. (La Marsa is a swanky and beautiful district of Tunis.) On the way out, we gave our semi-illiterate cabbie semi-coherant directions and trusted in fate and national pride to get us to our destination. In actual fact, we had a little map on the back of the invitation, but the cabbie couldn't seem to make any sense of it...
We hit the new highway in fine Tunisian fashion - Tiara remarked that it was a little strange how comfortable we'd become in Tunisian cabs. Had to agree as he swerved, stopped brakes and tires squealing, wove in and out of the typical traffic chaos... Then a big black mercedes, followed by a big black peugeot slid up along side us. The mercedes had a tiny Tunisian flag flapping above the hood. The Peugeot had an Italian flag. Both had MD plates (something diplomatique). They turned as we turned. We were headed in the right direction.
We nearly lost our way once, but I recognised an arabic-sign/landmark and quickly had us going straight-on again. And up. The Ambassador's house is nearly on the crest of a hill; The million-dollar house district. It is gorgeous. As we slid into place in front of the barriers and police guards, Tiara and I felt decidedly underdressed. Oh well. Buddha wouldn't notice, and we could do our best to pretend that we didn't either. Past one level of security - hand the invitation to embassy folks who we knew from before and up a long set of stairs to the terrace. Not wheelchair accessible. No real surprise there.
At the top, a beautiful yard, a big maple leaf floating in a swimming pool, live music, tons of swanky guests - ambassadors, admirals, generals, rich tunisians, oil people, tunisian government types, free alcohol, free food, and almost no one under 40. *sigh* People come to Tunisia for business ('gateway to the middle east from Europe - and vice versa') or to retire (stable almost-European and cheap). We did find an interesting pair, however. Friends that we'd made at our first monthly embassy meet and greet. One who was divorcing her Tunisian husband and moving back to Canada (originally a Tunisian woman) and the other who had lived in Canada long enough to get his citizenship, and who was now established again in Tunis. A very interesting and lively pair with biting sarcasm and full open smiles in almost equal measure.
We also had a look through the gorgeous house. Full of canadian art. From Riopelle to Maxwell Bates to a million names that I didn't recognise due to my lack of Canadian art knowledge, but whose style I am sure I have seen before. Abstract, Expressionist, Aboriginal, Printworks, and Sculpture (though less of the latter) as many styles as I identify with Canada were represented.
In any case, I have to leave some room for Tiara's comments - but suffice to say it was unique among our July firsts...