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Weekend Woes

November 23, 2009 Leave a comment

What to write about? This weekend, I spent 90% of my time in my studio working on applications. There’s a family that’s about to move above me and the construction preparing for their arrival is insane- and unwelcomed. For part of the weekend I didn’t have water due to the floorwork they’re doing, so my landlord brought me buckets of water (really showed me what a water waster I am btw. Definitely going to be more conscientious going forward) Then, for the other part, the workers had to tear down a wall, and OH MY GOD, I didn’t realize how feeble this apartment complex is. I could hear every single chip and whack. But magnified! As in, if they were doing this construction in my home, it would’ve been less loud. Really not logical.

But there are other things here that are not logical too. Like the fripe. It’s an amazing shopping smorgasbord but get this economic unsoundness: during the morning, there are less people but prices are lower in hopes that people buy more, and in the afternoon there are more people so prices are higher because they will undoubtedly buy more. Actually, it’s very sound, but not when juxtaposed with neoclassical economics (I always found those classes to be garbage)

By mid-Saturday, I started to get a bit depressed being locked up for so long. I went over to Fati and Anna’s new house in Centreville for a girl’s night. We did our nails, chatted, I met the new Puerto Rican intern, had tea, makdoods and my failed pudding chunks, and watched a movie called “Definitely. Maybe”.

The movie really made me think about my college boyfriend and all the wonderful things he did for me and how I never appreciated them enough. I was always looking for the next best thing, the next best exprience, I was always looking everywhere but there. Being in Tunisia, where time is slower, I’ve finally had a chance to digest the past, re-experience certain events and at last, feel the associated emotions. I can see now how going a mile a minute through life is not a way to live because your mind doesn’t have time to process the stimuli. So I guess it didn’t matter what he did, because I was never present enough to internalize it. This is probably one of the most powerful personal takeaways I could ask for. While being far from the  US of A always makes me love it even more, this is one instance where I think I will have to rethink an American habit. I operate on colored people time for realsie.

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Categories: Personal Ponderings Tags: ,

Hardly working in Hammamet

November 17, 2009 3 comments

Sybel is doing an event for the JCI World Congress Annual Event. I had never heard of this professional development organization before but I am proud to say it started in America. I went to the opening ceremony yesterday to take pictures and revel in saying that it was an amazing evening of ‘work’.

I left Sybel around 5 pm with Foued. How to describe Foued? He drives a Fouedmobile, just had a baby boy, has two girlfriends on the side, perpetually teethes on a red marlboro, and wears the tightest jeans I have ever seen on a Tunisian.

He told me to bring my passport and badge, neither or which I did, but turns out all I had to do was speak American and ‘presto’! It didn’t matter that I was a nobody, because I was a foreign nobody.

The event itself was amazing with JCI chapters from literally around the world. India, Sweeden and Japan were heavily represented but the Tunisian ‘zared’, an eerie sounding tongue-holler, unquestionably had the largest presence. In summation, the opening ceremony was all heavy base, club like lighting,  lebanese singers and predictable organizational bloopers.

I got hungry at 7:30 so one of the techies took me to have a kafteji. We went to a restaurant and inhaled kafteji with baguettes and harissa for 1DT, talked about his dreams to go to Canada over France, and my dreams to dream less. We went for a walk to have a cigarette and chat some more. He explained to me all the varieties of Islam you can find throughout the Maghreb and how that holds up to the Middle East proper. At times I think things are advanced here and at others, I’m thoroughly afraid. I still can’t get over how I have found so many North Africans who do not wash their dishes with hot water because they fear waking the spirits in the sink.  They cite the Koran as proof so what can I say? I just eat off of their dirty plates and tell myself diarrhea is a cure all. ( For the record, this techie, who grew up in France, said that is mainly an African thing and it’s definitely not in the Koran. Phewers)

Anyhow, we went back inside just in time to watch the “Laser Man” Show and then the event wrapped up  The entire team went for dinner together at an authentic  restaurant where I had delicious Tunisian food for the first time. I swear it, there is no such thing as Tunisian cuisine. If anyone tries to tell me variations of oil, eggs, tuna, and harissa is cuisine, they need to get a Rachel Ray cookbook for starters and then move their way on up to Nigella Lawson.

So our team of 20 ate fresh fish and had a wonderful time being obnoxious. We were all wearing chachia’s- a North African beanie- laughing way too loud, and flirting with the waitress a little too much ( me, with the ‘garcon’) In the middle of our boisterous eating frenzy, the waiters come out with an entire ass of a lamb. I kid you not. These people didn’t want a leg, an arm or a shank slice, they just wanted the whole caboose. On top of it, one that was still on fire!!

So I added junk to my trunk with junk from something else’s trunk (I’ll stop now) and then, after I ate myself to immobility, it was time to go. No, that’s not entirely true. Once my side of the table did their part in trying to convince me that Islam is the best religion and it’s for everyone, it was time to go. J’en ai MARRE. My goal upon leaving is to convey some western etiquette that it is really impolite to talk about religion incessantly and then convince the other that there’s is lacking.

Putting that aside, we all got into one of the company van’s and sat in the trunk with some of my favorite techies. One of them is musically inclined and started drumming out a beautiful traditional tune on a flycase while the rest of the men picked up on the rythym and started singing along. I too picked up on the rhythm and started doing a combo of a ‘Grease Lighting’ dance and the Macarena ( and subsequently went tumbling head first into the techies laps when Samir slammed on the breaks indicating our final destination) We all stumbled out, I switched vans, got into the Fouedmobile, and listed to techno all the way home. The End!

Huh? Whose God?

November 10, 2009 1 comment

Everyday the imam  reminds me I ought to start cooking lunch or dinner (or taking a nap). Everytime I tell a Tunisian friend I would like to do something or have something done by tomorow, I get an ‘Inchallah’ (aka ‘God willing’) as opposed to a ‘Yes!’ . Whenever I’m over my bosses’ house for dinner, a guest will randomly start praying in front of everyone while people are chatting as opposed to going in a private room. People continually sneak in little reminders about what it means to be a Muslim and what I ought to do to best please God.

Which is funny because I just came from a super new age yoga bubble and was raised in a super new age Sikh family, so all in all, my cultural-religio-spiritual beliefs are not quite jiving here. I have my beliefs and I’m accustomed to keeping them private, but sometimes I find my tolerance being tested where I just want to go into a classroom lecture on parallels between Eastern Philosophy, Reform Judeo-Christian thought, Sikhism/Sufiism and the little teensy bit I know on Sunni Islam. And if one more person asks me why Indians wear a red dot on their forehead, I’m going to have a conniption. I don’t know why!! Geez Louise, Wiki that ish already if you’re so curious.

But perhaps all this preaching would come to no good? I’ve been told things which make me wonder sometimes what I am doing here, such as when I was told by about 17 people that I shouldn’t wash dishes with hot water because there are spirits in the sink or, that I shouldn’t buy my brothers silk ties or gold rings because silk and gold are designated by God only for women.

But then again, I’ve heard things here which make me wonder why the West doesn’t better facilitate immigration? The intellectual chasms I have witnessed between those who have spent a few years abroad and those who haven’t is incredible. And what I have noticed in Tunis is that it is really not a sending country of immigrants, as Europe makes it seem but rather, a starting and ending point of circular migration from all over Africa. People’s dreams here are to spend a few years abroad and then bring their learning back to Tunisia. Those who have, have successful business, widely tolerant minds, and a tempered application of religion. So where is the missed communication exactly? Is it with the Muslims as the media likes to make it appear or is it with the West who doesn’t feel it necessary to provide access to knowledge?

Il faut que jeunesse se passe

November 2, 2009 Leave a comment

Today, I decided that I am actually in a Latin American country in disguise/denial/permanent delusion. Everyone is soooo nice, lively and sexy! (More sexified than sexy) They also eat horribly and douse everything in sugar or oil, listen to music nonstop while wagglin along  and manipulate time to such an extent that clocks might as well not even exist. Also, I would say the gendered concepts here are more Latino than Arab- women are liberated objects.

So what brought me to my ridiculous conclusion? Naturally an accumulation of things but since details slip through my mind like a sieve, I’ll elaborate on the most recent experiences and ‘beshwaya beshwaya’ more will come.

Alrighty, Wednesday I went out for crepes with my two Romanian friends in the posh Lac area and discovered that I hate all crepes here, they are basically Indian chapati’s stuffed with bland cheese and basted in corn oil. Just like in Latin America. I freakin hate tamales and all offshoots. But for the non-parallel, I love the Keralia Slim’s (while on my Latin American travels, les cigarettes ne me plait pas du tout). This from the mouth of an asthmatic and supposed health nut! Whatever, I’m impressionable. Besides, I have never seen people smoke so much and in truth, I feel a little left out. I want to go on 50 cigarette breaks too! When in Rome do as the Romans do? Viable justification? I think yes.

Anyhow, Wednesday night was one of wonderful conversation in a perfect atmosphere. (Tunisian compatriots, go to Phukets if you havent done so yet) Diana is the Romanian girl who isnt here on an AIESEC internship. She’s been here for one year and has a story of tenacity. Bien que a cause de l’amour. She’s the second foreigner I’ve met here who has fallen in love with a Tunisian and decided to stay back, despite the lack of work or tofu.

The next evening, my boss invited me over for dinner and a sleep over. The first time I went over to her house for dinner, I had no idea she intended me to sleep over, because all she said was, “Viens pour le diner aujourd’hui’. However, despite my protests at having zero sleep-over gear and wanting to work on applications, she convinced me otherwise simply by citing the fact that everyone who visits her in the evening sleeps over. I take this whole ‘Do as the Roman’s do’ a little too seriously. Anyhow, I now know that when she invites me over for dinner, I’m spending the night. Which I have absolutely no problem with! Hager has two litle boys, one who is two and the other who is nine months- Dido and Can-Can respectively. Super cute and they make me miss my dead baby kitten a ton. When we enter Hager’s house, she turns up the Mosaiq FM on full, gives me a pair of pyjamas  (bonafide flood pants since she’s only 5″2) and then I happily feed the babies as she prepares the dinner and smokes her lungs away. That evening, her husband went to watch the Esperance soccer match, and came back with disgustingly delicious pastries. Then Lubna, Hager’s sister, came back from work and animated nonsense went to a new high. Dido decided  he doesn’t want to sleep so Hager iron’s my clothes ( she’s so stinkin sweet. she does my laundry AND irons them), while Lubna I watch a Tunisian comic on TV and play with Dido. Even the television shows in Tunisia remind me of being in a Latin American country, je te jure.

The next night is a Friday night and despite my wanting to work on applications so I can enjoy Halloween worry free, a friend of ours just got a job in Italy and would be leaving on Sunday… so obviously I had to attend the farewell party. I get home from work and make some dinner so that Fati & Lavi and I could have something to eat beforehand. I actually didn’t eat dinner because earlier that day I consumed an entire baguette by myself while fretting over what to write for my application #1. I can’t believe it. This is like the 5th time I have eaten a whole baguette on my own due to pondering over things I don’t want to ponder. I need to get my stomach stapled!!

So yes, we spent our night in Biwa where Anna’s (Polonais) boyfriend’s band plays regularly  (and where one of my co-workers does the sound). They are incredible! I’m not one to cast praise lightly but aside from the fact that these non-English speakers sing sans accent, they  alter their voice and style to the originals flawlessly- whether it be Bob Marley, Sting or Coldplay. Impressive eh? So that night, we ate those nasty crepes and sipped on yummy the au amands, chatted away, danced a little and thoroughly enjoyed being out altogether. Lavi and Fati spent the night (my studio is that well furnished!) and the next day, they went to the Medina with Sonia to take a last round of photos. I finally decided to stay home and “work” (ponder).

In all seriousness, I even decided to skip out on Halloween fun for my apps. I had such a good costume too! Ok here goes: I was going to continue with my usual trend of dressing up in some variation of skank ( we all know Halloween is really just an excuse to get in touch with our inner baddie) and be a Tunisian Hoebag. My ex-neighbor was going to lend me her prayer robe, fix a hijab on me and snap on her niqab, and then….I would wear scandoulousness underneath!! Haha!! It woud’ve been great. The party at the American Embassy definitely missed out. Well actually, the requirements were to be in costume and since 99.9% of people here think I’m Tunisian, perhaps it would’ve been me who would’ve missed out?

Irrespective of no Hallow’s Eve, I had a really nice sunny weekend where people popped by here and there which made me feel less like a boring hermit. OH! And I channeled inner wifey! I made an amazing soup. See, a lack of an Indian mother and a Whole Foods really foreces me to use those cooking skills and what I’m finding is I just love to cook. Before it was ‘I love to bake’ but that’s because I liked to give other people my baking. Right now, I’m finding that I really enjoy cooking and I like doing it just for myself.

Another discovery you say? I found that I am abnormally naive. Yup. A co-worker of mine came over for lunch and a long story made short- that involves my landlord, ex-neighbors, an armoire and a really aggressive father ( who got a piece of my boisterous back talk)- that afternoon conversation with him finally made me aware that I’m naive to the point of self harm. And perhaps it’s because I’ve always lived in small very trusting communities where we don’t lock our doors or worry about leaving valuables out in the open, but whatever the cause, my hopes are that my time in Tunisia will help me mature in that respect. I finally want to as well and when there’s a will, there’s a way. It’s odd because last summer in England, when I was living in a pretty bad working class neighborhood and doing interviews with pretty sketch Punjabi Indian guys. I cannot tell you how many times my college boyfriend either wanted to either smack some sense into me or fly over with an bazooka and pulverize the offender. Despite the fact that I was always getting myself in dangerous situations where I just barely managed to squeeze my way out of, I didn’t find my idiotic doling of trust diminish by even one ounce. Going forward, I know I wont be living in picuresque American suburbs and so this characteristic of mine is certainly one that has to go.

Ok, I’ve been taking too much time out of my workless day to blog. I think I’ll read my French book instead. It’s called “L’ignorance”. Talk about fitting :p You know it’s a good thing I’m having this revelation here. I’m in such a great, caring community that I’ll get the positive reinforcement I need to shape up and leave my Preeti Bubble. Very happy to have a Nicaragua Take 2!!