Bougie Encounters

Today is my last day in Tunisia before I fly out to England tomorrow and spend the Christmas holidays with my British family. My mom’s side has had générations in Uganda, Kenya and Rwanda but the infamous Africanization policies of the 1970’s scattered them westward. The English speaking members went to London and the French speaking ones to Montreal.

This has clearly played a huge rôle in my immigrant family’s life story, but interestingly, it’s not one that’s discussed to often. I, myself, have had little interest in getting to know the history of thèse countries. At the bottom of my life-to-do list is watch « The Last King of Scotland » and at the top of my never-to-do list is visit those countries. I have zéro desire to die from a brain-eating parasite.

Which is why the event I attended last night, on the Islamic New Year, was so fascinating for me. I  recieved an invite to the African Developement Bank’s end of year party and fortunately, was able to find a last minute date for Fati so I could hog her for the last 48 hours I will be with her in Tunis. I am really glad we chose to go to El Mouradi for this party as opposed to our usual Biwa/Bouef sur le Toit nights. ( a blog on this soon to follow)

So last night’s évent opened with a Senegalese drum band and involved the most raunchly explicit male dancing I have ever seen. I am pretty sure it was inappropriate, however authentic it may have been. After, we all went to get food from the African buffet and it was a shark feeding frenzy where lines were mosh pits. Once we came out alive with a plate of African alimentaire, we were enterained by a parading of the African varieties to be found on the continent. It was actually quite amazing for me to see all the diversity. I admit, I am notoriously guilty of lumping all Africans together as one people.

The showcasing of Africa finally did away with this malaligned thinking. The head dresses, outfits, facial features, music and style of dancing were quite different from country to country, and more interesting for the ignorant American that I am, the same in certain countries which means you could see where the colonial powers messed up in drawing dividing boundaries.

To give a taste of the show : 1.) Ethopian music sounded like South Indian music and the dance was all in the shoulder blades 2.) Cote D’Ivoire was Jamaica revisited and played out in the bodacious bums 3.) Somalia/Djibouti was a cross between drunk-uncle-bhangra and monkey 4.) Tchad’s traditional music was incredible, Spain meets exotic jungle, and I am currently telecharging whatever I can find in hopes of coming across last night’s sampling.

When the North African invite to the piste was announced, I happily joined the ranks. While I wasn’t dressed traditionally, a long Greek gown with a pretty daring deep neck, neither were those who came to the floor . The only traditional outfits exhibited were those by two Berber women from the dessert which is why once amongst the crowd, I didn’t feel out of place and I didn’t feel foreign. My hand and hip motions blended right.

The evening was a really gréât eye opened to a reality I find so cloaked hère in Tunisia. I am in Africa, not the Middle East. The swathes of Africans living hère are made out to be an annomaly in Tunisia, as though they don’t bélong. Tonight I saw the interconnectivity of Tunisia to the rest of the continent and I loved it. ( Can’t say the same about the food though. Ill take Tunisian over Ghambian any day !)

I also loved the beauty I saw in person as opposed to National Geographic. I’ve have always found ebony black skin, gleaming white teeth and a mass of thick braids to be extaordinarily exotic.  For me, it’s a beauty I can’t quite comprehend and it mesmerizes me. I have never found the mélodies of the Arabia, the scents of India, or the khol covered eyes of the East to be anything extraordinary. I am currently listening to « Tabla Beat Science » and for me, it’s America. Which is why last night, dancing away to the slow staccato beats of African culture, I revelled in the exoticness of it all.

I also regretted dancing away the night before that. My unconditioned hamstrings hurt right now ! I went to « La Closerie » for a dinner with Hicham, a Moroccan tennis player who went to Columbia and worked for Citigroup before the inévitable hit. Sob story aside, I finally found a scrumptious salad ! After dinner, we went to the lounge side where a duet was jamming away acoustic interpretations of American 90’s music before the house music came on. Hicham introduced me to all his friends, a medley of modern. I am very fortunate to have had Tunisian expériences in the order I did. It started out with the traditional, closed minded village mentality and has moved progressively along a trajectory where I am now in the midst of refined professionals.

One of the guys I was talking with, a software engineer at HR Access who can’t get enough techno, had an interesting comment about democracy that I had found myself starting to believe long before I came to Tunisia. He said the Arab world is not ready for democracy. The governments want to keep the people stupid so that they can manipulate them easily. He believed that once éducation is fully installed, only then could democracy begin to take supplant the pseudo-democracies and open theocracies.

I have been thinking likewise about American democracy actually. While I believe so strongly in the principles and effects of a democratic society, I often feel as though it is best applied to a state and municipal level and that it might be more benficial if fédéral governments were more oligarchic in nature. I say this because when a populace isn’t educated enough, everything devolves towards neanderthal like populism where gutteral instincts reign over calcuated reason. A truism is that everyone is equal… just some are more equal than others. Money talks, so how can we manufacture a world where humanism trumps profits ? I would say at the outset, start by ensuring livelihoods and éducation, not a welfare state, and then the self-perpetuating cycles of innovation will catch hold wherein a pure democratic system could be better established. This is something only the fédéral government can be tasked with. Right now, there are parts of Cleveland where children have scurvy and unemployment is passing 30%. Cleveland would be able to combat the effects of deindustrialization much easier if this wasn’t the case. Work and éducation intégrâte people into society, and in my opinion, the greatest national security threat is our inner cities where guns and drugs are candy and popcorn. Perhaps we could learn alongside the Arab world on how to better implement a real democracy ? Perhaps.

Anhow, enough theorizing for me. I need to pack because I am heading over to Passage in a few to have a little Christmas teaser with the girls- decorating sugar cookies, making chantilly hot chocolaté, putting up a puny fake Christmas tree and listening to all the versions of « Last Christmas » I found. ( If you have to chose one, go for Glee Cast.) Also, I promised my landlord’s kids I would watch Batman with them before I leave. Ahhh. Also, I still have to mail out thèse Holiday postcards. Ahhh. Also, I still have to de-hangover. Ahhh. Where is the pause button when you need it ?!

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  1. gillis@ccf.org
    December 22, 2009 at 3:32 pm

    drunk- uncle-bhangra hmmmmm…..HAVE A GOOD TIME IN ENGLAND

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