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Posts Tagged ‘society’

Finding Direction in Having None

January 25, 2010 3 comments

Casually munching on gaufrettes while working through my lunch break. I’m preparing an urgent sales pitch Elyes decided to tell me about at 12:28. It’s naturally due at 2 pm. Gah. Our work processes here are pretty haphazard and there’s rarely room for pre-planning. When there is room for pre-planning, the final project requirements end up changing so much that it’s the  equivalent to having never been been preplanned in the first place. 

However, one could argue that a bit of disorganization is good for me. A few weeks ago, I was complaining to friends over a pile of cheesy crepes that I have never been lost in a city. I’m so anal and OCD, I have always had my every hour planned out to the minute. Utter planning freak. There’s a yogic axiom that a relaxed mind leads to a sharpened intellect. Easier said than done while in the US and worse still when you add my self-created stress over time and detail. It’s impossible to relax while glued to my sated agenda.

But in step with the wisdom of the yogis- and contra that of modernity- I’ve found that I’ve produced some of my most creative work or learned some of the most complex things in mere seconds while here in Tunisia and it’s by virtue of the fact that I’m living at a tortoise pace. Fml. How will I return to reality?! 

Perhaps here’s a simple answer: Fati once said to me, ‘In Morocco we don’t like to plan too much because excessive planning leads to nothing’. I at first thought this is the most counter-productive philosophy I have ever heard but retrospectively, I see it’s not. Some of my biggest life breaks dropped from the sky and some of my favorite memories came from a lazy Sunday. 

Like yesterday for instance. I opened my eyes up at 7 am, sent out a hoard of text messages, then woke up slow. I made rose petal tea. I cooked Indian french toast. I did yoga. I read. I beautified with a face mask. I journalled. I cleaned. I played with the new turtle my landlord brought. Fine, so not so lazy of a Sunday but you get my drift. I finally walked out the door at 1 pm, with patisserie magenta ‘madelines’ in hand. (tip: they’re most nummy because the bakers add lemon rind!)  

Anna, Thameur and I had no idea what we wanted except that we didn’t want to travel. (Lavi was the exception but heureusement, negated by majority rules)  Stomachs led the way to Avenue Bourguiba where we got crepes-to-go before heading to the Medina. 

The Medina is an example of the Mediterranean influence on Tunisian city planning. Encased by the fortifying castle walls, the winding alleys of the Medina are typically alive with overloaded stores, cafes, and people. But since it was a Sunday, most Tunisians were home watching soccer and for the first time, I saw the beauty of a tranquil Medina. The absence of activity let the sunlight fall in all the right angles and permitted the architecture to receive its due appreciation. 

We drifted through the Medina up to the grande mosque Zitouna. None of us had had the opportunity to wander into the alley ways beyond this mosque, either due to lack of energy from battling crowds of shoppers or due to a lack of time from battling crowds of shoppers. The opportunity to explore unadulterated was ripe for the taking.

We took a left then a left then a right then a left. With each footstep, the buildings got more and more beautiful, decorated by chance with vines, whitewash and splashes of traditional Tunisian doors.  What I love about Tunisia is how you can jump from Mediterranean to Arab in a split seconds. In one instance, you can feel as though you are deep in the south of Spain and in the next, as though you are back with the Pachas.

After exploring and sun basking, we took a coffee then went onto Baba Soukh for its famed kafteji. Unexpectedly, once we reached there, everything was closed. This had now become an imposed lazy Sunday and I did not appreciate. Thameur called one of his friends to help us navigate the foreign turned terrain of centreville-au-dimanche. The thing of it is, when stores close for the night, they are boarded up which makes it more difficult than usual to remember nameless streets that lack their tell-tale landmarks.

Thameur’s friend, the explosive Algerian, works for Club Med and has been living in Tunisia for 2 years. We walked and walked through God knows what, where or how. Foreigners following a foreigner. 

Suddenly we arrived at a random hole in the wall. Final destination?! Noooooooo!

But this hole in the wall served a mean ojja,  a tunisian speciality of spices, pepper, seafood and sausages. Thus in spite of it being a grimy, testosterone teeming resto, it served us up a scrum-didly-upmtuous dinner of five stars. (Case in point, I burned my tongue nicely from an impatience to gorge.) Hyper piquant et hyper savoureux, a rare break indeed for Tunisian cuisine! We ate till the point of food coma, doused our burning tongues with plum smoothies, talked about happy nothings, and somehow found our way back home.

And so just like my days of work, where unanticipated projects and opportunities crop up, I’ve been exploring Tunisia in unforeseen junkets, where my darling Tunisian friends spend lavishly on us interns to make sure we take home the best memories of their country. And it’s worked. I have a fantastic cache of memories, the most evocative coming from a day unplanned. Certainly adding a bit of this ‘mode de la vie’ is invaluable for surviving the concrete jungle upon my return, n’est-ce pas?

Recapping with TounesBledi

January 23, 2010 Leave a comment

At present I hate Sybel for making me work on Saturdays and all I want to do is die right now. I’m so stinkin tired, my knees ache from the crap weather and my lungs hurt from sheesha hotboxing. I actually think I might die from post-sheesha asphyxiation. God bless. 

Below is a really nice note I got from the radio-host this morning and is probably the only thing that is preventing me from killing Elyes slowly. 

Hey Sweet preeti , 
Me and the radio station we were so happy for having you in the show . you were such great person and profile for my radio show .
I thank you so much for coming we r gona meet soon inshallah and i’ll definitely wanna have you again for dinner or lunch at my house before you leave . keep in touch buddy 🙂 Ashraf

To listen to the broadcast, click here. (FYI: I don’t start until 50 minutes into the show. Forewarning: I sound ridiculous) 

For the website, click here


Blending Work with Personal

January 21, 2010 Leave a comment

Last night after work I went over to Hager’s for a sleep over. Hager is my boss #2 and she takes amazing care of me. I am so thankful for having had her since day one of my Tunisian travels.

Hager has had me over sleep over many times before and we’ve stepped into a routine. Once we walk through the front door, she turns up the Mosaique FM and heats up the baby food, I put on pyjamas and feed the babies, we cook and chat some, Lobna (her sister) comes homes from work and makes a loud scene about her presence, Belhassen (Hager’s husband) brings us patisseries then leaves to go out with his friends, us girls eat dinner together then we watch TV and play with the kids till it’s time for bed. 

Yesterday, Hager made a full Tunisian dinner for me since it’s probably the last time I’ll be spending the night at hers. I saw how Kafteji is made from scratch, I discovered that Tangine is actually very delicious when fresh, and I nearly hurled when Hager informed me that the lamb in the soup is from Eid (which took place in November). 

Below are some pictures of Hager and her family. They’ve given me some of my best memories of an authentic Tunisia!

The Privellege of Proximity

January 1, 2010 Leave a comment

When I was younger, I would always lament that my cousins are boring. No longer the case! With us being older, wiser and merrier ( aka of age) family time is now always a good time and I sincerely look forward to every visit.

My Christmas holidays in London are exemplary of this. It’s only been over the past two years that I’ve been visiting England quite frequently and one of my favorite parts is how everything is compact. The physical closeness of family, friends, restaurants, temples, grocers, tailors, schools etc provides a diferent level of intimacy that I haven’t yet seen in the US.

An instance of this is when I got a watch rash on my wrist and my grandma insisted on taking me to the doctor. I did not want to sit for an eternity in a socialized health system’s waiting room. but if you know my grandma, you know that arguing with her is senseless. So early-ish one morning, we crossed the street and passed about 5 houses before we were at the doctors. Big surprise. I always thought thèse things weren’t conveniently located in such a system. Next surprise : all the signs were all written in English and Punjabi. My grandma’s little neighborhood is 95% Indian and this is level of personalization I also didn’t realize existed in socialized health systems. but then, the jaw-hit-the-floor suprise: my grandma knew everyone in the office on a personal level and the secretary fudged the books so that I could be admitted as a British Citizen. Finally, near-conniption-level surprise : I waited a total of 30 seconds before the doctor admitted me. Being in England has convinced me small is better and I’m on my way to becoming a fully fledged Libertarian.

Point being, I love visiting England because I love the pleasant surprises that come with compactness. Time, love, and connection are all augmented.