Sunday, July 31, 2005

If at first you don't succeed...

So, yesterday I was all set to make a second journey to the all-female hammam in the medina of Tunis at which Lea and had unsuccessfully attempted to bathe a couple weeks ago. I talked to some girls from Yale who had a positive experience there recently, and after waking up with rolls of dead skin falling off my arms and back (a lovely image, isn't it? I'm sorry to be so graphic, but you just can't imagine how dirty and disgusting I feel, even though I shower and a fairly regular basis, which is more than I can say for some people I know...), I decided that enough was enough. I would brave the maze-like backroads of the medina, the scorching heat of the early afternoon sun and the half-naked Tunisian women again in order to finally be clean. I even made a special trip to Champion (a modern super-store unlike anything else I have seen in Tunisia) to buy the necessary supplies for my journey. I was ready.



After "graduation," a trip to the superstore and a brief stop at an amazing little café near Bourguiba that we just discoverd, I set off to the old city, accompanied by Nora and Adam who planned to do some shopping in the suq. After another harrowing journey through the medina that made me thouroughly miss Nathanael, the only person who ever made a trip there a completely positive experience, we reached the colored archway signaling the presence of the bathhouse. There was a man with the paint brush standing in the doorway. He motioned for me to go inside. After taking a few seconds to mentally prepare myself for the task that lay before me, I walked through the archway only to find an abandoned room with no water, no half-naked Tunisian women scrubbing themselves vigorously, nothing.



I have now been the the Zitouni hammam twice, and neither time have I tasted the sweet fruit of victory or sipped from the cup of cleanliness. I will not give up, however. I will not throw my figurative and literal towel in. God help me I will be clean if I have to go back a hundred times. I will try again this week. Hopefully the goddesses of the hammam will take pity on this filthy wretch and grant me a bath. Inshallah...



I did get a chance spend the afternoon shopping with Nora and Adam, which turned out to be very fruitful and a lot of fun. We ended up making several purchases, staying in the city until dark and eating at a nice little place with air-conditioning(!!!) on Habib Bourguiba. We also ran into Eric and Ann at a café on the street, which led to the bad news that my aparment situation for next month (which starts in about two days) isn't quite as finalized as I thought it would be...Oh, well. No worries. If worst comes to absolute worst, I still have a spot in Salambo, although I would probably move into the dorms with Lea before staying out there for another month.

The end of session party held by the Bourguiba school at the coed dormitory on Friday night was total blast (aside from the intoxicated escapades of a certain undergraduate). The 3-hour-long show was comprised of cultural acts from almost every country represented at the Institute. It included dancing, acting, singing, poetry and instrumental performances. Adam and I had been playing around with some harmonies to various English tunes for a couple weeks and had decided that we would tow the American line and represent our lazy countrymen on stage. We sang an old-timey Bluegrass tune called "Canaan's Land" and an Irish tune called "The Parting Glass." The former, which we usually sing very well and had worked on for over a week, kind of sucked, whereas the latter, which we started working on less than 24 hours before the show, kind of rocked. Go figure.

The Parting Glass

Of all the money ere I had, I spent it in good company,
And all the harm I've ever done, alas was done to none but me
and all I've done for want of wit, to memory now I can't recall
so fill me to the parting glass, goodnight and joy be with you all.

Of all the comrades ere I had, they're sorry for my going away,
and all the sweethearts ere I had , they wish me one more day to stay,
but since it falls unto my lot that I should go and you should not,
I'll gently rise and softly call, goodnight and joy be with you all.

If I had money enough to spend and leisure time to sit awhile
there is a fair maid in this town who sorely has my heart beguiled
Her rosey cheeks and ruby lips, I alone she has my heart in thrall
so fill me to the parting glass goodnight and joy be with you all.


Oddly fitting considering the circumnstances...

Friday, July 29, 2005

Kalimaat Ka-alkalimaat (and some pictures, too!)

So Nathanael left this morning :( Tunisia is not going to be quite the same without him. Fortunately, I have so many big changes coming up that I'll hardly have time to be sad about his leaving. Yesterday was the final day of class with Homer, and next week is the beginning of the second session. In a classic Cari-Homer exchange, I attempted to convey to him that I am going to move down a level in the Arabic program and thus was not planning on taking the final exam. Of course it took two separate attempts taking about about ten minutes each and full of sighing, stuttering and gesticulating wildly. When he finally understood (which I actually can't be sure that he ever really did), he told me that perhaps we would see each other next month after the the test. I meant to say "possibly." Instead, I said "boring."

My living arrangements have been finalized for the next two weeks. I will be staying with Katie, Lorraine, Ann, and Eric in an apartment in downtown Tunis that was rented by the undergrads last month. I'm really excited for the change. I'm moving in on Monday, I think.

There is an end of session party tonight at the dorm. People form various countries are performing acts in a style from their particular culture. Adam and I are singing a couple of old-timey bluegrass tunes. It should be good fun. Tomorrow morning there is a "graduation" ceremony. I'm not sure if I even get a certificate since I didn't actually take the test, but it's all the same to me since I'm not getting any Yale credit for this anyway.

Despite the rather sad farewell this morning, I am kind of having a really fabulous day. I got up early for a final petit dejeuner with Nathanael and Nora. Then I partook in two activites that pretty much always make me feel better: napping and shopping. I spent the past several hours poking around the shops in Salambo and Le Kram. I talked with shopkeeppers, met some nice women my age, embarassed myself over and over again (but really that just goes along with being in public for me), talked with my favorite chwarma guy and bought some earrings and board games in Arabic. I haven't even been bothered much except for one guy in the supermarket and this fellow sitting next to me in the Internet Cafe right now.

(He just gave me a note that says (in english): "hello. You look very nice and would love if I can invite you for a [squiggle that could either be coffe or wife] some days. My name is Lomwis. ##.###.### Cheers." Gotta love those Tunisian men...)

After this I'm on my way to the city to talk to the director of the school about next month and warm up for the party tonight.

I haven't yet been able to upload pictures, but Nathanael has uploaded some of his, which I will now proceed to steal.



Here is a picture of the commune on our first day of school. It's early, okay?

From left to right: Me, Nathanael, Lea, Nora and Adam



Another view out of the bedroom window



The Colosseum of El-Jem south of Tunis, on the coast of Tunisia (the third largest Colosseum in the Roman World)



The Great Mosque of Kairouan

And I'm spent.

Ma'as-salaama Ya Habeebee

My Dearest Salambo,

As our time together comes to a close, I can't help but recall all of the memories that we have made with each other. Getting to know you has been a real pleasure, and all though it wasn't always easy, it was amazing nonetheless (that's not to say that we didn't have a few fun times as well;)

Leaving you means no more DDT-mobile, no more devil sheep, no more filthy floor, no more bugs in the fridge, no more loud Tunisian beach parties keeping me up until three every morning (except on the weekends of course), no more sketchy Tunisian guys throwing volleyballs at my head, no more commute, no more crazy toilets (inshallah). It means the opportunity for air-conditioning, for consistently hot water, for more than three options for cheap food for dinner.

But it also means no more walks on the beach, no more sitting on the rocks watching the waves crashing against them, no more cool, misty mornings, no more mountain view, no more Nibbley, no more call to prayer mixed with the pounding beat of European techno echoing through the night air, no more morning walks to the train station, no more chwarma guy, no more commune, no more jasmine in the morning, no more sea breeze.

As much as I know that it is time for me to move on, for us to part ways, I am really going to miss you. I feel as though we are just really getting to know each other well. I promise to visit, to return to your beaches and chwarma shops in the near future. In fact, I couldn't resist if I tried. The past month was kind of awesome, so thanks for everything. I have never known another place quite like you.

Ma'as-salaama ya habeebee.

Cheers,

Cari Omelette

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

A-rab

So I realize that I haven't exactly made good on my promise to describe all of the people that I am living with, and since my living situation may be changing significantly in the near future, I thought I'd better say a few words about Nora and Nathanael.

Nora is a 24-year-old graduate student in African Studies at Yale. She was born in Saudi Arabia and raised in Kenya and Jerusalem. However, she is ethnically a white Dutch American with extremely pale skin and blond-blond hair, a fact that causes her stand out more than any of us, which makes for an interesting juxtaposition as she is the most familiar with the region by far and speaks the best French of anyone. She's extremely well-traveled and became for a short time upon our arrival the (somewhat unwilling) mother figure of the commune.

Nathanael (a.k.a. "the motorcycle guy" for those to whom it matters) was a graduate student at Yale when we met but has since accepted a position as a faculty fellow at Columbia in their Near Eastern Studies department. He is fluent in Japanese and has a working knowledge of French, Hebrew, German (sort of) and several ancient languages including Aramaic, Assyrian, Babylonian and Akkadian (although I don't know if you can actually say that those are all separate languages since some of them are so closely related). Nathanael and I knew each other before this trip, and I have really enjoyed the chance to get to know him better, as he is an extremely interesting and fun person as well as a really good friend. Unfortunately for me, he is leaving on Friday :(

On a lighter note, something kind of funny happened to me today while we were eating at our favorite restaurant in Tunis after class. I was talking to the guy who runs the place, and he asked me (in Arabic) what country I was from because I didn't look American like the rest of the people I was with :) He thought I was an Arab! Now the reason this is good, other than the fact that being American = not always so good in this part of the world, is that my tan is coming a long quite nicely, and the darker I get, the more I can pass for a local. Plus, hellllooooooo...I haven't had a good tan in years. That's big.

The next month of my stay here will likely be a wholly different experience than the past month has been. Not only with Nathanael be gone, but I will be living in the city (hopefully) with some of my undergrad friends, studying in a different level with a different teacher at the Institute (Homer isn't really doing it for me) and traveling more. It should be good...Inshallah.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

3 Weeks Down, 5 To Go

I can't believe it's already the last week of the July session! Time is
flying. One more month and I'm back to school! I'm having a hard time
deciding what exactly I am going to take next semester, but that is
another story for another day.

We had several fellow Arabic students from the Bourguiba school over to
hang out in our apartment and go to the beach today...four Italians and
a really cute Scottish girl who is my age and in my class at the
Institute. We swam, climbed on some nearby rocks, sat in the sun and
ate at a really nice restaurant near our house (the building in the
bottom right of the picture I posted). I was all well and good EXCEPT
that I got a bit of a sunburn and my sandals were stolen while we
were sitting right next to them on the beach!!!
Now it may not
sound like a big deal, but this particular pair of sandals was such a
godsend. Not only was it one of the most valuable things I brought to
Tunisia, it was one of only two pairs of shoes that I brought, the
other being my sneakers. I spent hours visiting nearly every shoe store
in Evansville looking for the perfect pair of walking sandals, and
these were working out absolutely beautifully. In fact, I have worn
them every day since I arrived...and now they are gone forever :( I am
still really upset as this just happened a couple hours ago. Oh, well...

So, to answer some questions to which I have not yet responded:

mary - Yes, this is Lea's first visit to the Middle East, and no I have
not received anything from you...did you send it over e-mail?

bo - The harassment is usually confined to stares and comments, however
I have been followed several times, and groping also occurs on occasion
unless a female is accompanied by a companion (although it can still
happen, especially in crowded train cars or markets).

hannibal - No, I don't think I am exaggerating. I have struck up
several conversations with locals (usually males, as the females in
public are much fewer and less apt to say hello), and I am often
followed very uncomfortably by most men I talk to. For example,
yesterday morning I got up early to watch the sunrise on our beach, and
I made the mistake of saying good morning to a man I passed. Not only
did he turn around and follow me, he stood at a distance and stared at
the me the whole time I was sitting on the rocks, and went to got up to
move, he followed me even further, forcing me to leave midway through
the beautiful sunrise because I was so incredibly uncomfortable. He
even began to follow me home. I am sorry if you disagree, but the vast
majority of men in this country are just plain creepy, and every single
foreign woman I have spoken with, including Lea, feels the same way,
and I have spoken to many. I've honestly just about had it with the
amount of harassment. It's hard enough to live in a country in which
you don't speak the language, but lacking the verbal skills to tell the
local men, who are very aggressive whether you want to admit it or not,
to piss off has made this whole experience much more stressful and
trying than I had ever expected.

dad - It's difficult to say about the local opinions concerning the
London bombings as understanding the languages (Frech, Tunisian or fusah), especially such a complex concept, is exceptionally hard
at this point.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

View from the Bedroom Window



It's hard to complain when I wake up to this every day.

And yet, here I go...

So Lea and I discovered an English version of the new Harry Potter in a bookshop on the main street of Tunis. It cost a mere 65 Tunisian dinar (roughly 50 American dollars). Yeah...looks like I will just have to wait. Sigh.

I miss country music. The stuff on my iPod, while good, is getting old. I need a new Rob Mix.

We're going to explore the rest of Carthage this afternoon after our siesta. I'm looking forard to seeing Dido's hill. We explored Tophet last week. Tophet = lots of baby graves. The Carthaginians were kind of creepy...

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Back in Town

Hey all! My sincerest apologies for my recent silence. We had a four day weekend off of school, and I spent half of it traveling outside of Tunis/Cartage, while the other half was so unbelievably boiling hot that I could not muster up the energy to leave the apartment and walk to the Internet Café (realize that leaving the apartment entails putting on pants and a longish sleeved top, a prospect that is not particularly inviting when the temperature is over 100 degrees, there isn’t a cloud in the sky and the breeze feels like somebody is holding a hot blow-dryer to one’s face). So please forgive me…every word I say is true.

One more thing before I recount the fabulous adventures of this weekend past: One should note that my posts are momentary thoughts and reactions and aren’t necessarily a true reflection of my experience here. The tone of each post is so incredibly dependent on the time of day/temperature that it often seems to belie the true nature of my thoughts. For example, at the moment it is post-siesta/pre-sunset time, and the temperature is a comfortable 90ish degrees with a nice sea breeze, so I am happy and optimistic. Had I been writing this post at 2:00 this afternoon, you’d probably think I was hating every minute of my life. Thus are the mood swings associated with this climate. Of course, the fact that we don’t have air conditioning, have hot water only sometimes and commute between Tunis and Cartage for a grand total of two hours everyday makes the weather a seriously important consideration in terms of my hour to hour functioning.

(So I’m currently drafting this post on Lea’s laptop before I head over to the Internet Café, and she just walked in the room and said: “Oh my goodness! Have you stood in front of the open refrigerator in a wet bikini-top yet? Oh my…” You see what I mean?)

So about this weekend…I have to say that it was pretty great. On Friday we slept in before visiting the Bardo museum, the most famous in Tunisia, in the afternoon. The museum is known for its collection of North African Roman artifacts as well as some Islamic stuff. The highlight of this visit was the oldest known portrait of Virgil, a 3rd century mosaic. The happy hour at the marine house at the U.S. Embassy was cancelled on Friday night, so a few of us went to a nice (but very touristy) restaurant in La Marsa, which is close to Sidi Bou Said (the tourist’s idyllic Tunisian coastal town—picture white-washed buildings with blue shudders on a hill overlooking the sea and lots of good-looking Europeans dining at quaint little cafes).

On Saturday Nathanael, Adam, Nora and I set out for El-Jem by means of louage, a sort of shared taxi (usually a station wagon or eight passenger van) meant for long-distance travel. While a louage is relatively inexpensive and often more convenient than the Tunisian train system, it usually does not have air-conditioning, and one can end up squashed up next to a pungent stranger. And it’s hot. REALLY HOT. (Can you guess what the theme of this entire experience has become?)

We arrived at El-Jem in the late morning after connecting in Sousse. There we visited the Colosseum of El-Jem, which was the third largest in the Roman world and is the most famous example of Roman architecture in North Africa, or so they tell me. After a lunch of bread and bananas from a nearby tabac, we hopped into another louage and went back to Sousse before continuing onward to Kairouan, one of the seven holiest cities of Islam (depending upon whom you ask, of course). We could not drive directly to Kairouan from El-Jem because of the enormous salt flats separating the two. Salt flats are definitely some of the craziest things that I’ve ever seen in my life. We spent Sunday evening and most of Monday in Kairouan visiting several famous mosques, including the Great Mosque, the oldest in North Africa, before trying our hands at bargaining in the local suq. Our hotel had an amazing view of the medina from the roof, and we stayed up late Sunday night talking and listening to a nearby wedding celebration. It was pretty amazing. I also had a real shower. That was pretty amazing, too.

(“How dare the denial of human rights in this country subject me to an inferior learning experience,” says Lea. “That’s the Lea we went to class with,” says Adam. I love these people. They are endlessly amusing.)

The trip to Kairouan was, however, both the best of times and the worst of times. Monday was characterized by the highest temperatures we have yet observed (they tell me it was somewhere between 105-110 degrees…obviously when one understands neither of the languages spoken in this country, every bit of information comes from a second- or third-hand source), making the louage ride back to Tunis one of the single most uncomfortable experiences of my life. That was soon followed by the single most uncomfortably hot night of my life (you know it’s going to be a bad day when you are already sweating bullets before sunrise). As God as my witness, I will never complain about an Evansville summer day again.

School is going well except that I only understand 20%-30% of what my teacher (who looks like an Arab Homer Simpson) says on any given day. Ah the joys of immersion.

Well, I suppose I’m about out of time on Lea’s laptop, but I hope this extended post made up for my recent lack of communication with the outside world.

Salaam.

p.s. Mom, no worries about little old me. I'm well-taken care of and having a great time. <3

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Gender Relations in Tunis

One of the most obviously different aspects of life in Tunisia in comparison to life in the States (besides the standard of living, of course) is the nature of gender relations, which are relatively similar both in Tunis and in Carthage (I don't know about smaller, more rural areas, however). The first thing one notices is lack of women walking on the streets (which, in addition to the TGM for long distances, is the preferred method of transportation in Tunisia, although many upper-middle-class Tunisians do own cars). In addition when women are walking in public, especially in outside of Tunis, which is a bit more liberal and metropolitan because of its size and nature, they are almost always accompanied by a man, and if they are not, they will more than likely be verbally harassed at the very least. And that is only for local women...for foreign women it is a whole different story.

Because of the distinct race, language and cultural norms shared by the vast majority of Tunisians, foreigners stick out like sore thumbs. Now that I have some color to my skin, I can almost pass for the token Tunisian in the group because I look a little more Mediterranean than the rest...that is until I start interacting with someone. As a foreign women, I am stared at ALL THE TIME by men (and women, but for different reasons). It is the most intense and uncomfortable staring you can imagine. The most difficult part is that I can't look back. I can't make eye contact because that is simply inviting trouble. So basically I have to sit there and take it, and it gets old very quickly. Tunisian men view foreign women as sexual objects. From Western movies, music and television as well as stories that quickly become urban legends of local men scoring with foreign women (usually European women on vacation), men in Tunisia believe that Western women are basically sluts (for lack of a better word). Because men and women in Tunisia aren't really allowed to touch each other until marriage, this means that when a local man encounters a foreign woman (unless he is a shopkeepper standing to make money off of you) he has only one thing on his mind. Verbal harassment, groping and following are extremely common when one is walking alone and not unheard of when one is accompanied by a group. I am lucky in that I have Nathaneal who is constantly looking out for me when we are in public, so I have been physically bothered much less than most of my female friends. However, when one is used to being able to walk down the street without being CONSTANTLY objectified and having to fear for one's physical safety, coming to Tunisia is a huge adjustment. The hardest part for me has been the fact that, for the most part, I can't go anywhere alone. Because of that reality and because I share a snug five room apartment with four other people, my concepts of personal time and personal space have had to shift significantly in order to maintain my emotional well being. If I sound I little bitter, it is because I am. I wake up every day and do everything in my power to blend in. I defeminize myself in a way that I never have before; I cover almost all of my body despite 100°+ heat; I speak very little in public so as not to draw attention to my native tongue; and I am always in the presence of a male companion. Despite all of this, I have to put up with constant objectification that is so intense it makes my skin crawl, and I am completely powerless to stop it. Needless to say, it's not a good feeling.

On a lighter note, the past few days have been really great. My Arabic is coming along nicely, and Salambo is beginning to feel like home. We are getting to know the local shopkeepers who are so appreciative of our business that they will gladly put up with our lack of coherent Arabic. We usually communicate in a mixture of French, English, fusah and the local Tunisian dialect. Not only do I have to deal with this amalgam of languages around me, the people with whom I reside live languages, and when they are not speaking or studying them, they are discussing them in English. Each is familar with at least four other languages ranging from Aramaic (sp?) to Spanish to Japanese. Living with these people is like my own personal window into the lives of American academia, and I see things I both like and dislike.

In that vein, I will conclude with a description of another member of the Carthage Commune, Lea:

Lea is a 24-year-old approaching her final year at Yale law. I believe her specialty is in human rights law. Arabic is her seventh language. Lea is smart and fun and is definitely the most outgoing and independent woman in our group. She is very stylish despite the constraints of the recommended dress for foreign women and unapologetic, but she also tries very hard to converse in Arabic as often as she can, with relative success I might add.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

From Salambo

Adam and I discovered a relatively fast Internet cafe in Salambo
today, so I may be posting more often from now on! Yesterday's
bathhouse experience was an experience alright, although there was no
bathing to be had. Lea and I walked from school to the medina
after lunch in order to find the aforementioned bathhouse. The medina
is a maze of winding streets of shops and residential neighborhoods
enclosed in a wall that represents the ancient border of the city. The
entrance to the medina feels very much like the Grand Bazaar in that it
is full of shops selling everything from rugs to nargiles to jewelry to
spices. As one journeys further into the interior, however, one
encounters fewer and fewer crowds and shops and finds oneself in the
midst of a relatively poor residential neighborhood. This is where Lea
and I found ourselves yesterday as we struggled to find this little
hole-in-the-wall bathhouse which our guidebook had recommended.
Eventually, we had to ask for directions from a group of middle-aged
men in Arabic, a feat that always amuses the locals, especially because
we speak fusah instead of the local Tunisian dialect. So we
walk through this little archway (literally a hole in the wall) and
find ourselves in this tiled room with a handful of half-naked local
women scrubbing themselves. After standing there for a few minutes, we
realized that we in fact had absolutely no idea what to do and there
was obviously nobody to help us, so we left. Making our way out of the
medina was almost as much of an adventure as finding out way in.
Needless to say, I was extremely disappointed in our lack of a
bathhouse experience because truly clean is something that I am so
rarely these days.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Half of this post got deleted, and I'm pretty mad about it.

I wanted to begin by apologizing for the infrequency of my posts. Because we live outside of the city and commute to school, we have a pretty tight schedule on weekdays and have little time for internet cafes (and I don't think many people in Salammbo even understand the idea of a personal computer). There is so much to tell you and so little time!

On the average school day, we wake up between 5 and 6 am with the morning call to prayer which serves as a rather effective alarm. Our commune has a rule that those who go to bed first get to pick their beds since not all beds in our place were created equal. In fact, one of the beds consists two boards propped up on metal poles with a mat on top and another bed is the couch. Since I've been sick, however, I've been getting the good beds so I'm not complaining. Anyway, we eat breakfast together, usually bread, fromage, eggs, and/or fruit before catching the train into Tunis. We spend about 20 minutes on the train and another 25 walking from the train station to the school. After four hours of school (with generous breaks...praise Allah), Adam (our food expert) picks a restaurant and we eat lunch before setting off on our various afternoon excursions. Sometimes we have calligraphy class, while other times we have errands to run. Now that the first week is over, we will probably have more time to spend doing other things. For example, today Lea and I are going to an all-female bathhouse, or hammam, called Zitouni:

You haven't fully experienced Tunisia until you've been scrubbed down with an oven scourer by an enthusiastic elderly masseur... Often recognized by their candy-stripped red-and-green doorways, hammams feel as if they haven't changed for hundreds of years. It's an amazingly exotic, sensual and relaxing experience.

Sounds good to me.

I also feel as though I need to describe the fabulous characters with which I am living in order for anyone to begin to understand my current experience, and I will do so over the next four posts.

I will begin with Adam:

A 27-year-old graduate student in the history department, Adam gave up careers in both cooking and orchestral conducting in favor of becoming an expert in and professor of medieval history. He's also the only married person in the house. In short, Adam is an extremely intelligent, politically aware, clean Jewish hippy. He is also a wellspring of interesting facts concerning every imaginable subject, especially literature, history, music and food. Although we two are the most different in the house, we are quickly becoming good friends.

So more on Tunisia later...this post was twice as long, but these computers are terrible and mean and I was only able to recover this much. Sigh... off to the bathhouse to wash my troubles away.

Ma' as-salaama!

p.s. Mari-e is in London, and she's okay. Thank God.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Some bad news

So the past two days have been rather stressful, hence my lack of posting. Monday marked the first day of classes, and it was NUTS! Besides us Yalies, there are very few Americans enrolled at our school. Lots of French and Italians though. Anyway, we took a placement test, and we were also tested on speaking and writing. Man, I thought I did terribly, but they moved me up a level! Only God knows why.

So now the bad news... Monday night I got terribly sick. Severe cold-like symptoms. It was awful, and I couldn't go to school yesterday. I just stayed in bed all day long and listened to music (Keane...heart Angel). However, my roomies came home after school and took very good care of me. I really love our little Arabic learning commune. Nora bought me flowers and soda, Lea helped me catch up on classwork and Adam gave me an AMAZING massage (he and his wife took classes when they were undergrads). Also, my mini medicine cabinet was a godsend. Thanks mom.

I miss everyone very much. Hope you all are doing well! I'm off to the beach!

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Falling into place

My plans for the next two months are finally starting to fall into place. Yesterday the group of us met up with our grad student friends, Nathanael, Nora and Adam, and registered at the Bourguiba Institute. Our classes start on Monday.

In the afternoon, the we all went apartment shopping. Although I was initially planning on living in the dorms, which are within walking distance of the school, I have since decided to take the grad students up on their offer to live in an apartment with them in Carthage, a suburb of Tunis, in a neighborhood called Salammbo. Although it is about 20 minutes from the city by train, it is a beautiful and quiet little place within sight of the Meditterenean and a beautiful beach. Our landlord is called "Nibbley." I feel very fortunate to have been invited to stay with them as Nora and Nathaneal have already been in Tunisia for a week and their French and Arabic are much better than mine. In addition, Nathaneal is a very good friend, and I know he will look out for me while I am here, which makes me infinitely more comfortable. At the moment, we are waiting for our fifth and final roommate, Lea (also a grad student), to register at the school before we set out for the Medina.

This month I will be studying Monday thru Friday from 8 to 12 in the morning. I will also be pariticipating in periodic workshops on Tunisian folk dance and Standard Arabic diction, while next semester I will be working on calligraphy instead. In a few weeks I hope to go on a weekend tour of the Tunisian coast, and in August I will be travelling to the south for several days to visit the Sahara and the areas around Tatouine (where parts of Star Wars were filmed). Nathaneal and Nora tell me it was absolutely breathtaking. I might even get to ride a camel! I hope to travel as much as possible on the weekends, although I may not want to leave my seaside paradise.

I suppose that's all for now. I'll only be able to write on weekdays from now on as I doubt Salambo has any public computers at all. I will post pictures as soon as I figure out how.

All my love!

Friday, July 01, 2005

HOT

So after 47 hours of planes, trains and buses, we finally made it to Tunis! Maddie, Greg and I met up with Eric, Greg L. (Mimi's Greg, for those who are in the know), Lorraine, Chris and some kid named Peter at Gatwick before flying to Tunis.

The city is HUGE and quite amazing from what I have seen of it so far. However, it is REALLY HOT during the day. Most of us are staying in this funny little place called the Hotel Majestic until the dorms open. Let it suffice to say that the Hotel Majestic has a lot of...character. We spent most of the day catching up on sleep and exploring our immediate surroundings. Tomorrow we will register at the school and visit the American consulate. Besides the extreme heat, walking around was enjoyable, and Maddie and I faced very little in the way of harrassment. I was surprised at how few women walk around on the streets.

Did I mention that it's really hot here?