Friday, June 5, 2009

Behi behi barsha


Here is my first official blog from o'er the Atlantic. So far, Tunisia has been "behi behi barsha," or very very good, which is a phrase I picked up over lunch at a cafe today (except at that point I was talking about my pasta--I'm still not sure exactly what was in it, but it was barsha nonetheless).

Our schedule has been hectic to say the least. I've yet to get a full eight hours of sleep since I arrived (and at this rate, I won't tonight, either) so I'm still a little jet-lagged. The unflagging enthusiasm of all involved sustains me, however, as does my inexplicably strong love of this country. Really, I absolutely adore it. Never in my travels have I ever felt so immediately taken with and comfortable in a country as I do here. Tunisians are incredibly warm, friendly people, all of my preconceived notions about the limitations of life in an Islamic country have been shattered, and I'm in linguistic heaven. Although I'm soon going to make an effort to avoid using it as I learn more Arabic, my French has been serving me well, and I am more comfortable striking up a conversation in French with a stranger here than I have ever been in France. Arabic is an intriguing and I'm playing with the few phrases I know to begin piecing it together (our formal classes start Monday). In the back of my mind, I'm already plotting ways to get back to the Maghreb after this summer is over...Peace Corps? Fullbright?....

And now, to cheat and use bullet points, because I'm tired.

Things I've done in the last not-quite-three days:
-been lost (and then found) in the bazaar-style marketplace (souks)
-been surprised at how much the main street Avenue Bourgiba and the view of the mediterannean reminds me of Nice
-toured the city extensively and loved my Tevas in the process--until today, when I started hating their still-faint-but-probably-going-to-get-worse-quickly smell
-seen many, many more women without veils than with them. My favorite so far is an elderly mother, completely covered, accompanied by her preteen daughter in booty shorts and a skin-tight, gold-lettered spaghetti strap shirt.
-eaten any authentic Tunisian food I can get my hands(mouth?) on, including an eggy pastry called a Brik El Medina, Harissa (a spicy red pepper garnish), Mechouia (spicy pepper/onion/tomato appetizer), Couscous, Schwarma, and, of course, loads of delicious mint tea
-visited the intensely fortified American embassy and resisted attempts to be recruited for the Foreign Service or the State Deparment
-attended a dressy reception at the ambassador's house and gotten my first glimpse of the GOREGOUS neighborhood I'm soon be living in
-had at least one quadralingual conversation (Arabic, English, French and Spanish)
-played a gambling game with some Tunisian teenagers in an alley near our school, using a combination of gestures and bad Arabic to understand the rules
-been laughed at by the ten-year-old son of a shopkeeper for my butchering of "bu Kaddesh" (how much) due to my inability to pronounce the throaty "K" sound (as well as about 5 others...*sigh*)
-exchanged Arabic for English phrases with one of the restaurant workers at the hotel...and made a "date" to do the same tomorrow
-been grateful to the shopkeepers who have helped me count their unfamiliar currency from my outstretched hand--and slightly irked by the few who have already scammed me into paying a few dinar more than I should through whatever tourist trap method (just you WAIT 'enry 'iggens...I'm learning your language and I'll be BACK for revenge)

That's all for now. I'm moving into my homestay on Sunday and am excited to meet the awesome family, inch'allah (god willing), that I'll be living with for the next two months...


  1. Becca that sounds amazing! Your pictures are beautiful. -- Glad to see that you have internet access and I'll talk to you soon!

  2. Hey Becca,
    Really looking forward to following you through this year and feeling somewhat envious from frosty Lawrence. Will pass your blog on to a few other kiwis and Aussies who I know will want to check out what you're up to!

  3. Dear Rebecca:
    Go for it!! My father spent quite a bit of time in Tunesia many years ago and also came back with stories of an intriguing, warm and welcoming country... Frank

  4. YAY!! im glad your having so much fun!! :) i love you lots and lots!!!!!! XOXOXOXO-