Monday, June 22, 2009

Roaming the Ruins

On Saturday I took the TGM train a few stops over to Carthage where I met up with one of the guys on the program, Akira. The sites were oddly spread out and not that well marked, so we kind of just trekked around to see what we could see, with Akira identifying the components of every column and statue we came across (he’s a geological engineer). The coolest part was the roman baths area, which had the most complete ruins over a larger area, although my mind wasn’t as much on the history as it probably should have been. After a grueling week of work I was really just enjoying the exercise and fresh air, as well as the half hour plus conversation we had with an old Tunisian museum worker who taught us how to put a pen between our teeth to pronounce خ and forecasted that we would soon be married, taking a photo of us to “show your grandchildren someday, inchallah”.

After we got tired of sightseeing, we slipped away from the hoards of bus tourists and followed a few locals down a little path to a “beach” of big rocks bordering the sea. We found a place among the rocks to stash our stuff and stealthily changed into bathing suits. Standing on the rocks waiting to jump in, I felt a pinch on my foot and looked down to see a crab dangling off of it. In the process of trying to shake it off, I ended up slipping and hitting my hip on the algae-covered rock before splashing into the chest-deep water. Akira laughed at my clumsiness and totally didn’t believe me about the crab. Later, when we got back out and were sitting on the rocks to dry off, we saw about twenty more. Ha.

We took a taxi back to Akira’s place, where I was invited to have dinner with his mom and brothers (Mediterranean salad with olives, tuna and egg; cous cous with fava beans, meatballs and liberal amounts of the spicy harissa; dessert: this delicious melon that’s kind of a cross between a cantaloupe and a honey dew that I’ve never seen in the states). I talked for a long time in French with Akira’s mother and her friend, who was apparently Tunisia’s first woman lawyer. After my experiences with my own traditional host mother, it was fun to interact with an unabashedly smoking, gaudy-jewelry wearing, French-poetry spouting, overall spunky old lady. We had espresso in the living room following dinner, after which point I begrudgingly returned home to shower the salt out of my hair and head back out to a house party hosted by Nathan and Justin’s host parents: a Tunisian artist and his French wife.

Their place was AMAZING—a bright, airy celebration of a house, with yellow walls overflowing with the dad’s artwork, light fixtures sculpted from driftwood, and knickknacks from various corners of the globe. In short: everything I want my house to be assuming I ever grow up and settle down long enough to get one. The music was similarly eclectic—I recognized some Cuban rap from my Spanish class alongside traditional Tunisian tunes and Michael Jackson. My FLTA Ashraf taught me how to dance like a Tunisian, and the host’s huge dog Starsky joined in the dancing with the mother as his partner (apparently dancing is Starsky’s favorite past time). The food was also great, (Tunisian brique, tarte, watermelon, sausages, and even wine! Yay French wife) but since I was still pretty full from Akira’s, I stuck mainly to almonds, which in Tunisia come fresh in their fuzzy green shell. It’s almost a social activity to sit around eating them, as it takes quite a bit of effort and jaw strength to bite through the green covering and the tan shell, then peel off the skin to get to the fresh, moist, milky-colored almond fruit (apparently it’s the oxidization that makes them brown).

Overall, a great Saturday, and it was nice to see everyone looking so happy and relaxed for once. Sunday was pretty uneventful, but a nice chance for me to reorganize my notes a bit and review vocabulary. Today was work-work-work our time with the worse teacher seemed a little more productive today (she got on me for doodling though...grrr..I swear it helps me concentrate by giving me something to do with my hands). I also think I got something out of my one-on-one tutoring, even if it was a drain on my hw time. My this week's happy thought: our second excursion to the South starts Friday morning and ends Monday night. Translation: both this and next week will be only four days long! woohoo!

1 comment:

  1. W007! Two days out of class? I swear Carthage was the name of the town Civilization gave me every time I played the Romans...
    I so want to come to visit you... the food, the sights the sea that's warm enough to swim in? I can see my breath INSIDE my house at the moment. Not to mention the rain, snow, fog, rain again we've been having. Doesn't stop James from going kayaking every weekend or two. I don't know how he does it. When there's snow on your boat and you have to break ice to get in the river, I'm pretty sure sitting at home with a book and a glass of wine and a fire would be more pleasant.
    Sigh, I will live vicariously in warm weather with you instead.