Heading towards Sunset in La Goulette

 Solo_ojo & I day-tripping in La Goulette. La Goulette was the North African/Mediterranean playground for the once fresh set of European immigrants to the Mediterranean shores. Now other places such as La Marsa & Gammarth have taken over the reins, but this sleepy little community is tops on my list. When I walk around La Goulette I feel a part of its past. It's quaint, charming and has a romantic lure. This is my spring/summer playground HQ for sure this coming year.

Solo_ojo & Kirsten, the 3rd Muskateer, enjoying a cold Celtia at one of the many shoreline-lined cafes

Celtia (Tunisia's finest) close-up

Yes, the main entrance to La Goulette beach. The place just OOZES with charm that reveals a legacy of a once past grandeur if you just sit down and relax and take in its ambiance. 

La Goulette feels like a blast from the past. I encourage all readers to rent "A Summer in La Goulette." The movie, directed by famous Tunisian Ferid Boughedir, is set inthe summer of 1967. You will then better understand my love affair with this community
art form
late afternoon sunlight beginning to work its magic on an already incredible seascape

feline feeding frenzy must have led to the necessity of a 'disco nap' atop the garbage bins!

sun is sinking
I have no recollection of tqking this shot (phantom shot apparently)

splash of sunset hues

road home

Merci La Goulette- until we meet again


As Tunis slumbers in the wee hours of a crisp Saturday morning...

I observe Tunis through my thin veil this morning. I am cloaked behind my exquisite Indian silk curtains that have traveled with me from Maui to share in my Tunis-vision. My soul achingly smiles reflecting on this, these curtains the colors of saffron & raspberry. The sunlight reflecting off these warm hues conjures up memories of a delicious Indian curry brought into my bedroom to wake up to. If only I could taste colors...

From this vantage point, safe behind my diaphanous shroud & able to quietly & mysteriously take on the scenery in anonymity, I understand the desire to cover up. I look down onto a now familiar scene: the men of Cafe Ammi sweeping the restaurant in the early dawn hours and ever so disruptively moving their chairs & tables about.

The weather is turning, yet again. November started out crisp & chilly. My skin was the first to notice. It is a lot more work over here to keep moisture in the skin. It still feels strange to not jump in the ocean, say... 5 times a week. I believe it will always feel strange- no matter where I am.

A brief respite came last week with balmy temperatures going into the 70's. What a joy! Of course, it was still ice cold inside my flat. Must be the high ceilings & marble in the building. As December settled in, it brought me a new adventure: the hamman. I asked my friend Jihene if we could go to the hammam and she was happy to oblige. So we set off to Ariana heading for Hammam Jasmine- an exquisitely purple exterior where, once inside, was in the fashion of the Roman hammans (I am told). For 7TD (Tunisian Dinar) I luxuriated in the varying degrees of steamy rooms with all the other women happy to have an evening to themselves and relax. Of all the images that come to mind from the evening, here is a condensed version for you all: the steam itself provided another diaphanous haze that we cloaked ourselves within. From this haze I could hear some women singing Arabic songs that hauntingly settled into my being. The smell of Tangerines wafted through the air. And then the sweet nectar of relief the juice provided traveling down my throat. I was satiated to my very core, and my soul singing while my body/skin was being polished.

There were also some proud moments shared amongst us women that evening. When one goes into the hammam one brings their own scrubbing mitt (a Kese in Turkish, but I don't know the word for it in Arabic) along with all other cleansing necessities. When it is your turn to get scrubbed down by one of the staff, you bring along your Kese. Now, of course, I am the only haole (an 'affectionate' Hawaiian term to mean 'foreigner') in the hammam so all eyes are on the Yabanci (Turkish for 'foreigner'). She looked at my Kese & started scrubbing me & asked my friends where I got my scrubbing mitt. As Jihene & Jasmine translated for me, I proudly exclaimed that I got it in Istanbul when I lived there. Apparently they are different than in Tunisia so my Kese was a sort of stepping stone into the cloaked society of hammam culture. I felt this to be a great first meeting!

In other news, I'm really enjoying teaching this term. I feel comfortable being myself with all my students. I feel like they all get to see a lot of who I am. My first term brought some trepidation in that I wasn't really sure how much of myself to show through, in addition to teaching English. For those of you who know me, really know me, you all realize I am not the typical... personality type shall I say? Haha! So of course I was a bit unsure how to present myself. I quickly realized I cannot hide who I am. Who my students are though, they are all individuals with a desire to improve their English and take the time after a full day of working, or a full day of school at university, to come to English classes and study some more. My Tuesday/Thursday night classes have the added bonus of a 15-minute break (a 2 hour 40 minute class) where everybody goes outside and gets a coffee and/or smokes and chats. At first I usually go up to the groups of teachers where we all chat about our classes, or plans for later in the evening, but I usually end up back at one of my students' groups, or see old students from the previous term. It is these endearing moments when we are chatting, and they get to practice their English outside of the classroom and just ask me questions in a relaxed setting, that I really beam with delight on my choices in life.

I suppose I could continue to go on and on with my rambling thoughts giving energy to my fingers furiously typing and transmuting them onto my computer screen, but Tunis has now awoken and the sun rises above a chilly morning as the weather, yet again, turns back in degrees down to the mid 50's... So I must arise now as I have morning chores. Most importantly I need to go holoholo (walking) with Claire to the local police station and pick up our permanent Carte de Sejour (residency permit). Afterwards I believe Bridgit will call as I exclaimed to her in the teacher's room yesterday that one of my favorite fripes (used clothing stores) has winter coats to die for. Oh yes, one final memory for you all for the week. As I came back empty-handed from the police station yesterday in between classes ("Oh my big boss not here today, you must come back tomorrow to pick it up." Mind you all, this is after 5 weeks of them having time to sign off the papers... So I ask, "What time tomorrow?"  "In the morning."  I ask (because I know how these things go here), "What time in the morning?" "10, oh yes, and bring 10TD, or I can take your passport now and have it ready for you in the morning."  Me, "No, I think I will keep my passport and bring it back tomorrow morning."   Yikes the bureaucracy here...

Picture of the week:


Tunisia photo odyssey- or, what I've been doing the past 2 months instead of blogging...

A friendly kitty kat at the kasbah in Hammamet pulled up a seat next to us for some afternoon lounge lizard time. Very sweet

when in Rome... or when in Hammamet...

at the Roman Coliseum in El Jem

Solo Ojo & getting his pose on in El Jem

camel blocking the Roman Coliseum at El Jem
scenic view in El Jem heading back to the train station
graveyard of columns in the hinterlands of El Jem

vantage point... somewhere... not quite sure at this moment...

dinner at David's flat complete w/Tunisian red wine & appropriate centerpiece
at Carthage up on Byrsa Hill
off the beaten path at El Jem

Sidi Bou Said w/Solo Ojo & Kirsten

our ultimate frisbee Sunday sessions group @ Sidi Bou Said
teachers & students & spouses all get together for rousing game of ultimate...
some of my level 8 class- look, they are all smiling AND we just finished finals... happy students!
me blocking the incredible Roman ruins @ Dougga, which are blocking the incredible sunset
the Capitole, Dougga (ancient Thugga)
ancient sunburst

teacher touring: smoke break enroute to Dougga

more incredible Dougga

that's right, an ancient shitter: you've seen it here at Mauihollyday's very informative blog...



Aloha from a melancholy day here in the Maghreb (the North african countries of Algeria, Libya, Morocco, Mauritania & the disputed territory of Western Sahara collectively). I'm coming up on my 3 month anniversary here and wish to shed some of my thoughts & insights of living in a Muslim country. Where to begin... as I hear the adhan (call to prayer) wafting from the minaret atop the mosque in the distance on Avenue da La Libertade.

Cultural insights, yes this is a good place to start my story.  During the last week of English language classes before finals at the place where I work, my level 6 students were studying different cultural festivals & holidays of the world. As it was nearing Halloween in North America, my students were keen on understand the origins of All Hallows Eve, and Halloween, and St. Valentine's Day... St. Valentine's Day- they got it: just another commercialized day to generate spending among the masses that get duped into believing in this 'tradition'. Halloween was a lively discussion that included tidbits of All Saints Day, and further morphed into The Day of the Dead festivities. My Thanksgiving explanation was a little more difficult to keep my composure as I felt compelled to try to tell 'both sides of the story' w/the ensuing results  of how the indigenous American tribes fared by making 'alliances' with the pilgrims.

The interesting thing about all 3 stories, for me, though is how the concept of a 'religious rite' has all but been erased in these holidays in modern times. They kept asking me, "Yes, well these are religious holidays- right"? My answer to this was simply, "Well, in America there is less affiliation with religion attached to these holidays in current times as in the past- as with much of American society",at least the society I exposed myself to during my years in America. I mean, St. Valentine was, apparently, a historical figure who was imprisoned for spreading "the word" of his god; Halloween, in regards to Christians honoring the Saints back to the Pagans celebrating harvest & honoring their dead, had/has roots in religious beliefs; Thanksgiving- well this is traditionally rooted in Pilgrims reserving the day to thank 'God' for blessing people with plentiful crops & bountiful harvests.

I individually asked my students what their favorite holiday was & all said it was Eid Al-Adha- which is today. Their holidays are firmly rooted in religion up to this day. They were able to tell me the events as explained in the Koran (as it also is in the Bible with Abraham about to sacrifice his son Isaac). It was a beautiful moment in the classroom as they were explaining a tradition of theirs and their English usage was amazing. In terms of speaking and being enthusiastic about speaking, this was a major breakthrough. I realized at that moment that ESL books are really boring and dry for the students, and it is much more meaningful to have a meaningful discussion with students rather than follow along in an impersonal publication. Outside of grammar points, I don't think the books are of much use.

Fashion: Well, outside of the obvious in that many females opt to wear the hijab here, there is not a lot of difference in garb. I think it is a universal thing that all women like to be fashionable. I have seen so many amazing adaptations of traditional, and modern attire here and always smile when I look at a pair of converse hi-tops showing underneath an abaya as a female walks down the street.

I would have to say the biggest difference in grooming habits is with the men. Many males that I observe walking down the street have their hair 'done up' so elaborately and held in place with hair gel. I'm talking serious swaths of hair gelled sometimes in 4 different directions. I seriously think if I tried to run my hands through their hair, it would crack and fall off underneath the pressure & firm hold of the gel! I firmly believe it takes a Tunisian male a longer time to get dressed for a night out than a Tunisian female!!! Many times as I am walking through the Tunis medina I see an elaborate (if not precarious) stacking of hair gel that is of such  magnitude that I can't imagine it actually being used up in one's lifespan.

Regardless of coiffure, male or female, Tunisians are a beautiful people. They are tall and striking individuals living in an Africa that is firmly looking towards Europe, but also with a desire to hold fast to their traditions & cultural identity. Another recent observation was Sunday night. A group of us teachers walked to Medina to meet up with a friend of ours who lives in the Medina and is studying Arabic at the Bourghiba Institute in Lafayette. We all met outside the Port Du France (the large 'seagate' entrance to the old city).  The sun had set yet still held some sort of ethereal glow surrounding the Medina and a group of young boys playing futbol. I thought to myself, "What a life these kids have in the Medina". Walking these ancient paths carved in a narrow maze surrounding a central mosque that has been full of life with shopkeepers and households for centuries that exists today as a testimony to its people & heritage. Then I thought about the differences between these kids and the students at the school I teach at. There is a definite stratification, of course, as it costs a lot of money to attend English language school outside of their public and/or private schools they attend. What I really noticed was that the Medina kids were not shy to practice their English with us, whereas my students are shy to speak so as to not want to make a pronunciation or grammar mistake. I know this feeling as I have what I call "French anxiety". This is where I feel an inability to speak French because I cannot picture myself as French- not in the way that I could picture myself as being Brazilian when learning Portuguese while living in Brazil. It was just another keen observation that made me smile to think I am learning so much about my host culture, or at least continuing to have so many questions that may perhaps be answered one day, or perhaps just lead into more questions...

Concerning food, my diet has certainly been altered in a way as never before. There does not yet seem to be any access to organic produce, or health food stores. This has been the biggest adjustment for me. There is no way to grow a garden here as I am in an apartment. Trying to find 'healthy' food is a task indeed. Questions I have unanswered still: Where can I buy oats? Simple oats. Simple poor people's food? Certainly not here. Oats are SO expensive here. Granola... why is it so difficult to find granola? And when I find it, why is it so expensive? Soy milk, forget it. You cannot afford it here. Hazelnut milk- impossible to find so far. Plain yogurt with live acidophilus cultures- still cannot find it. Orange juice without added sugar- well I found it, and my wallet is thinner for it too.

Fruit is pretty standard issue here- much like Hawai`i. Pomegranates are abundant though, which is a most welcome thing. Speaking of fruit, my 1st 'outrageous' purchase here was a French blender. Being used to a $400USD Vitamix for so many years, I could not conceive of not only not having a blender, but of having to buy one that says "Made in China". I was on a mission and ended up with a $100 TD Moliere (French) blender and am quite happy with. I do miss not having access to Brazilian Acai berries though as that was my main ingredient in smoothies for so many years... alas.

Meat: Yes, I am a meat-eater now. My diet consistently consists of rotisserie chicken w/rosemary (so good), chawarma (a wrap) with Lebanese bread, and sub-par pizza. My favorite restaurants so far: Eddouard- which is a cabaret-type place with traditional live Arabian music on the weekends, and plenty of eastern European prostitutes... but the food is amazing. Even if you walk in the place at midnight, you have to eat food as that is apparently the way these establishments work. It's funny but the few Tunisian people I have told I have been to this establishment kind of give me a weird look afterwards (from males), or a blushing giggle comes from the females. Not sure what to feel about this, but I also haven't been brave enough to ask either... Next up is a sweet little Italian restaurant on Rue du Palestine across the street from Le Counsul Hotel. The owner definitely has Italian blood, and the tiramisu is extraordinary. My newest find is Hotel... what's the name??? Damn. It's also on Rue du Palestine and is authentic Tunisian cuisine with charming ambiance: chandeliers, low lighting effects giving off plenty of shadows & reflected light off the walls, candles for lighting up at the small bar, and a man that plays the lute- it has to be like 12 strings. He is amazing and every time I step foot into that restaurant, I feel transported in time back to the days of the beys of Tunis during the height of the Ottoman Empire. I simply gaze into my glass of red wine and and enjoy the unfamiliar-ness of my surroundings and am just so thankful I am an inquisitive & curious individual.

The immediate highlights that come to mind: Cafe Liban, walking everywhere, Sunday ultimate frisbee at the beach at Sidi Bou Said, walking around "plastic alley" on Saturdays/Sundays and my flat. Cafe Liban is right around the corner from my place, as well as solo ojo's place. We always meet up here and chit chat about the day, as well as bring some of the other teachers there for coffee, mint tea, & shesha jirac. It is a cafe- meaning a men's establishment, but as long as I'm sitting outside it is OKAY. The owner & his son, as well as all the workers are used to be being there w/solo ojo and seem fine with it. Even the guys that are there every day too-well, they just don't pay attention to me anymore. It is nice as I really don't feel strange there. I have met a crazy cast of characters there as well, and it feels cozy- like a neighborhood joint should. So does the chicken place too, and the chawarma place. I am part of Lafayette neighborhood, and it's a nice feeling. Of course, I still get men following me into the supermarket and try to strike up conversations with me:
strange man (SM)      "Oh, do you live here"?
                     Me        "yes"
                     SM      "where"?
                     Me      "in the neighborhood"      (as I'm trying to walk away)
                     SM      "where exactly though"  (as he's looking through the brands of tea bags)
                     Me      "goodbye"
                     SM     "...but how will I find you again"  (as I am outta there)
Walking to work, and everywhere else. This has been extremely liberating for me. After so many years having/needing a car for work and play, this is fantastic. I see so much that I would not ordinarily see. As well, I'm too poor to take taxis, so this forces me to explore all over the city on foot. Some of my favorite moments are just that- moments of walking by a (traditional) building with a recessed archway that looks into a courtyard and seeing... a sheep, a bougainvillea bush climbing up the side of the house, a fountain w/Arabic inscription on it, a child eating a persimmon on a bench, etc.
Recently a group of teachers started up an ultimate frisbee gathering on Sunday afternoons at the beach. Some students show up as well and it is a great time to enjoy a familiarity of the US in another country. It's also fantastic exercise, and just good in general to get together with co-workers and not talk shop! "Plastic Alley", as I affectionately call it, is a weekend outdoor market extending from Lafayette down to the Medina practically uninterrupted. One can procure anything they possibly need there, and if you can haggle, at a very good price. Some of my prized possessions came from "Plastic Alley" such as that long lighter thing you use when lighting the (gas) stove, a vial of super glue, and some incense & charcoal. Lastly, my flat. It feels like home away from home. I love the feeling of hanging my laundry out on the lanai (patio) outside my bedroom and looking down onto the street and seeing the moving picture show of people going about their daily business. The living room also has an 'observation deck' and it's always a nice morning when I can drink my coffee from my balcony and look at the regal date palms that line Rue Du Egypte.
Unexpected highlights include walking to AMIDEAST every day and walking past a construction site (as a career archaeologist I can never resist looking into an active construction site) and seeing the progress- sans an archaeologist. I mean, it is a rather large parcel of private land, and there was some serious subsurface excavation- something like a 18' cut into the ground. I always lament about the information being lost daily at that site. It is close to Place Pasteur and, based on the present day surroundings, must of been a popular place in it's heyday as well. The workmen camp out there at night I notice so something must be worth protecting- it can't just be building materials... What story are those crumbling walls trying to tell me. Something there is vying for my attention... I suppose I'll never hear those whispering walls truths.

Another unexpected delight is when the local futbol club, Esperance, wins a match, and later in the night all the cars coming from the stadium cruise the street waving their clubs flags and sounds of male voices singing in camaraderie carry throughout the area.

I'll end by saying I was just interrupted from documenting my memoirs by a student of mine- Hedia. A lovely woman (a doctor) who took the time from a busy day no doubt with her family on this holiday to text me to say "Best wishes for Aid kebir". My working conditions might not be the most ideal, but the students really make it worth it.

signing off for now,


Hammamet on a waxing gibbous moon

Heading out of Tunis from Tunisville Train Station
Tunisian landscape in fleeting images escaping my quizzical gaze due to train travel. In some sense this gives me a sense of peace as all I can do is behold the beauty of the moment of landscape as it parades by. I feel calm & sedated by the late afternoon sun bursting in through my window seat as it tantalizes me to dare to ponder what knowledge the landscape indeed does hold. What memories those mountains must contain. Why was that strip clear-cut? Is there indeed a trail that leads up to those repeater towers? Can I get there? Will there be bandits awaiting our caravan on the other side? Where does the desert begin? So, this is my mode of thought on the train...
Introducing Hammamet- The sun nearly setting presented a romantic welcome. We wandered down Avenue Habib Bourguiba instinctively heading for the sea. The sea delivered. It always delivers. The moon is rising over the kasbah and and I'm ready to rock. The Hammamet Kasbah is especially intriguing as it's backdrop extends down onto the shores of the Mediterranean, broken only by a sweet promenade. Incidentally, it looks as if there is a little longboard break that goes off during storms... So solo ojo and myself, weary from our journey as well as anticipating where exactly we were going to sleep later that night, settle into a dreamy little outdoor cafe where throw pillows, carpets and big blocks of white limestone reigned. The open sky hovered above us with a faint outline of distant stars, cafe direits were served, sheesha (water pipe) loaded with tufa (apple-flavored tobacco), Tunisian Arabic rhythms flowing through a sweet sound system, incense wafting- hedonism (as in pleasure minus pain) prevailed in those moments. The minimal lights of the top of the kasbah hinted at the grandeur of the spectacle that we beheld: what were those walls of the kasbah trying to tell me? The history, the people, the battles, the architecture hinted at these truths, and the intoxicating smells took me back in time.

As time passed, soon we realized we needed to secure a sleeping spot for the night. I entertained the thought of sneaking onto the roof of the cafe right in the shadow of the towering kasbah walls... Reality found us wandering on the beach en route 2 kilometers towards Hammamet sud. A suitably dark spot of open beachfront between resorts determined our journey came to an end for the night. Setting up camp took all of... 2 minutes! Out came the sleeping bags and into them we went. Good night. Of course, I slept with one eye open for a long time as I had heard about the infamous 'bandits' that roam the beach. At some point I came to my senses and while watching the moon glide across the sky towards the west fell asleep. When I awoke the moon had already set, and my familiar night sky had emerged front and center stage. Cassiopeia was the first to catch my eye, then Pleiades, and finally the dippers big & little and Orion. As I laid awake and listened to the stars, I realized that Orion appeared as if 'he' was leaping out of the sky and diving into the ocean head first! This thought entertained me for quite a while- until contemplating what I would do if/when the 'merman' would rise from the ocean and come onshore and sweep me off my feet and take me back into the dark, murky depths with him to live in his oceanic kingdom. Yes, I must of dozed off at this point...

The moment of sunrise was a symphony of silent cacophony. I can't exactly recall what woke me but the noise of the sunrise indeed was brilliant in its textured hues of arrival. The silhouette of a long decrepit ship lay in waste a few meters from our sleep spot in its haunting splendor. Like an exoskeleton of a creature that still sparked life in its decay (and haven't I observed this phenomenon so many times in my archaeological career). 

said sleeping spot
we decamped (haha!) and headed up the beach to search for an early morning coffee. The town was still asleep at 8am but we did find this sweet space here serving illy Coffee- which was GREAT! Furthermore, a mamma kitty and her 2 kittens entertained us with their antics and all around good attitudes towards being street mascots. Their chocolate croissants were also pretty tasty and much appreciated.

this, of course, is Don Quichotie... 

but what is more interesting is where this found-objects sculpture is... It is the present day site of the International Cultural Centre, but is in fact a mansion designed ( & built) by Romanian millionaire George Sebastian. It's temporary inhabitants included architect Frank Lloyd Wright, uhhh... Erwin Rommel (Nazi commander) while the house was Axis HQ during WWII (he was supposedly a big fan of the baths there), and Winston Churchill (British Prime Minister during WWII) - who wrote his memoirs from here. The entire property is in a state of decaying splendor, and not exactly worth the $5 Tunisian Dinar entrance fee. Not to fear though, we made our efforts worthwhile in the end and roamed through the orchards there finding in our possession many succulent pomegranates, some aloe vera cuttings, and another clipping of another plant- which shall be the start of my small garden here in Tunis (Lil`D you should be proud of me- and I definitely thought of you during my diurnal raid- haha). 
Rommel's baths...
solo ojo's eagle eye spotted this mini turtle/tortoise creature guy- who peed when picked up. Poor thing was scared.
nice living no?
and... then we went back to the beach...