1.14.2013

Happy Anniversary Jasmine...

Today marks 2 years since Tunisians came together and revolted against their then dictator, Ben Ali. I feel fortunate to have witnessed it while living downtown in the Lafayette neighborhood.  I feel fortunate because of what I saw. Because of what I felt. Because of what took place. Because history was being re-written.  I don't know how I feel about it today, as Tunisia is still recovering, and it is not clear at all if liberties are being granted, or continue to be taken away with the new (provisional) government.

But back to those moments. I was so proud of my Tunisian friends, colleagues and students. They stood in the wake of danger daring to defy the iron-fist management of the country by Ben Ali and his thugs cabinet members... My friends were so proud of have brought down an oppressive regime. The courage and energy that radiated from them was infectious. There were so many reasons to celebrate. That was then. What is happening now?

Things are not okay in Tunisia. Rights are being taken away still. Disinformation continues to exist. Corruption. Joblessness still rules. Freedoms that existed before Jasmine are threatened today. Take the government's plan to forbid public displays of affection I'm not talking about acts of lewd sexual behavior. I'm talking kissing/hugging in public... Take also the government's comments about what 'art' is supposed to be at a recent art exhibit in La Marsa where some political works of art were on display & the local Salafis didn't take kindly to & decided to violate the art space to show their dissatisfaction.  Take the (apparent) Salafi attack & subsequent destruction of a mausoleum of a 13th century Sufi saint in the beautiful Mediterranean town of Sidi Bou Said last weekend. Take the government's non-committal action for it all... blah blah blah...

So much beauty I discovered while living in Tunisia. I was so broke living there, and I still was able to see/feel such beauty. I didn't need much living there. I was happy. I had a beautiful old apartment on Rue D'Egypte. I could walk to work and all around downtown. I had lovely friends. We had sweet, cheap watering holes we used to frequent complete with lively conversations.  I could continue on. But there is no need. You all get the picture.

Many of us have moved on since Jasmine. Quite a few remain. I am almost envious. Those who remain get the real picture. They are a part of the solution- a solution that is taking a back seat to a status-quo corruption that cannot be chased away so easily as Ben Ali was... They need all their strength.

My time there was short. My abundance of love for Tunisia is endless. I briefly returned in 2011. Walking the streets. Taking in the smells. Seeing old friends. Eating my favorite foods. All of it felt like a homecoming of sorts. A homecoming that was really without ever having really settled into a home. That's how special Tunis is to me.

I will return again someday.