It was bound to happen… after over two weeks of being in Tunisia, I finally came down sick. Not terribly sick, but enough to make me miserable for most of the day. I figured that harissa that was piled on to that questionable shawarma I bought just a block away might turn out to be a catastrophic decision. It was insanely spicy, but still good. I think it may have been the tuna I saw him pull out of a tub from underneath the counter. Oh well… lesson learned.
I also came across some awesome pork a couple of days ago. It was great… especially after about 2.5 weeks of not having any. There is a restaurant here called… Il Padrino (The Godfather), where it is all too easy to deduce the meaning of the restaurant’s name by the numerous pictures from the movies scattered around. It’s a place where the title is in Italian, the menu’s in French, the music is in English, and the TV is on an Arabic station. I think that sort of sums up all of the recent influences into what makes Tunisia, Tunisia.
Also, I have learned that the first time you go to a restaurant, cafe, bar… whatever, you will not be treated with smiles and kindness outright (not to say you will be treated unkindly either) but instead indifference. They assume you are a tourist. Once you show up a second time, you are treated like they have known you forever. I have the best conversations when I return to a restaurant, and it’s not because I leave overabundant tips either. So… another lesson learned.
For about a week and a half now, I have been learning Tunisian Arabic. This dialect isn’t too much different than standard Arabic, at least not so much so that you aren’t learning what aspects of the dialect are derived from the Modern Standard Arabic. It’s nice to learn though… it can change the way someone treats you when you are out in town when you begin speaking the local dialect. It may provoke a game of 20 questions, but it’s still fun.
Another interesting lesson I think I will be learning throughout my entire stay in Tunisia are cab fares. Wow… the prices to the same destinations can change dramatically if you aren’t prepared. The first time you travel in a cab you will surely get ripped off. It’s the nature of the place. I was reading a forum at tripadvisor.com and someone asked the questions “Will I get ripped off?” and the only response was “Undoubtedly!” I agree… so far this has only happened to me in the yellow taxis, especially since I haven’t gone out to try and buy cheap trinkets, rugs, or anything else tourists look to buy here. I once got into a taxi where I could have sworn the agreed price was TWO dinars… it magically changed to THREE dinars when we arrived… another lesson learned. The taxis here all have meters, but they don’t always turn them on. You can request them to turn them on, but you request it at your own risk. I have heard countless stories of people that glance away for a second right before their arrival and the meter changes the price dramatically or is just turned off.
I need to start looking at the weather ahead of time. Saturday I was prepared to go to the beach… sunblock on, daypack packed, towel, .. everything. I walked outside and there was a gloomy overcast with strong winds. I did not go swimming the last couple of times I went to the beach, so I was determined to go Saturday. Needless to say, it was extremely cold! Fortunately, the tourists were mostly hiding in their hotels and so it was nice to be out in the water by myself while the two lifeguards looked at me like I was crazy.
I am still enjoying my time here though. The staff at the hotel have all come to know me, or at least know of me. I have been introduced to everyone from friends to family members of the staff. So… now I begin another two weeks of learning lessons.
BTW… the worst sound I have heard in a long time came out of a couple of cats at 3:00 AM this morning just outside the exit door on my floor. This went on for 30 min.