Thursday, August 14, 2008

Well, today I killed my second cockroach. Those who know me, know that cockroaches have always been my biggest fear, so the fact that I am still here is amazing. If I hadn't been so freaked out, I would have laughed; here I was last night, at 2:30 AM in my bathroom, naked and chasing a cockroach around the room with a bottle of bleach, while crying. I don't know who was more afraid, him or me. They are mammoth here, I think if I didn't own a camel, I would be able to use one for transport.
The temperature today was around 37. Although I have an air conditioned apartment, it works "shway" which in bedouin arabic means 'a little bit'. Whenever I am here, I take a cold shower every half hour or hour, my apartment for me is 'clothing optional'.
This morning I went to the weekly market with my basket, stopped for an omelette and tea at Ali Baba's Cafe, where I have been eating regularly. I live about a 5 minute walk from the market square, but there are lots of small shops even closer. In this heat, a 5 minute walk is hard. At the market, I spent some time at the live animal market, looking at some camels, sheep and goats for sale.
Last night I rode Lasfar for the first time since being here. It took me awhile to get to Douz - between Alatalia losing my luggage, getting my cargo shipment was a bureaucratic circus... I drove to Douz myself, the highways are fine, Tunis is CRAZY!
Anyway, it was so wonderful to see Lasfar again. I couldn't find him at first as he was hanging out with his camel friends. I called his name, and his head came popping up, his furry ears went back to listen, and he shuffled towards me (wearing his tether, he couldn't move to quickly!). He remembered me!!!!! I almost cried....
I rode him just a short distance in the evening, around 9PM last night. It was a bit windy, and the sand was blowing a bit, so I couldn't take him out too long, but it was so wonderful to be riding him again, to feel the warm dry sahara breeze, to see groups of camels on the horizon... I am in heaven.
Nothing is easy here, but the people are amazing. My furnished 3 bedroom apartment came with enough beds and couches for a small hotel (although I dont think they would make it in one piece anywhere - this will be their final resting place!), but no dressers or shelves. So I had to buy a wardrobe. My dear friend Mounir got a friend of his with a truck, plus several others whom I had never met to help with this task. Buying a large item like this is an undertaking here. We drove around the town, stopping at one 'furniture store' after another, each with a menagerie of various items, looking for bookshelves, dressers or wardrobes. After each shop, my bedouin friends would have an animated discussion (in arabic of course) about where we should go next. After a few hours, I found a wardrobe I liked, but no shelves for my kitchen. I mentioned that even a metal commercial one would be fine. So, off we went again, and finally found someone who agreed to make one for me. After picking up the wardrobe, the four bedouin men pushed, tugged, dragged and inched it up my curved stairway to get it to my apartment. All of this in close to 40 degree heat. When they got to one section where the ceiling was too low, and they realized it would not go up any further, I suggested maybe it would not work. By this point they were drenched wet. They did not answer me, but proceeded to take the whole wardrobe apart, to reassemble it in my apartment. That is hospitality. That is community.
When I told people in Canada that I was going to Tunisia for 6 months to see if I wanted to live there, I would usually get asked two questions. 1) Will you be safe? The answer is that although there are never any guarantees, I have never felt so safe or well cared for. Even by relative strangers, who have welcomed me into their community with warmth and acceptance. I am more likely to fly off a racing camel than be hurt by a human being here. 2) Do camels spit? Maybe some do, but in the hundreds I have seen, I have never seen one spit.
Tomorrow is my good friend Mekki's wedding. Bedouin weddings last 4 days, and July and August are the wedding months for them. Every night when I go to bed, I hear groups of women singing and drumming as they make their way through the streets, their beautiful voices echoing between the buildings, long into the night. There are also nights where the men wearing full costume, drum and dance. I am so fortunate that I will be part of this wedding, and Mekki's family have adopted me as their own.
Two nights ago, I sat in the sand in their open courtyard with them, some of us on blankets, some just in the sand, as the TV was pushed into the open door of the sitting room so they could watch their favourite program. As the program ended, close to midnight, I heard the drumming of another wedding party coming near. The drumming was so intense, you could almost feel it more than you could hear it. Idea and I (Mekki's sister) walked to the area where the party had stopped, and we watched for awhile, while the four men (in almost wide calf length 'dresses') played and danced. Is this my life? Yes. And I am blessed.
I could write so much more, but I also hear another party approaching and I want to go see....
With much love, Juanita


el hikma said...

just i want to say welcome juanita !welcome to my town...i appreciate your gentel words .

juanita said...

Thank you el hikma, that means a lot! This is a big change for me, and one where I know I will grow... I also like your blog.

Carol said...

Miss you tons Juanita!

mariana said...

juanita! hello, my name is mariana, i'm a mexican art student in vancouver (that's the simplest explanation i could give you in a few words to introduce myself...)
so i ended up reading your blog because i'm looking for a good belly dance teacher and you know, one link lead to another.
anyways let me tell you i was completely amazed by your courage. how is it that you first had the chance to visit tunisia?
well, lots of light and strength for you woman. it is so refreshing to see strong, daring women in charge of their lives!
so just wanted to say that.

my email is if you wanna get in touch. if not, that's cool too.

mucho amor, y mucha vida