Tunisia has been my home for three months now. The timidity and uncertainty with which I first arrived has been replaced with a growing confidence. My surroundings have become familiar…
A familiar scene: I’m cramming into a bilblasa with two others in the backseat, both hoarding their days supply of hobs (loaves of bread). The driver is casting curious glances my way in the mirror. He drives as if in a high speed chase, rocketing around cars and people. He asserts himself to the front of the line at a stoplight by straddling the lane for incoming traffic. Green light and we’re off again, now at the front of the pack. I point to the big mosque on my right and he pulls over and collects his 700 millimes. As I close the car door I say aishuk (“thank you for getting me here in one piece”) and he’s out of sight before the dust has a chance to settle.
Another familiar scene: I’m in class with a group of young teenagers (or sometimes adults, or sometimes single-digits) and they are asking me if I’m on facebook. I look confused and say “shnia facebook?” miming a book with my hands and touching my face. They are roused by this revelation and begin talking over themselves and inching nearer, imparting to me that there is a place on the Internet where you can post pictures and add friends! I listen attentively, feigning surprise. It’s no use though, my students are clever… the next morning I wake up to 5 new friend requests.
And another somewhat familiar scene: “Where are you from?” he asks me. I tell him that I’m an American and he responds, “Ahh America… piiuu piiuu, piiuu piiuu” (this the sound a gun makes in Westerns, as my ticket collector in his tall blue cap is miming John Wayne with his trigger fingers before handing me my train ticket).