My dad requested I speak more of some differences between the great here and the over there. He mentioned more of the weather, but maybe I'll venture off onto some other differences that immediately caught my eye.
First off, it's bloody hot here. And that's all well and good, it's not even as hot as the high desert some days nor as humid as parts of Tennessee. And walking outside can be okay... but for some reason it feels more sweltering than any other place I've been. And I think it's due to the stillness of the air. And this is the first country I've been to that doesn't believe in fans for any of the hostels or houses hardly. Restaurants have AC in places, resorts too (tourist places of course), but for backpackers and locals, you deal with it. And the air inside isn't even HOT but the stillness of air makes you sit in sweat when you're not moving or instigating any such reaction. Sleeping is the same. The room will feel fine, but you'll wake up sweaty and the bed soaked underneath you. Everything just RADIATES for some reason. For the VERY first time in my life, I'm wishing for cold weather. Throughout 120F days in Victorville I didn't complain, but here... I will be glad to be back in the States in December and I will faceplant in snow.
Smells. Morocco and Tunisia both kind of smell like a sewer. And it's because they are poor enough to have few resources dedicated to trash pickup. It's EVERYwhere. Shop keepers are pretty good about sweeping in front of their stalls, but otherwise, there aren't really good places to collect it out of sight, nor out of nose-range...

Shopping. These places depend on haggling. Egypt we hear is worse where you even haggle for hotel rooms. But here, it's mostly just goods and also kept within street shops. There are some grocery stores and shopping centers about with fixed pricing. Not sure why they chose to start implementing them, if it was strictly pressure from the west or people got sick of haggling (I'm sure sick of it, but I would never want that culture to disappear). I know when I'll get back to the U.S., I'll think "Why do I have to pay $5 for this? I'll give you $2, how about that?" and when I'm refused, I'll wish I was back here where I can make shopkeepers fall in love with me and give me whatever price I ask.

Toilets. I wasn't sure I'd bring this up because it seems silly, yet it's a daily occurrence, and one I'm sure we all take for granted. Morocco was good because they had squat toilets and every so often regular western ones. But here in Tunisia, they have western ones or ones that are slightly lower but without a toilet seat which means you can't squat OR sit but uncomfortably hover and it's stupid. Just rip the damn thing out or give me a toilet seat, seriously. And then there's this hose on the side that I'm assuming is their version of a badet? I haven't used it, but I have no idea what else it'd be for because the toilets have flushers unlike squatter ones where the hose might be handy... I don't know. They need to make up their minds about that one though...

Cafes/Restaurants/Etc. Most, if not all, places you just sit and let the waiter notice you rather than go in and ask for a table. We still do it sometimes out of habit and blind courtesy, but we're often looked at weird because we don't just sit. Ordering doesn't really differ, but what does is even in fast food places or cafes where you might order at a counter, you don't pay until way at the end. At restaurants it's common for us to pay when we leave, but they do it at EVERY place here. You're not often bothered and usually need to stand up and begin meandering over to suggest you're ready to pay and leave. It's kind of nice, like people just want to enjoy their shit and not worry about any bill until they absolutely have to. And people often hang out in cafes with one coffee for a very long time which is also due to the poverty (unemployment rate). So waiters and the like don't mind too much when you just sit around forever, and sometimes it could be awkward for us because Jake and I are more Canadian-like than American and hate feeling like we're taking advantage of people's time. We often forget it's the culture here, but we're slowly getting more comfortable just wasting space at a cafe with our one coffee.

Hours of operation. Everyone is very lax here, some might say lazy, but I just think of it as a cultural difference and having that American "work work work!" blood simply gives people a certain judgmental light. No hours are usually posted and people definitely operate at different times than we are used to. People tend to stay up very late, kids included, and I'm not QUITE sure if this was due to Ramadan (I'll be able to compare now that it's ended) but most times people were up until 4am at the earliest. We'd even see groups of 2 or 3 preteens and teenagers out walking by themselves at such hours. And due to that, shops and cafes tend not to open their doors until well past 10am, so it's a soft set of hours. One day it might be 10, the next 11am. But that's the benefit of owning your own shop, really, and there are few "chains" to speak of, if you can even call them that.

So right now we are on the island Djerba, in the town Houmt Souk and for two days we'll go to Midune just 5 miles away. We;ve had an interesting journey here, but for all our lack of planning, it feels like we've come across nothing but luck (and I hope I didn't just jinx myself!). The picture to the right is of the bus/train station in Gabès where we were forced to stay the night before catching a morning bus to the island. However, we were well taken care of and it couldn't have been better under the circumstances. Every other station we've come across until then we would NOT have been able to do that, so why we hoped it would happen here was foolish, but luck had it, and we didn't have a bad time with so many nice people looking after us.

 I am very much in love with the Tunisian people and though I hadn't considered it beforehand, I would not mind coming back here for a very extended stay to do some volunteering in whichever form that needs to take. Something I will look into when I get back for sure and through couchsurfing, I already have someone who lives here who would have many resources and be of great help.

Well that's all I can really think to write on at the moment. But if anyone is curious about a place, let me know. If anyone has specific requests on another aspect of this trip or whatever you can think of I would be appreciative! I miss a lot of people and have become grateful for some places back home, which I didn't imagine happening, so I'm anxiously looking forward to being back and sharing experiences in person. Yet that's still 15ish weeks off, so until then, fill my inbox with love, I can always use it!

30/8/2012 06:15:11 pm

This is great stuff. I love it. It's exactly what I pictured. You make me want to write about stuff


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