Running Away to Home, La Bella Lingua, Dune, and the Woman Who Laughed at God

I keep starting more books, and can’t seem to finish many of them. But here are a few reviews to start off the year:

Running Away to Home by Jennifer Wilson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Having done a very similar thing myself, I enjoyed reading Jennifer Wilson’s account of how she took her family to the Czech Republic in search of her ancestors. I loved all the little details of their acceptance into her ancestral village, and how she and her suburban American family learned a different way of living and seeing the world. However, the book lacked a certain internal consistency and completeness. At times, Wilson simply rambled. And she kept bringing up interesting themes and then dropping them without warning, never to be revisited. The concluding chapters read a little insincerely, almost as if she’d written them before she ever went, and been planning to write the book all along.

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Italian Christmas Memories

Well, we’re going on three months now, and cultural acclimation is progressing. I still can’t figure out why I keep seeing people walking around in shirt-sleeves when it’s almost December. My mother-in-law says it’s because all they have to do is walk from warm cars to warm buildings. I (and my children, according to me) can’t survive outside without sweaters, coats, scarves, and hats. I guess this is how the Florentines felt seeing my bare, scarf-less neck in springtime.

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Halloweening, Familia Style

When I was a kid, there was a minister who lived next door to us. He refused to pass out candy to trick-or-treaters. Instead, they got little Christian tracts on how evil and satanic the holiday was. At the time, I just thought he was weird. But I could do without Halloween now.

In fact, not seeing spider webs, creepy masks, and gravestones all over people’s yards and store windows every October was one of the things I loved about living abroad. Not to mention the fact that I didn’t have to either let my kids gorge themselves on candy for the entire first week of November or be the “mean” mom who takes it all away.

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Travel Update #1: I TOLD You So!

If only the world would listen to me. As he mentioned in the comments this morning, Tony did call Tunisair to confirm our flight. They said everything was fine. And when we arrived at the airport, our flight was listed as on-time. In fact, they didn’t get around to changing the flight status until it was already past our 16:35 departure time, and there was no sign of the plane even landing, let alone anyone boarding.

Our first clue about the trouble should have been that while we were standing in line to check in, the Tunisair staff told the front of the line something that caused a massive stampede over to another check-in desk on the other side of the room. Fortunately, Tony and I are old hands at making the most of a Tunisian line (because if you don’t make the most of it, you’ll stay at the back no matter how long you are in line, as everyone else somehow worms or pushes past you). As we normally do in these types of situations, we split up with one child each. He and Axa strategically maneuvered toward a good place in the now amorphous original line, while Dominique and I joined the stampede.

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International News in My Backyard

International News in My Backyard

The Tunisian police are holding a sit-in today to protest all the police stations that were burned during the revolution, and make sure the 23 police officers on trial for killing demonstrators during the weeks leading up to President Ali’s exit get a fair trial. They’re considering a general strike if the sit-in fails to produce the results they want. Ben Ali’s power base was largely drawn from the police force, and so the police now feel that they’ve been unfairly blamed for the violence during the protests in January.

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Saying Goodbye

Yesterday Tony and I went on our last date in Tunisia, to Hammamet Centre. We hadn’t been on a date in a month, since our babysitter was doing Ramadan. And somehow in the intervening time we forgot how much we hate going out to eat in Hammamet. Unlike most places I’ve been, the only really good meals I’ve had here in Tunisia were at people’s houses. Apparently, none of the good cooks here work at restaurants. None of the good waiters do either, unfortunately, so the whole “going out to eat for the experience, not the food” doesn’t really work.

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Garbage In, Garbage Out

What is it with us and garbage problems? First there was the Italian fiasco, in which we had to evade law enforcement to get rid of our garbage. And next, we got in trouble for throwing bread to the birds, because I’m apparently the only one on the planet who somehow missed out on how taboo it is to throw bread on the ground in a Muslim country.

Now we have this problem:

This lovely little pile is located just around the corner from our house. It’s the neighborhood dumpster/garbage mountain, which happens to be sandwiched between the 4-Star Miramar Hotel and the main entrance to world famous Hammamet Beach. Nice, huh? And sadly, the beach boasts a similar amount of trash, although it’s more spread out, and tends to get buried somewhat in sand.

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Our Latest Cultural Blooper

Before I let you gasp in horror over what we did last night, let me give you some background on our side of the story. Before we moved to Tunisia, I read someone’s list of things she liked and disliked about living here. I can’t remember most of them, but one of the things she said she disliked was the “garbage everywhere.” I just laughed, certain she must be exaggerating. Living among the ultra-tidy Piemontese, I had nearly forgotten that the world was not one big well-tended, immaculate garden. In the part of Italy where we lived, there was barely a dirt clod out of place. And although our town did have some peculiar trash regulations, they only caused me embarrassing and sometimes even criminal problems with my garbage because I wasn’t as obsessively organized as everyone else.

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Blogging About Blogging

An expat blogger friend of mine remarked the other day that she’s still not sure blogging from America isn’t pretentious. I’d have to agree. In fact, I’d expand it to say that blogging from anywhere is fairly pretentious. I mean, who am I to think that my journal would make interesting reading for acquaintances, or even friends? Let alone strangers!

The blogs that stick to one topic, like recipes, fashion, or politics, make more sense. They’re kind of like books published in serial form. That’s normal. Even Dickens made it big publishing serially. But what about those of us like me, who are more or less publishing our memoirs as they happen? It is a little pretentious when you think about it. And maybe a bit exhibitionist too. What is it exactly that compels me (and millions of other people) to post the happenings of our day-to-day lives on the World Wide Web for anyone to read? And what are we all doing reading details from the day-to-day lives not only of our friends, but of people we’ve never met?

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I Thought I Could Organize Freedom

It’s that time of the year when Tony and I start thinking about what we like to refer to as “the Northern countries.” This first began when we were living in Saluzzo, Italy three years ago. As in most of Italy, summers there get quite hot. And just when it gets so sweltering that it’s barely possible to even move outside without a gelato in one hand and an Italian ice in the other, the downtown travel agencies start putting up large, tempting photos of gloriously icy blue Norwegian fjords. It had never occurred to me that I might like to visit Northern Europe, but all of a sudden, countries that bordered the North Pole or had names containing “ice” began to sound incredibly appealing.

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