In Need of a Sabbatical

The time has come. Next Tuesday we will be on a plane to California. Sorry to spring these things on you so precipitously. That’s just the way things seem to work out.

Ever since our business failed after the 2008 credit crunch, life has been pretty difficult and stressful. We’ve had some exciting adventures, crazy travels, and happy times (the kind of stuff that typically ends up on the blog), but we’ve also had some very serious challenges. I can say that I’m physically, mentally, and in every other way worn out. My in-laws have graciously offered to let us stay with them while I recover from a persistent health issue and we sort out our finances and decide which direction we’d like to take our life next.

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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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Ramadan Observations

Now that we’ve passed the full moon halfway mark of Ramadan, I thought I’d let you know how we’ve been faring. I also feel a little guilty about all the good Muslims who’ve landed on my previous Ramadan post via google, searching for advice on when is the last time to eat in Ramadan, whether or not shaving is allowed, how to pass the time until sunset, etc. I’m afraid I answered none of those questions, and provided no helpful advice at all for those who were preparing for Ramadan in a religious sense. I still don’t know about the shaving, and I haven’t personally heard the drum that they supposedly go around beating in the wee hours of the morning to remind people to eat for the last time before sunrise. I do know that my neighbors around here tell me that the best thing to do in the hours before iftar (the sunset meal) is to take a nice late-afternoon swim in the sea.

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Getting Ready for Ramadan

This will be our first Ramadan in the Middle East. For those who don’t know, Ramadan is the month of fasting in Islam, and begins on August 1st this year. I have mixed feelings about spending Ramadan here. On the one hand, it will be interesting to get a closer look at one of the five pillars of the Muslim faith. As a Mormon, I fast for one Sunday each month. Almost every month as I am preparing to break my fast, I think of my Muslim friends and acquaintances, and how impressed I am that they fast every single day for an entire month (and this month it’s the month of August too!).

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It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s Captain Khobza!

It’s been awhile since I gave you an update on the political and security situation here in Tunisia. Things are getting a bit exciting here again. I just hope they don’t get TOO exciting in the wrong way.

Six months after the revolution, the economy is (understandably) worse than ever. Unemployment is projected to reach 20 percent this year, compared to an already depressing 13 percent last year, pre-revolution. Beji Caid Essebsi, the current Prime Minister, blames the state of the economy on continued strikes and sit-ins, both on the street and at major firms and manufacturing plants.

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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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Discovering our Tunisian roof

One of the first things I noticed when we moved to Tunisia was that the houses don’t have roofs! Or at least they look like they don’t.

This was a bit startling after having lived in Ireland, where the most obvious feature on a typical house might be its tall, peaked roof, designed to let the copious rain roll off easily.

Even in Italy, where the rain is less abundant and the roof angles are correspondingly less acute, at least all the houses obviously have them.

Here in Tunisia, there are a few places like Luke Skywalker’s house, which really are roofless.

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Underground Luxury at Bulla Regia

Less than an hour north of Dougga is Bulla Regia. Signs at the site informed us that “Regia” means royal, which we could already divine from our acquaintance with Romance languages. What we’d really like to know is what “Bulla” means. Maybe someone can enlighten me.

Although it lacks the sheer size and impressiveness of Dougga, Bulla Regia has its own attractions. For instance, on the way to the theater we caught sight of another headless emperor. It was too obvious of a photo op to not take advantage. Here is Axa posing as a Roman empress.

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The Best Roman Ruin in Tunisia – Dougga

So, when we went to el-Djem for my birthday, I thought that MUST be the best. What could be better than a gigantic, nearly perfectly-preserved amphitheater smack dab in the middle of a tiny little Tunisian country town? Well, how about this:

We have been really stressed out with work lately, so we gave ourselves a little break yesterday and drove a couple of hours to visit an incredible UNESCO World Heritage Site. Just because we live in Tunisia, and we can. Dougga is billed as the best preserved Roman ruin in North Africa.

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Even Laundry is Better in Tunisia

I am not the most awesome housekeeper in the world. (Just ask my cleaning lady.) But I have laundry down. My mother taught me when I was six years old.

It is true that at college I disregarded her advice about color sorting on occasion, and ended up with grey clothes like Claudia and Jamie when they ran away to the Metropolitan Museum in From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. I was always chronically behind, which I am sorry to say continued (and even multiplied) after I was married. Then I decided to use cloth diapers when Axa was born. I can tell you, when you have a choice between washing a load of diapers and washing a load of clothes, eleven times out of ten you decide you’re O.K. with dirty clothes. But I always felt like I had to sneak into the laundromat at odd hours so nobody would see me dumping my bag of dirty diapers into the washing machines they used to wash their clothes.

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