Tuesday, September 2, 2008

A few notes from Tunisia

Ramadan started yesterday, Sept 1. Evidently, the imam (holy man) looks at the moon and decides which day it will start exactly. In some countries, it might not start until today, depending on what they say. Kind of strange, but no one seems to think it odd.
You know it's Ramadan by the noise! In the morning, before sunrise, they go around beating drums to wake you up and tell you to eat something before the sun comes up. Then, at night at sunset, they set off one or two huge blasts, like M-80s or a cherry bomb sort of loud, telling you that it is OK to eat.
The guys tell me that you are not supposed to eat, drink, smoke or do anything during the days of Ramadan, and that even includes looking at picutres of women! (I was showing someone a photo of Angelina Jolie from a magazine but he wouldn't look at it...)
They take their religion very seriously here. We've had more talks, and I believe them when they tell me that they will not have any sex before marriage, and that includes masturbation! (Yes, I had to ask, but I was curious!)
In honor of Ramadan, I did fast yesterday. OK, I had a little water, but nothing else all day, no biggie. They all thought it was very cool that I fasted with them.
Then last night for dinner, I met up with a couple (she from Ireland, he from Holland), and we ended up drinking beers and having a "mixed grill" on the rooftop patio of a restaurant on the corniche (aka the boardwalk along the water front). It was the most English I had spoken without talking slow and distinct for awhile. Earlier in the day, I did take a swim in the Mediterreanean, but mostly just to say I had swam in the Med. The water was like bath water, and the beach was fairly dirty. I also had a chat, in Spanish, with a Tunisian guy who was putting varnish on these cool goat skin lamps. But he did admit to me that the actual lamps were made in Morocco and that he just put the final varnish on them. I've seen these lamps in NYC before, for over $20, and they're about $3 here. Tough to pack in my bag tho...
I'm also surprised when the Tunisians use the "n-word" here. They clearly don't think of it as a bad word, altho I always do tell them that it is a very bad work in English. But they use it to describe the men that come from Ghana, Kenya, etc. They tell me that they are afraid of them, because they are so dark and so big.
Today I heard a different sort of wail, and I was told that they were announcing that a man had died. Evidently, when a person dies they "announce" it so that everyone knows and the family can begin mourning.

I do love how my friend Ahmed uses the phrase "tak tak tak" here: sort of in the same way that we say "etc. etc." or "on and on." They often say: "I will work and make more money, tak tak tak," meaning that they will try to keep moving up.
I hope this isn't coming off as too disjointed... When I have my laptop I can write more lucidly, but when I'm using the internet cafes I tend to just start writing and try to get it done quickly, tak tak tak."
OK, so now I go to Tunis. I will get there tonight, and then tomorrow will be my final day in Tunisia before I head out to Cairo.