A Day in Tunis

I was to meet Wafa at the Monoprix Menzah 6 (6 in French, seese), she instructed me to take a cab.  I wove my way out of the streets of the medina and out to the main street by the government buildings and the Kasbah.  It was sweltering and all of the makeup I had put on (I had only put it on for its SPF qualities) had been sweat off.  I could not flag a cab and I can’t standing still so I kept walking up the street, thinking I would increase my likelihood of finding a taxi…no.

I stopped a man and asked him where the best place was to take a taxi and he pointed me in the direction I was walking and asked me where I was going, I told him Monoprix Menzah seese in my best French accent.  He said “we’ll drive you to a place where you can find a cab.”

“OK, thank you so much,” and thought in my head I can’t tell mom & dad about this, as I climbed in the back seat of the two door car.

The two men introduced themselves to me and asked for my name, I told them and they asked where I was from, my Arabic is clearly not Tunisian.  I told them I was chamiya (a woman from Damascus) and my friend, Abu-Hasan, told me a saying they have in Tunisian that translates to “he who marries a chamiya, dies without worry.”  As if I didn’t already have enough Damascene pride!!  His friend, who was driving, chimed in, in formal Arabic (as proverbs are recited) “And he who makes you his friend, dies an idiot.”  We laughed and Abu-Hasan pulled out a packet of thin, light cigarettes, offering me one first.  Then he offered me a cold bottle of water from the same messenger bag.  And then a thermos of coffee.  I declined but asked if he had ice cream in there, because I would like that.  They delivered me faithfully to Monoprix Menzah seese and we went our separate ways.

I was early so I stepped in the Monoprix (a supermarket) to have a look around, despite looking like a Western supermarket with isles and boxed items piled high on the shelves, a refrigerated section, etc. it was still fawda (chaotic) with water on the floor (why not clean while the customers are shopping?), and little respect for a single file, take your turn line.

Please do not take my observations as criticism.  They are mere critical observations and I do this EVERYWHERE.  I am a social critic, not a hater.  

I bought Wafa and myself a bottle of water each and headed out to our pre-determined meeting spot. We found one another and went to do her bridal dress fitting.  After that chore was done, we were to have lunch at her mom’s friend’s house, so we called her to tell her that we were done and on our way.  She said, “OK, great we will go for a little swim first.”

Huh.  I thought, I didn’t bring a bathing suit.  Well, go along for the ride.

We bought flowers from a street-side florist and tried to hail a cab, again to no avail but now the temperature was 48˚C (118˚F) which is hot if you’re wondering.  We called the “aunt” again and told her our predicament and she sent her niece to fetch us.

The house was big, it was a bonafide house with a yard, not a flat.  We went up the outside stairs and as we turned the corner in to the backyard, found about 8 women, our mothers’ ages, swimming in the pool, talking, laughing, and splashing one another.  “Welcome to our pool party!!” Wafa’s aunt yelled.

“Come come, get in the water,”  She told us.

“We don’t have bathing suits.”

She called for her niece to loan us bathing suits.  After several minutes of back and forth, no it’s ok, really we can just sit and enjoy.  No, no you must.  Wafa said “ok, come with me Sally,” and we went and changed into the loaned bathing suits.

I must say, the water felt very nice.  We swam and played in the water until it was time for lunch, at which point we sat outside and ate a lovely meal of fish, chicken, meat, rice, salad, french fries.  After lunch we enjoyed tea and fruit and sweets and some ladies got back in the pool.

Around Montevideo

I found this post in my drafts folder and thought I would finish it and post it, why not share some experiences even if they are about a year old now – from November 2015.

Uruguay is a lovely country.  It’s small, 68,037 mi² and has a lovely coastline.  Montevideo, the capital is on the Atlantic Coast.

We are in Spring here, in the Southern Hemisphere and it’s lovely.  Uruguay, like much of the New World was inhabited by European immigrants (populated, I should say as these territories were sparsely inhabited by native people).  Uruguayans are mostly descendants of immigrants from Spain and Italy.  The Spanish part may be a bit more obvious (Uruguayans speak Spanish) but the subtleties of Italian are very interesting.  I find the language (Uruguayan dialect of Spanish) to be melodic like Italian and Italian food is rife in Uruguayan cuisine.

One of my favorite “all-Uruguayan” things is their tradition of BBQ.  The most common restaurant is a smoke house, meat is smoked in one part of the kitchen and the rest serves as a conventional kitchen.  Oh, I also love Uruguays tradition of wine.  Must have wine.

I had the weekend off and explorde with some colleagues.  We took a taxi from our hotel to the start of downtown and walked the rest.  Here are some photos from our day.

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Inside the Metropolitan Cathedral of Montevideo.
© Sally Baho

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Overlooking the Plaza de Independencia, Montevideo, Uruguay.
© Sally Baho

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Estatua de la Paz (Peace Statue) in Plaza de Cagancha, here is “Kilometro Cero” (the starting place of all the freeways in a country, from where distances are measured).
© Sally Baho

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Fish for sale at the Sunday market.
© Sally Baho

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The Sunday market in Montevideo, Uruguay.
© Sally Baho

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An old brilliant blue Ford truck. I would love to have this car parked on my property with flowers growing all around it and keep bees in it. Also, note the gentleman sitting on the motorcycle to the right. This photo so candidly captures his aura, isn’t it lovely?
© Sally Baho

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Lots of avocados, 4 for 35 Uruguayan pesos (a little over $1 US).
© Sally Baho

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This gives “big chair” a whole new meaning. Located outside of Punta Carretas Mall, Montevideo.
© Sally Baho

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Cheese!
© Sally Baho

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The verandas remind me of Romeo and Juliet. I love the stone and the wrought iron windows.
© Sally Baho

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Lovers lock a padlock around this fountain indicating the eternal strength and hold of their love. How sweet!
© Sally Baho

Imagination

 

Image result for albert einstein quote imagination

I love life and I love my life but to think that all of my dreams, aspirations, and imaginations are only a preview of what I will feel in reality is something magical and puts a smile on my face and warms my heart.

I have often thought to myself that authors, especially those who write about “out there” or extreme and unusual experiences,  must have seen some crazy things in their lives but I am coming to realize that I oughtn’t underestimate the power of the human  mind and imagination.

Believing in the beauty that life has to offer is halfway there.  I guess the other half is being open to it.

An Exercise in Futility

I am a student now.  You may or may not know this about me.  While I value higher education and believe in pushing myself and understand the need for measuring students’ participation/learning objectives, I often find that traditional assignments with strict grading procedures to be rather irritating.

Take for example, a paper with a page minimum.  I find it silly to impose a page minimum on an assignment when students (who are writers) may vary in writing style, some being verbose and others more concise.  A 1-page research paper may not meet the objective of the assignment but a 23 rather than 25 page research paper very well may.  If you have made your point, supported it, and done so eloquently, is that not enough?

My favorite English Literature and Writing teacher in high school, Mrs. Coulter used to insist that it was quality over quantity.  Yes, she gave length suggestions but we were not down-graded if the page or word minimum was not met if the point came across eloquently and made the point.

Maybe this is a lesson applicable to all aspects of life, in the professional world they say to work smarter not harder.  The same can be said for workouts, fiscal responsibility, eating, etc.  Ok, now I am letting my philosophical mind procrastinate as I am at page 24.5 of that 25 page final paper.  But you do get the point.  Some people feel the need to quantify things (page numbers of research projects) rather than assess them on a quality level (qualitatively).  I think this is a feeble approach to analysis and ought to be reconsidered.

Let go or be dragged

Let go or be dragged.  The instructor in my yoga class this evening said that and I found it applicable to just about anything in life.

Letting go, while certainly not easy, is very liberating.  The imagery of being dragged by whatever it is you need to let go of, be it a bad choice you made; a past relationship; just about anything in the past; really stuck with me.  The incessant thinking of what could have been – the could have, would have, should have – will drag you through emotional torment.  Let it go or it will consume you.

I understand that letting go is not easy.  Emotions are not like a light switch to be turned on and off voluntarily but to be aware of past hurt and things to which you are holding on is part of letting go.  Everybody deals with things differently and maybe you just have to find a way to let go.  Maybe you let the thought come in and ponder it and let it pass.  Maybe you put on your favorite music when you find yourself fixating on these thoughts that you’d like to let go of.  Perhaps you go for a walk or sit and cry.  Whatever it is you do, I urge you to learn to let go of things that don’t serve you otherwise they will control you.

Be open

You don’t know what you don’t know.

Sounds simple enough but this post is a testament to having an open mind. I don’t know how many times in my life I have thought something was a certain way because of a stereotype or assumed something because of a preconceived notion or past experience. This ranges from food to people to yoga. I also can attest to the countless times that I try that thing, I meet with that person, I go for that walk, I wake up extra early to watch the stars, etc., and it’s nothing like I expected…but beautiful and an experience. I guess it’s how you go into it, if you enter in having expectations and anticipating disaster and failure, it’s likely turn out as such. But if you go in with an open mind, ready for an experience, you may surprise yourself. We gain these experiences by going through life and adjusting ourselves accordingly. The experiences make us who we are today. Yesterday’s experience compiled with all of the experiences of your life, plus a bit of personality and self-awareness is what makes you who you are today.  And you could surprise yourself…you could be a brilliant baker or a closet gardener.  Try it out, when opportunity presents itself, seize it.

Be Kind

Remember, everyone has a story.

Speak carefully, 
listen with integrity, 
love deeply, 
do not judge, 
and share selflessly.

I came to this conclusion the other day.  I was sad and hurt by something someone else did and I decided to reflect upon it.  Had this person done this thing intentionally to hurt me?  No.  Was I being hyper-sensitive and over-analysing and over-reacting?  Yes.  Was this person malicious?  No.  Could this person have something going on in their life other than me?  Yes.

Hm.

I get hurt more than the average person because I’m very sensitive and I take active measures to not hurt others.  (Although I do not always succeed, I try to be aware).  But in an effort to save myself some emotional stress, I decided I would try to let go and when I feel sad or emotional in the future and to remember this mantra.  More often than not people are not out to hurt us and are not behaving to intentionally harm us.  We get hurt but hurt just like happiness can be a choice.  Of course there is hurt that one cannot help but choosing to be hurt because someone did not return a phone call (for example) may be excessive.  Maybe that person has a lot going on in his/her life, maybe he/she lost his/her phone, maybe he/she is on holiday, maybe he/she simply doesn’t feel like talking – I know I’ve been there.  I’m trying to be more understanding of others and not think ill thoughts because that only poisons me and my environment and is not the kind thing to do.  And at the end of the day, I’d like to know that I chose the kind thing to do.

Marvel in the little things

I hope that today you notice the little things.
A rose bud on the brink of blooming.
A child stopping to stomp in a water puddle.
The bubbles madly racing to the surface of your champagne flute.
Despite how much they irk me by eating my flowers and squash blossoms, marvel at the deer in the garden.
Life is fleeting.
Enjoy life today.
Enjoy it everyday but let’s focus on one day at a time.
Your skin is beautiful.
Embrace you.
Love you.

Good morning

Today as I was leaving the gym, I sneezed.  An old man carrying a water bottle turned to me and said “Bless you!”  I thanked him and he held the door open for me.  As we walked out together he said “do you know why they say that?”  I told him my understanding was that it was because one’s heart stops when (s)he sneezes, he said “EVERYTHING stops,” with a swoop of his hand.  I thanked him for the knowledge and told him to have a good day.  He said “everyday is a good day, if my feet touch the ground, then I know it’s going to be a good day.” 

What a great attitude.  Words to live by 🙂