Thursday, September 26, 2013

My First Day in Tunis on my Own: بدوية في باريس

Photo Courtesy to Zied Nsir Photography
September has come. Time to pack my things and settle in another house that does not feel like home. Even my own home does not feel like home. I still haven't found home yet. I cannot find one as the rusty chains of patriarchy are keeping me from finding one. From finding my Utopia. From finding my home.
Is it wrong to live in my own house? Do I need to get married first in order for me to be the queen of my own house? To decide where I want to eat, where I want to put this and that, when I want to sleep and when I want to wake up? To pick up the phone and talk to my friends without having someone eavesdropping on me? To have a nice Skype call without having someone getting in and out of my room asking whether I am done yet? Is it wrong to stay up late reading a book or watching Friends? To keep the lights on and the window of my room open? Is it wrong that my daydream and number one priority in life is not getting married to a rich man? To be a woman of power? A super woman that has a super power that can kick ignorance and illiteracy out of Tunisia?!

September has come. I am packing up my things, writing down my shopping list and preparing for this year's budget. Remembering all of that, I could not overcome last year's incidents and experiences. I remember my very first days in Tunis. I was waiting for a private bus in front of my sister's apartment. I was overwhelmed with a new sort of feelings. I didn't know how I was supposed to feel: scared or inflamed? I was scared because I didn't know the place and I was afraid of getting lost or something. I was inflamed because I was finally on my way to freedom land. Of course I do not consider school freedom land. But the idea of leaving my home town and going to the capital city gives me shivers. I'm finally breaking away from the flock.

My first day ended. All what I could feel were my sore feet and a tormenting headache. I was wistful and enraged! I woke up at 6 a.m. to attend an 8:30 class. I waited more than an hour for the bus (TUS 26). I got on. It was crowded and smelling of people's feet and vomit. I could hardly breathe especially with the motion sickness condition I have. It was supposed to be a private bus. You pay a lot of money. You expect good service. But in Tunisia, it's always not the case. Once I arrived to Barcelona station, I got a ticket. I stood on the sidewalk waiting to get on tubes 3, 4 or 5. Suddenly, people were running towards me: Ali, Fahmi, Mariem, Yassin, Meherzia and even auntie Chadlia dragging her sefseri (a traditional Tunisian cloth) with a crutch in one hand and a basket in the other. I freaked out. For a moment I thought I was stuck in a zombie nightmare à-la-Tunisienne. I can't be blamed. I didn't have my coffee yet. Knowing that the tube was finally there and seeing how people were pushing each other to get on it, I figured it was the tube that they were after. I wiped the residue of drowsiness off of my face. I was waiting for the chauffeur to open the doors. I was right in front of the door. One step ahead and I'll find myself sitting on a chair and ready  to go. But no. That's how things would be in Utopia. In reality, people push you till you end up trying to squeeze yourself in a tiny space where X's armpit is right on your face and Y's hands is trying to reach your bottom. Even auntie Chadlia was pushing quite hard. "For God's sake I was going to save you a seat, woman!" I waited till another empty tube arrived. I took it. Hallelujah! The tube stopped at the "passage" station. I got off. As usual, people could not wait till we get off. They were pushing for the freaking seats. While I was waiting for the next tube to take, tube number 2 heading to Ariana, I couldn't help but notice the beggars, the crazy, the thieves and the bullies. Tube 2 is the most crowded one. I hate it. I'd rather go on foot than getting squashed like mashed potatoes on Christmas. I hate crowded places. They frustrate and stress me out. 

Let's not forget about taxis. Every time I feel too tired to wait or push for a bus, I just feel like taking a taxi. 

- Salem. Are you free?
- Were are you heading to? 
- Ben Arous. 
Then no answer. This happened to me almost each and every time. Did I ask them to take me to cursed land or something? I said Ben Arous, brother! They just shake their heads, and I walk away cursing them and the people who granted them the taxi driving licenses. But once you get to grab a cab, act like you know the way to your destination so that the taxi driver will take the shortcut. Otherwise, they'll take advantage of your ignorance and take the long way, charging you more money.  I once paid 10 TND for a 10-minute ride. But that was in Nabeul, during a two- week internship in the English Language Village of Nabeul. Not all taxi drivers are natural born thieves like this guy. Let's say, according to my humble experiences, 60% of them are good guys. I'm happy that the current Tunisian Minister of Transportation is confiscating all of the illegal taxi driving licenses that had been granted during the past five years. It was about time. 

Don't get me wrong, there are some things that I've enjoyed during my stay in Tunis. I enjoy window shopping almost everyday. I enjoy coffee breaks and lunch with friends. I enjoy walking down the Habib Bourguiba street at 7 AM. Sometimes it feels like walking down the Champs Elysées street, Paris. Although I don't know how that feels like, I can imagine. I enjoy assisting or walking by protests and think "So this is how protests feel like, ha?!" I enjoy the quality time I spend sipping my morning coffee at the Café du Grand Théatre, whenever I get the chance. I enjoy going to bookstores and go through books without buying any. They are way too damn expensive that a student like me can't afford. I prefer downloading and reading them on my computer. But I do buy some whenever they make a discount, which is something rare. Classical books are kind of cheap too. You can also get good deals on used books from thrift shops. 

Tunis can be such an inspiring place especially when meeting people from all walks of life, from the most famous Tunisian actors and journalists to the barefoot poor children. You see people, you observe them and the next thing you find yourself creating a whole story about them right in your mind. If only I had enough time to write down and share every single one of them with you... 

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