We spent our first four nights in Tunis at a hotel and during this time, Karim worked with us to find a host family. Dylan mentioned La Marsa as a place he liked when he was here in 2006. It is a 30 minute train ride from Tunis, right on the Mediterranean, and a beautiful quaint little town. For those of you from Portland, it is sort of the Lake Oswego of Tunis. Our host mom is Dija and she lives in an apartment in La Marsa. We are staying in one of her son’s rooms. Our living situation couldn’t be much better. We have wireless internet, Al Jazeera English to watch, breakfast every day and dinner almost every night. She is very kind and we are lucky to stay with her.
Every morning Dylan and I pay 2.460 TD (Tunisian dinars, about US$2) for round trip train tickets into Tunis. The trains are crowded with commuters and students. They are old and rickety, but charming as well (the trains, not the commuters). We ride the train line from beginning to end, so there is no fear of missing your stop. Once we get into Tunis, it’s a 30 minute walk to where we work, the library, and we walk through the Medina. Sometimes the commute is exciting…for example, this morning, we arrived at the station in La Marsa and a train was there, just ready to leave. We quickly got our tickets (exact change counted out ahead of time of course) and ran to the train. It started to pull away and Jenna was about to give up and wait for the next one when Dylan shouted “RUN!” You see, there aren’t any safety features on the TGM 2000 so the doors were being held open by three young Tunisian men. We ran and jumped onto the train just before it picked up too much speed. Adrenaline shots in the morning work just as well as caffeine, it turns out. This was exactly the behavior we see from the kids running alongside the train and jumping on, hanging out the door while the train is in motion, etc. Hooligans.
We have begun our work at a local library. The current task is to digitally scan film, postcards, photographs, and books to create a searchable database and online archive of Tunisian historical documents. We are often invited to stay for lunch which is usually bread and a cold salad, fruit (oranges are in season right now), and sometimes soup or boiled vegetables. On Wednesdays, the small library comes alive when many people come over for lunch. A sweet old Tunisian woman cooks an enormous amount of couscous and talk for a few hours.
If we’re lucky, we get a sunset during our commute home. Assuming there are leftovers in the fridge, we heat up a quick dinner and catch up on our international news via Al Jazeera (Haiti, Haiti, Haiti, Isreal, Haiti, etc.). We usually have some “homework” to do in the evenings (like researching, other projects, or studying Arabic). After, it’s off to happy-fun-sleepy-time. For whatever reason, we have been extra tired by the end of our days, so we get pretty excited to go to sleep. Mmmmm, sleep.