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Sunday, November 20, 2005

Hammamet was a Blast, But It's Time to Go Home

The internet cafe -- Cyber Internet 35, rue Mokhtar Attia, 1000 Tunis--Tel:71.333.893 -- I am at is rather slow, as compared to the more expensive one at the hotel, wich runs like clockwork. Anyhoo...as a consequence, I am disinclined to write here too much, as I will probably end up paying around the same amount for what I would like to do.

All I can say is that Hammamet yesterday was a blast. When we left for the Gare de Tunis, it was getting to 10.30am. By 12pm, the train was taking off, with all seven of us on board. We had to get off another train, after travelling a good twenty-five minutes, before finally getting to Hammamet fifteen minutes later.

Shame on me for not following so much the history, but I suspect that is the place where Hannibal led the elephants on that abortive trip to conquer the Romans. I DID see many elephants--stone ones that is, and they were gargantuan, to say the least. Very life-like, and rather scary.

Hammamet is one of those places you just have to see, because other than the weather that was rather inclement--rain, and ice-cold wind--all of us enjoyed the place. Only problem is that the touristy areas are rather populated by Eastern Europeans, who pretend to be friendly when they want to get you to buy something, but are two drops short of rude when you tell them you're not interested, or rather diplomatically, "je reviendra".

They nknow you won't come back again, so they grunt something at you in their language. My colleague got a bag that was being sold originally at 90Tunisian dinars to 22 Tunisian Dinars! Talk about rip-off, and they expect deferential treatment when you refuse to buy? Please!

We were rather bemused by this young man of around twenty-three who had a chesire-cat grin on his face. "Ah, fantastic, bombastic!" when we told him we were all from Ghana, bar the very personable Tunisian friend of the family who was giving us a tour. Then he rattled out some cliched lyrics from some song, which promted visceral chuckles from all of us. He was humble, though, admitting that though he did not finish school "at least, I can give smile to people who come from all over!"

Or something like that.

Imagine the legendary Peter Sellers, of Return of the Pink Pather fame, emulating, or should that be feigning, a nasty Italian accent as Inspector Clouseau, and you get the picture of this young man.

I refused to spend, whilst all those around me pretended they were not spending:-) Honestly, women!! There was only one guy, and he was too young to relate to him.

The trip back to Tunis was a good one. We took a bus, and it took rather long. Almost two hours of travelling. God, I love long bus and train journies!!! I would have been in my element if it were not for the fact that I was SO fast asleep.

The warm bus, though endearing in the beginning, started to feel too warm, so I was compelled to open the window just a peak, to the annoyance of a few. But if there is something about the Tunisians, I got to give it to them that they can be very hospitable.

The example is that of the bus journey, which started off very full, with many people standing up. SOme of us found a seat, but three of us failed to land one, with the flurry of people jumping onto the bus, and seats. The eldest of my colleague's friends' family member, the aunt, decided that one of us should relinquish the seats for an old man.

I did.

The old man did not wat to sit down, cos he seemed to feel bad, but we insisted. He sat down, all smiles. Less than five minutes later, one of the young, hot-blooded males who had jumped to the back seat when we got on, gave up, yes, gave up, his seat for one of us. He stood up for a good ten minutes before he got down. He could have sat down till his destination, but motioned us to come and take a seat.

Not too long ater, a middle-aged man ALSO gave up his seat. It emerged that he was going to get down only about ten minutes later, too.

I was deeply impressed, and humbled.

One good turn DEFINITELY does deserve another. Respect definitely goes a long way. Granted, not everyone would have done the smae, but two people doing it was admirable.

I got home and landed so much in Jadeville that I couldn't spend long in front of the 'Net to make an update, so here I am.

Today has been another humbling experience. I spent most of the afternoon with a one of the members of Civil Society. A Nigerian, a graduate of the Universsity of Ibadan, who can quote Fanon and Shakespeare in one hour. A DEEPLY charismatic man, who spends a lot of time in Geneva in UN circles.

There are some SERIOUSLY great and interesting people in this world. Shakespeare aptly said some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have it thrown on them.

Well, if this ten nights in Tunis is anything to go by, the knowledge I have been exposed to just from listening to people has been immense. The so-called intellectual genuflection I referred to earlier, in my humble opinion, is apt.

I am such as small person when faced against such great minds.

Getting back home to normality is not going to be that easy.

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