Things have been moving quickly, picking up speed. I am going to use this blog post to sloooooooow them down a bit. I’m not ready for the future yet!
Living in Tunis is a constant set of delights. Yes, I could talk about things that don’t go right – in fact, let’s get that out of the way right now. The avocado shortage this year is perilous, people drive like idiots especially just before Iftar dinners, and I’m never quite sure what I’m getting in the pharmacy.
But a blog post should have a point, and mine is that Tunis is gorgeous, lovely, enchanting. This overrides even the shortage of avocados, which I think you’ll agree means Tunis is marvelous indeed.
The cooking continues
All sorts of cooking mayhem have, ahem, occurred. (Passive voice in service of avoiding responsibility for the kitchen messes.)
So this happened yesterday: I blow-dried a chicken. I was planning on a roast chicken, yes, but this odd instruction came up in a link to a link I had pursued online. Apparently it makes the skin crispier.
I didn’t tell Ramon anything about it; I knew he would think it was weird. And our kitchen is a bit sequestered from the rest of the house, so I just turned on the hair dryer and got crackin’.
But not for nothing is Ramon a police officer. I’m guessing the emanating sounds didn’t make sense, and he came in to investigate. The good thing about that is that I had someone to take a picture – I am notoriously OCD about hand-washing around the poultry population. The other good thing is he didn’t try to make me explain myself to him, he just complied. So clearly we have established a level of… trust? Or something. The THIRD good thing is how crispy the chicken came out. (Not solely cooked by a hair dryer, no – the link to the recipe is below)
Other cooking projects have been fruitful if not as goofy. Blog post trigger alert: do not look at these pics if you’re hungry!
Beef stroganoff a la Anne Culver!Chicken Francese and popcorn cauliflowerVegetable cream soup with mushroomsMy first pie crust, with veggies and ricottaBeautiful pie crust!! GORGEOUS!But oddly sweet. I ate the stuffing only!Gnocchi with pesto (underneath) and red sauce. First time cooking asparagus. More for Ramon, since he likes it!
Reg’lar life means working out
I don’t know why this is so hard for me to remember, but working out has to be consistent. Even after years of being pretty athletic, I battle with this. It’s hard to get a habit going again if I ever let it slide, even a little. I never think about it when I am not doing it, like “Hey, wouldn’t a run be great right now?” I have to bake it into my day. And I’m generally much happier about it when it’s over than when it’s happening.
Not Ramon. He needs a good run or swim or walk, with extra efforts, just to feel normal. Here’s Ramon on a reg’lar walk around town:
Luckily in Tunis I’ve had a couple of huge allies. Sabrine is a coach who I used to see at a gym where I was a member. Now she has opened her own gym – salle de sport in French, which sounds so much nicer. It’s called FeelStrongTunisie if you’re in the neighborhood! If I give her money and show up, she will put me through my paces. She is cheerful and has a sweet, resonant (read: loud) voice as she goads me and insists and pleads and corrects. It is absolutely the most French I hear all day, all week. I can definitely translate “plank” for you, if you’re interested.
Caution: She will cheat on the clock. She says “Two minutes plank” and somehow miraculously I am perched there, juddering like a dog evacuating some peach pits, dripping sweaty droplets under my face and getting redder and redder and redder, for three minutes thirty seconds. You have to watch her like a freaking hawk. This is how I have learned the French words for “cheater”, “trick”, “cruel”, and “show me that phone.”
The other ally is my friend Lisa, with whom I suffer all this, gladly. She also brings Spud, aka Little Man, the Exercise-Related Emotional Support Dachsund.
I’ve got to keep this in mind when I (*gulp*) leave Tunis in a couple months: friends make it easier. Also weiner dogs.
Exceptions to the rule
Of course there are some physical activities that don’t feel like exercise at all. Among them, volleyball, long walks with Ramon, and bike riding!!!
I also got to try a trampoline the other day, for the first time in decades…
And of course PING PONG and DANCING, which if you’re really lucky (and adept) you can do at the same time.
French courses right on course
I had some big moments in my study of French over the last few weeks. I’m doing an evaluation in Tunisia and am working with a team of Tunisians, with whom I’m speaking a smattering of French. Alongside one of them, I “conducted” my first ever professional interview in French, with a French person and two Tunisians. I put “conducted” in quotes because it was my Tunisian colleague who led the interview and took notes and made it all make sense. I, on the other hand:
Forgot the phrase for “My name is” (“Je m’appelle”) and utterly choked upon introducing myself
Mentally checked out when the three respondents spoke over one another, in Tounsi (Tunisian Arabic dialect) and French all at once
Took notes that are a random collection of words I captured but make no sense professionally
Asked a question so poorly that none of the three could understand it
A week later, my second interview in French went much better (albeit still directed by my Tunisian colleague). I asked questions, understood most of the answers, and took some not entirely undecipherable notes.
Then, today, to top it all off: I had my first “Old guys on a street corner joke with me” moment in French:
I love how the guy in the middle doesn’t want his brand mixed up with mine, and opts out of the picture.
The one with the long beard asked my name and his buddy cut him off, telling me, “Don’t answer him, his next question will be, ‘Are you married?'” I told them this picture was to take to the police! We all wished each other a happy Eid fête.
But of course it wouldn’t be a blog post…
It wouldn’t be a post on how much I love Tunis without some cat pictures, blue and white buildings, some flowers and/or cacti, and at least one of the sea. To wit:
What’s around the corner?
You probably know that Ramon’s job here is ending at the end of June. It’s coming up quickly but so far I’ve been good at ignoring it. It will be very difficult to leave our little haven. A million blog posts (many more good than bad) after arriving in October 2017, this place has felt like home for a very long time.
What comes next, we just don’t know. Ramon has feelers out. I’m easy since my work ports in my head and my auxiliary back-up brain, my little computer. We’ve talked of vacations and family visits, thought about getting an apartment in Madrid, and landed in the same uncertain pool as before. But the water is okay in the pool, and we’ll figure it out when we figure it out. In the meantime, I’m going to go for a walk, take some pictures of cats, cook/eat, speak some French, and get some exercise.