We now have overcast skies and frigid temperatures.
With the lower temperature means more spicy food.
The spice is said to warm your body.
This drastic drop in temperature can also drop one’s immunity.
Yes, I have finally had my first common cold complete with all the symptoms individually packed.
First it’s the sore throat.
Then it’s the first coughs (oh no, not the coughs!)
Then comes the sneezing.
In reaction to this, my mom asks me if I want tea.
“Do you want honey in your tea?”
I reply that it doesn’t matter because I can’t taste anything.
This makes her laugh.
So I sit in bed day after day.
Naturally I am nostalgic to be back home where I know what will make me better.
Oh the pain to be somewhere we cannot be.
We all have times when we travel somewhere new, wishing we were with people who understand us.
Or with people who want to get to know us.
Or sometimes we wish we were with people who speak our language.
Or know where we come from.
Sometimes we have that, but not always.
When we don’t it makes us uneasy and want to be back where we are understood.
Coincidentally we had a lecture last Monday about nostalgia.
We first discussed, what is nostalgia?
Nostalgia is the longing for an idealized past, a past that never existed because we sugarcoat it so much and forget about all the ills of that moment.
It also means there is a strong dissatisfaction with our current life situation.
The present doesn’t hold our interests.
It doesn’t inspire us.
It doesn’t comfort us.
Part of the reason we experience nostalgia is because we are in the moment.
The moment maybe something we can’t see through when we don’t know where we are headed or know what we want.
Meanwhile the past has already happened and we can see it for what it was and how it changed us.
As an effect we are upset when we find that the present moment doesn’t offer us the same feeling.
So what is giving me nostalgia?
Most of my nostalgia stems from my sickness.
Some of it is hearing from friends and family back home who update me on in their lives.
Some of it is thinking about food that I cannot find here.
Another part is language and sometimes feeling at a loss for words.
Sometimes I feel misunderstood.
And sometimes I feel that I should be doing better and putting myself out there more.
And I hate to be hard on myself.
It’s hard to go to a country that speaks three languages.
All of which I do not know.
Sometimes people speak one and switch to another.
In class I mix up MS Arabic with Tunisie.
Oh the frustration!
I am not quite sure where I am headed with my current understanding of language.
I would love to understand it but am continually frustrated with it.
Language is an easy thing to get frustrated with.
It’s so much to think of.
You step into a new culture.
You hear people speaking, they look at you and expect that you understand them.
I commonly stare blankly back at them.
What I have come to understand is that language is just an agreement made between people as ways to say things.
There is an agreement for how to say something in English and an agreement made between other people for how to say something in Arabic.
And these agreements in words can be learned from one to the other.
I commonly hear people say, “I’m too old to learn another language.”
I used that excuse two weeks ago and I fell behind in class (which is hard to imagine when it’s just me and Max in class).
The beginning of that week was rough, as I was not feeling too clear. I needed to clean out my mind but never felt that I had the time.
During class, I got worked up, felt my shoulders tighten up and almost started crying.
I felt so stupid and out of place.
But I got through that class and sat with myself on the bed later that night and spent a little time reviewing over and over.
Then I wrote to my language professor, Nejla.
I told her that I was continually frustrated with Arabic and part of the frustration was me not knowing what was frustrating me.
Later that week, she sat me down telling me her story about learning English and how difficult it was.
She took one year in Tunis and lacked motivation, which prevented her from learning it and as a result was a weaker student in class.
Then the next year she had a different teacher that inspired her.
Her teacher made her want to learn English.
Part of the inspiration was her teacher telling Nejla that she could learn English.
Nejla said it became a thing where she had to sit herself down and tell herself that she could do it.
Little by little she listened, read, wrote and spoke English.
And look at her now, she’s fluent!
She told me that my frustration with Arabic was my head telling me that I couldn’t do it.
She said, “Well guess what, yes you can!”
Now it’s just up to me to say that I have it in me, which will ultimately lead me with patience and motivation through the years ahead.
I can’t force myself to learn something, but I can learn it with grace.
Last Friday, Geri, Alex and I rode down to Tunis and explored the medina.
I have come to find that walking through the medina is like walking through a corn maze.
There is the popular route most people take or there is an alternative, less traveled path.
There are several tall and narrow pathways that converge at different points.
The medina has street after street with buildings no more then nine feet apart with clothes hanging from up top.
We pass knock-off designer clothing shops, makeup stands, spices and perfume stores.
Cotton sheets hang above the shops to protect them from the weather.
People crowd around each shop.
I mix the manikins up with real people.
We passed some abandoned buildings with moss growing on the wall.
We found the art corner with drawings spreading from one wall to the next.
Then mid-day prayer began.
Hundreds of men crowd the street with their prayer rugs tucked under their arms.
The muezzin begins the call to prayer and the whole medina can hear it.
Then we made a realization.
As we had intended to discover the medina, we got lost in the medina.
I like to say that I am good with directions, but this time I was baffled.
Then it rained.
We huddled under Geri’s umbrella.
It poured for some time, and then stopped abruptly.
We hesitantly moved away from the umbrella, thinking the weather was playing tricks with our minds.
But it wasn’t.
We walk a little more.
Slipped a little on the cobblestone.
Splashed in some muddy puddles.
We passed some mattress, mirror and chandelier shops.
We saw our reflection in the shop windows.
And like a corn maze, it’s not so much of your directional intelligence that will get you out.
We were led by our intuition (and cooperation), which led us out of the medina, one street down from where we started.
We just took the long route.
Today is Sunday, the day before we leave to travel south for a week.
Today is also the presidential election.
Somehow I can only predict that Ben Ali will still stay in power.
Last election, several years ago, 99.6% Tunisians voted for him.
He has been president since 1987 and I assume he will for many more years ahead.
As for now, I am still recovering from my nasty cold.
I still have the coughs and am home alone.
Every time I cough, Bianco barks from downstairs.
Well, I’m not completely home alone.