Tuesday, January 03, 2006

An Update from Melissa in Tunisia - Nov. 2002

As it has been a bit since my last travelogue email, I thought it would be
good to take a few moments to recount recent happenings and observations. I
am sitting out on my small balcony writing this, grateful that the
temperature is cooperative enough to enable me to be out here in my short
sleeves with comfort. Rains of the past months have greened up things quite
a bit, with grasses, crops, and weeds replacing the neutral color of bare

This morning, I took advantage of the beautiful weather and went for a
walk. My destination was some freshly plowed fields near the US Cemetery,
discovered yesterday as I went on the HASH walk/run. With Roman and other
ruins within sight, it would probably be a good time and place to find some
pottery fragments, mosaic pieces, and other small items tilled up by the
tractor. I ended up walking to a field plowed probably last week and then
rinsed by the weekend rain, which revealed many more items. Amidst the
rocks, weeds, and modern rubbish, were mosaic pieces and lots of pottery
fragments. Walking through yielded some finds, but would have seen more if I
had sat down and intensely viewed a small patch at a time. Looking at the
mosaic pieces made me wonder what beautiful design they must have belonged
to at one time, and what building floor it must have decorated. One of the
HASH people said that just 10 years ago, the nearby Roman aqueduct and water
storage facilities were all covered up, with only holes sticking through the
surface. Now they are a vast excavated area. Just how much more is lying
beneath our feet?

Things are progressing quite well at school. We just finished three
afternoons of parent-teacher conferences. A number of parents actually
visited me, indicating their concern and support for their child's
education. Last Sunday we arrived back in Tunis from the MAIS (Mediterranean
Area International Schools) teacher's convention, held in Rome from the
7-9th of November. Here, I had the opportunity to network with some other
computer technology people, attend some sessions, sneak in a few sights, and
eat some wonderful food. During one of the evenings, we were given a tour of
the palatial home belonging to one of the families attending an American
school in Rome. The designs and imagery created in different colors/types of
marble made the floors equally as impressive as the huge painting
collection, antique furniture, or the painted walls and ceilings. Determined
to see the Sistine Chapel, I was one of the first ones to enter one morning.
With the room nearly empty, I had the whole floor to myself. Although I
recognized most of the frescoes, things were different than how I had
envisioned it from my art history book. Having just come from the family
palace, I expected the room to be a bit larger. The vivid colors were
certainly brighter than those in the book. Seeing the juxtaposition of the
scenes truly demonstrated the careful thought and compositional planning
that had to have occurred in order to achieve such unity. I had a bit of
time on Sunday morning to see a few more sites, but will definitely have to
return another time when I can devote all my time to what this splendid city
has to offer. Only an hour away by plane, this should definitely be a

The first week of November also brought in the Muslim holy month of
Ramadan. Prior to the anticipated lunar sighting, families hastily shopped
to stock up on groceries and other items. The full stores and packed carts
reminded me of a Walmart on the day after Thanksgiving, when early shoppers
stampede the store to get the bargains. Fasting from sun-up to sun-down,
families rush home to prepare and share the big meals with extended family.
Celebration and visiting happens late into the night, with those wanting
breakfast getting up and finishing before the sunrise. Stores, businesses
and restaurants often adopt different hours - closing during the afternoon
and perhaps opening up after sunset. Traffic patterns also change. We have
been warned to avoid being out on the road around the time of sunset. At
this time, locals race to get home, sometimes even ignoring stoplights. I'm
sure the statistics of automobile/pedestrian accidents during this month
(although not published) would be quite telling. I will have to say though,
shopping at Carrefour (the large French store) which keeps its normal hours,
was certainly a most pleasurable experience, meandering through the aisles
with hardly another customer in sight...

I try to keep informed about recent news events through BBC.com and
CNN.com and other news internet sites. The US Embassy has just moved in to
its new building - right across the road from our school. Hopefully this
move will mean increased protection and safety for us. Taking into
consideration the worldwide heightened alert, the director, school board,
and some embassy personnel are taking a closer look at safety of the school.
Physical changes and practices will be made in order to assure the safety of
all at school.

If you haven't already, please take a look at some of the photos of Tunisia
I have placed on my website: http://homepage.mac.com/melissaenderle/

A Bientot!


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