Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Winter in Tunisia - January 2003

I’ve been waiting to write this letter until I had something pertinent to
write about. Unfortunately, not much has been happening here. The big news
is all the rain – it’s rained for several weeks, at least a bit every day.
During the weekends, it’s rained practically the entire time. I’ve heard
that huge “lakes,” necessitating a drive of 10 km to reach the other
village, now divide villages that were once neighbors. People aren’t
complaining though, because there has been a shortage of rainfall for many
years. Those roads that are potholed are now filled pools of water. Those
that are unpaved (thank goodness, these are few in the capital city) are
masses of light-colored mud. Everything is greening up, signaling growth and
a rebirth that will make spring even more beautiful. I have heard that
ancient Roman sites such as the hilly region of Dougga are especially
beautiful when the wild flowers come out.

Although it’s a Mediterranean country, it gets cool enough to
warrant wearing a sweater and jacket. Unlike homes in Morocco, the average
home in Tunis has heating – especially nice on those windy, rainy days when
the temperature is 50° or even lower. Gosh, in Mali I didn’t even have a
spring jacket! In between the rain, the deep blue skies emerge, with sunrays
gently warming passersby.

Next week (exact date still not determined – awaiting moon
sighting results) will be the Aïd, the holy Muslim holiday commemorating the
event in which they believe Abraham was about to sacrifice Ishmael (the
Bible portrays Abraham sacrificing Isaac). Sheep are appearing everywhere,
herded in varying flock sizes to large areas such as the open field fairly
close to my house. While some are herding the sheep, buyers are selecting
just the right sheep and leading the rather reluctant sheep to the car. The
next challenge is to fit the sheep on top of or inside the vehicle. It all
reminds me somewhat of the large Christmas tree lots – except that these
“finds” have minds of their own!

There has been talk at school of a lot of upcoming changes. Have
you heard about the turmoil in Abidjan, the capital city of the Ivory Coast?
The African Development Bank had its headquarters there. Anyway, the bank
(with its over 1,000 families) was tired of all the turmoil and instability
of the country. They have decided to relocate the entire bank’s headquarters
to Tunis. Although we don’t know exact numbers, the school has been told to
expect over 100 new kids by the end of March. Right now the school has about
230 pupils, so adding 100 new kids would have a huge impact on the school!
The school board has approved the immediate construction of at least three
new classrooms, which should help somewhat. They also would like to push up
the planned construction of more facilities, but having the financial
commitment of this new bank would make things more assured and easier to
plan. I hope the Director gets some accurate enrollment projection before he
goes to the recruitment fair, otherwise it will be rather difficult to
determine what type of teachers (grade level, specialty) we need.

I’ve been trying to follow the news as diligently as I can.
Since I don’t have a TV, that means checking Internet news sites such as CNN
and BBC. The local government has affirmed its support to the American
community, saying that it would do all it could to ensure the safety of the
Embassy and American citizens living in Tunisia. Rioting or demonstrations
would not be tolerated. The American teachers (who married Tunisian men)
said that things remained very calm here during the Gulf War. I pray that it
stays that way. During that time, the families of American Embassy personnel
were sent back to the US for a few weeks, as a matter of procedure – not out
of any direct need. Because the school is quite international, the absence
of American students would not significantly impact the school population.
Should the worst happen, the school has evacuation insurance, so overseas
hires such as myself would be flown back to the US and continue to receive
some of our salary. So, if others are concerned for my safety and well
being, please assure them that Tunisia is basically a pro-Western, moderate,
stable country.

Until later,

Melissa Enderle

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