Monday, April 25, 2011

Bieber Fever

(Written on 3/26/2011 from Monastir, Tunisia)

Images of Wedding Crashers flashed in my mind as Sarra and I waltzed up to a celebration in our jeans while everyone else was dressed to the nines.  Originally her intention was just to show me the venue where marriage papers are signed in Tunis, but as she was blessed with ‘the gift of gab’, she managed to snag me some Tunisian pastries and Baklava at a ceremony that was happening at the same time.

As we explained to each other our cultural traditions about marriage and weddings, she tried to convince me that she could ‘pick’ me a nice Tunisian man to marry – and that way I could stay here forever and become fluent in Arabic. J
When we stopped for lunch today on the way to her parent’s house a few hours away, I saw a gorgeous man – tall, dark and handsome with sunning green eyes.  In my mind I was thinking “pick him, pick him, pick him!”  And then he passed by me and said, “Excuse me.”  English?!  Bonus points!  Apparently after spending 3 weeks with Katie her standards for men have worn off on me.

Soaking my feet in the hot springs on the way to Monastir
After tours through beautiful cities on the coast of the Mediterranean we arrived at the Touzi house in Monastir just in time for a couscous dinner!  (My parents say I have perfect timing – always showing up when dinner is about to be served.)  I was greeted at the door with a serious sucker punch in the gut by Sarra’s 3 year old nephew – apparently he felt a threat to his food.

Sarra and 2 of her nephews
Sarra’s brother, sister and her husband and their 4 kids were over for dinner.  Meals are definitely a family affair – especially when mom has been slaving away all day on a delicious meal.

Sarra's mom preparing dinner

You already know what this is....

Sarra patiently and kindly translated for me while I stumbled through my few Arabic words over dinner.  Her family was clearly concerned that I wasn’t eating enough – obviously they didn’t know me 2 months ago (and 2 pant sizes ago).  They were nearly force feeding me the couscous which was cooked with peppers, garbanzo beans, carrots, yams and potatoes.  Not to mention Sarra’s mom had graciously prepared an entire bowl of tripe and intestines for me that wasn’t spicy (they know foreigners can’t handle the spice like Tunisians.)
Unfortunately, this being my first tripe experience since SA, I can fairly safely say I think the Zulu dish has ruined it for me.  Even though the Tunisian version is very well prepared and would have previously been delicious to me, the same taste from SA kept creeping up and reminding me of the ‘tripe of terror’ at 9 AM.  I’ve been scarred for life.
The only person defending me in not over-eating was Sarra’s 12 year old niece.  She said I didn’t need to gain kilos (back handed compliment?).  Other than that the language barrier kept us apart – until she realized I was from the States, and therefore had to know Just Bieber.  I started laughing…Bieber Fever in Tunisia.  She’s even taught his songs to her 3 year old brother (yes….the sucker puncher).
After Sarra told her the Beebs and I were neighbors, she was ALL about me.  I felt bad – like she would be hugely disappointed when Sarra tells her that Beebs isn’t my BFF.

My how U.S. pop culture has affected the entire world...that even a 12 year old girl in Tunisia is singing "baby, baby, baby oooooooh."  My question for you today - do you think this quick spread of Western (and more specifically U.S.) culture is bridging the gap between different cultures and creating more understanding?  Or is it creating a deeper rift between us?

The Touzi home

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