Sunday, June 17, 2012

What Happens in Sidi Bou Said Stays in Sidi Bou Said: Meredith in Hammamet

2012 06 17
Hammamet, Tunisia

 36 22.39 N
010 32.75E

View From Our Cockpit in Hammamet
Sidi Bou Said Is Well Known for Its Doors
Here is One, well two actually
You are going to read some stuff in later articles about Sidi Bou Said.  I am publishing it because it happened.  Pretty much exactly as it  happened, except if I could change a detail to make myself look better or tell a better joke.  That said we do not want anyone taking away the idea that we are anything but impressed beyond measure with Tunisia.

Our arrival at Hammamet was effortless.  We emailed a request for reservation which was replied to immediately.  As we came in the entrance a man in a dinghy led us to our slip and helped with tying up.  He then took our papers to the office and got our entry card for us.  Finding out we would like wifi he returned to the office, a fair hike, and returned with the necessary card.

Wifi here is the best wifi we have had anywhere in Europe.

Our Anchorage Last Night at Cap Bon
For the record Sidi Bou Said, for all its troubles, had the second best wifi we have had in Europe.  Tunisia is a third world country but they have Spain and Portugal to shame in communications both internet and blackberry.

Here is why we would hate for anyone to take only bad thoughts away about Tunisia: we love it here.   What you read about in the next few posts happened in Sidi Bou Said and are, we believe limited to Sidi Bou Said.  These things do not happen in Hammamet.

Also we would not want to hurt the feelings of the people of Tunisia we have already met.

This is written just minutes after we tied up in Hammamet Yasmine Marina.  Normally a ten minute process this time it required almost an hour.  Our neighbour to the West it turns out is a Human Rights Avocat (lawyer to the Americans).  Imagine being a Human Rights Avocat in a new democracy such as Tunisia.  Before the change of government the man was an enemy of the state.

In the brief hour, while we tied up our boat, we were fast tracked through the Tunisian experience with democracy and it was a seat of the pants ride told by a man who rode shotgun on the whole affair.  He is most happy that his brother, an exiled militant until the regime change here, has been reunited with his family.  A more humane reasonable and unassuming man I have never met.

It was humbling and I do not humble easily.

The same is said for the people of Tunis whom we met on a tram, the best way to meet anyone.  If you want the real deal that is.  No showy BMWs in the driveway, no flitting about with time filling social projects, on the subway you meet people moving to and from work, school and medical care.  People doing everyday things and with everyday outlooks.

In our opinion Tunisia is outstanding for its people, their quiet intelligence, their obvious compassion and their humanity.

On the tram I had a marvellous chat with a high school student who wants to attend medical school.  She wondered about applying in Canada and I gave her the sad truth that our government has shut down most of the programs that allowed for training of out of country students.  I also explained that it was not the belief of the people of Canada that this should be so and that most of us thought training students from other countries was a very good idea and a way to form communication links that would benefit all our countries.

She understood when I explained that we had a hard line right wing religious fanatic for a prime minister and that she would have a difficult time getting medical training in my country.

However I offered to put her in touch with a Cuban Epidemiologist we know who also teaches at medical school.  Cuba has a more enlightened approach to medical training and she would get a good reception and good training there if she should pursue it.

People around us talked, they in broken English and we in broken French, about the curfew and relations between Canada and Tunisia.  It seems everyone in Tunisia has been to Montreal or has a close relative who has been.

So what happens in Sidi Bou Said stays in Sidi Bou Said.  It does not happen anywhere else in Tunisia.

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