February 11, 2010

The Words Escape Me

As much as I'm alone on this trip in Tunisia, I'm not alone enough.  I've got 29 other tourists with me, always popping into frame when I'm trying to take photos, a tour director, a tour guide, and a bus driver.  I haven't felt lonely at all, especially since everyone has done a good job of chatting me up and letting me join their tables at mealtime, an experience for me too reminiscent of my first days at Frank Dining Hall at Colgate, times I look back on both fondly and anxiously. So I'm particularly happy to return to my room alone at night, silent from the questions that I've been trying to answer and the French I've been trying to speak all day.

The Tunisians' French is much better than the Moroccans', probably because it's copulsory study for them in school, but it's nearly as necessary here since there isn't much English spoken. Unfortunately, that means that the buondaries of my French have been stretched beyond "à quelle heure est petit déjeuner?" and are forced into the territory of what I do for a living; zhther this is my first trip to Afrique, where I'm going next, etc.  I feel my French words disintegrating in my mouth, before they're even spoken, and it gets worse if I've had too much Tunisian rosé.

Our tour guide asked me how it was possible that my French pronunciation is so good, being from America, and although my answer was that I'd studied French for five years, I think the real reason is that as my vocabulary has dwindled over the yars since high school, my ability at executing the core elements of communication has sharpened over time, by watching French film, ordering French food and wine, and working with French classical music. It doesnùt mean I know what I'm saying.

I haven't had much meaningful conversation since I've been here, except with our tour guide, which explains why I'd mostly rather be alone.  How do you explain to a bunch of retired English tourists your desire to move to the desert and disappear into a simpler life?  They all complain about toilets, coffee buffets, beds, sinks, pillows, feet, sun and rain, and I'm just happy to be here. It's not a perfect trip -- excursion cancellations, varying food quality -- but I really have nothing to complain about.

I haven't thought much about my life back in New York, save for when it's good for conversation.  I'd rather not think about my uncertain professional future, or my certain personal future of being alone, jamais marriée.

We only have two full days left of our tour before we leave Tunis, and I'm already looking for a reason to stay longer. Avec qui? Pour quoi - faire quelques choses avec quelqu'un? Je ne sais pas.

For now, I'm just trying to keep enjoying myself. I've had a lot of reasons to smile since I arrived.

Forgive typos on AZERTY keyboard!

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