شكراًَ

20 08 2008

To say that Tunisia was wonderful would be stating the obvious.

Highlights:

Getting there and back. A total of thirty hours spent in the airport and airplane. After several hours of delay in HK and Dubai, we finally caught our first glimpse of Africa via the lush-green Nile Valley in Egypt. The plane made a short stop in Tripoli, Libya, whose international airport was probably no bigger than many provincial airports in the Philippines, before finally landing in Tunis. The trip back was equally exhausting. And we encountered many many Filipinos on both ways. Below: Alexandria, northern Egypt.

Sidi Bou Said. White-and-blue Andalusian architecture, the Mediterranean, picturesque, romantic, very very hot in the summer afternoon. Below: Cafe des Delices.

Carthage. You have to use your imagination to picture the grandeur of the old Punic/Roman city. Nowadays, it is a neighborhood for the rich. Below: Carthage ruins at Antoninus Baths.

Medinas. The heart of any Tunisian city. The one in Tunis was less stressful than the more touristy but better-looking medina in Sousse (2 hours south). There is a street for touristy crafts (most were very interesting, a few were poorly made, and some were copied from Chinese and Thai designs) but most of the souks in the medina, the ones frequented by locals, sell products made in China (where else?). Mosques, minarets, ribats, kasbahs, baths, and cafes are given landmarks, and medinas are always very busy. Below: Sousse medina.

Trains. Stayed in La Goulette, a port city that is 15 minutes from all places I frequent. Riding alone the suburban train in the suffocating summer heat with a perennial crowd of Tunisians (especially the rowdy teens) was unforgettable. Equally memorable was the 3-hour train ride south to the Sahel where olive groves stretched for miles and miles. Below: Sousse train.

Food. Only ate couscous thrice (and two of those times were in the airplane!). Survived on very very filling tuna/chicken/seafood sandwiches. Buying food with limited French was always challenging. Fig juice was the best. Below: tuna sandwich with fig juice.

And the best thing about Tunisia…

Tunisians. So much like Filipinos, only less reserved. We met dozens of friendly Tunisians who greeted us either with a hello, bon jour, ni hao, konnichiwa and, in the case of some kids, karate/kung fu postures. We grew tired of explaining we were Filipinos, not Japanese, but whenever we did, they surprisingly gave a reaction of recognition. They know where the Philippines is! Someone mentioned Imelda, while another referred to Abu Sayyaf. We also met a fastfood (in the Tunisian sense) cashier who was a fan of Pinoy action films. Except for a couple or so rude/sneaky medina shopowners, all the Tunisians we met were unbelievably hospitable and welcoming.

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Couscous

7 08 2008

Saw the Cinemalaya shorts on Tuesday and after the excellent Andong, everything else was anticlimactic. Set in the dumps of Payatas, the short film about a boy wanting his own TV featured (adorably cute) non-actors. Unfortunately, Andong was the only funny entry among the ten shorts competing this year. Whatever happened to humor? Why so serious?

Meanwhile, the absurd, irreverent, gross and satirical Zohan is officially Adam Sandler’s best since 2002’s Punch-Drunk Love .

Finally, barring unforeseen catastrophes, starting this weekend, I will be here…