Caledoniyya

Veni, Vidi, Verti

For the sake of diversity, I shall open with a question: is there any virtue in quittance?

I would counter yes – for often there is as much smarts and courage in leaving as there can be in staying.

And after 28 years, I am hoping that some of these elements have been nurtured effectively.

Which is why I cancelled school and purchased a one-way ticket back to Britain, checking out of the accommodation so fast that the hair-balls are still bollowing in the smoky, heat-trapping corridors.

With the dust and clamminess of the day freshly scrubbed away, clean clothes, the a.c. blasting an arctic chill and the muezzin gently calling outside the window, I look back on the day’s events with awe and trepidation.

Yesterday I enrolled; the day before, I touched down.

This morning I had my first class, while this afternoon I looked askance in horror at the alternative accommodation proposed to placate my qualms.

Impromptu decisions have never been my forte; snap-departures from countries even less so.

Yet with time I have become more sure about what I want, and what I do not.

I have come to recognize the signs that situations could develop negatively – or positively.

I know what is worth working for, waiting for – and what would be folly to pursue.

Sure, the accommodation was scrappy, hot, loud, smoke-filled and infested with toddler cats that were raiding resident’s shelves within minutes of arrival.

More concerning were the accounts of colleagues, some of which unfolded in my presence and left little to recounting.

Two Korean girls, on their second day, were shouted at by the residence supervisor to leave: payment had been taken and seemingly their welfare had been discarded, too.

After half an hour of confusion and shock, they were moved elsewhere in the building, taking their new concerns along with their suitcases.

Later that evening, having returned from our walk, another colleague was informed that she must pay the rent, now.

She informed the woman that she had paid, but been told receipts were not given.

The supervisor flicked through the pile of files and informed her again, she had not paid and that it must be sorted.

This morning, another student disclosed that while she had been recently moved into student accommodation on the assurance that she would receive (and pay the fee for!) a single room, several hours later she was joined by two strangers, making it a three-shared room.

And so it goes on.

As I packed my case to leave I wondered if I was not being hasty.

Then my colleague from the second tale came to my door-way and promptly burst into tears for the second time in as many days.

I concluded I was not.

Quite how I will explain my hasty departure to my Department is a quandary: as Solzhenitsyn quipped, ‘How can you expect a man who’s warm to understand one who’s cold?’.

It’s all in the experiencing.

Which brings us to my one regret: during my stay I had looked forward to conducting an anthropological study of the contemporary Jewish communities of North Africa.

The mere sight of the above synagogue is awe-striking: it is so grand, so bold and so… bling.

What I would give to see inside, let alone meet the community.

Nevertheless, there is a time for research and a time for preservation.

As my mother always intones: without your health, you have nothing.

Instinct tells me that leaving does not necessarily mean all is lost.

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This entry was posted on August 3, 2010 by in Africa, Culture, Travel, Tunisia and tagged , , , .
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