After landing in Tunisia, we met with SIT staff including Mounir, the Academic Director. Mounir happens to be the coolest person ever, but more on that later. We boarded a tour bus and left for Sidi Bou Said, a northern suburb of Tunis. Ironically, Sidi Bou Said was the picturesque Tunisian background I put on my computer before I left. Now I get to live there for orientation! All the buildings are blue and white and the city sits on top of a hill overlooking the Mediterranean. Our hotel only has 8 rooms and we take up all of them. Here's my door:
Adorable, right? I share the room with two other girls, Sara and Rachel. And when we wake up in the mornings we get to see THIS:
I'm basically in paradise.
After we dropped our stuff off at the hotel we got to explore a little bit. The town is surrounded by markets and shops and everyone wants to sell you SOMETHING---carpets, plates, stuffed animal camels, jewelry, the list goes on and on. And we're a little conspicuous walking around as a group of 20 something Americans so everyone tries to get us to buy something. We stopped at a sandwich shop a few blocks from our hotel for lunch. I got a chicken sandwich with harissa (a spicy pepper spread that Tunisians put on everything) and vegetables. They put french fries in it, too. When I went to pay I grabbed a bottled water as well and through a bout of miscommunication, all of the other SIT students and I realized that our sandwiches and drinks came to at least 5.5 TDs (Tunisian Dinars). We pulled out the 5 TD coin we were each given for lunch and they gave us our food anyway. We were the most business they had seen all day, though, so they didn't even seem to care. It reminded us to stop at the ATM, though.
After lunch we took a bus tour of the Tunis suburbs---Sidi Bou Said, Carthage, La Marsa, etc. Then we headed back to Sidi Bou Said to drink mint shai (shai is arabic for "tea") in the cafe connected to our hotel. It also happens to be a hookah bar and Mounir has promised to pass the hookah around with us later this week.
That evening we ate dinner in La Marsa at "the best pizza place in all of Tunis" according to Mounir. It WAS pretty good. And our bread came with harissa. No surprise there. I put some on my pizza, too. Tunisians eat it on everything, why can't I?
By the time we got back from dinner, we all wanted to sleep. I took a cold shower (still haven't been able to get hot water yet) and got ready for bed when a giant cockroach walked across our floor. Luckily I was in a room with two girls who aren't totally freaked by bugs. One actually happens to be the daughter of an entemologist. In fact, she even knew what kind of cockroach it was. Whatever it was, it was big and FAST. We spent 5 minutes straight trying to catch him in the lid of Rachel's deodorant but finally we did and we let him outside.
Exhausted, we curled up and went to bed.