Saturday, February 21, 2009

Where in the world?

So if you didn't know where Tunisia was before you looked at a map, don't sweat it. At first I was annoyed when no one in the states knew where I was going this semester. I'd say Tunisia and they'd either go "Where's that?" or "Indonesia?" No...not quite. When I told them it was an Arab country in North Africa, I was often asked very intelligent questions like "Will you have to wear a burka?" "Do you get to see giraffes on a Safari?" "Isn't there an AIDs epidemic there?" or "Watch out for terrorists." When I explained that Tunisia was a progressive country with a secular government on the Mediterranean (far away from the Serengeti), they were skeptical. When I explained the country had significant European influence and flair and that it was a hop skip and a jump away from Sicily, they didn't even believe me. It was incredibly obnoxious.

Two and a half weeks later I was sitting in Coste, the cafe beneath SIT. One of the waiters there, S'leem (I don't really know how to transliterate it from Arabic, that's my best guess), loves serving my friends and I when we go in there. He asked us all where we were from. My friend Emily was then dubbed "Boston," my friend Lindsay nicknamed "New York," and then he came to me. Minneapolis, I told him. "Miami!" He replied. No, I explained. Minneapolis. It's in Minnesota. It's up north, a few states away from Chicago. It borders Canada. "By Montreal?" He asked. Not really. Not by Montreal at all. Sort of by Winnepeg, I suppose. I guess Winnepeg didn't ring a bell either. I got him to finally be able to say Minneapolis and left it at that. The next day we walked through the door at Coste and were greeted with "Boston! New York! Miami!" And I don't have the heart to tell S'leem he's off by almost the entire length of the country. 

We've become quite the commodity at Coste. S'leem always insists on serving us, gives us 50% off drinks, and tells me every day that I am beautiful. About 20 times per visit. Every day when he brings the check, it comes on a tray with a handful of wrapped candies. And every day he dumps the entire tray into my bag. The other day he asked me to marry him. I told him I didn't think my boyfriend would approve, but he's still persistent! My friends all give me a hard time about it, saying how great it is to get coffee at Coste with me because of the VIP treatment. The other day, a few of us were craving chocolate croissants but they aren't on the menu. Lindsay speaks French so she asked S'leem if Coste had pain au chocolate, the French term for chocolate croissants. His reply? "For you, no. For Miami? Of course!" Two minutes later we had a tray of chocolate croissants. We always get a plate of complimentary cookies with our coffee as well. When we ran out the other day, everyone joked that I should ask S'leem for another plate. Before I even got a chance to ask, he walked over, asked "Encore bisqui?" brought over another plate, and pushed it over to me. "For you, Miami," he winked. "No sharing."

So we all ended up with another plate of cookies!

I think we're a little spoiled at Coste because when we go to other cafes and actually have to pay full price for our coffee, don't get extra cookies and can't order stuff that isn't on the menu, it just isn't the same!

At the end of the day, however, I'm a little less judgmental of those Americans who are oblivious to Tunisia's existence. S'leem isn't the only Tunisian who has never heard of Minneapolis or Minnesota. Most people I've talked to here seem to know both coasts and Chicago, but anything beyond that is a mystery to them. I'll have to have my family send some pictures of snow and cold and ice rinks. Then maybe they'll understand.


  1. I knew where Tunisia was, you know I'm really good with world geography AND they made it to the World Cup a few years ago. So don't try and toss me into the "obnoxious" category lol. That explanation was hilarious... Montreal, Miami... he was spot on both times :P

  2. Hi!
    You sure seem to be having a great time! I'm enjoying your blog immensely but am having trouble posting comments