It had now been a week since I have moved in with my host family. I am living in La Marsa, which is a suburb of Tunis and about a five minute taxi ride from the SIT study center where I take classes.
My family consists of my mother whom I call “mama,” one of the Arabic words for mother. I have a host father who I call “baba,” one of the Arabic words for father, and two host siblings who live in the house. My host brother who lives with us is 29 and his name is Hichem. He speaks some English and works at a bank in the Carthage airport. He told me he is very lucky to have a job right now because of the current economic situation in Tunisia.
During the revolution in 2011, many youth called for economic reforms. Tunisia is still struggling with ways to improve its economy and the unemployment rate is roughly 15%, yet it is 35% for youth. This means every two out of five young Tunisians is unemployed.
My host sister Imeni falls into this category. She is 23 years old and studied the culinary arts in college. While she was working as a baker in a hotel before, she is currently out of a job. She is also recently engaged and everyone is very excited about it. Weddings are a VERY VERY big deal in Tunisia. Weddings are usually seven days long and are very rich in tradition. I hope I will get to see one before I leave. My host sister’s wedding is not until two more years since she and her fiance are waiting to move into the home of her fiance’s parents, but there are currently too many people living there. Or at least that is what I understood using my limited French and Arabic.
I also have two other host brother’s who live nearby. One is named Amer who lives with his wife, Rim and their two daughters Linda and Lina. Linda is five and Lina is four and they are both adorable. Amer and his family come over almost every night for dinner. Amer speaks English and when I told him I was studying the revolution in Tunisia, he said he was excited to talk about the history of Tunisia with me and the current political situation. I have been learning a lot about Bourgiba and Ben Ali and will post about that soon.
The other brother is named Iness and lives in La Marsa as well with his wife and son who is seven and very into Spiderman.
There is always something going on at my house, we have various family members over every night. While I enjoy all the excitement, it is a bit tiring to listen to Arabic for four hours straight. But I can tell my Arabic and my French too are improving daily. I’m looking forward to building my vocabulary so I can communicate more with my family.
I have been trying to offer to help around the house and the other night my host mother let me help her cooks. She was making a traditional Tunisian dish called brik. Brik is fried dough filled with an egg, tuna and parsley. My most mother served it with french fires and a rice dish with olives and of course bread! Bread is served at every meal and is usually a baguette. Tunisian food is a mix of Mediterranean cuisines and has a large Italian and French influence.
I have been bonding with my host sister over baked goods! Last night she asked me to bake a cake with her. It had a chocolate ganache frosting and the cake itself was vanilla. It was a fun process, even if we did burn the cake a bit because we forgot about it! I’m looking forward to spending more time with her.
I don’t have a picture of the final product since my host sister was disappointed with how it turned out and didn’t want me to take a picture of it. Although Imeni didn’t think it was perfect, it tasted delicious! And of course I was served a huge piece of it for breakfast.
I told my host family I wanted to bake something American for them. I was thinking pancakes because that is easy enough that I can’t mess up!
Until next time,