I wasn't planning on writing a blog entry today, but then the most amazing thing happened--I went to a World Cup qualifying game! Talk about a dream come true!! It was Tunisia versus Mozambique and we kicked butt, beating Mozambique 2-0. The game was such an experience. We took the almost half hour taxi ride there for less than 6 dollars and had this hilarious taxi driver from Italy who thought honking was a sign of friendship and honked at everyone--fellow drivers, pedestrians, cops...Once we got there, the tickets were actually free for women, which I very much appreciated. I also think it says a lot about the cultural shift in Tunisia, a country that is considered to be one of the most inclusive and publically equal cultures in the Middle East.
About 10 of us went to the game, decked out in mini Tunisian banners tied around our foreheads and waving plastic flags some little kids had handed to us. It was a great time to learn about subtle cultural differences--like how Tunisians dance to their national anthem, while we Americans stand stiffly and how they drink tea at the games, not beer. Everyone sitting around us was also very welcoming. They continuously offered us food, explained the chants, and exchanged high fives when we scored. It was just really fun to watch my favorite sport in a huge stadium with tons of fans, but even more meaningful to share in all of the nationalism and unity that football creates.
This evening has been spent studying Arabic. We have a bunch of homework to complete before Monday's classes and we're, of course, starting with the alphabet. I'm actually learning to write!! It's fun and the whole language seems a little less intimidating now that I'm learning to distinguish the different letters in written Arabic, knowing where one starts and another begins and the different sounds they make. My handwriting is so little-kid big though, taking up a few lines to feel like I've drawn all the details of the letter. The same book with the exercises even has throat exercises we're suppose to do to allow our throat to produce all the glottal stops! It's strenuous and definitely takes some humility to sit for what feels like forever trying to make a sound that just never comes out right.
And tomorrow we move to Sidi Bou Said to live with host families. Today, we had a lecture about family life, expectations and responsibilities in Tunisia. Of course, you can only talk about generalizations in a lecture like that, but it's gotten me anxious about what to expect...