One month ago, my eyes were glimmering: "I'm going to Tunisia so soon," they would have told you. "The birthplace of the Arab Spring; the focus of my studies; the place that may just set me free, and will teach me endlessly." One week ago, however, you could have traced some signals of concern. My eyes would have given me away: "I'm nervous." Four nights ago then, I arrived, but with a heavy stone or something in my stomach. The only thing my eyes could spell was "why?" and maybe that I'm feeling lonely. In Tunisia alone, never having a met a Tunisian that was still living here, and with a plan and project that had been easy to explain abroad, but seemed bizarre as soon as I was here.
And well, today? I push my way through crowded little market streets of the old city, like I have been living here for years. I wave of hustlers, but I also know that taking pictures is okay and smile at salesmen without worrying that they will force me in their store or that they, men, will have some sort of expectations. In the bigger city, I sometimes still get lost, but I am no longer afraid to ask people for directions. And if somebody is willing to start a conversation, then why not. I've learned from locals and from tourists and from expats. I've been to people's homes, and have accepted generous hospitality. A voice somewhere in my head says that I don't deserve all this; people are too kind and I don't have much to give. But in truth, I bring my culture and my own experience and story. And, well, sometimes you do not even need language to communicate all that.
Yes, even if I'm here for something like three months, I'm just a tourist -- a title I don't like, and which I aim to redefine while I am here -- but that's okay. It's all just about being genuine. Genuine on what I may or may not know, curiously asking questions, and being frank about intentions. I think ultimately any people in the world will respond positively then. Arriving somewhere new when you're alone can be intimidating, but it's good practice. Because no matter what, we ourselves will push us to meet people when we're lonely, and we ourselves will give us things to do when we feel bored. It's good to go to scary, unfamiliar, lonely places. They can teach us a whole lot we can't even expect. I will write about this more, maybe academically.
To sum this up: new places can be intimidating, especially when you're not there on business or for school or similarly. And yet, no matter what, you'll make it work. And as for me -- Tunisia, I think, just happens to be one of those places, where it's even easier to meet new friends and open hearts.