Football in Tunisia and growing my hair
Time passes no matter what
"Time flies when you're having fun" they say. However it also flies when you're busy and stressed. In either case time passes and it appears to be a one way direction.
I've been thinking about time, while wondering if time might simply be the most valuable commodity we have in our lives? Time simply slips away between our fingers like sand at a beach. As a matter of fact you have less time now then when you started reading this entry! ;) If we continue that thought and assess that time is the most important commodity we have then we should be cautious with what we do with it. We should spend our time wisely. Something else I thought about was this: "When you travel you see, and when you've seen enough you can compare - and eventually you also learn". That appears truthful to me. My base for comparison has now passed 170,000 km (110,000 mi) of unbroken travel across 129 nations. My eyes have long ago developed a kind of "filter" which enables me to see some of the realities of a country quite rapidly. I guess it's a bit like interviewing a lot of people. Eventually you do not need to interview anyone for long before you have a good fix on who they are.
I feel older than what my birth certificate says I am. Much older. I pretty much always feel tired and I really do want to go home. However I don't want to go home without completing the Saga. Something perhaps only a few of you know is that when I entered Africa back in April 2015 I decided not to cut my hair until I reached the last country within the continent. Algeria is supposed to be that last country and Algeria borders Tunisia. Oh how I look forward to having this hair cut off!! However the Algerian visa is notoriously difficult to obtain in any other country than the one you reside within. I honestly thought that the "African adventure" wouldn't take much more than a year to complete. You live - you learn. Thank you bureaucracy for teaching me a valuable lesson.
Football! It's that game you play with your feet which the US Americans call soccer. They do that because they already have a game they call football and play with their hands? Oh USA :) Anyway, I reached Tunisia on June 3rd and the following day I met Aymen who pretty much introduced himself as a mutual friend of "Ben" (whom I knew from Djibouti). Within that same day Aymen invited me to the Olympic Stadium for a game scheduled between Club Africain and Union Sportive de Ben Guerdane on June 17th. I'm no huge football fan although I do enjoy a great atmosphere but in this case I pretty much figured I'd be long gone from Tunisia by June 17th. So, June 17th was last week and now we know that I was wrong. I'm still in Tunisia with Libya to the east and Algeria to the west. Anyway, the story is that Aymen is a super fan which doesn't really distinguish him from any other Tunisian. Club Africain is a capital based team and it was the final game. Aymen was exited to have me along and I was curious to see what it was all about.
Heading to the finals with Aymen and friends :)
The Olympic Stadium was built in 2001 for the Mediterranean Games. It can hold 60,000 spectators however since the "revolution" the government limits its use to 40,000 people for security reasons. Aymen and his friends were confident that I would witness his team win the Tunisian League that night. Sure enough only two minutes passed before they were in the lead 1 - 0 against Union Sportive de Ben Guerdane. Under the relentless heat and during the Ramadan, Club Africain kept that lead and won. The players were mostly excepted from fasting as all but one hydrated themselves several times during the game.
Interesting thought: the Saga is now followed by more people than what you can see in this photo.
The 40,000 spectators at the Olympic Stadium complained a lot about the game being played during the early afternoon hours (3:30pm). However what can you do when the country's 90 year old president has decided to attend? Not much...you simply have to follow suit. I was told that the game could not be played at night due to security concerns for the president. I was really hot! And the stench of the breath of several tens of thousands who had been fasting all day got to me a few times. The crowd was alive though and there was singing and dancing as you might aspect! Trust me: Tunis was alive all night after that!! Congratulations on becoming champions for the 12th time since you were founded in 1920 :)
Actually I've been feeling rather apathetic lately. Not constantly however more so when nothing else occupied my mind. As long as I have been involved in lively conversations then the feeling has been gone. However left to myself and on my own I have felt that hollow void inside me. It's been harder to stay motivated lately and then something happened! I received 2 minute voice recording from Tina in Zimbabwe. Tina hosted my fiancée and I last year while I was still in Southern Africa. She took good care of us then and apparently still takes good care of me now. The message told me a little about the rough conditions the Zim's are currently undergoing and then Tina mentioned that she read one of my recent blogs. She pretty much threatened me not to quit and told me how many people the Saga inspires. Tina also mentioned that no matter where I would be in life, I would have occasional challenges to deal with anyway. I'm paraphrasing here but I figure you get the drift. Tina's voice recording was wonderful and lifted some of the demons from my mind. I could even hear some Zimbabwean birds tweeting in the background. Gold!
Enjoying Iftar with Florian.
You might also remember that I met the half Danish half Moroccan journalist Florian last week? Florian and I met up about 4 times and had a great time each time. Our conversation stretched from politics, religion and philosophy and all the way to history, culture and relationships. Great conversations which certainly also lifted some demons off my mind. So all in all you never know exactly where the help you need might come from?
Hanging with "Ben" again 5 countries after I first met him.
Then "Ben" arrived. Mohammed "Ben" Ben-Braham is the country manager for Maersk Line in Djibouti and Somalia. We briefly met back then in the beginning of this year but stayed in contact ever since. He's a really solid guy and retuned home to Tunisia to celebrate the Eid with his family among other things. The Eid al fitr is a 3 day celebration at the end of the Ramadan and it is likely to begin on Sunday however that depends on someone's observation of the moon. Isn't religion funny like that? The Arabic world gave us advanced mathematics, philosophy, astronomy, arts, architecture and much more at a time while my countrymen were nearly still living in caves. The Arab world was enormously influential and even the very numbers we use today (0123456789) are Arabic. Yet to determine when the Ramadan will end Muslims still rely on an empirical observation? I know, I know...it's tradition...and traditions are important. However let's not pretend we can't calculate it for the next 1,000 years :)
Ups...I got side railed there. "Ben" arrived and quickly invited me to yet another football match at the Olympic Stadium. This time Club Africain were playing against a Moroccan team and the game took place at night. So, football in Tunisia is...eh...well...let's say: "Passionate". Another word I could use would be: "Wild". Tunisian hearts definitely beat for football and when Club Africain's supporters at the Olympic Stadium figured they were going to lose 0-1 to Morocco they lighted all their flairs which looked spectacular until they started flinging them towards the unfazed policemen.
Fans have since assured me that this was a calm game :)
The smoke filled the arena while three spectators kept blinding the Moroccan goalkeepers eyes with green laser beams. I figured they would cancel the game on account of the laser beam stuff which was quite obvious?! However it appeared to be perfectly normal? Wild! That's when Club Africain scored their first goal and the fans had no more flairs to celebrate with. In the final minute of the game they scored again securing the game 2-1 to Club Africain. Congratulations once again and let it be noted that I was present at two Club Africain games in which they won both. Coincidence? - I think not ;)
A lot of "steam" gets let out in this structure. It's a healthy thing for society ;)
Afterward "Ben" invited me to stay with him and his family for a few days in Nabeul. It's a costal city which was founded by the Greeks about 2,500 years ago and is famed for its pottery. In the landscape around Nabeul you can see olive tree farms, vineyards, clothing factories, aviation part factories and a gorgeous landscape which somehow reminded me of Spain. "Ben's" family is sweet as can be and food has not been scarce since I arrived. "Ben's" wife is pregnant with their 3rd child and therefore not fasting which means that along with their 2 young children there is plenty of food and drinks in sight. I still figure it must be hard for the fasting people to observe but at least I'm not alone in creating the temptation.
As the Ramadan is nearing its end I see people being a lot weaker that before. You hear it in people's voices and see it in their actions. A lot of stupid things go on and I'm a lot more prone to looking several times in all directions before crossing the road. I've referenced before that their is an optimal way and a less optimal way of going about the holy month of the Ramadan. I'm sure that everyone who is "doing it right" is getting along just fine.
Nabeul Medina is a lovely open space market.
However those who stay up all night overeating and still try to remain a full time job during the day appear to be desperate for that final observation of the moon :) Oh well, this isn't new to me... I figure this is the 6th or 7th Ramadan I get to witness. I maintain that the Ramadan is good for something though. One of the main objectives for those fasting is to discover hunger in order to relate to those less fortunate in life. It's a good thought.
This tree has been growing out of the pot for many years. It cracked about 25 years ago and was replaced but the tradition is much older :)
Tunisians are generally good people. I enjoy being here while it takes up a lot of my precious time. I could certainly be stuck in a worse place than this. There is a general sense of honesty and honor amongst Tunisians. I find that they will not promise something they cannot keep which makes life so much easier for me. The same cannot be said about all nationalities. You'll naturally find your "rotten tomatoes" in Tunisia too and often I find that people who work with tourists they never see again are prone to being less honest. However it isn't really representative of what I see most of in this country. No matter where you go just keep in mind that people are just people and trust your intuition :)
About two years ago I wrote the following which I pretty much still believe applies to today. I was in the Central African region back then and pretty much 5,000 km (3,100 mi) south of here:
Don't get me wrong. I love to travel. I love to encounter new cultures and expand my mind by sipping from a huge mug of new adventures. There is nothing like thinking you know something and then being proven completely wrong in your ignorance. It can be frustrating but eventually it is a beautiful flower which grows within your heart. Once you come to accept the new reality you feel richer and enlightened.
I FINALLY got my photo with Habib :)
That's all for now. If you feel like leaving a comment here below then please do :)
Mr. Torbjørn C. Pedersen (Thor) - tired, but not done!
"A stranger is a friend you've never met before"
Once Upon A Saga