Well, I wanted an adventure, and that’s exactly what I got.
Tunis is a bustling city where people speak a strain of French I can hardly understand. As it turns out, the natives seem to have a hard time understanding the textbook French that I speak. So I guess we’re even.
Luckily my three thesis advisees met me at the airport. They made it easy for me to activate my cellphone and exchange my dollars for dinars. I also befriended a local at a pizza shop near my hotel. We traded numbers and he offered to help me find a place to live. So we will likely stay in touch. But I’m not sure I will pay another visit to the pizzeria. (What possessed me to get Italian food in an Arab country anyway?)
My trip from the U.S. could have been better. I had to change planes in Orlando to catch a flight to London. But the ticket agent told me that the airline would not allow me to board my plane to Tunis because my 7-month stay in Tunisia was too long for them to fly me there without a visa. There was a good reason I didn’t have a visa. The guy at the U.S. Embassy in Tunis told me that I couldn’t get one until after I actually arrived! The ticket agent wasn’t moved. I was able to resolve the matter only by purchasing a (fully refundable) ticket for a trip out of Tunis at the end of February. That way I could pretend to be making a short trip that did not require a visa. Guess what I’m doing later tonight.
The worst part of my adventure came compliments of U.S. Airways. (Doesn’t it always?) I flew them on the first leg of my trip from Philadelphia to Orlando. They had over two hours to get my bags to British Airways in time for my flight out of Orlando to London. That never happened. So I’m here in Tunis with no clothes other than the ones on my back. The lady at the customer service desk took about 30 minutes to process my lost baggage claim and told me that the next step was for me to wait for a call. Classes start in a week. Let’s hope I don’t have to wait any longer than that.