July 09, 2005

Small Victories

After a week in Tunis, I finally managed to find a plug adaptor, which means I can actually use the electrical devices I brought with me. This accomplishment feels like an immense linguistic success. I have basically been floundering around this country with a two-year-old’s grasp of the language, and I was quite pleased that I managed to get the thing I needed.

After several days of not seeing plug adaptors in any store windows, I looked up the Arabic word for it (muhawwilon, from the root hawala, meaning to change or be transformed) and started asking shopkeepers in my broken Arabic where they carried such a thing. They didn’t have it, but I asked where it could be found, and they suggested other streets where I should look. I figured out where those streets were, and went from shop to shop there looking. This process spanned several days.

Significantly, I finally found it the first day that I decided to go off on my own rather than sticking close to my group of fellow Americans. I had walked around enough to figure out that plenty of Tunisian women walk around downtown on their own, and I’m not going to attract any more attention as a single women than in a gaggle of foreigners. So I told the other kids I’d meet them at home, did my thing.

I finally located the holy grail. When the shopkeeper told me it cost one Tunisian dinar (about 75 cents) and I was so thrilled I didn’t even bother to haggle.

It turns out the Arabic word I learned was completely useless. Tunisians call it an adaptor americaine, and ultimately I only got the concept across by drawing a little diagram in my journal. But still, it’s something of a victory.


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