Friday, May 20, 2011

My Tunisian Adventure: Where It All Began

With family in tow, I moved to a small farm in Tunisia many years ago. There was no electricity so we paid for the electric company to install a line from half a mile away. There was no city water, but there was a good well, so we built a water tower (the city water finally came twenty years later). The house was mostly finished except for the painting, which we did ourselves over the next year. Although the plumbing for central heating had been installed, we didn’t get the radiators until the following year, so we used space heaters that first winter. We had blissfully hot water.

There was only a dirt road that could not be used during the rainy season because a car would get mired down in the mud. So we trudged through the mud for half a mile when we had to go out. As soon as the weather improved, we brought in truckloads of gravel and raked it over the road ourselves. And did I mention the lack of garbage service? Until today, I separate garbage into 1) burnable, 2) compost, and 3) all the rest, which gets taken to a garbage pick up a mile away. Despite all the bumps in the road (figuratively and literally) and the fact that we were on a pretty tight budget, we had everything we needed and were content. Home, sweet home.
From the outset I claimed one of the bedrooms as my work room where I set up sewing machine, ironing board, art supplies and table. I made just about everything but the furniture: wall art, kids’ clothes, sweaters, curtains, quilts, pillows, and sheets. Sheets? Yes, I found high quality cotton sheet fabric in lovely prints sold by the meter. They were a bit expensive, but very durable—in fact, I still have most of them and they are so soft to sleep upon during the hot summers. Looking back, the sense of being out in a wide-open space was marvelous, a luxury for someone from the city. A sign of the times, farmers have now put up fences and walls, in part due to rising theft in the region linked to corruption in the government and in law enforcement.

And, of course, animals were part of the menagerie. Sheep, rabbits, turkeys, chickens, and geese paraded through my life. I took up spinning and got my mom into spinning as well because I kept writing to her with questions for her spinner friend. And now I cherish my old spinning wheel (originally painted pink, and it still works) that came out of my grandparents lakeside cottage and that my mother had restored to its original beauty. Although I love to spin, I no longer do it because it is not high on my list of priorities. And because they require a good deal of attention, the animals are gone, except for a few dogs and cats. Sometimes I think about raising chickens again because the eggs and meat are exceptional, but chickens are rough on the garden which is high on my priority list.

Speaking of gardening and in the recycling category: notice the piles of cement irrigation pipes? They probably date from the 1950s. No longer useful because methods of irrigation have changed, some have found their way into my garden and have recently become containers for geraniums, which will fill out more in a couple of months.

         And ever since that monumental day when I moved to a small farm in a distant land, everyday has been an adventure.


Kahna said...

It is so interesting to read you! I'm very interested and curious about your perspective on things in Tunisia, esp. since you have created a world of your own on a small farm in Tunisia. Since I grew up there, I can never share that same outlook you have on your surroundings. You have always been exquisitely creative, not a dull moment in your life, you know how to give meaning to things even when they seem void of it... I hope to see you write your memoirs soon and have them published. The way you look at things is quite unique!

Carole Reid said...

Hi. You live in a very interesting country and your blog is interesting too. I look forward to reading about your adventures!

Tulsiana said...

This is beautiful, Nadia. The cement irrigation plant holders look Japanese to me...So lovely. Tu me manques!

MulticoloredPieces said...

Thanks Kahna, I count on your perspicacious comments.
Carol, I enjoy your work and your use of color is exhilarating! I'm so pleased I came across your blog.
Chère Tulsiana, perdue dans un bled perdu, tu me manques aussi. J'espère que tu visiteras souvent!


Anonymous said...

C'est fantastique de lire tes débuts en Tunisie... je me demandais comment, pourquoi, quand... J'aime ta capacité d'adaptation et le fait de vivre autrement en utilisant les moyens à disposition. J'ai aussi vécu à l'étranger (de la Suisse), Afrique centrale, Madagascar, Russie, Allemagne de l'Est, Irlande... chaque fois un nouveau défi et une joie immense de découvrir un autre mode de vie, d'autres intérêts et des peuples à découvrir. J'adore ton blog !