Saturday, January 17, 2015

Tunisia: A Retrospect

As my I was counting down my days in Tunisia, I couldn't help but to feel a little nostalgic and think of all the things that has happened during my stay. Three years has passed without us noticing. Time sure flies when you are reminiscing the olden days, but I do assure you that there are moments that seems to last an entire eternity and I would do anything to get out of it quickly.

From the moment I decided to go, I knew life wan't going to be easy. My training will be delayed, and adapting in a country 16 hours flight away from home which language I don't speak is intimidating. But at least, we are together. So I was pleasantly surprised of how easily we settled in the first time we arrived. People are friendly (sometimes too friendly it makes me uncomfortable :p) and helpful, we had fun (people in Manzel Chaker staff house. You know who you are), and despite some mishaps that I have told you, I really enjoyed my time here. I think Mr. Hubby's positively cheerful persona has helped the adaptation as well. He taught me how to be patient and found a funny side in every situation.

And then, we got pregnant! Boy oh boy how things changed. I have to be out of the field, so we decided that it would be good for me if I accept an office assignment in Tunis. Mr. Hubby stays in Sfax though, so the first two trimester of the pregnancy was spent as us being a week end couple. It was not easy, but I learnt how to make "TAHU", and dealing with first trimester inconvenience.

I still thought that giving birth in Tunisia is not an option, though. Simply because neither me nor Mr. Hubby speaks a very fluent French or Arabic and if God forbid there is any medical complication with the delivery process, I want to be able to fully understand what is going on in order to take the right decision. So I went back to Indonesia at the end of my 7th month, and we started our real long distance relationship. It was really nice to be surrounded by your family during the last stages pregnancy and when the baby was born, but I sure miss him and he missed us for sure. There was time when I told him that littleM was laughing for the first time and he told me how sad he was because he missed her milestones. It broke my heart to hear him saying that. Now I know how it's like to have a long distance marriage. It was not nice.

When I decided to go to Tunisia, I new my career will be delayed. Little did I now that I was really going to push a "PAUSE" button during my stay here. Having littleM has made me re-scale my priorities. People who knows me for a long time knows that I am a sharp tongued feminist who simply refuse to stop working and stay at home as a house wife. But when littleM came along, I realized I wanted to do the best thing for her that I can afford. For me, that means an exclusive 6 months breastfeeding and taking care of her myself. So I took an extra 6 months off from my already 6 months maternity leave. 1 year off work. Fun, eh?

The 6 months of post maternity leave period is when I become a stay at home mom, with only Mr. Hubby as a bread winner. This arrogant girl has to push down her ego when there are something financial that she needs, I learnt to really taking care of littleM alone when he is out to the field, now I can relate to other oilfield wives. I learnt to be mom and dad, how to pay the bills here, how to still look hot with no makeup and baby puke on my shirt (at least according to Mr. Hubby I am :D), how to live with no English speaking neighbors, how to deal with loneliness, I learnt to toughen up.

As the post maternity leave period is coming to and end, we have to get an addition to the family member: A nounou, babysitter. Enter: Mme Samia. A lady who has been working with the blues expat for quite sometime. I remember the first time I left the house for work, littleM was crying, and I remember myself crying in the car. Good thing that Mr. Hubby was there to comfort me. He was my pillar of stone. And so the era of working mom started for me: pumping milk supply in the office, preparing for littleM's meal for the day, cooking dinner after work, all that drill. Now I know how it's like to be a working mom. And I am so thankful that Mme Samia is not only capable of taking care of littleM when I was at work, littleM also loves her. So I know I made the right decision.

Looking back, Tunisia has shown me so many things I didn't know I was capable of doing. It put us as a family in so many different scenarios available, we can relate to those families now. Week-end family? Check. Long Distance Marriage? Check. House wife living in small town and no English speaking - let alone Bahasa Indonesia speaking neighbors? Check. Working Mom? Check. I don't know if we are going to face any of those situations if we decided not to stay here.

We learnt how to appreciate the small pleasures we can get in this small town. Making our own picnic in the back yard on summer time, the small ice cream parlor we go to every week end, the sinfully delicious millefeuile cake from our favorite pastry shop, or even the times when the three of us just goofing around in bed Sunday mornings. We created our little heaven, our little haven.

On cooking skill, I wouldn't know how to cook artichoke, fennel, or chard if I don't come here. I never knew how to properly cook a couscous before I come here, or that extracting the seeds of a pomegranate can be a therapeutic thing (bashing the fruit half with a wooden spoon until all the seeds come out is good to release unspoken anger :p). I will leave Tunisia remembering the deliciously sweet and juicy fruits it produces (the best watermelon, pomegranate, melon, and oranges I have ever had), brik, hout mellah with charmoula, zgougou, tajine, couscous, and I am sure Mr. Hubby will always remember the awesome grilled lamb he had in the desert. We will sure miss them.

Life in Tunisia is not always easy. But if anything, it has made us stronger as a couple. We learnt to support each other, talk, and most importantly listen to each other - even when we are apart. We learnt how it feels like to be separated from each other, and how it will affect us. We know now, more than before, what loneliness can do to people. To a relationship. To a family. And I hope that God always protects our little family from any of that harm.

So yes, from professional point of view it may seems like I am delayed, stuck even. But with all the things that we have been through, I feel like I have made a lot of achievements as a person, as a woman, as a wife, as a mother. I have grown a lot. It was a time well spent.

So thank you, Tunisia, for the hospitality, friendship, quirky attitudes, the beautiful pictures, and all the experiences we gained. We arrive as a couple of two, and leave as a family of three. We are opening a new chapter now, down in West Africa. Helo, Gabon!! :)

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