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Tunisia - economy and feelings about recent events


From: Melissa Enderle (melissaenderle_at_TeacherArtExchange)
Date: Sun Oct 20 2002 - 22:56:55 PDT

Dear Sidnie,
    Nice to hear from you again. As you said, there comes a time where, even
though you are enjoying a place, it's simply time to move on. For me, a big
attraction to overseas teaching is seeing and learning about new people and
places. I don't know how many years I can/want to do this, so I must take
advantage of each opportunity.
With the recent rumblings about Iraq and possible action, teachers have been
talking more about possible outcomes. After 9/11, people (locals) were very
sympathetic to the Americans and the terrible tragedy. Some even went up to
some of the teachers (simply walking along the street), apologizing for the
terrible actions. Those teachers here longer (there are a fair number who
have married Tunisian men) recalled sentiment during the Gulf War and the
ongoing Palestinian conflict. What I understood is that Tunisians are
against actions in which the US/UN is seen as the aggressor, especially when
there seems to be a sense of favoritism, as they see with Israel. Any action
against Iraq will need to be, after careful reflective and educated
deliberation, have its rationale and objectives explained to the world. In
November, the US embassy is moving right across from the school. Hopefully
that will make the school an even safer area. I do not have a TV, so I rely
on the internet (and issues from Time/Newsweek from several weeks ago) and
whatever discussion we have at school. The school has in place practices and
policies, in case the worst happens. The school also has evacuation
insurance, in the case that we as teachers would have to leave the country
for a period of time.
    The government wants to keep its pro-Western stance and improve its
trading capabilities with the EU, so they have issued many policies that are
encouraging. Radical extremists are neither welcomed or sanctioned. Women do
not have to wear the restrictive cover-up (it's actually forbidden) and
generally to a greater or lesser degree have equal rights with men. Those
living here for a long time expect the peace in Tunisia to continue and feel
(as I do) quite safe.
    Tunisian economy, in both the private and public sectors relies heavily
on tourism. Petrol and petroleum products account for 25% of Tunisia's
exports, but because they don't have a refinery, profits are less than that.
Other important exports include textiles and leather, fertilizers and
chemicals. About 50% of the land is cultivated, with main crops including
wheat, barley, maize, sorghum, dates, olives and oranges. Major industries
include the processing of ag produce and minerals, including olive oil,
textiles, foodstuffs, cement, steel and phosphate (Tunisia is the world's
6th largest producer of phosphate. Judging from the amount of construction
(road and buildings), that must also be a big employer. These are all
encouraging economic signs.
    As you said, Tunisia is a hot spot for tourists, especially Europeans
seeking relief from the "blas" in Europe. There are plenty of beaches,
relatively pleasant temperature, and less costs than in other Mediterranean
countries. Tunisia is small and, even on a day or week trip, you can travel
to the different parts of the country, seeing a vast variety of landscape,
people, crafts, etc. In contrast to Mali, the roads are excellent and there
are plenty of hotels which cater to the needs of tourists, not just those
who don't mind washing up in a bucket or sleeping on the roof. Plus, the
archaeological sites are incredibly fascinating. Travel to Tunisia from
Europe is easy and cheap - two things NOT present when traveling to Mali.
Even my parents are talking about coming to visit me - that never was even
mentioned when I was in Mali! So, Tunisia is a much more "doable"
destination than Mali, even though both have their intrinsic beauties.

    Keep up the questions. I love to share my experiences and what I've


On 10/14/02 1:38 AM, "Sidnie Miller" <> wrote:

> Hi Melissa, It sounds like you have really traded up from Mali. I'm Debbi
> Thiel's friend from Nevada. I have always enjoyed your reports,
> especially when I could hear Debbi's reports also. I think she has been
> in Mali long enough. She's lost her fascination with the place and people
> and different-ness (if that's a word) and is settling into how difficult
> it is to teach ESL to a small, one-room class. Tunisia sounds fabulous.
> Of course you made Mali sound that way also. What do people support
> themselves with besides olives and tourists? It sounds like a wonderful
> vacation place--possibly a good alternative to Med. ports on the north.
> Do you feel safe there?? Is there political unrest? Are the people
> muslim? I was wondering how all this war talk effects you. Debbi felt
> that all the other people in Mali (not U.S.) were very critical, even
> right after 9/11. Sid