In the United States it is possible to do almost anything local without planning ahead.  You can see a show, catch a flight to anywhere, and get any kind of food within two hours of deciding to do so.  Not all places in the world are like that.

This morning I told the woman at the reception desk of Hotel Jalta that I would like to rent a car, so she went and got the man who speaks English.  I told him I wanted to rent a car and he said “for right now, this morning?”  And I said “yes.”  “We will have to visit the agency to find if they have a car,” he told me.  “I can take you on my motorbike.”  Within a minute we were off into town to find a rental car for me.  One of my earliest memories is of my father nearly strangling my mother’s cousin Gene for having almost taken me for a ride on his motorcycle when I was either three or four years old.  I don’t know how Gene has lived as long as he has.  That was the last time I had sat on a bike with the motor running.  I felt relaxed as my host adeptly navigated the Bizerte traffic with my two-hundred pound bulk added to his conveyance’s burden.  Although I’m not sure what law there is on the roads here in Tunisia, everyone seems to agree that the best way to drive is to combine the sayings of: “get in where you fit in,” with: “take what you can and give nothing back.”  Most certainly my blue-jeans dusted a few bumpers on our route to six different rental agencies.  And after all of that, when my generous host had dropped me off at the Avis and it appeared they could accommodate my needs, my credit card was denied, so I walked back to the hotel.

I contemplated spending the rest of the day at the hotel, feeling a little defeated after all of that sewing and no harvest.  But then I remembered that I am from the United States; so I did what any American would do and hired a chauffeur to take me to Utica.  This turned out to be the best course of action after all as only someone like Han Solo would have success navigating the free-for-all streets here.  Passing a motorcycle while it is passing another car and there is oncoming traffic in view, needn’t alarm anyone to a state of caution.  There is a sign when you reach the drawbridge over the canal from the Mediterranean Sea to Lake Bizerte that has the silhouette of a donkey drawing a carriage behind it, I’m only saying.

Mahmud was a gem of a man and I really enjoyed having him with me.  He was valuable as a companion and also as someone who knows the culture of this place.  When we reached the outdoor museum for Utica, the gate was closed.  I am almost certain that had I arrived by myself and attempted entry that I would have been told by the guard to bugger myself first in French, and then in Arabic.  But Mahmud simply beeped the horn of his Volkswagen, had a quick word with the man at the gate, and in we drove.  Later, while walking the ruins of Utica, Mahmud stayed one step ahead of me to remove things which would otherwise have obstructed my view or kept me from getting proper photographs.  Utica was founded in 1101 BC.  At one point Mahmud lowered a bucket on a rope to retrieve water from one of the wells which is still in operation there, something I wouldn’t have thought to do.  He then called me over to show me how it worked.  The hospitality of Tunisians is tremendous.

Tomorrow I am flying to Athens where I will take a bus to Tirana.  I am looking forward to both of those prospects.  Thank you for reading, and do make a new friend this week.