Thursday, September 30, 2010

Tunisian Studies Trip

Every year, the school participates in the Tunisian Studies Trip. It takes Herculean effort on the part of the trip coordinator and an enormous commitment from the teachers to make this event happen. There are, in fact, five trips - one for each of the grades 6 through 11. The sixes go to the nearby area of Cap Bon for three days. The elevens to the desert for a five-day open air camping experience in the Sahara. The grades in between are a gradual ramping up.

As a teacher, it brought home to me the fact that the school owns me. They can tell me, without consultation, that I shall leave my home, my family, my pets and work for twenty-four hours a day with other people's children who are away from home, some for the first time. I shall travel on buses with them, prepare and lead activities with them, eat with them, do bed checks on them, take calls in the night from them, and start the same again the next day. I shall pay for the care of whatever and whomever I leave behind. I shall not get time off in lieu. When the trip is over, I shall report for work the next day. It was sobering. It was exhausting. As an introvert, it took me fullly three weeks to get my energy back. At least I didn't end up sick as did many of my colleagues.

On the other hand, it was a free trip around a beautiful part of Tunisia, and I got to see lots of things I would have missed on my own.

I was with a group of 42 11-year-olds and five chaperones. For three days we toured the Cap Bon area just north of Tunis. This was Rome's breadbasket back in the day, and it is a beautiful area. I would like to go back some time. On my own.

Here are the highlights.

Day One: Tunis, Korbous (Qurbus) and Nabeul.
Korbous is a natural hotspring that surges out of a hill and mixes with the Mediterranean. The grade sixes make this stop every year, but the organizers never let the children swim. Enough of that, I said, so here we are.
Very hot water cascades into the first pool. You can almost touch the water in the second pool, but mostly people dangle their feet above it and take in the sulpher fumes.
Year six gets right into the swim with the locals. Can you see me?
Then back on the bus and off to check in to the hotel.  Sadly, our accommodation did not live up to its promise.
We were all put in "bungalows" or cabins on the periphery of the property - a choice for which I cannot blame the hotel management, but which made supervising students very difficult. The cabins had obviously not been part of the hotel's recent upgrades. My bathroom drain belched sewage gasses, so I had to keep the door closed in order to be able to sleep. One boy's ceiling leaked the night it rained right onto his bed. The pool was great, though, and the buffet was good.
My first pomegranate tree!
Day two, Punic (or Phoenician) Kerkouane.
Student sketching alter stones in Kerkouan museum.

This is but one shot of a dozen that I took at the Kerkouane excavation, which was made a world heritage site in 1985. All that is made of this rose coloured stone has to do with baths. Not the centralized baths of the Romans, but actual bathrooms in people's homes. It was simply amazing to see. This the Phoenicians had before the Romans, and the plumbing to support it. Even more astoundning was the fact that this whole village was only discovered in 1957 and is still only 75% excavated. What I thought was an L-shaped village is in fact a square. When they get the funding, they'll finish the remaining quarter.

Back on the bus, and on to Kalibia! (Qalibyah)

This is the fort at Kalibia. Built in Byzantine times, it served its original defense purpose as recently as WWII. Before the trip, he children had been set a small group task of writing skits that expressed their understanding of some aspect of ancient Tunisian history. They performed their skits from the ramparts of the fort, which was a powerful experience for all. (Sadly, I missed all but two because it became my duty to escort girls to the bathroom which was catercorner from the "stage". The photo does not do justice to the number of stairs!

Day Three: La Haouaria (Al Huwaryah) and home!
The falconry at La Haouaria was the most exciting part of the trip for our students. The name represents a linguistic evolution from the Latin Aquilaria, meaning Land of the Eagles. The area is part of the migration path for tens of thousands of raptors every year. There are over 150 falconers in the area who train sparrowhawks and peregrine falcons to hunt quail and partridge, and who vie for the title of Falconner of the Year at their annual festival. (Note: We actually had to split up at this point. A student developed violent food-poisoning or flu symptoms in the night and had to be taken to a clinic. One chaperone spent the night in a chair in the clinic. Another replaced her at breakfast time. This caused an extremely delayed start to the day so we could not all visit both the wind farm and the falconry. My bus got the falconry. Hooray!)

Given the speed of these birds and the simplicity of my camera, I was very pleased with this shot.

Come to papa!

No comments:

Post a Comment