18 April 2010

Part Three: Africa Is The Fastest Route To Europe



Our plane touches down in the 72-degree warmth of inviting Tunisia. I had fallen asleep before take-off and slept soundly until just before landing. As the jet comes to stop, the five of us let out a collective cheer. We’re no longer in Dubai. This is a rag-tag bunch of foreigners, united in crisis and excited by adventure.

First there is Adam (nickname Andy because that’s what I called him the first day we were slobbing around the hotel). He’s a son of Oz living in London and working as a Sports Coordinator for nearly twenty schools. Built like a nuclear bomb shelter, he has taken the role of quiet enforcer.

Second, we’ve got Charlie (nickname Squirrel because she forages for food at every opportunity, constantly offering us suckers, candy, and Frosted Flakes). Living in South Africa but headed home to England for a wedding, her laugh is contagious and she keeps the energy levels up.

Next we have Emma (nickname Laura because that’s what Charlie thought her name was for several days). From London and living in London, she takes on 26 three and four-year-olds every day of the week, prompting her to label this trek “a piece of cake.” She’s got a sharp wit, and she was the first to frolic in the Tunis fountain. Good on ya!

Then there’s Dave (nickname Snap, Crackel, and Pop to identify his three distinct anger levels, which elevate without warning). Our resident Kiwi, he lives in London and works as a digital strategy consultant. He’s an absolute character, and you can’t help but wait with bated breath to hear the next great joke spew from his mouth.

Finally, there’s me - Kyle (nickname Plow because that’s Dave actively believed my name to be since, “you know, Americans name their kids really weird things like Stephanie”). He’s just happy to be getting to Europe, and fills every role of the typical American.

We managed to get Adam into the country despite strict VISA requirements, grabbed our bags, and got in a cab to see the city before moving onward to Spain. Our driver managed to get us to agree to some astronomical price since we weren’t quite sure of the exchange rate, then proceeded to offer us a “very nice three hours driving tour around Tunis for a very good deal.” We managed to resist.

Bags dropped, it was into the city to explore the Mosques, squares, and markets of this not-quite Cairo, more than Marrakech city. We wandered stalls, ran through fountains, and even managed to meet the real-life, self-proclaimed Tunisian “Tom” Cruise, who only works the market on the weekends since he is a college professor of Political Economics during the week. Some lamb kebob, kitschy souvenirs, and public arguments later, we’re whisked away by the same driver to get a move on back to Europe, no worse for wear. Somehow, our flight even manages to depart 20 minutes early. With things looking up, we can’t help but wonder what might go wrong next.

The real amazement is how well we get along. Charlie noted that she reckoned “anyone who met us would just think we’re a group of old friends on holiday” and I couldn’t agree more. It really is true that times of crisis bring people who were total strangers just 48 hours earlier so close together. Our personalities mesh, the inside jokes roll, and we each fill a unique roll that has transformed us from five disparate individuals into a genuine team of rag-tag go-getters. These will no doubt be friendships for lis. At the moment, however, we’re all just over the moon about the free coke we’re getting on the plane.

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