January 24, 2009

Tunisia 02: The Souk

Tea outside a hammam (the stripes tell you it's a bath house).

The metal-working district of the souk. The din of hammering is overwhelming and there are huge amounts of chemicals being spilled around without a thought to environmental or personal health.

Each street has only one "charbon" dealer and it was always a robed and bearded devout. He sits peacefully, waiting until one of the endlessly-toiling metal-workers comes to pay for another bag of charcoal. The transaction is a display of power, with the worker having to offer compliments and platitudes and the charcoal merchant eventually, reluctantly, rising to fetch a pre-weighed sack from his stores and toss it onto the street. The "customer" picks it up and, with repeated thanks and little bows, backs away to return to his forge. In the photo Keith is trying to understand the roots of the monopoly. Turns out it's just as it looks.

Views of the souk, away from the tourist shops.

In the hat-making district we are shown how the classic fez starts off as a white knit touque, familiar to any Canadian. It is shrunk and made stiff by brushing and ironing, kept to a certain size by a terra-cotta form. When properly shaped, it will be ironed and dyed either black ("Libyan style" with a little knob in the center of the crown) or Tunisian red ("the colour of our independence").

January 17, 2009

Tunisia 01

A friend we met in Tunisia recently wrote asking why there were no photos on this blog of our time spent there. It is an excellent question, and one that can be expanded to ask "why no photos of Firenze? Or of Tuscany? Or Sardegna? Napoli? Sicily? Well, the easy answer would be something like "we didn't take any" or "we hate those places", but of course both of those are demonstrably, egregiously, parsimoniously false. In fact, it is because we loved all those places so much that we ended up with over 10,000 photos from our trip and our intentions to blog them just kind of collapsed under their weight in kilobytes.

"But," you cleverly point out in rebuttal, "get off yer ass you lazy monkeys." Well said, although we find your use of the colloquial "yer" repellent and citrus-scented.

To meet the semi-fictional demand, we will now start posting photos and stories from our time in Tunisia and other
neglected locations even though the order in which they appear may be both illogical and incorrect, temporally speaking. Here is the down payment on that usurious promise.

The Grand Mosque, Tunis. The mix of architecture throughout the Mediterranean region is one of its delights.

Entrance to the Grand Mosque, Tunis.

Shoe shiner outside Tunis train station. You might think that those exotic colours would be for women's shoes, but that is not necessarily the case in Tunisia. The fine, strong feet of both sexes were shod in leather shoes of all fey shades. On a related topic, in every restaurant we entered, even those described in the guides as having "masculine atmosphere", the only kind of wine we saw being consumed was rosé. Just saying.

An entrance to the Tunis souk. One of many. More photos from within the souk in the next posts.

January 13, 2009

Standing Rib Roast

Aya rubbed a big rib roast with rosemary, garlic and olive oil last night and threw it in the oven. It came out beautifully. We had never carved a rib roast before and in all the excitement we forgot to take any photos. But you can bet it was soft and red inside and that the drippings were used to make the most amazing Yorkshire puddings. The ribs came off in one slice and were gnawed on happily. It was a gorgeous feast, made even more so by the inclusion of this delicious Amarone by our treasured dinner guest. Long cherry and leather flavours, with all kinds of aromas as it opened up more and more. Plum skins, raisins (a sign of a successful Amarone), roasty-cinnamon-spice... it was all there.

And speaking of wine, we had an unusual sensation on Saturday night. We had a bottle of Sandhill's Small Lots Petit Verdot 2005 and it was excellent, full and fruity, lots of black currant flavour and a long, long finish. We had heard the word "chewy" used to describe a wine, but always thought it was one of those ridiculous words that reeks of pomposity. The feel of this wine instantly popped that word into our heads, however, and we laughed as we realized it was the perfect description of the sensation. A little poking around (well, one quick Google search) revealed more references and definitions of this term.

For the record, Aya made her first classic tourtière, with all the heady spices (she also made a bunch of small ones in tartlet tins for afternoon munching).

January 11, 2009

Ten Years Ago Everything Changed Forever

Saturday night just after 8pm marked the tenth anniversary of Aya's accident. It is human nature to regard the number ten as having some significance, and indeed it almost feels like a signpost or an official stamp. It's as though our inner experience has come into line with an external one, as though a notification came from some obscure government office saying now that this much time has passed, we are free to wrap up the experience in a box and move it to another section of our mental storage facilities, somewhere in the back, preferably under a leaky pipe that will rot the cardboard.

There have been countless times in the past ten years when Aya and I were discussing some issue of our lives and we came to the realization that the accident changed everything forever for us. There is no way around it. At the instant the car struck her our lives veered onto a course we could not imagine. We still went through our expected developments as people and as a couple, but every tiny detail was always coloured or stressed or affected in some way by the accident or its complex results. Aya's injuries obviously had clear effects. Her recovery from them, with its lasting limitations, were revealed slowly over time. The stress of the four and a half years of the settlement case with the insurance company certainly influenced things, often in very surprising ways. Even now there isn't a day that isn't influenced in some way by either the physical or mental results of the accident.

However, it has been ten years and Aya has shown all the determination and strength that makes her who she is. Here she is last September, doing half squats with 67.5kg. A lot of good people extended themselves to support and encourage Aya when she was in the hospital and during the many difficult times afterward. We know that things would have been much more difficult without those people and their efforts. We thank you deeply and hope you know how much your generosity has meant to us.

Some more images from the past ten years.
Warning: they are sad.

Two CT scan animations of her leg (
January 2002, three years after). The post that was inserted is clearly visible in both, providing support for all the bits.



January 8, 2009

Ab-Wheel Rollouts

A friend on the Strong Lifts forum expressed interest in getting one of these to add abdominal and core work to his 5x5 program.
They seem to be riotously expensive where he lives and ridiculously cheap here, so we packaged one up and sent it to him for far less than what it would cost him. Such are the vague uncertainties of the global economy. He'll have it in a week or two, and then he'll be crippled with pain for weeks. That's the Internet for you; now you can reach out across the globe and cause a complete stranger to self-inflict tremendous pain on a daily basis. All the best to you Beppe! Start slowly and you'll soon be doing them like Vasko here.

I'm getting back into them after a long absence, so my form isn't like Vasko's. I'm doing them from a standing position (knees bent a bit) and rolling out to almost full extension now. Beppe is a strong man, so I've got to keep at it if I want to stay ahead of him. He also lives in Piedmont, which is the home of the amazing barolo chinato, a bottle of which we bought in Lucca in 2006. Through strict rationing, we have a little left still. Incredible. Hopefully we'll get to open a bottle with Beppe some day.

January 6, 2009

The View From Here

Anyone considering a move to Vancouver because of the temperate climate should consider the following view from our front window.
And the back.That's supposedly our car, somewhere under there.
The good news is that rain has finally arrived and we may be at the beginning of the end of this nonsense.

January 4, 2009

Tallest Ever

This morning we decided to make our regular style of cappuccinos after having had them with egg nog over the holidays. Because it had been a while since I'd made Aya a tall foam hat on her capp, I shook the hot milk in a jar extra long and spooned the resulting foam high, higher, highest ever. Aya's squeals were just what I had hoped for. But in the middle of the usual celebrations (continued squealing, tickling, hiding behind me and pointing at the coffees), the bread machine on the counter went "beep!" and started shaking its fat booty. The cappuccinos beside it immediately joined in the funky rhythm of the bread machine's gyrations, coffee sloshing gently in the cups and the foam towers trying to keep up, one step behind. Dancing cappuccinos! Technically they were too cute to drink, but we managed.
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