May 26, 2008
PORT EL KANTAOUI, Tunisia - In addition to a daily player blog, Sarah Holsinger, Cal women's basketball's director of operations, will write a daily blog for the duration of the Bears' Africa trip. Here's her first entry.
Hello everyone from Africa. I'm laying by the pool soaking up some rays. This place is really incredible. We had to be up early this morning to leave for our first outing. We took a bus for about an hour and 30 minutes to the city of El-Jem. The drive along the way was so interesting.
We went through little towns along the way where sheep were tied up to be slaughtered. It was so sad because they are so cute. Then further along the drive, we saw the sheep (not so much alive anymore) hanging up with the wool hanging right beside them.
You also see the natives sitting on the side of the road cracking almonds and trying to sell them. Everywhere you look, there are olive trees and sheep being herded by their owners. There are young kids walking the roads here with no supervision. Fifty percent of Tunisia is under 18, and 30 percent is under 14-years old. It's a very young country.
This is a definite third-world country. Along the drive, I noticed that there were so many houses that were two stories, but the second story had no roof. That's because you can buy a house here and pay as you go. They will finish the first story and in most cases won't finish the second until it's needed for another family member (for example your daughter gets married and she and her husband move upstairs). Very few houses even have front doors. It never rains here, so I guess that's a good thing with the open roofs and no doors. We also saw a lot of what looked like open cement garages with no doors and no furnishings. The natives seemed to just hang out in these, and occasionally you would see their flock of sheep inside these, too. We drove through the area where Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark were filmed.
When we got to El-Jem, we toured the Roman coliseum. It was amazing. It dates back to the third century and is the second largest coliseum in Roman history. We got to go into the underground rooms where the wild animals were held before the event. Prisoners were brought here and thrown to the animals in front of large crowds. We felt like we were on the set of the movie Gladiator.
As soon as we got off the bus in El-Jem, we were hounded by the natives. They were putting head wraps on us and trying to sell us maps of the coliseum. They also tried to make us pay $1 for every picture we took of them or their market stands.
Children were everywhere trying to fool us Americans because we don't understand the money conversion. We have all these coins and no idea what they are worth.
Camels were also in this small town. Charmin (Smith) and Tasha (Vital) actually were forced onto one, and they walked about 10 feet for about five bucks.
So few Americans visit this country, so we are treated like rock stars. One boy walked up to us and began singing a song by Akon. We also have heard a lot of "I love California." We have had so many of the natives come up to us and ask us questions and take pictures with us. They surprisingly speak decent English.
Rama (N'diaye) has been a big help when we get stuck in sticky situations with our language barrier. She also knows the money very well.
Overall day #1 has been awesome. We have dinner at 615 p.m. tonight, and then we are going to a Tunisian show at 8 p.m. tonight. Belly dancers and snake charmers are the main highlight. It's supposedly a 10 million dollar production.
Tomorrow we are touring a mosque and shopping at the market in a nearby town called Sousse. Then we have a clinic at a local school and then our first game tomorrow night against the Tunisian National team. 10-4 from Africa.