Friday, August 19, 2016

bathing sans american prudishness

It's a later-post from December 2015! In which I report from Tunis, Tunisia.

I can't show you pictures of what goes on in this building, but I can describe in words what is one of my new favorite cross cultural experiences. I have now bathed in a public bath house--women only, of course--and been scrubbed (exfoliated) by another woman whose job it is to spend the day in the steamy, tiled bathing rooms scrubbing all the naked bodies who pass through, well naked except for panties (kind of like some French beaches!).

The woman in the front room (where you pay before disrobing and walking into the bath section, leaving your towel behind) who runs the place explained that you need to come at least once a week for some good scrubbing, but if you can't make that, then once every 15 days is essential. She also explained that European women and even other Arab women besides those of North Africa just don't understand how important it is to take care of yourself this way. This scrubdown seems to be traditional mostly only in Tunisia, Morocco, and Algeria. Owner-woman was a flight attendant in her younger days and still enjoys meeting people--running the bath house is much nicer, she says, than staying at home all day with just her 26-year-old son around for occasional company. 

Raise your hand if you, too, have been to a bathhouse! #thingsineverdreamediwoulddo

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

les vacances

'Tis the season of vacation here in France. These photos offer just a tiny sampling of all the similar signs gracing restaurants, caf├ęs, boulangeries, and shops around town.

As crazy as it may seem to profit-conscious Americans, businesses here regularly shut down for two weeks or more in late-July/August. It's vacation time!

This can be rather annoying when you yourself aren't on vacation and are trying to live a normal life during August. There's no telling whether the places you're used to frequenting will be open. It can also be annoying if you're traveling on vacation somewhere in France. I still don't really understand how it works - everyone's traveling but what is there to do if all the shops are closed?

But on the other hand, I really respect the underlying idea that money isn't everything. It's rather beautiful to live in a place that doesn't see production and profit as the greatest god to be worshipped. Taking time off, traveling, lounging with family, resting, enjoying some good meals - these are valued here. So much so that shop owners around France have posted charming (or boring) signs in their windows to explain why they won't be opening their doors or turning on their lights or firing up their ovens for the next few weeks.