Sep 11, 2016
TRAVELING ALONE, PART 8—Even the Sweat Has Sweat
I should start by saying that it is appropriate that I am writing about my trip to Tunisia, because the 14th Festival ended yesterday, and it has been great fun to see the postings on Facebook. It was a wonderful experience, and the location perfect.
Hot in Tunisia:
We were on the Mediterranean Sea. The hotel had the original section, and a large new section. The new section had the pool, and more modern conveniences. But the rooms were smaller, and the older section (in which I was located) had larger, more charming rooms. They had a sleeping and sitting areas (perfect for putting out your luggage). The bathrooms were quite large, with a shower, sink, toilet and bidet. However, because the ceiling were quite high, the curtain around the shower hung a bit high, so when you took a shower, the water spattered out more than a little bit.
My room faced the sea, and I could have easily left the sliding door open to listen to the night sounds, and been quite safe. However, being a woman alone (but not the only one by far), and because American women have a reputation that makes Swedish women seem like nuns (thank you, TV shows ‘Dallas’ and “Dynasty’), I did not think it prudent for those walking by my room to see an open door late at night. Besides, I wanted to sleep with the air conditioning. It was warm, with a lovely breeze, but being able to sleep comfortably was really important. We were very busy during the day.
Ah, during the day….
In the beginning, we were gone during most of the day, traveling here and there. We would leave after breakfast, sometimes be back for lunch, but then out in the afternoon. Good thing, too, because during the day the air conditioning was turned off. I didn’t realize this at first; I thought the room was warm because it faced north west, and because the electricity was turned off when you left the room. This is because, like most European hotels, the room key is put into a wall socket to connect the power. In order to lock your door from the outside, you take it out of the socket, which means there is not power (and no air conditioning).
Imagine my surprise when I stayed to paint (because otherwise I would not be able to finish the required two paintings), and realized there was no air conditioning, even WITH the electricity turned on.
I found out later that some of the artists had asked for, and gotten, fans. Too bad I didn’t think of that. I found this out when Najwa (Saudi Arabia), Fadia (Lebanon), and I had Arabic coffee in Najwa’s room. She had her coffee pot, her heater for the water. And. a. fan. I won’t lie. I was not so much jealous as KICKING myself for not asking for one myself. By this time, there were no more. Still, I was drinking very fresh Arabic coffee with two lovely and gracious women, talking about art. Heaven, with a fan.
So, my day went something like this: Start painting after breakfast when it was cool, outside on the patio. In the shade. Lunch. In the early afternoon, when the sun started to heat up the patio, I would move inside, but by the door, because the light was much better. As the sun came further into the room (and getting hotter), I would move further into the room, until I was near the hall, where I would open the door for light from the hall. At night, in that location I could use the entrance light and the bathroom light to paint by. Inside, it was hot. At least outside there was a breeze.
Until the day the breeze stopped.
It happened overnight, about 7 or 8 days into the trip. I walked into the dining hall, which normally had all the windows open and the curtains billowing in the breeze. Well, the windows were open, but the curtains just hung there, limp. I will just say it was hot. And humid.
No A/C during the day, but at least at night in our rooms.
The next day was worse. We were all sitting around our meal, after enjoying a lovely buffet of fresh fruits and vegetables, eggs, breads, cheese, meat. Coffee, tea, juice, water. Lovely. Except for the heat. We were sweating in our plates. As in, sweat dripping off our noses sweating.
By this time many of us had become friends, and I felt comfortable sitting with many of the artists, men and women. Fadia (Lebanon). Gabrielle (Belgium). Elisabeth (Austria). Najwa (Saudi Arabia). Saad (Morocco). Yusuf (Azerbaijan). Hanne (Norway). Mariline (France). Ania (Italy). Katerina (Germany), to name just a few. So that is how some came to be sitting around after breakfast, moaning about the heat. I was remarking about how I was sweating into my painting, how miserable it was, and Yusif came up with the now-famous line, “Yes, even the sweat has sweat”. Truer words were never spoken. Yusif’s work
Dressing Too Light:
The other event that the heat precipitated was what happened one of these afternoons. It was fairly common for people (like other artists) to walk outside by our patios, and there were also local dignitaries visiting the artists. One afternoon I had moved inside, and was wearing very little. It was hot, and the sun was starting to shine onto my patio. I had moved inside, my patio door was open for some light, but the curtain was partially drawn for shade and privacy…or so I thought.
I suddenly became aware of voices, voices that slowly came closer and closer. Voices talking, laughing, chatting, and coming closer. I pulled the curtain completely closed, still the voices came closer. A little voice in me said, “Move now!”, and I did, grabbing my cotton robe, holding it up to me just as a woman stuck her head in my door! I think she was more than a little surprised. I don’t know whose eyes were bigger just then, hers or mine. She quickly apologized (in French), and I could hear her making an excuse of some kind to the men. What a shame, because they were part of the Mayor’s Delegation. We had been told they would be dropping by, at some time. Boy, did they!
What did I learn from this?
1) bring a little fan (and wear a wet cloth around your neck)
2) bring an extra light
3) ask for a fan
4) start painting at dawn
5) if your patio door is open, wear a robe
6) don’t sweat the small stuff
Next blog: “Where is everybody?” And coffee, bottled water
Mim says (Sep 12, 2016):
Linda Hollett-Bazouzi says (Sep 20, 2016):
That's a great response, Mim! Thank you.