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Message started by Admin on Nov 19th, 2007 at 1:43am

Title: Paintfox-Laurie-ArtNotes-Tunisia #11 to 20
Post by Admin on Nov 19th, 2007 at 1:43am
It was a "dangerous" sale:  you place your bid, in a sealed envelope, on a "lot" of goods.  We had to choose our lots carefully or bid low, otherwise we'd break the bank.   With our friends, A and A, we were at the US embassy "surplus furniture" sale in Soukra.

We've been living without furniture for more than a month, and the floor gets colder as the temperature drops.

The idea of "lots" was difficult.  A contemporary wing chair in a brilliant blue "bethlehem" pattern was linked with two dumpy easy chairs in a ditsy dark green fabric and four square mahogany end tables.  I passed.

We pored over fully amortized, expensive furniture, in a cold, dimly lit warehouse.  A barbecue, my dream item, was teamed up with three lawn mowers.  I suggested we lowball our bid, but Blair pointed out we don't even have a lawn.

We pressed on.  An exceptional peacock blue etagere caught our eye.  We bid 487 dinars for it, a rattan easy chair and ottoman, a flip top dining table, three lamps and a sofa table.  A stray white provincial dining chair was thrown in.

The "piece de resistance" was a low-slung eight foot long contemporary sofa in a mediterranean blue linen fabric.  It was accompanied by a button tufted club chair in a watery-green-white chintz.  Two herking coffee tables, one with an inch thick marble top you could dance on were included, along with a "Snow White" mirror and an expensive traditional table lamp.  We blew our wad on this one:  1029 dinars.

Luckily our bank account is finally open.  It took 8 weeks for a Seattle check to clear.   "I think the bank is open on Saturday," I told Blair.  

We bid 201 tunisien dinars for two twin beds and a dresser (from Drexel Furniture).  We've watched the "Price is Right" and know that extra dollar can make all the difference.

A and A were buying for the new art and education center, Kenza, that they are opening.  "Should I go for the stove, microwave, dishwasher, or the stove, microwave, washing machine?"  A inquired.   We thought of our present gas-accident-waiting-to-happen stove, and said we'd bid on lot 83 and sell her the washer for 100.  We bid 306.

"I can see myself with a book on that sofa," I waxed to our friends on the way home.

At 7 PM the phone rang.  "You got lot number 83", the voice announced.  "That's it?" Blair enquired.  "Look at lot 99 and 100, please".  We were 500 under on one, but just missed with the 1029 bid.

I pictured myself in front of the stove.  "I am not coming back here in January if I don't have someplace to sit and read".

It is really hard to find good furniture in this less than first world country.  Shabby workmanship remains here, while fine wood furniture is exported to Europe and the US, where it commands hard currency.  It's not just furniture, either.  We've not had milk in the stores for a couple of weeks because it is being exported to China, where they've developed a penchant for protein.  These facts are a big surprise to me.

On Saturday morning we went to the warehouse with our friends (who got lot 73, with the dishwasher), a truck and two strong Tunisiens.   My sofa passed by.  "Who bought that?" Blair asked the clerk.  "That guy in the brown suit."   Blair negotiated the purchase of the sofa and chair.

I guess we'll be coming back in January.

Laurie (text) and Blair (painting) PESSEMIER
"rue Ahmed CHAOUKI "  Oil on canvas  15 x 22 inches
Laurierueahmedchaouki11-17-7.jpg (97 KB | )

Title: Re: Paintfox-Laurie-ArtNotes-Tunisia 11
Post by Admin on Nov 19th, 2007 at 2:59am
I can tell.. you're lovin it there!
The colors looked off in the one you sent me, the white balance was off so I made a new one.

You're colors are perfect. The red and cyan are complements, magenta and yellow are primaries.
I made a detail that show how you caught 3 primary colors and a secondary color so pure and close to each other.

Pure primaries and secondaries occuring in nature are a pleasure to see.
I can feel the atmosphere in the place, and the scaling of that couch and table makes the couch look 8 feet wide.

Aloha, Don

Title: Re: Paintfox-Laurie-ArtNotes-Tunisia 11-12
Post by Admin on Nov 26th, 2007 at 9:21pm
I am completely out of sorts this weekend, as Blair has gone to Paris without me.  He's drinking champagne and eating fois gras.  I sit before a dish of spaghetti and cheap Tunisian wine, playing solitaire, avoiding Harika's begging eyes.

I went to a marvelous art opening brunch today -- and sold four (very small) pieces of my own art at the same gallery.    A fisherman has invited me to his house to drink whiskey tonight with his wife and daughters.   It is curious to be making new friends, as Blair visits with our old friends in Paris.  One is silver and the other gold...

We celebrated Thanksgiving with a double-whammy before he left for the city of light.  We barbecued on the beach for lunch, and went to a candle-lit affair for twenty in the evening.

We started the wood charcoal fire well in advance of cooking.  They might have been the worst hamburgers I ever made, but the gesture was a happy surprise for all.  "Burgers at noon," I announced to the regulars at the beach.  They looked at me like I was speaking Swahili.

It was sunny and warm.  The fishermen were reticent to partake.  I brought over a hamper of beers to break the ice.  The fishermen weren't the only people who stopped by.  We met a Tunisian artist visiting his sister who lived on the beach.  He admired Delacroix and Ingres, and painted in their style.  A man, speaking only Arabic, was delighted we wouldn't charge him for the merguez sausage.

We wrapped up our little barbecue at two and got ready for the night's events.  Blair made a walnut pie; I made an orange/pomegranate preserve (ersatz cranberry sauce) and dried fruit stuffing.  There were at least twenty other dishes bending the boards of the table. The turkey was cooked to perfection.  Five continents and multiple religions gave thanks for the meal.  I sat beside a two year old.

I am surprised how we have connected with so many different people here.  In Paris, we avoided the expat community.   Here, so many Americans, Australians, Europeans share our penchant for adventure and the exotic.  And the Tunisians are happy to welcome us.   We all get on like a house-afire.

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.  No presents, just food.  A mosaic of ideas around the dining experience, where or whatever it may be.

Laurie (painting and text) and Blair PESSEMIER
Coral Bouquet    Acrylic on canvas  18 x 15 inches (46 x 38 cm)
Lauriecoralbouquet11-25-7.jpg (139 KB | )

Title: Re: Paintfox-Laurie-ArtNotes-Tunisia 11-12
Post by Admin on Nov 26th, 2007 at 11:16pm
You are so smart and clever when you paint.
When I talk about 3 colors, white is a given. White is needed to make transparent pigments opaque.

This coral painting shows what the Impressionists were about, except they were only about painting with the pigments they had. The ready-made opaque color choices and dirty transparent colors were not capable of producing explosive color work like this. Todays' clean color mixes of the secondary colors stands us head and shoulders above all others before us. I have to give it to Van Gogh though, he really tried but at the time red and green were considered opposite colors so he really didn't have much to work with.

These Real Color Wheel three primary colors can mix into any color you see. Laurie, you know how to use them very well. I'm proud of you. Hurry home Blair.

Title: Re: Paintfox-Laurie-ArtNotes-Tunisia 11-12-13
Post by Admin on Jan 9th, 2008 at 4:29am
At 2:30 AM on the first of 2008, I awoke.  We missed the stroke of midnight, but for the first time in more than a month I was THINKING:  relaxed, at home, poised for the new year.

We arrived here the afternoon before, making a 50 minute connection at Charles de Gaulle (I had hoped to miss it, and spend New Years Eve in Paris).  I am missing Paris, or more specifically, our friend Q, who is holding down the fort on his own.   Sure, a walk through the Luxembourg Gardens would be nice, but a walk on the beach is maybe even nicer.

It is impossible to picture Tunisia when we are in the US, and impossible to think of the US when we are in Tunisia.
There is an immediacy to this place, on the Mediterranean Sea in North Africa, that eludes description.  It is a rag doll that changes daily, a new lump here or there, always in danger of losing an eye or arm.  I am struck with her emphemeral quality -- change is right around the corner, of uncertain nature.

Harika, our dog, was thrilled to be back on the beach.  She tore around in circles in the sand like Rommel's tanks:  big effect.   She jumped up and greeted each of the fishermen who welcomed her home with shouts and pats.  One asked if we could sport him a drink.

Our telephone and computer connection were not working when we got back, and we are forced to get a new line.  Communication is limited, stalling my second new year's resolution 2008: to earn some money.  

There was a flood in the house, which our landlord fixed:  the "on command" water heater sprung a leak, culminating in water, some days later, cascading down the main stairs of the building.  This opened the gates for the landlord and his family to use our washer and bathtub.  So much for no utility bills in December.

The cleaners still had Blair's jacket left there on 30 November.  We stocked up on wine and rice.  We bought canvas the first day the art store was open.   I sold one painting while I was away, my first sale here in Tunisia.  The show continues, with hope for more sales.  We have picked out a rug at the gallery we hope the painting will pay for.

On 2 January, the fishermen came to the door with an array of product:  yellow striped fish, ones with diagonal design in blue yellow and white; fish that look grey from above, but brown from the side.  We opted for the diagonal look, which I painted, then cooked for lunch with garlic and vinegar.

Happy New Year.

Laurie (painting and text) and Blair PESSEMIER
Fish in a checkered dish     Acrylic on canvas  12 x 16 inches
Lauriethreefish1-8-8.jpg (133 KB | )

Title: Re: Paintfox-Laurie-ArtNotes-Tunisia #11 to 14
Post by Admin on Jan 12th, 2008 at 8:51pm
"You'll have to buy something to eat with that drink", the server told us as we ordered a couple of beers at the bar.   Shades of Seattle's old 60/40 liquor license came to mind.  We ordered a burger between us and had him hold the tab open.

Last Sunday night we were invited to the birthday party of the "Boeuf sur toit", a night club just outside Tunis, in Soukra.   An artist friend of ours invited us for the Blues event; little did we know he was the star.   "Just tell the taxi driver "Boeuf sur Toit" -- it's the only club of its kind around."
It was a stellar performance, and big fun for all.  I danced with the girls I knew from our gallery, as the servers swung, Tarzan style, from pipes over the bar into the restaurant.

Another friend, S, came by two nights this week.  "I want to make some money selling things in Europe and the US," he told us, over tea.  "I am only making 300 dinars a month and with a wife and kids that doesn't go far."

The average salary in Tunisia is the equivalent of $3,000US a year.  With beers at 3 USdollars each, where do the patrons of the Boeuf sur Toit come from?

There are two levels of life here, who I think of as the townies and the New Yorkers.  (I take the names from my own childhood, where kids from New York, with nicer clothes and fat change purses came to camp in Winsted, swimming in our lakes, and buying the treasures we admired in our store windows.)  The townies in Tunisia are the locals, who are earning little and living in a medieval world.  The New Yorkers are the French and Occidentals, often living on money from their own economy.  Pensions, in Euros, at 1.8 to the dinar make people rich.  Of course, there are some very savvy  townies on top, who sell to the wealthy New Yorkers.  But it is a two tiered economy.  As I am fleeced on a sale, I remind myself that even though I am "broke" I earn on a painting more than someone here earns in a month.

S is interested in exporting specialty foods.  He has brought us sugary desserts and smoked fish; we've been trying spicy preserves and wonderful jams.  My original intent in coming to Tunisia was to develop and sell specialty jams and jellies.  Many products of this sort are on the shelves here now.  The goal for our business, should it blossom, will be to export those, and other select products.

My Internet connection has not worked since we got back here.  We are without telephone to the outside world.  I feel that I am trapped in, if not a medieval, a pre-war world.  People tell me to relax, do something else, but my frustration overcomes me.

"Hamdoulah" (I accept what Allah gives me), one of the fishermen, MA, replies, when we ask him how he is this morning.    I am not sure.

Laurie and Blair (painting) PESSEMIER
"Rowing"  MBP   Oil on canvas  26 x 20 inches
Lauriesalarowing1-12-8.jpg (104 KB | )

Title: Re: Paintfox-Laurie-ArtNotes-Tunisia #11 to 14
Post by Admin on Jan 13th, 2008 at 6:44am

Hi Laurie and Blair,
Your letter said both of you collaborated on this one, I know you usually use acrylics while Blair uses oil.

Would you look at that orange and cobalt blue opposition! Front and center!

That's the way I like it, I see our complements right next to each other as they were in nature.
It just happens that way all the time in nature, complements being right next to each other, you have to see it. And have a clear eye for color.

Enhanced perception of color takes practice. Laurie has painted a painting a week for ? five years now? She has been great all that time. Blair is too.

Orange darkens to reds brown just like yellow and red darken to reds brown.
Orange gets redder as it gets darker.
Opaque red objects become lighter adding opaque orange pigment.
Orange objects darken by adding cad red or burnt sienna or burnt umber at any ratio.

The raw umber hue is the darkest pigment for color this color I call RCW#36 yellow-green.    
#36 and #1 yellow are side by side at 10 degrees each.

Likewise and opposite..
Cyan & cobalt & ult. blue darken to the same dark blue, similar to the way yellow & orange & red go to the same brown in the opposite set of 7 colors.
With cyan you have a color matching choice to go from cyan to cobalt to ultramarine before adding any of the complement burnt umber.

Magenta and green just add their opposite color to get darker.

Title: Re: Paintfox-Laurie-ArtNotes-Tunisia #11 to 15
Post by Admin on Jan 27th, 2008 at 7:02pm
Waves more than eight feet high crashed against the remaining strip of sand, in sync with the beat of my very own heart:  we just returned to Tunisia on Thursday from a visit to Q in Paris.

I miss Paris, despite its gray skies and serious faces.  It is civilized (in the western style) and clean, with wide sidewalks (no gaping holes) and bright flower shops. I loved speaking with and visiting our friends there.

After a terrifically high tide comes an equally low one.  We were able to walk further out than ever this early Sunday morning.   We walked beneath the domed restaurant, the rosy light of dawn illuminating the water, brilliant gold and red between the posts.  I love the sound of the waves beneath the pier; no whispering barnacles in the Mediterranean.

S has been by to visit every night since our return, bearing Tunisian specialties:  orange water and smen, a concentrated butter;  olives of his own making, and his harissa.  He is sure we can introduce these delicacies to the US food market.  Meanwhile, I am perfecting my preserves.  Over chocolate mousse and tea, we discuss the possibilities.

"Tunisia is a country of extremes", our Tunisian friend in Paris says.  "People can be very nice or very difficult".  So it goes for beauty and ugliness, hot and cold, sun and deep purple shadow.  I love and hate it here, simultaneously.

I found a column capital washed up on the sand; a broken octopus pot and a sea urchin that I carried home, then broke on the living room floor.  At dawn, it is often hard to see just where the water starts, and I step in perfectly clear puddles.

Q is in the process of leaving Paris.  His family and friends urge him to return to the US, for health and other reasons.  Many people urge us to likewise leave Tunisia.  "Paris misses you", X tells us.  So many friends would like to see us in America.  Meanwhile, we become more involved in the fabric of this place and see possibilities for work and pleasure.

We walked through La Goulette on Friday, looking for the ferry to Genoa.  230 dinars each, the clerk tells us.  A rough crowd of Southern Italian/Tunisian (it's impossible to tell the difference) youth push in front of us.  Someday, we'll take the ferry to Marseilles.

I make a mosaic of rocks and shells, rope and sticks on the sand.  People look and laugh, and I add more flotsam.   It's the Mona Lisa, her mysterious smile fashioned in terra cotta on the beach.

Laurie and Blair PESSEMIER
Mona Lisa of the Beach   Mixed Media   30 x 40 inches
Lauriemonasand1-27-8.jpg (119 KB | )

Title: Re: Paintfox-Laurie-ArtNotes-Tunisia #11 to 16
Post by Admin on Jan 31st, 2008 at 6:57pm
(flashback) This is Blair's painting from when they were in Paris, from back on Feb. 23rd, 2002.

"Life is like a game of poker:  if you don't put anything in the pot,
won't have any to take out."   ("Moms" Mabley)

Blair's painting of the Card Players inspired this week's artnotes.
group plays cards each week at the flea market at Port de Vanves.
about buying anything if any one of the players has a good hand: your
purchase will just have to wait.

I love to play cards.  Some of my earliest memories involve cards: my
grandmother taught me "concentration" at her knee.  I was a formidable
opponent from the start, matching twos, threes and kings.   By 1964, I
playing radio rummy with her and my mother and Aunt Franny on Sundays,
my own twenty-five cents in the pot.   I hated to lose.

In researching playing cards, I happily discovered that one of the best
playing card museums of the world is here in Paris (actually
Issy-les-Moulineaux, at the end of our subway line).  I could hardly
wait to
get up this morning to go there.  The museum is a new building, on the
of an old chateau, part of which still exists, attached to the museum.
museum itself has a card like appearance:  a glass wall leans on
another, and
another.  I shunned this image as just part of my own enthusiasm, but
when we
entered I realized the architect studied his subject.

Inside the museum, the steps are made of thin slivers of wood, ends up,
little decks of cards.  The displays are fantastic:  glass frames that
over, rise up from below or emerge from a pocket wall, hold the cards.
large glass wall with card-size enclosures holds single examples of the

Playing cards didn't appear on the European continent until the 1400's.
surprised me, having seen a playing card two centuries older at the
exhibit at the Arab museum in Paris last year.  In fact, it was the
who made the first playing cards, along with mahjong, before the 10th
AD.  Genghis Kahn and his Mongols brought cards to Central Asia.  From
the custom of playing cards was picked up by the Arabs and the Indians,
branched into two different methods of play.

I taught a French bus driver to play poker once, when traveling on his
with a painting group through the French countryside.   For chips, we
all the silverware in the house we stayed in.  In Seattle, a friend,
with a
cash-rich business, would divide up his till and let us play poker with
money (not for keeps).  I always know which way my luck is running with
cards, but I can't do anything to change it.  

The Arabs chose Coins, Chalices, Swords and Batons as their signs.
went through a series of adaptations before becoming the suits we have
When the Mamluks took cards to Spain, the Spanish changed the
"Baton (or Polo Stick)" into a cudgel.  This "Club" takes on all sorts
forms under their paintbrush.  The oldest surviving deck of Western
cards is from Germany, about 1430.  The Germans had a hunting theme to
cards: wild boars, deer and hunting dogs abound.  German suits were
(which became clubs),  hearts, leaves (spades), and bells (diamonds).  
courts throughout Europe played cards from the 15th century onward.  It
the French who established the "suits" we have today.  

The profiles of kings, queens and jacks are regionally recognizable.  A
buffalo-nosed Italian king hearkens to days of the Medicis.  The Swiss
the loveliest colors: deep maroon, gold, a cerulean blue.  Actual kings
heroes are named on the French cards.  During the French revolution,
was abolished from the face cards, and peasants, in their Phrygian caps,
over.  Tiffany's made a charming deck of cards, in America, in the early

When I went to the rest room, I thought I looked like a playing card.
wall tiles lay on the diagonal, like diamonds; the breakup of the
mirrors was
card-like.  Every aspect of the museum was thought out.  Myself,  I will
think twice about my red beret from now on.

I bought my nephew a card game for his birthday (instructions in
My family is serious card players, often spending a snowy afternoon at
table. During our holiday visits, my mother, Blair and I stay up into
night, playing "Flinch".   I try to remember, it's only a game.

Laurie (text) and Blair (painting) Pessemier
72, rue de Lille
75007 Paris
Blaircardplayers2-23-2.JPG (54 KB | )

Title: Re: Paintfox-Laurie-ArtNotes-Tunisia #11 to 17
Post by Admin on Feb 2nd, 2008 at 8:07pm
"All my Dad wants is to have company and enjoy a good meal and bottle of wine,"  Q's son observes.   I paused.  Is that it?  is that the secret to long life and happiness?

We ate with our hands at a friends house this week.  Forks were laid on the table, if were we too uncomfortable to eat Tunisian style.  We dipped our breads in a communal pot of merguez, eggs, tomatoes and peppers.  Harissa, oil and olives garnished another.  "This is great," I commented.  "No one has to do the dishes."

We were eating at S's house, who has been urging us to sell Tunisian products abroad.  We've taken advantage of the surplus of citrus fruit, and have been making marmalades all week.

Bees, (are these African killer bees? actually I think they were European dark bees, a species brought to Tunisia in French colonial times) flew in the open windows, as we boiled our grapefruit peel.  Harika caught a particularly pesky buzzer, and was later had to be rushed to the vet for anaphylactic shock.  She survived, and caught another bee the next day.  No problem.

Simple things are hard to find here.  I am writing artnotes directly onto the computer, because I haven't been able to find a new, suitable notebook.

After botching that batch of grapefruit marmalade, the necessity of a thermometer became apparent.  I looked in the Internet yellow pages for cooking supplies.  Only four stores surfaced in Tunis.  We called a couple before finding one with a thermometer.  "41 dinars (about $35.00)," the man said.  Wow.

We had to go to Tunis anyhow, so we headed toward the store.  Maybe it would be a really great thermometer.  In fact, the store was an appliance store, and the thermometer was a radio-shack style digital model I associate with meat.

We wandered around, happening upon an agricultural hardware store.  "No," the man replied when we asked about a thermometer, "but try the place across the street."  It was a store out of history, with all the plumbing supplies to make juices, syrups and dare I say "moonshine"?  Four men in official cotton coats manned various posts.  They had thermometers galore.  "Lemons? no, the copper one won't do."  We came away with a mercury thermometer in glass, for 27 Tunisian dinars.  It is beautiful and it works like a charm.

Laurie (painting and text) and Blair PESSEMIER
Two Quince   Acrylic on canvas  10 x 5.5 inches

Title: Re: Paintfox-Laurie-ArtNotes-Tunisia #11 to 18
Post by Admin on Feb 12th, 2008 at 7:56am
While I was at the American Corner Library the other day, I mentioned that I needed a job.  "Really?" IB responded, "would you like to fill in for me here for two weeks, while I am in the US?"

After a brief orientation on Thursday, I was at the desk early Monday morning.  I looked forward to cataloging the fiction collection, so I would have an idea what I could borrow in future.  I see each book as work of one man's art:   a mosaic of images put into words.

The American Corner is a resource center for Amideast, a US government funded group which provides English language lessons and links between people from the Mideast/North Africa and the USA.  I frequent the American Corner for their collection of English language books.

My first job out of college was assistant art librarian at the Hartford Art School.  We typed our own cards on an ancient Olivetti.  Scanning the bar codes on the books in this library is a breeze.   I've found a few obscure volumes in my first 500 books, but only one lacking an ISBN number.

It's the people who come into this library who are of the greatest interest.  They range in age from 18 to 60, the average around 25 years old.  They are among the brightest people I've met, with knowledge of at least three languages.  Our most used books are law and literature.  My first patrons start rolling in about 10:30 AM.  Our language in the library is American English.

The computers here are a big draw, and people ask me questions like what is "gonna" or "wanna".  I help someone read the word laugh.  There are Americans films and a small screening room here.

We have a conversation group on Thursday afternoon. This week I finished up topics on a list of "American stereotypes"; statements like "Americans are loud" were discussed (no louder than Tunisians, we decided).  We had some hearty exchanges over George Bush and the current regime.  Even though people here adore America, they feel differently about our government.  "Freedom" and "democracy", used in the context of the Bush presidency, raise the ire of some people here.  This week, on Valentine's day, we will talk about LOVE.

The dialogue that takes place at the American Corner gives me huge hope for the future.  I am thrilled that the USA is making this link with future generations in North Africa.

A man from Cameroun, studying electronics and computers, asks me, "how can I go to work in America?"  He sees the obstacles as huge.  "Believe you can do it, and you will," I tell him.  "Focus all of your energy in that direction and it will happen."

Laurie and Blair PESSEMIER
House on the Corner (painted on the way to work)  Acrylic on canvas  12 x 12 inches

Lauriehouseonthecorner2-11-8.jpg (114 KB | )

Title: Re: Paintfox-Laurie-ArtNotes-Tunisia #11 to 19
Post by Admin on Feb 17th, 2008 at 7:32pm
I have always associated the accordion with the Paris metro.  Wheezy old squeeze boxes squeal "Besame Mucho", while dark eyed children scurry for change.

At the palace of the Baron D'Erlanger in Sidi Bou Said on Saturday night, we listened to the finest accordion music I've ever heard.  Julien Gonzalez played with a complexity of notes and rhythms certain the please the Baron's musical spirit.

The Palace of the Baron d'Erlanger is one of the most beautiful buildings in Tunisia.  It has the air of an artist, as well as that of a baron  (he was a painter as well as a musician).  Carved marble and in floor fountains give way to rooms richly upholstered in rugs and silks: a feast for all the senses.

Gonzalez played the "chromatic button accordion" (as opposed to the piano accordion more frequently-seen in North America). This right-hand keyboard is arranged chromatically in 5 rows.   He manipulated the two ends independently (here was a man who could certainly pat his head while  rubbing his stomach) while undulating the "accordion-ed" air chamber.

There is no real metro in Tunis; all public transportation is above ground.  Trams, buses and trains carry tightly packed passengers to a from their destinations.  There is no room for musicians, much less me.  My bus to work is too full to stop to pick me up on the way home.  People hang out from the doors of the number 20, and I don't even try to board.

So I have been taking a taxi from work to the train station, and the TGM (train) out to my home in La Marsa.  Monday night, I sat clutching my handbag as two unsavory characters took the seats across from us.  It is my belief that in order to go to heaven, I must accept and love everyone who travels on the train.  What if I am to meet them in the afterlife?

I breathed a sigh of relief as the two got up and moved away.  We stopped at Carthage.  Just before the door closed one of the men came up behind me and pulled on my sack.  I held on -- to my paints, my brushes, my passport and money.  He broke the straps away from my arm and my belongings were gone.

"Stop," I yelled, as a traditionally-dressed man stood by the door as the thieves pass. "He stole my bag!"  The man by the door gave me a withering look, as did the other thirty people on the train.  No one asked if I was alright, but averted their gaze: no sympathy for this foreign woman.  The police, normally found on every corner, were nowhere in sight.

I missed a day of work, but was back to talk about "love" in our Thursday conversation group.  Many at the American Corner are my friends, and embarrassed for the problem with my bag.  Like in any society, there are good and bad people.   We love who we love, and avoid all others.

The accordionist switched from his formal black instrument to a bright blue patterned accordion.  The action was faster as the bellows wailed "Night in Tunisia".

Laurie and Blair (painting) Pessemier
"Tunisian Spring"  MBP Oil on canvas 24 x 20 inches

Visit Laurie's blog and be amazed. I found this first ever photo of them in Cartage. Don

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Title: Re: Paintfox-Laurie-ArtNotes-Tunisia #11 to 20
Post by Admin on Mar 1st, 2008 at 6:42pm
A little over three weeks ago, I awoke to a little voice telling me to leave Tunisia.  The voice came to me every day.

When an ailing Q said he needed our help to move back to the USA, we booked our trip to Paris.  When it was clear we would be here for an extended period, we took the decision to leave Tunisia.

Our furniture still sits in place, many of our personal effects still hang in our closet.  Our landlord, who holds our last months rent is chagrined (understatement -- but in the land of hot tempers, it was impossible to advise him beforehand of our possible departure).

It broke our heart to leave the place where we spent the happiest six months of our lives.  We walked on the beach each day, visiting with the fishermen.  S came to our house every night, enlightening us with his philosophy and his wife's cooking.  He told us how sometimes he would dance, all alone, with joy.  The last night he was at our house he stood in the corridor, full of emotion, asking us to find him some work in Europe or abroad, so he could better support his family.
I am ashamed to leave him, our landlord, our friends on the beach and in Tunis.  We told no one of our intention, although I suspect many people felt it.  I am terrible at hiding my feelings.

I am almost always "myself", for better or for worse.  I loved elements of Tunisian culture, but couldn't understand others.  I questioned those things I didn't understand, and as long as I questioned someone who liked me, I was OK.  There were moments men looked at me with unbridled hatred in their eyes.  Even that surprised me, because I've never hated anyone I didn't love.  The more "myself" came out, the closer I was to being in trouble.

Part of the bad feelings toward me were because of our own goverment.  Our current foreign policy has done more to galvanize Islam over the past eight years than any imam could hope to achieve in eight lifetimes.  A change in our regime will help to reopen the door.  I hope the goodwill Blair and I spread will not be ruined by our abrupt departure.  It's easy for things to go awry.

I couldn't limit my circle to just American and Western friends -- we were in Tunisia to UNDERSTAND another culture and philosophy.  I had to ride on the train, take a coffee at the bar.  We walked on the beach beneath the stars and the moon, with our little Tunisian dog, who is currently freezing in Paris.

One big difference between Tunisia and the West was the lack of "calculating" thought.  Planning is minimal:  life happens, is adjusted to, and continues.

There are ten big reasons we left Tunisia, but the biggest one is that voice, that feeling I couldn't explain.  And perhaps that is something I learned by being there.

Laurie and Blair PESSEMIER
"Moonlight on the Mediterranean: goodbye Tunisia"  M. Blair PESSEMIER  28 x 22 inches oil on canvas
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