I will not leave you hanging on my Tunisian adventure, so here come the adventures of Day #2. :)
We woke up early to catch breakfast at the hotel which was included in our stay, and not a cheesy American continental breakfast. Bonus, and bonus. I wanted to eat light, so I had coconut yogurt (YUM!), fruit salad with apples, pears, and pomegranates and a crepe with honey and chocolate. I also tried a chocolate croissant, but it was a little dry. I did say "light", didn't I?
Anyway, we tried to catch one of the tours they had leaving from the hotel after we had breakfast. Unfortunately our need for breakfast, or the misunderstanding of how the tours worked, caused us to miss the tour bus for that day. We ended up scheduling a tour for Friday and then went back to the room for a nap. This really was the only day I felt out of sorts with the time difference, thank goodness. After our nap, we checked in with the World Congress registration and recieved some cool swag including a laptop bag with the 2009 JCI World Congress logo. Score! In our package, we recieved coupons for the lunch at the Restaurant Shéhérazade where all the JC's could have lunch daily. Apparently this was included in our registration cost. Yes, that's right folks, breakfast and lunch FREE daily.
The restaurant must not have recieved the memo, because we walked over and it was not open. Bummer! We didn't really care, so we sat down at a cafe' next door and ordered our lunch. I ordered a Tunisian Salad, BF ordered a sandwich ou polette and again we were served mezze. Did I mention I love this place? More olives, bread, and harissa...mmmm. While we were waiting for our lunch, a couple of JC's approached us and asked if they could join us. Of course, we said yes, and that's when the international fun started.
M is from Turkey and she works in film/production and also works on film festivals. J is an American born French citizen, which I thought was totally cool. He has been in France for 7 years and owns a translating business. We talked with them for AT LEAST two hours about JCI, cultural differences, and what our local chapters were like. It was an eye-opening conversation that has changed the perspective of BF and I about the JC's in a way we had not imagined. Who would have thought I would be in that conversation 6 years ago when I joined? I truly had not appreciated the fact that JCI was an international organization until that very conversation.
After our "international luncheon", we got dressed for the Opening Ceremonies, which was "formal" attire. As it turned out, not everyone read that memo, but we certainly did.
We hopped on a tour bus they had setup for us and headed over to Salle de Sport in Hammamet in a motorcade, police escorts, the whole bit. It was mind blowing to say the least. I had never been in a motorcade before, and I can't say it's likely to happen again. The big hoopla was not just for us, we had some special guest speakers at the opening ceremonies, including the Director of Commerce from Tunisia. Yea, that would explain it!
It was fun to see all the representation from all the countries, people proudly waving their flags, singing national songs, and just an overall positive vibe everywhere. JCI Tunisia arranged for some onstage entertainment between speeches (which were relatively short) and it was a really cool night. At one point, they introduced all the JCI presidents from each country by region. Most of them were in "national dress" or carrying some type of flag. Imagine being at a conference where 90 countries are represented....it's mind blowing.
The Tunisians gave out a really cool souviner to everyone at the ceremonies, a Tunisian fez! BF was MORE than excited to recieve this gift and wore it proudly!
We then headed back to the Medina for "Tunisia Welcome Night" where they held a party in the Douar Lemdina. At the party, we feasted on more Tunisian food and drank Tunisian beer while watching the entertainment. They had ladies in traditional Tunisian dress onstage, a group of shepards doing a traditional dance, and a group of younger Tunisians were taking turns playing a drum and singing songs. There was a crowd around, so we joined in to watch. Soon enough, they grabbed us and we were dancing along with them to some Tunisian beats. Too cool for words.
The party was so much fun and we ended up getting fez keychains too. What a hoot. After all the FREE beer was gone, we ended up going to the hotel lobby bar and had a bottle of Tunisian red wine, Selian, which became one of our trip favorites.
We sat and chatted with one of BF's friends from the United States and a gentleman from Ireland. Good times, good times. After the bottle of wine, we settled into our room and talked about our day like we were two excited teenagers. It was a great way to start our Tunisian adventure!