Tunis, June 16, 2013
Nothing beats the feeling of having arrived at the hotel after a long flight, a warm bath, a comfy bed, soft pillows, and an un-disturbed afternoon nap…. Well, all that for a day dream! The receptionist could not find my booking. With enough confidence I take out my Ipad and show him the confirmation email in my inbox. The guy looks perplexed. I can see the frown on his face. Then he looks up with the broadest smile ever. “I am sorry, miss. You’ve booked in for July and not June.” Oh dear, for all the mistakes I’ve ever made in life, why this when I am totally bruised after such a long trip? “Silly me!”, say I. “You have rooms available though?”. With smiling eyes, the guy calmly responds “Unfortunately not. We are fully booked until the 23rd.” There goes my warm bath! I reach for my phone. Battery is at 9% to death. I quickly call Farida, and ask if she could help organize another hotel for me. Farida laughs as hard as ever listening to my little incident, and says she would check a few hotels in town. 5 minutes later, the message comes in. “I will pick you up in 15. The Novotel has rooms available.” Oh well, if I can survive a 17-hour trip, 15 minutes does not sound too bad. “You save my life, Farida!”….
But my phone is dead and I need an adaptor. I hit the bar of the Sheraton and ask the bartender for help. The guys seems enlightened to be asked for help and after taking me to on a hotel tour around the various departments to look for an adaptor, we finally land at the business center where the lady is more than happy to lend us one. We walk back to the bar and have my phone charged at the counter. Meher his name is and he is a local Tunisian. Meher seems to have a lot of fun on his job as a cashier at this lobby bar. I am surprised to see a few guests stop by to give him a warm hello as he gets me a glass of water without me having to ask for it. As I concentrate on my deep breath to bring my body and mind back to balance, a guy walks up to the counter and asks for a beer. He looks Middle Eastern. The beer is quickly poured into a hi-ball glass. The guy pays for it, leaves some tip, and within 30 seconds gobbles down his beer. “Wow, he must be super thirsty” I think to myself. Meher laughs as he sees the look on my face. “That’s the Arabic way of drinking beer” explains Meher, “All in one shot.” Now I need a drink! But with my present condition of exhaustion, I wouldn’t dare to take that shot. And so I ask for a Campari and lemonade just to quench my thirst. While Meher is busy punching my order into the POS, a dark guy comes out from behind the bar and starts mixing my drink. “His name is Sofienne” Meher introduces his colleague. “His Mom is Jamaican and his Dad is Tunisian. He is a dark chocolate.” Sofienne does not seem to be bothered with Meher’s joke on his dark complexion. With the most contented smile he adds “Not just a chocolate. I am a hot chocolate!” My heart melts to see such enlightening attitudes at work. I wonder how many people could appear so content and happy going through their normal work days…. Random kindness, an enlightening attitude and a few light-hearted words can help make someone’s day. It certainly washes away my exhaustion and sends me off in a sunny mood in search for that warm bath and comfy bed in a strange city that has taken me in as one of its own….