Well, we are on our way! We are driving from Tunis to Tabarka after a late morning. Last night we got to put on a show for a packed house in a place we’ve never been. It officially checks off the 6th continent for our group; whereas Aaron and Jamal had traveled to Kenya in college, we’d never performed as The Exchange in Africa.
Tunisia is reminiscent of Europe, and probably harkens somewhere close to Turkey. They speak French and Arabic interchangeably and the architecture combines the Greek Mediterranean, Italian countryside, and Middle Eastern desert sprawl. The country is a gem compressed between the tectonic Algeria and Libya, with a relaxed beach culture in an Islamic tradition.
The people we have met are generally as aware of American culture as any other foreigners, though many seem yet to be calcifying their opinions. Tunisia has had its share of tumult in proximity to the Arab Spring, and while many Islamic countries we have visited seem to have a more broad view of America, Tunisians ask specifics and discuss more intricate disparities.
Perhaps that is due to the Trump presidency: now nearly 100 days old. He was certainly vocal about his aversion to Islamic countries and has attempted executive orders to bar Muslim entry into the US. So the discussion is open and the irony in our presence is implicit. We are here to share American culture as our elected representative is actively objecting to the the inverse.
So we press on and speak honestly and candidly. Perhaps the best remedy is authenticity; we have no political objective beyond cultivating interaction. And the response (especially among young people) has been positive and engaging. As we trek to a more distant area, I am excited to find dissonance. This is not American work, per se. It is more human than that. Not to say an “American” objective is inhuman, but the success we are attempting to achieve is more global.
Stay tuned. Follow along here.