Tuesday, May 19


Recently I went on a trip to a conference in Tunisia of all places. It was in a place called Hammamet, near to Tunis which is the capital of Tunisia. The conference was one of the two general meetings a year for the International Federation of Medical Students Association, IFMSA. The theme was conflict and health - so some of the meetings focussed on that. Other sessions were stream specific - I joined 'SCORP' which was the standing committee on human rights and peace - sounded more interesting to me than medical eduation or professional exchange - reproductive health and AIDS was another one that sounded interesting though. It worked out quite well, because out of the 15 Australians, we were reasonably well spread between the streams and we got to hear updates on each day at the 'NMO hour'.

I went to most of the sessions I could - some were not so good, but overall they were pretty interesting. It was cool to see what some of the different student groups are up to around the world. Some had started initiatives like breast screening/awareness for breast cancer, changing nappies in orphanages, or promoting paper bags and recycling - most of which were great to hear about and a good reminder of how good we have it in Australia! The UK team, Medsin, had some good programs and I did some sessions run by one of them about setting up primary health care systems in countries with role plays of refugee camps, the UN and other parties involved.

One of my favourite sessions, was an interative art workshop. I partly like the idea because of its potential, rather than its actual outcome - but I did have fun playing with clay while thinking about conflict and health!

The place we stayed was pretty wacky - a fake medina resort/conference centre! There was a wierd indoors area with fake trees stuck on the walls, and real touts selling stuff - real stuff but not sure about the real prices - perhaps real resort prices. I still bought a few things because I rightly predicted I wouldn't have much other time for shopping.

The last day when everyone was leaving the conference centre and there were no sessions, I managed to join up with some US guys I'd met and join them on a little exploring. Two of us had a flight later that day, and two were sticking around till the next day. We got the 6am bus to the Carthage/Tunis airport where we failed to check in our bags early - but our back up plan fell into place nicely. The boys who were sticking around got a hotel in Tunis and we left our bags for the day. They'd had a day in Tunis pre-conference, and had randomly met an American who they then had dinner with - so they got a hotel near to his place in order to catch up again. By chance as we set out to find the train station, we met their new friend's flat mate and he gave us a semi-guided tour to the station. He also answered our question as to why everything was so quiet - it was Mohammed's birthday and a public holiday. But fortunately it didn't stop us getting tasty almond/chocolate pastries for breakfast!

Our agenda for the day was Carthage followed by lunch in Sidi Bou Saíd - which we managed to do nicely. We did a fair bit of walking around Carthage - added to unecessarily by not realising the price of admission was for all the sites of Carthage! We went to one place, thought it was a bit expensive just for a museum, and tried somewhere else - then had to go back! The museum was well worth going back for with some amazing lamps, pottery, sarcophagi, and a good collection of mosaics. We also looked into the Roman Villa, and failed to find any archaelogy in the 'parque archeologique' or something. It was just a trail through some bushes...

We had a great lunch in the 'ridiculously romantic' though slightly touristy place up on the hill in Sidi Bou Saíd. I had a 'Tunisiain Specialty' - delicious stuffed squid, as well as a Briq (thanks Big A!). We'd had a big week, early start, and lunch was slow to arrive. The four of us were pretty quiet as we waited for our food to come, and did well to stay away, but it was certainly worth the wait. We also grabbed a freshly fried donut/pastry thing of some kind on the way back down the hill to begin out train-taxi-via hotel-taxi trip to the airport. At my request we jumped out of the first taxi a little early so I could spend a few extra dinar/look in the supermarket. As well as tissues to stem the travel cold dripping nose, I found some tins of halva, Turkish coffee and 300% harissa to take back home (these puzzled customs slightly as all the writing was French/Arabic, but they were allowed through!).


Big A said...

Belated comments: I've been in the bush.

I recognise Sidi Bou Said and the railway! Interesting, but well-spread out as I remember. I had to laugh about getting a train to Carthage. I wonder if Hannibal was able to do that! Glad you enjoyed the briq, and oh that harissa! Love it.

CupKate said...

Hi Big A - your comments are not so belated, its more my post that is belated! I've been... in Launceston.. or at least I've been stuck in the LGH during sunlight hours!