Letters to my aunt

I’ve written a lot of letters since confinement began. All electronic, since there’s no mail carrier sauntering up my drive every day here in La Marsa, Tunisia. But those of you who’ve been “blessed” with one (or more) of my emails in the past are probably chuckling right now.

Because man, can I write. Once I get going, the paragraphs get thick, the pages scroll, the references cross and merge and explode… Whoever said it’s easier to write a 100-page report than a 30-page one must be on my mailing list.

I used to send these type of letters to my sister, when she was in Cameroon or Sri Lanka or Honduras, with a flood of news, thoughts, interpretations, feelings, conundrums, factoids, family lore, political raves, and connections. It was therapeutic for me. I always protested at the end that she shouldn’t feel compelled to write a lot back – and she didn’t. I’d get a sentence or two, absolute tops. Usually without subjects. Sometimes without verbs.

I’ve sent these emails to friends, family, even people I barely knew sometimes. It’s as natural to me as breathing. For Pete’s sake, I still have a blog, in 2020 – that is evidence enough that I’ve got words to spare.

Here are some of the good ‘uns.


March 2nd

To a friend who was planning to travel to Jordan – which is very near me here in Tunisia! This is crazy but it just might work. Ramon has to be in Jordan from March 11-26 and we could do a complex overlapping maneuver where I could go to Jordan and hang with you a couple of days, then go to Jerusalem…

[P.D. Uh, no.]

March 13th

To my stepsister We’re hunkering down in Tunis. I have three contracts with remote work right now, which is such good timing. Ramon says that he’s going to be working from home starting today and his coworkers are going to their homes in Europe, probably till this is over. (It will be “over” someday, won’t it?)

I’m scared our folks will need something that arrives with a viral stowaway – groceries, prescriptions, a book, whatever. They’re too elderly to be facing off with this little crowned monster. They tried out a new cleaner yesterday – wonder how it went. I’ll send a hazmat suit for her!

March 17th (blarney letters)

To my webmaster I hope this finds you well… I’m hunkered down with an enormous pot of chili, a salad to last a week, and a TV subscription service, so I’m fine. It is good to not be alone here. I think I would be really scared to be so far from home if Ramon were not here with me.

I’m writing with a problem on my website. I am trying to post a blog and having a terrible time with the pictures. They won’t post! Very weird.

[And thus my blogging-as-coping began…]

March 21st

To my aunt Ramon’s family are all okay so far (knock on wood) with Madrid thoroughly locked down. I’m sure he’d be more comfortable in Madrid, like I’d be more comfortable to be in the U.S., but as a place to get locked down, so far Tunis ain’t bad. We’ve stocked up on things, including a much-appreciated 30-egg pack today. That will keep me baking! (I know, I know – baking??? But it’s been comforting, and Ramon eats everything.)

Tunis has pretty forgiving weather. I’m grateful for the wind, too, because it feels clean – like no virus could possibly withstand it! I’m scared but okay, just hoping you, Dad, Ethelyn, and Bob can all stay in your respective houses and away from any viral stowaways. Can we get you on WhatsApp?

March 25th

To some friends/colleagues in Nairobi I’ve been blogging about life here in case you want some funny photos and ridiculous patter that have helped me keep sane. To that same end I’m throwing a virtual bash on Friday night, 7:00 p.m. Tunis time, 9:00 p.m. Nairobi, for a beverage and a chat on an app called Houseparty – in case you can be tempted to try something completely untested and possibly chaotic. I’m going to dress up and cook something nibblable (yes, that’s a word, you don’t have to look it up). Sending good vibes and warm thoughts Nairobi-ward and a virtual hug.

March 31st

To a friend in Washington Great story out of Tunisia – at a mask and protective gear factory, 150 staff have decided to self-isolate. They have dorms, a cook, a doctor, and rotating shifts. They’re staying in to produce masks and gear. Can’t go home to their families, and don’t know when they can. Women, men, older, younger…!

If you’ve read this far, you might also enjoy more posts of letters, for April, May, June and July 2020, chronicling life and coronavirus and politics and relationships and, again, life.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *