[US to Tunisia and Morocco 2014] Linda Rotunno: The Best Guide
So much of an ACYPL experience is about the people we meet and interact with along the way. Hatem Bourial, with his warm smile and wild, beautiful curls, met our delegation of 7am at the Tunis Airport, and for the next 5 days he was by our side. He seemed to know everything and everyone– he was, quite literally, a wealth of information. We listened and learned about the rich history of Tunisia – ancient to modern. We pulled off the side of roads to explore hidden ruins and ruined mansions, walked solemnly through WWII cemeteries, strolled the narrow streets of the blue-roofed Medina, climbed the stairs of the ancient amphitheater and aqueducts…all the while learning from Hatem.
With his 7 ducklings in tow, he shook hands with and kissed friends, neighbors, and shopkeepers. He encouraged a young poet to read to us. On the van ride to meetings, he provided us with important and interesting information and insights on each political and policy leader that we would meet, and back on the bus, he answered questions, clarified, set the record straight, warned us against BS, and challenged us to think in new ways. In meetings with prominent business people, he questioned their ability to relate to those less fortunate. He interpreted from French and Arabic, maintaining the integrity of the words as well as the emotions behind them. We shared meals with Hatem, he practiced patience with us, and we met his wonderful wife.
When we left for Morocco, we missed missed Hatem terribly. Often, when things in Rabat and Marrakesh were less clear, we would look at each other and ask, “What would Hatem say?”
Linda Rotunno is the CEO of ACYPL.