Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Questions d'enfants

Je vous presente une compilation de questions que mes enfants m'ont pose ces dernieres annees pendant nos vacances en Tunisie. je ne fais pas ca pour critiquer, au fait c'est des choses qui ne me derangent pas mais c'est interessant d'ecouter ces questions venant d'enfants qui n'ont jamais vecu a Tunis.Il faut avouer que ces 2 dernieres annnees ils ne posent plus ce genre de questions, preuve qu'ils se sont integres ;-)

-Pourquoi ils tracent des lignes sur la route si personne ne les respectent,i.e sur une route a 2 voies tu peux trouver 4 files de voitures et personne ne se plaint?
-Pourquoi le feu vert clignote? et pourquoi les flics t'arretent si tu passes a l'oranger? Et si l'oranger est equivalent au rouge, pourquoi le feu rouge alors?
-Pourquoi tout le monde utilise le klaxon 1/1000eme de seconde apres que le feu passe au vert?
-Pourquoi les voitures s'arretent au feu sur la voie qui doit tourner a gauche et vont tout droit qd le feu passe au vert?
-Pourquoi les gens te font des queues de poisson et ne se rendent meme pas compte?
-Pourquoi les gens qui ont des voitures neuves ou haut de gammes meprisent tout les autre automobilistes et font comme si ils n'existent pas?
-Pourquoi les gens garent leurs voitures sur le trottoir?
-Pourquoi les automobilistes semblent vouloir ecraser les pietons a tout prix?

-Pourquoi quand tu passes devant un cafe ou un groupe, ils te suivent des yeux comme si tu etais un extra-terrestre?
-Pourquoi tout le monde parle a haute voix?
-Pourquoi des garcons marchent avec la main de l'un sur l'epaule de l'autre?
-Pourqoui les discussions ressemblent a des bagarres?
-Pourqoui les flics ils sont tous tres maigres, et pourquoi ils sont toujours a pied?
-Pourquoi quand ils nous parlent, leurs visage est presque colle au notre?
-Pourqoui il n'y a pas de file d'attente a la banque, boulangerie, stade sauf si il y a des flics avec des batons?
-Pourquoi les vieilles femmes n'arretent pas de devisager tout le monde sans aucune gene?
-Papa pourqoui les gens laissent leur chiens errer tout seul la nuit?
-Pourquoi le metro n'est pas souterrain?
-Pourqoui ma grande mere n'arrete pas de nous poser des questions sur maman?
-Pourquoi tout le monde boit de l'alcool et toi tu bois de la biere quand tu es en Tunisie, alors que tu nous dis que c'est 7ram?
-Pourquoi la viande est si bonne ici?
-Pourqoui tu conduis comme ca ici?
-Pourquoi tu laisses les gens fumer a la maison ici et pas la bas?
-Pourqoui ils mettent le son aussi fort pendant les mariages ?(une fois mon fils s'est evanoui!)
-Pourquoi dans les postes de police ou a la municipalite on laisse les filles entrer aves des mini jupes et pas les garcons avec des shorts assez long?

oops, je seche,je n'en trouve plus mais je suis sur qu'il y en a encore!

Friday, August 25, 2006

Don't come back!

Every summer when I am Tunisia, I tell my family and friends that I really want to move back to Tunis, and that I wish I could find time to think and plan for it.
Except my mother who generally is happy when I say that, all the others start warning me not to do that and that it does not make sense, that it is tough to leave in Tunisia and that people are dreaming to be in my position...etc.
I could not understand why they say that. Specially that sometimes the people who are complaining are living in nice houses, own multiple cars, have their kids in private school, wear the latest fashion brands , go out every weekend , travel regularly abroad and seem to have a nice life. So I got curious and every time I am with someone I know who owns a business or work for a private company, I ask the same questions. How is business? Are you growing? What are your future plans?..etc. I also talked with one of my brothers who own an accounting firm and he briefed me about the investment code, the tax code and the labor laws. Here is my $.002 and it is just my opinion, not a lecture.

-Big companies are all part of a few holdings or groups owned by a small elite of very well connected people. few of them are public.
-Successful small business owners are reticent to grow because of stupid and incoherent reasons like we don't want attract the attention of the big sharks!!! We don't want take risk, we are satisfied with what we make..
-The banking system is hurt by new wave of business man who gets loans secured by their business to build or buy equipment and use that to build a house, buy the latest car and then go bankrupt.
-Management by fear with the patriarchal boss giving orders and all the employees following blindly.
-Corruption is preventing a lot of entrepreneurs to achieve what they want. The government is trying to ease procedures for creating businesses and for investing but the white collar corruption is hindering that effort significantly.
-Even though the education quality is not what it was in the 80s and early 90s but it is still very competitive and comparable to Western Europe or North America. What is amazing is the mentality and the effect of the environment on our freshly graduated students, once they get a job, a majority are bored, don't want to work, don't give it 100%. But if they have a chance to work for a foreign company whether in Tunis or abroad, they will perform perfectly beating even their foreigner’s counterpart. How do we explain this?

I think the government need to clean the environment from all the corruption and these rumors of big sharks waiting to prey on any successful business. The banking system is already being reformed and we saw multiple French banks buying into Tunisian banks like BNP, Societe generale. People need to start have confidence in the government and the legal system, they need also to accept the concept of paying taxes (specially small business), they need to stop spending money on buying the latest Nike shoes or Diesel jeans if they cannot afford them and learn to save money in saving accounts.

I think that Tunisians are no different than Americans or Europeans; the proof is when they emigrate they integrate very well. What is different is the environment and we are all responsible for that, not only the government. If we stop criticizing and complaining and everyone starts by cleaning in front of his house, we will be better. We need to, given the challenge awaiting us in 2008.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

I'm back

We came back 2 days ago after a full month in Tunisia. As usual, the last minutes at the airport were very sad for all us, tears were on everyone's face and it was tough for the kids to leave their loving and friendly cousins, neighbors and friends for a country where they have only few friends. But what amazed me is that as soon as we cleared the police and found ourselves together, everybody was happy and excited to go back and we cheered ourseleves up. I guess that is one skill set that only long time immigrant have :-)
This summer, was not the best summer we have for my wife and me. The kids had a great time though and we bareley saw them during this month, they were all the day with my brother's kids or a cousin or an uncle or one of our neighbors kids. This is the only period of the year when they can come home at 2:00 AM in the morning.
My wife had some health issues in the last 2 weeks that prevented us from leaving home but we managed to have some parties that kept us busy.
For me it was a bummer, since there was an issue with one of our biggest customers that occured during the second week of my vacation. This issue got mentionned in the weekly executive meeting and my EVP panicked and called asking me to come back for a few days. I tried to work on it remotely from our distributor in Tunis but they did not have enough infrastructre for me to do that, and since this guy did not seem to give up, I told him the best I can do is to go to our european HQ in Paris for a few days but going back to the US is not an option.
Anyway, I had to travel to Paris for a full 4 days of work, managing a few hours of sleep as I have to deal with my team in the US and another in India, it was a nightmare !!!
Apart of these few mishaps in was great, I managed to spend 2 nights fishing near klibia and I went with one of my friend for half a day of tuna fishing on small motorboat he has in Marina. I even did some diving the first week.
I did not check this blog since I left. I ordered ADSL in our house in Hammamet and they told me it will take 2 days, so I paid a quarter of subscriptions due and took the router and installed it and waited. After 3 days still no sync, I call Topnet, they tell me that theydid their part and that I have to call Tunisie Telecom, I did and they kept telling me the famous "Tomorrow inshallah". Actually, to the day I left we did not have ADSL!!! In the meantime I called a friend of mine at TT and he confirmed that they have a problem in South Hammamet that won't be fixed before a month!! Anyway,even when I was in Paris I did not have time to check the Blogosphere, so I have a lot of catching to do.

So in summary not a so great vacation but a day spent in Tunisia with friends and family is worth a month here in California :-).