Saturday, May 19, 2012

Tunisia Round 2...Busy Girls in Hammemet..

Where it all began UN June 2011Anne Marie releasing a Dove to Symbolising Peace and Freedom in Tunisia -
Obv we had to go and support
Photo Courtesy of Mike Lewis and Ola Vista Photography
Anne Marie and I traveled to Tunisia in march to see the story of the swim and immediately we knew we would be heading back to Tunisia to support Nejib Belhedi in his swim of peace, we had little idea that we would be heading back within a month of leaving again. As I said before there was something humble about Nejib's journey and knowing our strengths, we really wanted to allow the bird to fly, to prepare the logistics and the preparation for the next group was our reason for getting back so quickly. If this was to move international there was a mountain to climb and it was little inconvenience to take another holiday and get stuck in. We were blown out of the water by the courtesy and gentleness of the Tunisian people.. they are their own product.

Tunisia is a country in transition and in the process of ratifying the rights of women in the home. Last trip we were in Port El Kantaoui/ Monastir this time we are based in Hammemet. Welcoming women was a huge focus and they did this wonderfully, I don't think we could ever thank M Lotfi for all his attention to detail. I can say without doubt that we were as challenging as any women to them, being both single and very comfortable in our achievements and person. Both us having great experience with media could use our profiles to further Nejib's Swim of Peace.

Bright as the sun.. Go Team.. How fab is our gear.. 
We started on the logo, reshaping the name and concept and a day was not complete without monster phonecalls from Tunisia. I think Nejib had me on Speed dial...Urgent message, after urgent,
Important of logos for cameras..
Landing in Tunis, we were excited to show Nejib all our
t shirts, sweatshirts, logos, chocolate, goggles, jackets we were feeling very very excited to be part of the team. The Hotel was amazing the Royal Azur, our room fantastic.It's so hard to verbalise the feeling of gratitude. That was Tuesday night at midnight.

Games began at lunchtime Weds-Nejib happened to be in the area!!!!
We sat and discussed his plan for the week. There was no mention of the swimming!!!!

We discussed that Nejib should approach his project on the view of drawing in the authorities on the basis of increasing tourism. We were off. I have a degree in Tourism/Hotel Management, living all my life in a hotel and the only work I knew working with the hotels in Switzerland, the Caymans, NY, London etc... I have fluent french. It was wonderful to see Nejib's face.

That evening involved travelling to meet Mr Yassine the Delegator for the region of Hammemet, (slightly higher in authority than a county manager, a man carrying considerable weight) finally home to the hotel in time for dinner at 8pm.

Thurs morning 10am once again down to lovely Hotel Club el Bousten, the Hotel who were offering Nejib full facilities and backing for his swim and the future there of. Nejib needed us to present our proposal to both levels of top management for the benefits of Tourism and the promotion of Tunisia.(a subject we could rant on in our sleep!) Hilarious as Nejib cut the meeting short -we had another meeting at the town council..
Anne Marie discussing the importance of European Projects
that exist to support Arab Nations.. with the Birthday Girl Badge
Straight into the car with our laptops to meet again the delegator, Mr Yassine at his office.

Wow! the town council over a large region was a basic building without internet, photocopiers, computers, printers.. and they are trying their best to drive forward an economy, we take so much for granted. It felt great to sit and explain the possibilities to a people sooo delighted to drink up the information.
As we speak now swimmers all over the world are training somewhere else, benefiting another economy, and bringing with them positive energy. Sport has that bonus over so many other elements of tourism. The importance of their backing Nejib, was huge and through him they could jump on the back of marketing a project that was already in motion in the international swimming world. It was an already created product and partnership involves many elements. It was win win..

Step out Nuala, Step in Anne Marie, she works with European Project Partnerships and it was her choice of Swim of Peace Partnership as the name allowing the concept of team.  Anne Marie had trawled and come across funds that exist in Europe to further projects encompassing the Arab Countries incl culture, minorities and women-the future of the project could drive it's way into this area. We had really done good BUT the down side was we left the offices with so much more work that we intended and had to get home to the Hotel to start on what they required from us..They needed us to break down the officialdom to a format they could understand.. !!!
It was also Anne Marie's Birthday so we had to get to the beach!!!
We allocated 2 hours at the hotel and then it was beach for the afternoon....

In the lobby with coffee we were poured over laptops when 3 gentlemen approached us to greet us, Anne Marie stood up as they introduced themselves, I looked up and smiled-my battery was low and any extended conversation at this stage could lose the work I was doing. We had committed to compiling the values and obj of the swim. After a few minutes when finished I discovered the gentlemen were the Director Generals of the Hotel group who were hosting us.. !!!!! Mr Riadh was impressed though somewhat amused that I was able to focus on my work!!!! So understanding... I genuinely did not realise what I'd said.
The amazing M Riadh Director Generale of the Sol Azur..
Thanks for all the hospitality..

He said afterwards "I could not believe that you waved me away saying 'my battery is low sorry!!!'.."

Then I left the gentlemen with Anne Marie and moved to the Directors office courtesy of Mr Najeh to have use of the printer and office, Mr Riadh ensured free wifi as we were working for the benefit of Tourism. An hour later after managing to negotiate a keyword missing several letters of the English alphabet -Anne Marie was about to ring 999 thinking I had been abducted!! (who would have me??? )
THANKS so much Royal Azur for your hospitality... 
14 pages printed out and phones answered in french, plans discussed with management, we ran to the room, changed into our beachwear and we were off the beach.Surprise in the room for AM's birthday girl..

That was only day 2........ a glass of wine (or 6) called for to toast Ms Ward who was now being called Ms World.... not lost on us... !! I'm sure they had a title for me but not committed to paper..
 Tomorrow we are on the sea.. calm calm calm..aahhhh

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