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March 26, 2008

Get Outta Town!

sala elise patterson on a cafe balcony in tunisia

Sala Elise Patterson at Cafe des Delice in the Tunisian village of Sidi Bou Said

Photo Credit: Mohamed Abdelmouleh

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33, communications consultant, Tunis, Tunisia

HOMETOWN: Washington, DC

WHY I WANTED TO LIVE ABROAD: I've lived all over the world, but this time I decided to move for a job with the African Development Bank, which works on social and economic advancement here. I provide communications support to the bank's Eastern African offices.

WHAT I MISS ABOUT HOME: Family and friends. And also the relentless pursuit of innovation, the pushing of boundaries, the calling into question that I associate with Americans.

HOW THE EXPERIENCE HAS CHANGED ME: Tunisia is a progressive Muslim society, but it still feels like the public domain is reserved first and foremost for men. I never realized how important it is to feel comfortable and welcome as a woman, wherever I go.

BIGGEST SURPRISE: Not only in Tunisia, but everywhere I've been, I am always amazed by how much the rest of the world knows about the U.S. and how little, on average, we know about them.

CRAZY ADVENTURE: Trying to get my personal effects out of customs. On one 95-degree day, after meeting with three different officials, my husband and I sat down with yet another one, who studied our four-page list of possessions and said, yawning, "Item one: plates. So, exactly what kind of plates?"

MAJOR MISHAP: Going into a certain neighborhood café with my husband and discovering that the only women who do so are prostitutes.

GREATEST CHALLENGE: If you'd ever heard Arabic spoken, you wouldn't have to ask.

HOW YOU CAN GET HERE: Several international development organizations work in Tunisia, in addition to the African Development Bank ( afdb.org ). For listings on these types of jobs and others-from accounting to engineering-see findajobinafrica.com. Or just visit: Americans can stay up to four months without a visa.

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