Feeds:
Posts
Comments

I originally wrote this on day 28, but am now just putting it up on Day 36. But whatever.

I’m sort of bad about updating this here blog. I think it is difficult for me to gauge what exactly is interesting and what is erroneous. I’m trying to focus on having fun and getting the most out of my experience, which means that the internet is not really part of that. However, here I am. HI! I miss everybody! Also – if you’re reading this, I probably really miss you because we’re probably friends. Instead of a long thing explaining stuff, let me just give you some highlights. In these past 28 days I have made some friends, and they are listed below with their locations.

1.  Mute man, Casablanca.

This man was fabulous. We got into Casablanca on Friday afternoon, which is key because we were with two girls who observe Shabbat pretty intensely, and no transactions could happen after sundown. So with this in mind, we went to try to check in at our hotel. We asked before we left if we needed our physical passports to go to Casablanca and were told no (it is only an hour or so away) but when we got there found out that our copies were not sufficient because they needed the number of the stamp on our passports from when we arrived in Morocco. So we were on the phone with our program director, trying to get her to stay at work so she could fax us copies of these pages. And so began the best hour ever which I like to refer to as “The Game of Arriving in Casablanca and Having to Find a Fax Machine Randomly at Almost Sunset during Ramadan.”  We split up and started running through the streets, trying to find somewhere we could get a fax but they were all closed. That is, until I asked a security guard in some random store and he walked outside to look, and we happened upon the best man in the world. He was totally mute, but with some clicking he showed that he understood what was going on, and proceeded to lead us to a hidden cyber café that had a fax machine! Hallelujah! So he is my number one Moroccan friend. Of course, the hotel then told us that they had “filled our rooms” and there was all this drama because we had a boy with us (so haram) but we ended up staying at a fabulous cheap hotel. Fabulous fabulous fabulous. If anyone ever needs to stay in Casablanca, I can hook you up.

a. Related to this friend is the random street man who led our group of 26 to a random restaurant the night of my friend’s birthday, when our restaurant was randomly closed and

b. The Casablanca taxi driver who wanted to marry my friend so badly he gave us a taxi ride بلا الفلوس (for freeee)

2. Security guard, Souissi, Rabat

This relates to: rain. So I went up past the highest level of haram on the haramometer the other day when I came to school wearing a long white skirt and a tank top, covered with a scarf. “Not too haram,” you say? Well. . . I went on a walk. And on this walk, it began to rain. I should probably also mention that my underwear was pink striped. And… white gets see-through with rain. But then again, so did my scarf. Oh, and the tank top under my scarf? Too big, so it kept falling below my bra. So I’m with my friend, walking towards the archeology museum in the pouring rain, haram to the umpteenth degree. And we got lost. So we are  walking around aimlessly, dripping wet and totally conspicuous, and we found this security guard. He had no idea what archeology was, however he did point us to the Museum of Modern Art. So, in the pouring rain, we entered the grounds. It’s really cool – it’s totally free, and there is a lot of art on the grounds as well, which was gorgeous in the rain. So my second friend is this man. . . that’s all.

3. Creepy archeology man, Souissi, Rabat

I really wish I had the picture to illustrate this story.  I will put it up later. Basically, I was asked to return to this museum at night so I could drink Moroccan whiskey (read: mint tea), and if I came with my makeup done and perfume on I could take all of the jewelry in the case, because the man “loved women from the tips of their toes to their hair, and how they smell.” He kept explaining that he was like Bacchus, and kept stroking my arm. I cut that off when he tried to go for my necklace, and explained that I was engaged. But, was it to a white man with whom I’d have “beautiful blond children” or an African man who would “give me strong children who play sports”? The world may never know.

I can’t complain, because not only did I receive a free tour, but could take photos despite their being forbidden, and could touch anything I wanted. This included the nude statue, whose “equipment” I was urged to “touch, to familiarize myself.” He also took a picture with my friend (un-groped as of yet), saying that he and she together were “café au lait.” This was the funniest experience of my life, total invasion of personal space aside. He told me to bring my fiancé back next time I come, and I might actually have to find one just to do so. Mike Linshi – I based my fictional fiancé on you. Be proud; you were the model. Never forget.

4. Taxi drivers, all over Morocco

I’m starting to create really clever responses to sketchy men – who tend to drive taxis. I am jetting all over in taxis by myself, which makes for interesting rides and I need to bring the variety sometimes. However, I  met this awesome man who was from Agadir in this cab ride, though, named Said, and he sort of cancelled out all of the taxi drivers who have told me that they are going to drive by my house often so that they can pick me up, and marry me.

5. Cool English guys, at a hostel in Marrakech. We had aller-ed over there for my friend’s 21st birthday, over the weekend when Ramadan became Eid al-Fitr (which means roughly celebration of breaking the fast), when every starts to eat again (!). So Marrakech usually has fabulous clubbing and stuff, but being that it was Ramadan and then a holiday, we ended up walking the city, meeting awesome people and just generally chilling at the hostel at night. We found a snack bar (aptly named “Snack Bar”) which we ate at probably like 10 times in four days. They had fabulous Tagine and Couscous for like, 25 Dh, which is $3 or $3.50, I think. And our hostel had this roof that looked over the sunset, and was high up enough so that at sunset, the calls the prayer from like 20 mosques all rose up at around the same time. It lasted for like 4 minutes, and was the most disjointed, hauntingly beautiful sound imaginable. One of my friends took a video – I’ll try to figure out how to post it. Of course, since I can’t actually even post pictures, I guess that day may never come.

6. Oh, Marrakech, where sketch meets cool. The square in Marrakech (Jama al-Fna, square of the dead) is a really interesting place. There are motorcycles going crazy all over the place, because cars are not allowed. And because it is so aggressively touristy, not only is everyone fluent in English, but they are also fluent in the ways of using male privilege to harass at will, in the way of both Morocco and the United States. And like, Eastern Europe. So yeah, a guy tried to punch me in the square. Some guys followed us on their motorcycles for quite some time. In order to get you to go to their shop, they would just come up and grab you. Or a bunch of men would surround you, and not let you pass. And if you ignored them they would yell at you with quite unkind words, but if you spoke to them that was even worse. It got really stressful, and it is even worse post-Ramadan.

But that’s okay, because Marrakech has men like Sidi Mohammed, which brings us to number seven.

7. Sidi Mohammed, or why I love to enter random shops and start up conversations. So we were wandering through the Kasbah in Marrakesh, which is like the old part, near the old palace. After a nice conversation and a lot of “Eid Mubaraks” with the security guards outside the palace (which we were not allowed to enter), I spotted a cloth-weaving machine, like a loom-ish thing in a shop. I really really wanted to go in, so I did, and asked the man if the shop was his, and if he made the cloth in it. He replied that he did, and he then not only let me take pictures, but also demonstrated how he made the cloth and let me video. Then he let us sit down, and not only gave us tea, but offered us couscous (which my friends couldn’t eat because it wasn’t kosher, but still) and then played us great music on his amazing sound system. In addition to being both a cloth and carpet maker (he had two different looms with two different functions in the shop) he also fixed old computers, and was a complete music nerd. So as we are sitting having the greatest discussion ever, his friend’s sister (?) comes in, with her adorable baby boy Yasir, and we begin to talk as well. So well over an hour later, as we are peacing out with really nicely bargained for cloth and with exchanged phone and emails (her name was either Elena or Miriam, but she asked for our picture first, and we are so totally going to chill someday), we took a great picture that I am not posting here, but that will be on facebook. It gave us seriously the best, most positive feeling, which is a nice lead-in to

8. Amin on the train. It’s a long story, but as I tooled around the streets of Marrakesh with my friend, we ended up missing our train which our friend had purchased for our whole group. So the 200 Dh we spent on first class sort of didn’t really carry over to the evening of the second biggest holiday weekend (and busiest travel day of the year, apparently) when we made it to the train station. After a lot of drama, and discussions with the chef du gare, we finally made it into a second class compartment where I was promptly abandoned by the not-so-carsick of us (read: everyone) because it was so freaking hot in the car, and cooler outside. Well… it was cooler. Then the next stop happened, and the train hallways were actually so full the rest of the people got stuck. So I was in this compartment drinking water and fell into this amazing conversation with two men – Amin and Abdl’Majeed. I got help with my Arabic homework, got lots of amazing advice on life, and also got to help Amin with his English. I have a standing invitation to go visit him in Mohammedia, which is sort of near Rabat, but I don’t know if I will take it. He was amazing, though, and really gives me faith in humanity.

So… that’s it. I wish that that list was clever – like, 12 days of Christmas. But instead, the (20) 8 Days of Morocco. On the first day of Morocco, Ramadan gave to me

An empty tummmyyyy.

On the second day of Morocco, my host family gave to me – milk with grenadine.

On the third day of Morocco, my school gave to me 1000000 useless rules.

On the fourth day of Morocco, my money gave to me, brokeeeeeenessss.

On the fifth day of Morocco, a man gave to me a tap on my jeans.

On the sixth day of Morocco, my Roro/Lulu gave to me a conversaaation.

On the seventh day of Morocco, I wrote my last blog post. I am not too good at this, probably because I can’t speak English anymore. I will make a note of this, and work on it. I hope life is good.

I would love some good old American gossip. Hear ye, hear ye.

Advertisements

Day 7

I suppose it’s time for another update, being that my last was on “day 1” and now it’s far beyond that point. Past the point of no return, one might say. Okay, so here it goes. Watch me – make sure I do not mention the certain subjects that must not be mentioned lest I be taken into custody, because this blog is being monitored. I love Morocco, I love the ****, etc.

All sarcasm aside, I am living in the most unbelievably beautiful city. I was trying to think of a formula to describe Rabat (Rome plus France, plus Brazil or something stupid and pithy like that) but actually it’s pretty unique. We stayed for a few days in Agdal, which is the super intenso government section.  That’s all I will say. To explain, we were within walking distance of the Parliament, and when you take a picture of the Parliament? You don’t. Moving on.

We were taken around in a bus that was not conspicuous at all the second day, to Chellah. Chellah is a little outside Rabat, technically, and it is actually on top (hello, Italy) of Sala Colonia, which was a Roman city. “What’s all this?” you say? “What were the Romans doing there?” Well, wait and see, my child. Many Romans will be coming soon to a blogpost near you. Salé may or may not have been named after Chellah, I totally forgot.

So some will say that the most interesting part of Chellah is that it was as old as the 10th century, and was built up by the Merinid Sultans in the 13th-14th centuries into a necropolis of sorts, until it ws ruined by earthquake in 1755. Some may say that there is interesting and important religious significance to Chellah specifically (like, the Prophet used to pray at the mosque there, and one could become a hajj if one walked around the mihrab seven times). This is all true. HOWEVER, one mustn’t forget storks? In case you forgot what a stork is, here is a picture:

none of my photos are working. internet is slow. and so, they will come. i’ve given myself clues – be forewarned. the pictures are fantastic. they’ll come monday, when i am at school w/ a stronger connection.

Storks are so freaking ugly. And big. And apparently they like to roost in the Chellah ruins. Also, they must hate their little ugly, awkward children because there were random stork babies just on the ground, looking bitter. As a girl on our program said, they totally epitomized the age thirteen in awkwardness and level of emotional confusion. They were ignoring us, until a leader picked one up and passed it around. Then at least it made an effort to be less indifferent. Apparently they fall out of their nests, and just stay on the ground and die. Or get eaten by the approximately 2490828409824928482 cats there (the Prophet was a cat person, and it’s considered somewhat sacrilegious to spay cats, or at least that’s what I understand). That basically consumed all of my interest for a lot of the time. Oh, and it was really really really beautiful. But there is more beauty to come. Feast your eyes below, at the beach.

photo

Is beautiful, yes? I’ve been here before, and I am 20 years of age, and when we got to the beach I started jumping up and down like a child. Because it is just that gorgeous. It’s interesting, because everything here is so epic – the ruins are epically large and old, the artwork is epically intricate, and also the people are epically nice. I have had such great broken conversations that consist of me explain that I “اتكلم بالفصحى جيدا لكن فهمت الداريجة شوية” which is usually all I need to start talking about school, and to be given an impromptu داريجة lesson. <-“darija” means Moroccan Arabic (well, technically it just means slang, but it means Moroccan Arabic), and it is totally different (different words, conjugations) from “fusha,” which is Modern Standard. I’ve learned that when people “speak” fusha, they don’t. So that’s been interesting. I’ve been pretending I do not speak French, and my Arabic has already gotten more actually functional. Of course, I’ll come back speaking darija, which is sort of useless in the large scheme of things, but I’m more worried now about communicating with my host family, so I’ll let the darija issue slide.

Speaking of Moroccan things, it just happens that great food is one of them! It is currently Ramadan, which means that food, water, cigarettes and gum are not to be consumed in the street. I am not really fasting (سحور is much much much too early for me) but we are all still eating less, because there are only 3 restaurants open near school, and we feel really disrespectful eating too much. Those three restaurants? McDonald’s, Pizza Hut and this westernized café. Guess which one I’ve been to? I began to buy little yogurts and lovely pastries to eat on the sly during “coffee breaks” at school, aka places we can eat without being totally disrespectful. However, come sunset (maghrib, which is why I have the title about the sun setting) a lot more places open to serve ftour (فطور). This is the post-Ramadan delicious meal, which is way too sweet and totally fattening. It consists here of

-harira, which is chickpea soup, which sometimes has meat in it. Light, filling, etc.

-a boiled egg, which I choose not to eat

-shubakiya (شباكية) which is like honeyed pretzel with sesame seeds, and a lot of other honeyed stuff depending on the day. Sometimes filled with chicken, but not pastilla (?). Very sweet.

-three different kinds of bread, all different tasting. Their names are: hobs, rif, and something else I forget right now

-WATERRRR. My host sister gave me this horrible drink made of grenadine syrup and milk. It was so sweet I almost died. I’ve since expressed that I prefer not to eat sweets too often.

I wish everyone could come here. Rabat is fabulous. There are so many different areas, each with different feelings. My favorite is the old part, the medina, which is a combination of windy streets with really really amazing doors. The beach is fun (the sunset off the jetties is gorgeous, the sand is great for soccer) but the medina is awe-striking, really.  Is that even a word? Well, I just made it one. During a game we called “Rabat Survivor,” my partner and I stumbled across the non-tourist entrance. The first thing we saw was carpet makers. Women were sitting on the walls weaving the carpets, and the men were further up the lane, cutting the extra off the carpets and then rolling them up the street. As we walked, maybe because we were only two or because it was early, we weren’t harassed and there were no tourists.

So we’re walking down these tiny alleyways, with these doors that are all bedazzled and intricately woven with mosaic, and there are these smells wafting up from each little stand. I don’t know how they do it during Ramadan, because the combination of every spice and every herb was so incredibly delicious. I just wanted to inhale it all. Man selling chickens from little coop-like shop full of chickens squawking, but calming down as soon as they were held. Huge swordfish chilling in the flatbed of someone’s motorcycle (I didn’t even know people hooked up trailers to motorcycles, but there you go). The way they display spices is so beautiful that in order to get a picture, we bought some spices. Brilliant red paprika and beautiful yellow turmeric. I want to make a collage of these colors. I want to pour them all over me and make a sand painting a la Ukrainian woman. We wanted to keep this place a secret, so we lied about its location and left out of a different bab/exit.

bab

The same day, as we continued to the Kasbah Oudaiya (pictured below), we overshot it and instead entered the top. This led to a winding discovery of that large open area with the fabulous view from before. I was sort of a picture whore, and took so many door pictures they will need their own album when I’m done.

a door

Also, speaking of great things, the people on my program are great. It is so rare that everyone on a program is actually really freaking cool and interesting, but I guess the location weeds out all the annoying ones. Obviously we are all interesting in different things, have different language abilities and talents, etc, but above all we are all interested in learning about Morocco; its history, its people, its culture, etc. It really is refreshing to be with such open people. Random note: our program director works with both Lakeside’s program now and also One World Now!, which is really interesting. He knows all these people I do, and he just went on vaca with Mr. Berrada and Vicki Weeks.

And speaking of people, I am living in a nice little nuclear family of 5/6. I have a twelve year old sister, Salma, and I actually got here on my other sister, Chaimae’s, 1 year old birthday! I have a 17 year old brother, Othman, who is totally awesome and shy and got in trouble for getting to ftour late and not talking to me. We also have a househelper, Hanan, who’s 19 and totally awesome. The father, Bachir, is really nice only he won’t speak to me in anything but English. The mother, Ibtissam, is really nice, but only really speaks to me in French. I pretended I didn’t understand French for quite some time, but necessity dictated that I come clean eventually. I am practicing my darija by riding taxis and having conversations like no other and then coming home and failing a lot, but failing with a smile.

<picture of me smiling> imagine it, okay?

Okay, so that’s the big description load. Did it come through relatively comprehensively?

So, I am in Morocco. This is quite exciting. I am so excited, I decided to sit in a hotel room and type this all out. I’m not alone though, so this does not count as being antisocial. In fact, I have as of now met up with a group so I am a member of a social group now, albeit an artificially created and maintained one. However previous to this I traveled alone.

The funny thing about traveling alone, especially with lots of dead time and serious jet lag delirium, is that you are forced to entertain yourself, either with yourself or with other people.What really made the difference for me was a bathroom filled with flair, and a Thai lady named Jeab. Because my French speaking is 1 part speech and 4 parts smiling so that the person I’m talking to looks past the bad speech, I had to go make my face appropriate for smiling in the bathroom. But I got distracted there. Why? Because this bathroom was ORANGE. It was an ORANGE bathroom! And not only was it ORANGE; it was the most high tech bathroom I’ve ever seen. The sinks were white with orange trim (to complement the walls) and they had the water, soap dispenser and drier all side by side. They were so efficient they didn’t even wait for you to put your hand anywhere near the sensor – they just all started going the minute you bent over towards the mirror. ALL. AT. ONCE. Like a horror movie! It was fascinating. I literally spent 20 minutes in an orange bathroom, playing with the sinks. I also took a picture, which I have determined is inappropriate to post because bathrooms are awkward. However, the makeup-application process did help me to speak to approximately 4 official men and ask them where in hell I was supposed to be because my flight wasn’t up on the board. Every single one of them thought I was Moroccan, so I would say it was a success. Although, they did all end up hitting on me, so it may have just been flattery. But I’ll take it. Note – every French person I spoke with in French was surprised I was American and not Canadian, and expressed delight in an apparent anomaly. That was cool.

SO after my sink/drying apparatus fiddling, I went to a cafe and accidentally consumed 3 double espressos, which contributed sizably to the ensuing “jetlag” delirium aka a serious caffeine high that lasted for like 4 hours. The only space free was catty corner from a woman wearing the most bedazzled outfit I have ever experienced. It was a white jean jacket with rhinestones, and matching short white skirt. She was also wearing strappy, shiny silver heels and seriously huge glasses with jewels. Her eye makeup was randomly really black, and her hair was actually longer than is probably natural. Being the awesome faux New Yorker I am, I sat near down and did the whole New York subway silence thing. However, as I sat at the table, bathroom makeup magic working overtime, the woman looked up and told me I had the “most beautiful eyes” she had ever seen. She then went on to say that my eye line was strong… And then she moved over to sit across from me and started telling me about her job.

That was somewhat awkward, but because I was alone, and lonely people just want a friend, I said thank you. And so began the most amazing conversation I have ever had in a public place with a random stranger with whom I do not actually share a common language. We discussed things in extremely broken English and French, and afterwards she handed me her business card and told me to email her, and to come to Thailand and go to her salon. She owns a beauty salon, dedicated to, and I quote, “extending eye lines” and doing eyebrow and lip tattoos. I’m not quite sure what that means, but if I am ever in the Thai night market I will be sure to look her up. She explained that lip tattoos were quite nice, especially when they were a light pink color. I am considering what permanent red lipstick would look like; I kind of like the idea.

Oh, yes, and I am in Morocco. But if you think that I am going to explain how Americans have to go to a special doctor’s office at customs to prove we don’t have swine flu, or how 27/30 of my program is female, or how during Ramadan you aren’t supposed to chew gum (!!!!!!!!!!!!!) in the street, or how the weather is incredible or how everyone’s really nice you are WRONG. Instead, here is an awkward picture of the orange bathroom so you can understand.

i want an orange bathroom tooOh, and my cellphone number is: 212-656-014-223. I need hope in the form of text messages so that I can continue to break the addiction, one day at a time. I have 6 packs of gum left. One is a superpack though, so it should give me an extra day or two. Oh, Ramadan, what have you done to your poor little Rachel?

Day -7

Well, this is exciting. I usually rail against the excessively aggressive narcissism that blogs tend to promote, but there’s a little in all of us just waiting to come out so… here’s mine. I am studying abroad in Rabat for four months as of next Friday.  Above is a picture of the sun from last time I was in Morocco. I know that it is fabulous. I will put more pictures up. I will also write things here. Read them.