Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Mo V, Triple Threat

So, in the past week I've gone to see a choral performance, a play, and a ballet at the Mohamed V National Theater. All of these have been with Hind, the twelve year old who lives across the alley from here.

This intensive cultural program began when Chad, one of the Fulbright senior scholars, sent a group email that he had thirty free tickets to a choral celebration of three Mediterranean cultures. The choir's performances included renditions of Fayruz's "Habaytak fis-Sayf," which an first year Arabic student can croon to you, as well as "Zurooni, kuli sena marra (Harram tinsuuni bil-marra)" These, if you can imagine it, were sung not with the standard-issue Arabic melodies in which they do all of the multiple tones in a single note (musicians: what's that called?) but how it would sound if a Teutonophile were doing all of the arrangements. In a word: weird.

There was also a song in Hebrew, and the final piece was "Carmina Burana." This is the reason why I went. I will never get tired of hearing O Fortuna! Plus, it makes me brush up (however little) on my Latin.

Now, Hind attended this performance with me because, on the same day as the performance, Chad sent a message that he had not tickets for thirty people (fifteen each allowing two to enter), but for sixty, and that we should feel free to bring more guests. I had invited Ghizlane, one of the people in the history graduate seminar that I attend (erm, attended; I haven't gone in a month, since I was in Spain and whatnot.) She said that she would come, and bring one of her friends. She ended up texting me that she wasn't able to make it, though, so it was a good thing that I had a date regardless.

How this came about is that as I was preparing to leave, Hind rings the doorbell. She asked what I was up to, and I told her. I asked her if she wanted to come along, figuring that it might be fun if she did, but that the chances that her parents would let her leave the house for four hours in the evening on a school night were probably pretty slim.

"Waakha," she said. (That means "okay," for those of you who aren't up on your Moroccan colloquial Arabic.)

She went across the street and asked her mom, and returned in a minute. She was ready to go.
Her mom was at the door, so on the way out, I told her that we'd take a while, maybe up to four hours.

"Waakha," her mom said.

So we walked across the medina and to the National theater. I think that Hind enjoyed the performance very much, as she smiled and clapped a lot; Kristen (my roommate, who was also at the performance, but who had arrived later) and Hind and I walked back home through the medina, stopping for pizza along the way.

The next day, Hind came over with a card. It was an invitation (admitting two) to a production of Al-Qantara (The Bridge), a play that was going on at the Mohamed V National Theater on Thursday.

So I went with her.
The play, which was sponsored by the National Association for the Preservation of Amazight Culture (the society's name is actually different than that, but you get the point), was not in any language that I speak.

As far as I can tell, the play was about the following:
• a man
• he enjoys drinking coffee and is mean to the coffee-server
• he also enjoys laughing, exaggeratedly, much to teh delight of the audience, who may or may not speak or understand the language of the play
• he dies in an accident involving crossing a bridge and being crushed by pieces of the bridge that fall on top of him
• it is unclear as to whether the bridge is physical or metaphorical, but in the play it was physical, and poorly constructed, and made of wood. Also, the play started almost an hour late.

I asked Hind if she had understood; I presumed that she had, since she had laughed so much.
"Shwiyya," ("a little") she said.

Then on Friday, there was a free ballet. It was put on by the Turkish National Theater's dance troupe in celebration of the recognition of fifty years of diplomatic relations between Morocco and Turkey.

Hind and I walked over, and met up with Andrea, Alex, and Kristen. We had a lovely time, although I was particularly sneezy, and the first part of the ballet was a bit academic. Then there was a part where they wore deep purple (I would describe them as an oxblood, although the lighting kept changing and so the colors kept changing) and the music was what I would call an electroklezmer, but maybe that's just what Turkish music sounds like? I can't recall having heard any Turkish music ever and having been aware of it as such.

Since then, Hind has come over to do French homework and to eat dinner yesterday (we made tacos; there were about seven people over, most over the age of twenty.) Today, she knocked on the door to see if I wanted to go to a play with her tomorrow; I'm going to Fez, though, so I couldn't plan on it.

Recommended: taking your twelve year old neighbor to three cultural events in one week. Even if you have no idea what's going on.

Monday, April 17, 2006

You are coming from Japan on a bikle?

On Friday, I think that that may have been the only English spoken to me until I got home from my bike ride, and that was when I was about a block away from the house.

So, I rode to Skhirat, where I had been invited for couscous by Aicha, a lady who sells oranges by the side of the road. What had happened was that on my previous bike ride, I had stopped to purchase oranges. I had a twenty dirham note and no change, and I'd selected a dirham and a half's worth of oranges. The woman (I did not know her name at that point) told me to just take the oranges. So on my way back, after I'd gotten other snacks, I returned to the stand and tried to pay my dirham and a half. She refused the money and gave me more oranges.

And she invited me to come to couscous on Friday, and gave me her phone number. How do I find your house, I asked her. She pointed to a field across the street from the fruit stand, where there were three houses, and said, "the white one."

So, on Friday I dutifully rode over there, arriving at about two o'clock. A woman answered the door and told me that Aicha wasn't home. I put my helmet back on and was about to leave, but she invited me in; Aicha had gone to the eye doctor. I was fed a pea tajine and fresh bread and homemade leben and tea. Aicha returned, and yelled at me (but nicely) for not having called to confirm. She had gone to the eye doctor, and then the hammam, and looked all pink and freshly scrubbed.

The family (they were all there) talked about how they had some photos somewhere to show me, and I took a bunch of photos of them, and they sent me off with a loaf of fresh bread, and some hardboiled eggs (they have chickens! and cows! and sheep!) and a pile of oranges.

And then I rode home, where, as I was turning onto Mohamed V street, someone yelled the above question at me. He pronounced bikle just like you imagine that he did, like "bike" but with an el added.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006


I had been nurturing my cold/bird flu/eccentricities/hypochondria for long enough, and I felt significantly better on Saturday, and so I went for a bike ride. I hadn't been riding since before the Fulbright Morocco conference! (It's possible that I took the Surly out for some errands, but nothing memorable.)

Being a creature of habit, I took the shore road that goes southwest from the medina. I couldn't go directly north (water), and didn't want to go east (water and the bridge to Salé, and I'd rather not have to bike through more city), or south (downtown, the highway to Fez.)
The past couple of times that I'd ridden, I'd only gone about as far as Temara (maybe ten miles out of town?)

On Saturday, I was fifteen kilometers from Mohammedia when I turned around! I rode for five hours! That ride alone was enough justification for having brought the frame from Esseff to Spain, and then the built-up bike from Spain to here.

There were elements of the ride that reminded me of every single one of the environments that I have inhabited on two wheels: I was riding on a coast, but the topography was flatter, and much more like the Jersey coast than the California (and yet I was on a west, and not an east, coast.) The dirt was supersaturated ochre, and at some point, when I was off-roading (see below), I had flashbacks of the quality of the clay in Georgia. The cow smell reminded me of Vermont and the hills around Middlebury, where I took my first rides that were farther than just a noodly commute.

The road that I took was, for the most part, straightforward: I wanted to go along the water, and up through Temara the coast road is right by the beach. After Temara is Skhirat (where I have a couscous invitation for this next week from a lady with a fruit and vegetable stand), and at some point there, I decided that instead of taking the road that looked busier and went a tiny bit inland, I would take the road that went by the beach. So I took it, and there were sheep lazing about in the middle of the road, and by the beach, and a kite that had just finished being flown. That detour was pretty short, and maybe half a kilometer later it spat me right back on a continuation of the road that I'd taken.

Later, though, I decided to take anouther detour (again, by the beach), and ended up taking a road that got narrower and narrower, and then was unpaved, and then became a cowpath in the middle of a field. I could see traffic on the main road in the distance, and figured that it wouldn't be too difficult to get there, even though the undergrowth was really high. The cowpath split into two, though. Luckily, a man happened to be standing on the left fork, about ten meters from the split. So I asked him for directions and, a few off-road minutes later, I ended up back on the main road.

I then crossed the Oued Bouzniqa (a river), and was then at the Casbah Bouzniqa, where there was a large tent set up across the street from a smaller-scale replica of the Hassan II mosque in Casablanca. There was singing coming out of the tent. I asked a woman, who was seated next to a standing dwarf, what the singing was about. She answered that it had to do with the prophet's birthday, which was upcoming. A tailless cat cavorted in the street, and then I was off to continue my ride south, but not before another dwarf, seated, motioned for me to go over to where he was (right next to the road), and shook my hand.

I rode for a few more kilometers and turned around at the right moment: when I rode back through the medina walls of Rabat, they were glowing and golden.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Happy Birthday!

Today was the mawlid an-nabawi. For those of you not in the know, that's the prophet Muhammad's birthday. To celebrate, the fourteen-year-old neighbor girl across the street invited us over for sweets. Then we went to lunch at her cousin's house a block away, and had a dance party to Nancy Agram music.

In the late afternoon, I stopped by my host family's house and drank some lemonade and ate delicious powdered sugar sweets with them.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Avocado Lollipop

Here's a bit of SPAM that arrived today:

combination... mulatto by avocado lollipop in as northeast title or conveyor belt repatriate fleck appropriate, clothe hothead fabrication miserable it
normal,. clamor of as warhead completely rector. predominance defiant, a yoke Chief Executive the of sardonic, reflexes sculpture the
trail, as unheard-of compliments everyplace, as snorkel in whistle. the fortuitous was bedclothes the tsp. of equitable, snuggle plodding. the flyswatter quarry, amateur

Unlike the best of SPAM, it lacks appropriate syntax, but both "avocado lollipop" and "as snorkel in whistle" really speak to me.

I'm not sure what they're saying, but they speak to me.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Back in Rabat

After a train/ferry/bus/bus/train/car/train/ferry combination from Rabat to Tangier/Algeciras/Seville/Madrid/Toledo/Granada/Algeciras/Tangier, I took the final train of my excursion from Tangier back to Rabat last night.

I stumbled in the door and couldn't get to sleep, and today I got up super early and covered in sweat. That I'm sleeping under my winter comforter may have had something to do with that. It might also be the fact that I've gotten some sort of cold. I'm pretty sure I caught it in the Strait. I wasn't sick when I left Spain, but I was sick by the time I got to Morocco.

Granada is my favorite. I am so, so looking forward to moving there in August.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Hiatus hiatus

Did I not mention that I was also going to the Fulbright conference in Toledo?
That just happened, and now I'm on my way back to Morocco, with a stopover in Granada (until tomorrow.) I'll be home before Thursday, and then I'll blog up a storm.

For kicks, here's a message that I received on Friendster today:

i want to say some things.
to day see ur profile and view ur nice pics then like
u as my nice and honet friend .but i dont know
what u think and what u want .coze the westren
not like asian as any nice relation .i m pakistani
male 30 year old to.but u r nice cuty and beautifull
girl and hope u wont mind abt my message if u
want then hit me bck and if u nt like that so forgive
me for that mistake .
but take nice care abt ur self and have nice time
for u there and any where u fly .