Monday, October 26, 2009

A Quick Note on Arabic Script

I am amazed at how beautiful, easy to learn, and fun to write Script is. It is basically the same sounds with different symbols. It is by far the easiest part of learning this language. Learning a new name for nouns and verbs that you have been calling ‘tomato’ or ‘running’ all your life, less easy. Script, easy.


Riding in the back of a taxi as it speeds across the rutted Moroccan landscape, one thought crosses the mind, ‘Rocks!?’ Really, it is the most notable thing, there are just bezzaf rocks. The soil here looks to be 50% rocks. How can there be an agricultural boom when the only thing growing in the fields is rocks? There they are, all perfectly and evenly distributed, billions upon billions of fist sized rocks. What geological forces could even make so many rocks and blanket everywhere with them? It truly is like they grow on the spot, like crunchy little squashes, or maybe once there was a giant sprinkler that sprayed rocks instead of water and it worked its way across the land with its methodical ‘tisht, tisht, thish.’ Was New England once like this and they all became rock walls? I doubt it. There are just too many rocks. It can not be believed.


10/11/09 9:00 PM

Today I got married! Kinda, Sorta, Not really. But it was still fun. In probably the best and most cultural experience in Morocco so far group of PCTs hiked two hours outside of Sefrou to a small Berber village when on the way, passing a single house in the middle of nowhere, a young girls runs down to greet us with figs and invites us up. Low and behold when we get to the house there is a wedding party happening. Colored rugs and pillows are lying in the shade with fifty smiling faces waiting to greet us. So, long story short, to demonstrate their customs I got make married to another PCT named Sarah. I wore a Jellaba and mini turban and sat next to Sarah while everyone danced in a harmonious cacophony around us and when it was done, all the PCTs got a henna dot on our palm. I have to say, these were some of the nicest people in the world, and we barely had a word in common! So it really was a wonderful experience.

A Note on Transportation

When riding a grand taxi today between cities I turned to my friend and said, “Any one who comes and visits me, I will tell them, ‘when riding by grand taxi, prepare your soul for its final journey, just incase.’”
Transportation, when not on foot or by bus, is largely based on the grand taxi system. Grand taxis, if the reader is unaware, are 1980s Mercdies-Benze with a driver, six passengers and no seatbelts. It is impressive how normal hurling along a rutted road at 40 KPH over the speed limit toward on coming traffic in a dying Mercedies with no shocks and a stranger sitting half on your lap can become. But it doesn’t start out that way. Which is why getting from point A to point B is one of the more harrowing experiences a visitor to Morocco can have.
More over the process of getting a grand taxi is not smooth as cream. These miracles of maintenance only move when here are six fair paying passengers, which means unless you are willing to pay for your seat plus five more, you aren’t going anywhere unless five other strangers want to go there too.
Suffice to say, ‘Mom, Dad, I have a new appreciation of the 1983 Nissan maxima you let me drive.’

The Hamman

I do not remember if I have written about the Hammam yet. It is certainly an experience worth writing about. That being said, I am not sure words can really cover it. After all, I read about it before I came to Morocco and what I read in no way conveyed the experience. It is just something you have to see for yourself. So, if any of you are ever in Morocco, I highly suggest a trip to the Hammam, preferably with a friend of the same sex, especially one who has been before. It is Different!
To give an idea, the Hammam is closest in understanding to a three room sauna, all wood fire heated, with hot and cold running water and a culture all its own. My first impression was that it was very homoerotic, a dozen men lying on the hot tile floor, rhythmically rocking as they are scrubbed down until their skin peels off in little rolls. Talk about exfoliation! When I went a second time my impression was more along the lines of male gorillas, all taking immense time to groom one another’s fir and make sure it is bug free. In a society where it is less common to bond with members of the opposite sex, the Hammam shows how much closer same sex friendships are. “You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.” Literally.

Peeling Paint and Showing Money

One of the first things to strike you about Morocco is that EVERYTHING is under construction. While the world economy is shrinking, Morocco’s GDP will grow by more then 5% this year (so the acting ambassador tells me.) Morocco is a country on the make and it shows.
So what is odd is that any building more then two years old looks derelict, with peeling paint, cracked windows and broken roof tiles. And so I ask myself ‘Why build new buildings when you don’t take care of the ones you already have?’ Well I think the answer is cultural. For all the money a family may have, the thought of spending it on something that is outwardly visible is distasteful. And since here your house does not equal your mortgage, you are probably better off spending money on something not so tacking as a new paint job. This is why, the windows may be broken but inside there is a computer, a flash water heater and one of those new fangled American style toilets.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

A Funny Story

My mom is about the only family with a long distance telephone hook up. So when 15 year old Ashraf wants to talk to his ‘girlfriend’ 35 miles away in Fez, he has to do it here in our house, with four other people in the room making fun of him the entire time, demanding to speak with this girl to see if she is real and warn her off in turn.

A Brief Note on Turkish Toilets

From Saturday 19/9/09 (Ramadan, 45 minuets til Breakthefast)
I just took my first bucket shower in Morocco… In a toilet. Well, not really a toilet as you think of per se, but a Turkish toilet. First off let me say that Turkish toilets seem, to me at least, to work by magic. There is no flush and yet some how, they flush… most of the time.  And, as I found out today, they are the shower drain. A clever space saving dual use device, but one not so compatible with toilet paper (which is why the left hand is used for one thing, and one thing only.) So my host family has hot running water (when there is a propane tank connected) but no shower heads and no drains. Some things you would think go together like a faucet and a drain, but I guess not. Why have a drain when you have a toilet.