Saturday, January 30, 2010

On The Maid

The biggest fear of most Peace Corps Volunteers, after dying alone, in pain, in a foreign land, surrounded by people who can’t speak your language… is being wholly rejected by their host community. Only two Volunteers out of the thousands that have come through Morocco in recent history have died while serving. However many have been accused of being CIA agents or drinking alcohol or doing other shameful things, which has caused their communities to reject them.
            One of the best strategies to prevent these kinds of accusations is to hire a maid. Not only does it mean that you don’t have to do your own laundry or clean your own house, it also means that people trust you more. If people know that you are employing a widow to help her make ends meet, and that she feels that your house is an ok place to work, people will think that you are an ok person. Having someone who turns over every nook and cranny of your house on a regular basis means that the whole community knows you aren’t concealing any spy gadgets, empty alcohol bottles or prostitutes behind your pastel pink shutters. It is helpful to building a good reputation in your community and earning people’s trust.
            Of course having a maid isn’t the typical perception people have of Peace Corps Volunteers. Many PCVs even dismiss the idea as being “Posh Corps.” And it is to an extent, though perhaps no more so then owning a washing machine. However, at the end of the day, a washing machine won’t talk to you if you’re lonely. Therefore having a maid comes highly recommended. 

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

On Wednesdays

souk |soōk| (also suk, sukh, or suq)
an Arab market or marketplace; a bazaar.
ORIGIN from Arabic sū.

Wednesday is by far the greatest day of the week. The reason is simple. Wednesday is Souk Day, and on Souk Day anything is possible! On Souk Day a small town comes alive with the bustle of commerce. Piles of fruit stand beside tables of trinkets. Empty streets become clogged with denizens from the outlying dwars, bringing their goods tens of kilometers to market and stocking up on supplies for the week. The desolate post office becomes unbearably full. Sleepy restaurants become crazily crowded with those too far from home to make it back in time for lunch. Banter and bargaining flies amongst friends who haven’t seen each other in a week and merchants seeking to unload their wares at the best price.

It is hard to believe that the streets, normally barren with nothing to look at, are suddenly so full of wonderful things that one needs five pairs of eyes to be able to look at everything, all the while avoiding getting run over by the hundreds of donkeys, dozens of old Bedford trucks, random hand carts, motos and the ever speeding grand taxis. And this transformation all takes place overnight and is a memory by the next night. All that is left is muddy tracks, crushed fruit and an empty litter-strewn souk. Until next Wednesday that is.

This week’s souk purchases were:
Two rugs 
A keychain
A Wallet
A Carabineer
A pair of headphones
A pair of slippers
Hummus (aka steamed garbanzo beans)
Half a kilo of Oranges
Half a kilo of Bananas
A bag of popcorn (free!)

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

On The Rain

The rain. It is grey, and wet. It is also cold. Grey, wet and cold. It comes from above. It stops when it hits buildings or the ground. It forms puddles. It drips inside the house. It turns the street into mud, or makes it muddier then it already was. When will it stop?

Saturday, January 23, 2010

On Finding A Wife

“It was a fact, universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a large fortune must be in want of a wife.” These words begin Jane Austin’s most famous novel Pride and Prejudice. They are also painting a theme on my life at present, in juxtaposition to the werewolf theme that has been oddly frequent in its occurrences (inside joke.)
Essentially, having established myself and settled into my new house, my community now presumes that I must be in want of a wife. I was invited to lunch by a coworker where it was pointed out that his wife was happy to introduce me to women in the community. In the post office I was introduced to a woman with the aside, in English, that, ‘Brendan if you need someone to cook for you, she could be it.’ Two days ago an employee from the mayor’s office approached me at the café and flat out asked if I needed help finding a wife. Being the normal age for marrying, and presumably fabulously wealthy, as all Americans are, my community is completely unable to fathom why on earth I am still single. I tried to explain but was largely successful. Before my next attempt I shall have to learn the darija for ‘emotionally stunted’ and ‘completely self-centered’…

Thursday, January 21, 2010

My Diet

My Diet
In case you are interested today I ate the following:
  1. For Breakfast:
    1. A pot of Lipton’s Tea, with sugar and milk
    2. A bowl of cornflakes and milk
    3. A banana and an orange

  1. For Lunch
    1. An egg, meat and olive sandwich and coffee from the café (Dh10).

  1. For Dinner
    1. A tomato and olive oil salad
    2. Couscous, seasoned with salt, olive oil and tomato paste
    3. A banana
    4. A tropical yogurt smoothie (6Dh)
    5. Two Ghirardelli chocolate squares (which came today in a package along with the most exquisite assortment of teas)
    6. Another pot of tea (this time ginger)

Puddle Returns

For those of you wondering, Puddle, the friendly and bedraggled cat who happened upon my roof one day has returned. Despite his waterlogged appearance his situation in life is not as desperate as at first appeared. Mud still remains caked to his tail and his fur still shows the telltale signs of neglect, however his other wounds seemed to have healed and his disposition was all together cheerier upon finding me and receiving bowl of cornflakes and milk. I wonder if they sell cat food anywhere closer then Marrakech?

Monday, January 18, 2010

On Poop

Some things about the Peace Corps experience induce volunteers to mature. Some things cause them to revert to being 10-year-old boys. Poop belongs solidly in the latter category. For instance a sentence like, “Poop, pooper, poop. How’s your poop? Still peeing out your ass?” is not particularly rare amongst volunteers. Perhaps it is because the first lecture volunteers’ get when they arrive in country is on diarrhea. Or perhaps it is because the use of toilet paper is not widespread, so volunteers spend a lot more time squishing poop between their fingers as they clean their posteriors then they did back home. Or maybe it is because volunteers, as a reward for making it a full year, get to poop in a cup for a lab to examine. Whatever the reason, the Peace Corps is a poop conscious society. In poop we trust.

On 'The Moment'

Everyday there is a moment. It happens about five steps from your front door. It is the moment when you ask yourself, “Do I really have it in me to get through this day?”
If you are lucky it happens five steps after you have already closed and locked your front door. If this is the case you take a deep breath and let your momentum carry you. You salaam the people you see, go to your meetings, do your shopping, and never show how exhausting it is being immersed in a new language. Of course if you are unlucky the moment happens five steps before you get down the stairs to the front door. If it happens then you look at your feet and say to them, ‘guess this is an English day.’ And you go back upstairs and write a blog post.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

On Ikea

For those in Morocco who want modern solutions for everyday living, there is always Ikea. Ikea (pronounced the same but spelled Keita) has stores in all the major Moroccan cities where you will find the best Swedish designs that China can mass produce. Have a loft in upper soho? Fear not, here you will find all the smiley-face chairs and trés chic duvets your heart desires. Of course at Dh3500 ($500) you’ll have to pay two months wages just for a set of sheets. Maybe that’s not the best solution for everyday Moroccan living after all.

On Puddle

I awoke this morning to find a cat on my roof. A more affectionate cat then this one, I have never seen. Of course that characteristic was not particularly appealing because if there was ever a cat with rabies, it was this one. He, and that is a totally arbitrary term since I was not about to risk the rabies series by peering down to find out the cat’s sex, was mangy, very mangy. His tail was caked in mud, his fir was matted and unkempt, and in some places it was entirely absent as though removed in a fight. And he was hungry. Though I wanted the cat gone immediately, not being entirely heartless to his plight, I couldn’t deny him a plate of milk, which was swiftly gone and replaced with mewling for more. Before going to work I left a chair for him to climb to freedom. And of course I named him. Puddle.


Wednesday, January 13th, 2010:

…still in Morocco.

On The Weather As A Topic of Conversation

My darija language skills are not great. I realized today I don’t know the word stairs. Something I walk up and down ten times a day and I don’t know the word for. However, I know ten different ways to observe that the weather is miserable: Kayn stha. Ila Ansar. Brrd. Fogg. Firedon. Tilj bezzaf! Dema stha! Dwab rammadi. Diehea dyal la ma. Le jw, stha, Lahemdullah.
Conversely, I also know a couple ways of saying that the weather is nice such as: Shimsh, Shimsh Bezzaf, Shimsh schon bezzaf. Le jw zween. 
The reason I know all this about the weather is that it is perfect topic of conversation. I know I have made this assertion before to my friends and been told that you only talk to people about the weather when you have nothing else to talk about. They may be right but that does not prevent the weather from being my favorite thing to talk about. Here is why:
  1. Everybody has access to it. Unlike current events or sports teams or most any other topic, everybody can talk about the weather because all they have to do to access it is look outside.
  2. It affects everybody. This is more true in less developed places where if it rains there are no roads, only big puddles where roads used to be. Or if it snows, since houses aren’t heated, you are going to be colder and more miserable the otherwise.
So speaking of weather, I stopped wearing a watch. Why? Because it is almost always time-to-stay-inside-because-its-raining-so-hard-outside-that-if-you-leave-the-house-you-will-get-wet-and-it-will-be-days-before-you-are-warm-and-dry-again o’clock.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

On The Right Point Of View

When venturing on the experience of a lifetime it is important to have the right point of view. That point of view is one with a lot of perspective on your present situation. It is easy to get caught up in the moment and go about your day as if it were a normal day, without reflecting too much. But if you do this you miss those moments when it hits you, “wow I am haggling, in darija, over how much it will cost to borrow a donkey to get a bottle of propane to my house.”

My New Home

I moved into my house today. Three months and twenty-nine days after leaving America, I finally have a place that I can call entirely my own. The past three months and twenty-nine days were spent living out of a suitcase, a peripatetic wonderer, marveling and moving and being a guest and saying goodbye. But no more!
Now there is a place where I can put on my cowboy hat and dance to some good ol’ country music (yeah, that’s really what I did. I have no idea why since I never did that in the states.) Where I can brew an honest to goodness cup of tea with milk and sugar (and believe me, I am so jazzed right now, four months without that kind of caffeine will make you pretty excited!) And of course, put up my maps and hang my Estonian flag (random I know, but it’s the only one I own).  

On Refrigeration

Things tend not to be refrigerated in Morocco. Milk, cheese, yogurt, eggs and sodas are all purchased at room temperature. Most stores have refrigerators, however they are generally not turned on, presumably to conserve on the energy bill. All this leads one to believe that either there is special knowledge here on the preservation of dairy products, or the American obsession with refrigeration is entirely unnecessary.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

On New Years

Ten….   Nine….  Ashera….  Tsude….   Sanc….  Quatro….  Dos…. Dou….   Wait what language…? What time do you have? Could we synchronize? Well I have 12:10am so I guess that means it’s a new year. Enough? I’m going to bed now.

On Christmas

                        merry christmas?

On Alcohol

In some countries imbibing excessive amounts of alcohol is a disease, in others it is shameful, and in others it is a way of life. Morocco falls in the second category and in Morocco an excessive amount of alcohol is considered any at all (which is why everyone in America is a drunk in Moroccan eyes.) Thus those who do drink alcohol in Morocco, even a little, have to be very careful not to let anyone else be the wiser, or else they will be forever shamed. This leads to a litter problem. Because if you don’t want anyone to know about your Hsuma (Moroccan for ‘shame’ when combined with the pointer finger below the eye suggesting ‘I see you’) you can’t throw your empty alcohol bottles and cans away, in the all too public trash. Which is why it is disappointingly normal, when hiking, to find the most wonderful secluded spots littered with broken cans and bottles, keeping the secret of who drank them to themselves.