Tuesday, April 27, 2010

MCA, Visitors, last hammam, gahh

I don’t mean to the bearer of bad news JD, but you have officially entered your last week in Morocco. Geez, thanks mind, as if I haven’t already been considering that fact. If time flies when you are having fun, then it soars like superman when you have a lot of stuff on your mind. And I’m not talking about Superman out for a carefree Sunday spin; rather, try Superman with three villains to catch, two damsels in distress, and maybe let’s throw in Grannie’s cat stuck up in the Maple. (I could do so much if my mind had super powers.) But the time, it winds down so fast. Where did it go? April is almost over, after that comes May, July, September…it’s nearly Christmas.

I don’t mean to scare you all, and if I did, don’t fret please (there’s still time to get your shopping done!). Hmm, speaking of shopping: souvenirs, gifts, tea, spices…I should probably get on that. Today I received a shiny new teapot from Farida and Rachid, which I am very excited about. It holds 4 glasses; tea for two, anyone? I also made an expedition to the Royal Institute of Amazight Culture in pursuit of Tamazight grammar texts for Papa, which I found in abundance. As I was told by the CCCL, these two books will be granted to free of charge!

Today I left a letter with Monsieur le Recteur of the institute with my request; the only catch is that I have to return tomorrow to acquire the actual books. The place is in the outskirts of town a decent taxi ride away, but meshi mushkeel, no problem, because they have a nice library that I studied Arabic in all morning while waiting for my request to be filled. Unfortunately it was not processed in time or something, I don’t know exactly how this free book thing works. Abdoullay, the co-founder of the CCCL and husband of le directrice Farah, told me that, due to their royal connections, the institute has a LOT of money (which is clear when you see the spanking new really cool building).

Hmm, could all that money represent some attempt, on behalf of the Monarchy, to somehow make up for the long history of mistreatment and marginalization that Amazight people have endured from the Makhzan over the past 5-10 centuries…mumkin-nuuwho, la 3arif- it is possible, I don’t know. However, I don’t think the average Berber (I have heard very few people, including Berbers themselves, use the word Amazight) Moroccan benefits, at least not directly, from this money. It could be an example of throwing money at a problem until it ceases to exist, or stops bothering you for money. From what we have learned, the Mouvement Culturel Amazight (MCA) is an elite urban club, a characterization which seems pretty accurate after this morning’s visit. If I learn anything else tomorrow, I will let you know. Also Papa, you will be getting a bill for my taxi fares, which came to all of 5 dollars round trip today. It seems like a lot more than that in D’s.

The 8 dirhams per dollar exchange rate is one, of many things, that will be hard to leave behind. 40 dirhams sounds like a lot more than 5 bucks, but there you have it. And the olives, orange juice, the Medina, the doors, the people…don’t get me started. But the friendliness of everyone, their general willingness to talk to you, to strangers, provide directions, advice, whatever it is you are seeking. This is can be off putting at times, especially if you are not in the mood to talk to anyone, but overall it is something I will miss.

Part of it has to do with the fact that I live in the Medina, part of maybe that I am a white-skinned foreigner, and there could be other factors too. However, I know that this is a general aspect of society here, not just something I experience as an American living in the Medina kadeema, the old city. Fadoua has explained the Moroccan GPS to us (I hope I didn’t use this material in a previous post…losing my memory, mumkin), which involves driving to the corner, turning right, going 2 km, and then asking the first person you see after the traffic light.

But seriously, asking people for help is a regular thing, it’s very common , and it’s encouraged in a way that I feel is somewhat lacking in the States. Sure I stop at a gas station from time to time, but in general I don’t talk to strangers very much back home. The individual’s business and privacy are respected very highly in our country, which I think can be a good and a bad thing. I think I will be more likely to talk to strangers post-Morocco, which is something that I think we should all get more comfortable doing. We can’t pretend like other people aren’t human beings having similar experiences in life. We are all swimming in the same sea, aren’t we? The individual must be respected in society, but I think the degree of this emphasis in the states has hindered our development as a collective group.

Ok, enough philosophy, back to souvenirs. Aura’s Dad told her to get something that she will want in her house later in life, which an interesting thought. I have the wool jacket and turban, and I plan on getting some leather slippers, so I am set in the clothes department. I sort of inclined to stop there and just focus on gifts for people. But then there’s that voice in my head that says, get something for your house later! Geez, thanks Mr. Lundee. If anyone cares to share thoughts or suggestions on this I would be happy to entertain ideas.

Visitors. I have thus far neglected this aspect of my time in Morocco, and I realize that this represents a gross oversight on my part. My only hope is that those people who visited me in Morocco realize that I have neglected an account of their visit thus far because of my personal schedule here and not because of any lack of love or appreciation for them. Well, now that that’s settled, time to move on to more important matters…

But seriously, it means a lot to have someone come all that way to visit and get a taste of Morocco and my life here. I know that such a trip was not possible for everyone who wanted to make it. I would have loved to receive my Papa or Allan (as in my father and brother, but everyone who might be reading this probably already knows that…it’s not like I tailor these posts to a certain audience) or any friends willing and able to make the trip. The next time, inchallah, though who knows where or when that will be.

I especially enjoyed jet-setting around Rabat with Jill feeling like we were independently wealthy tourists. I think we stayed at 5 different hotels, maybe 6, in the 13 days she was here. The exchange rate again bears mention here, because our “splurge” hotel, with breakfast included, cost less than a motel six does in the States. And then imagine if that motel six were located in Washington, DC…

Being a Hutchison-Maxwell, I think I have a natural affinity for the unpredictability and challenges that accompany life in a foreign country. I don’t mean to sound pompous, but it is easy for me to forget that some people are not as used to this whole travelling thing as I am. I think, therefore, that I am more likely to see the similarities between two places rather than the differences. It being Jill’s first time out of North America, this was a big trip in a lot of ways. Then there is the fact that Morocco is a little different than going to London or Paris for your first time off continent. Add in the fact that her boyfriend is living in the old medina with a Moroccan family, that the notion of vegetarianism by choice is practically alien here, the language barrier(s), and that pretty white women get a lot of attention here, and you see that this was not just any spring break trip. Oh yeah, then there was this whole Icelandic volcano thing, just a little icing on the cake is all. More like ash on the cake.

Considering all of the above, and the fact that we sort of shamed my family by thinking that Jill could stay over for a night or two (apparently Farida meant that Jill could eat with us and spend time during the day), plus the Baby naming party, which is another post for another day, I would say that Jill performed admirably well. I kept trying to put myself in her shoes and imagine Morocco through a perspective so much different from mine, but this was a difficult exercise. I truly enjoyed her visit in so many different ways, and I feel very lucky to have someone like her who cares for me and about me as much as she does. I don’t feel like I am doing her trip justice with this post, because it wasn’t all obstacles to overcome. I will try to provide a better account later.

The two visits I received, first from my Mom and Hugh and then from the lovely Ms. Ruddock, were not just great in themselves. In addition, they made me feel especially accomplished about my time here and all I was able to show them and teach them. Maybe that is because it forced me to acknowledge how much I have learned about language, culture, society, and everything else. It’s great to have that feeling of sharing, especially when you have such eager and able pupils. Maybe I should be a teacher, I kind of like that idea.

Tonight was my last hammam experience for a while. It was a bittersweet occasion, because as much as I like how clean I feel afterwards I can’t say I enjoy the stifling humidity of the place. It’s a surreal experience in there because of how hard it is to judge the passing of time, my lack of glasses, the language barrier (I don’t understand rapidly spoken Darija, and I daresay I might never, at least not when it’s bouncing around the bath), and the rainforest climate. Gah, I am glad I won’t be going to the hammam in the hot of the summer. But after I had finished washing, and while Rachid was finishing his routine, I would estimate that I spent 15-20 minutes sitting against the wall’s cool tiles and splashing myself with cold water, one Tupperware-full at a time. Mmm, those minutes felt so good, perhaps the best I have felt in the hammam so far. As with so many things in life, I find happiness and pleasure in such a balance.

Today it was hot, I would say the first real hot day we have had. We have had plenty of warm days, and some that approached the h-word, but I think this was the first hot day. I am glad that it is coming now rather than in March or early April, because I just didn’t bring enough shorts. Whether hot temperatures will make this week better or worse remains to be seen, but at least there is hope for decent ocean temperatures this weekend. I vowed to swim in this side of the Atlantic at least once, and it will be happening this weekend, finally.

Before then I have to finish (as in write most or all of) two papers, one a research paper on Moroccan women and literacy and the other an oral history interview with an older member of our Moroccan family. I have been trying to secure time with Rachid’s Mother, which has been harder than I thought it would be. If that doesn’t work out I will write about Rachid instead. As for female literacy in Morocco, did you know that the rate of female adult (15 and older) literacy, as of 2008, was 44.1 percent. The young (15-24 years of age) female rate is better, at 68.4 percent in 2008, but they both clearly leave lots of room for improvement. I will let you know what I find out. Oh then there is an Arabic and Gender class final, not to mention 4 skype dates, a party to attend, shopping, swimming, drinking enough fresh OJ to last me until I next return to Morocco, plus spending time with my compatriots in this whole thing. Let’s just say that there probably won’t be much sleeping going on. Meshi mushkeel, mumkin-anee an anaem b3da el-Maghrib, no problem, I can sleep after Morocco (literal translation, “it is possible for me I sleep after”…there is no such thing as a good literal translation from Arabic to English, probably not to any language). For now though, it is time to sleep. Leyla sai-eeda, good night. Peace, love, and all that jazz.

*update: successfully obtained two books from the Amazight institute this morning, finished my Arabic homework in the taxi, and skyped with Christoph before Arabic class which is in 5 minutes. I am officially excited about going to Germany again!

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