Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Dog Attack to Actual Disco

The plan

Wow. So ya, crazy time the past few days. I’ll begin with Thursday, a very important holiday; Eid l-mulud, the prophet Mohammed’s birthday. One in which you are supposed to come out of your house and be extra friendly to everyone. The plan was to spend the morning in my site, then hike to the next town to meet Linsey and another volunteer in the afternoon, bring them back to my place, have a lovely meal/slumber party, then the other volunteer would depart the next morning for his site, and Linsey and I would head off to Rabat for the holiday weekend. That was the plan, so of course it was destined to change. The day began quite well for me. I went to my counterpart’s house for breakfast-the most important meal of the day on holidays, and had a nice time greeting everyone around town and congratulating them. I don’t quite understand why, but you tell people congrats on holidays, as well as all the usual greetings. The day was not going so well for poor dear Linsey, who lives 2 and a half hours from anything, and the one transi guy she has decided to not go on the holiday. So literally, she had absolutely no way of getting out of her site. Grr! But I still planned to host the other volunteer, and she would head up Friday morning, inshallah.

The dogs

So around 11 silly little me, set off on my hike to the next town. See, my ssuq town is a ten minute taxi ride, a half hour bike ride or an hour and a half walk. In the opposite direction the closest town(with a couple other volunteers and a nice transport hub) is a twenty minute taxi ride. I hadn’t tried biking it because of its gradual uphill trend, and my being very much out of shape, and I hadn’t tried walking it because I hadn’t yet had time. Well, on Thursday I decided to, and oh what a decision. It was insanely windy, but beautiful out and it felt great to be moving my legs. About an hour in my mom called, so for about twenty minutes I walked backwards so the wind wouldn’t interfere and we had a lovely chat. It’s good we hung up when we did or I probably would have had a heart attack because literally no more than ten seconds later I was surrounded by beasts. Two huge dogs, two regular sized dogs, and three or four nice sixed pups. I’m all shaky again just thinking about it. Dogs are an entirely different species here; except a fair few who are raised to be domestic, they are absolute terrors. My site has a big dog problem, but you would only have to worry at night when you’re alone; in the day they’ll bark but you just have to pretend to bend over and pick up a rock and they’ll run away fast. But in the vast stretches between actual towns like mine there’ll be a random house, like the one I passed at this point, which happened to be right by the road. Dogs near homes like this only know of their owners and had probably never seen such a dummy walking along. The problem with the dogs is that they are utterly terrified of you and that’s what makes them so dangerous. It is in these moments that we manage to escape ourselves and all inhibitions and turn to utter survival mode. I was so surprised I nearly began to run, but then a big ding went off in my head, duh, the one thing you should never do when being attacked is to turn and run, so instead I turned around right as the biggest dog nearly took out my leg and began lunging, screaming and barking right back at them. I have no idea what made me do that, but I guess my only weapon of the moment was my voice and acting as much like a beast as possible. I knew I reeked with fear and my screaming and barking would only keep away who I was directing it at. I began picking up rocks too, throwing them at everything, but still I was very much out numbered. Of course these moments seem to last forever but I’m sure it was only two or three minutes. Still screaming, barking and throwing I crept backwards away from the house. Once out of their immediate territory I quieted my voice and lowered my arms, but kept walking backwards until I was a good half k away. I was well beyond shouting distance when a very confused looking old man came out of his house, probably wondering what the hell just happened, but I didn’t go back to explain. It’s amazing how much your body gets pumping after fearing for its life! Oh dear, ya so I walked awhile, nearly in tears with fear but also relief and thanks for getting away with no physical wounds. I kept my arms full of rocks, but my body began to release the tension and my heartbeat steadily returned to normal. I decided at this point that the hike was over and I’d take any ride that came along, but being a holiday, who knew when that might happen. Up ahead three women started walking along the road, and I decided to be a creep and follow them at some distance, because they know how to handle this sort of thing. We passed by a couple more angry dogs, and I threw some serious rocks at them before they even had a chance to get close, and caught a taxi a few minutes later. All in all, I am very thankful because unlike many volunteers I did not get bit. I’m bummed because that would be a pretty nice hike to do when I have the time, but at least I’m more aware of the danger now. I friggin hate dogs here.

The new plan

After lunch with the two volunteers in town, I returned to my site with my guest, by taxi of course. Though we missed Linsey we had a nice evening, he left Friday morning, and I went to Neddia’s house before meeting up with Linsey. Oh yes, Neddia. I randomly met her a couple weeks ago, and she is awesome! She comes back home often, but generally lives in Fes where she goes to college (you go girl!) studying sociology and knows a great deal of English. I love it, when trying to explain sociology in English she said it was “the study of the problems of the people” and was happy when I told her my mom studied that too. We’re the same age, and have the same name (in Morocco at least) and she assures me I am her sister. I didn’t have time for tea but assured her I would come over when I returned from Rabat. Meanwhile, way down south, Linsey did make it outa town, though only barely; as a surprise snow storm hit, ya that’s right, on the first day of spring! We finally managed to meet in Azrou that afternoon and ride the next few hours to Rabat together, lhamdullah!

The first day

We settled into a nice place, and began roaming the city! I hadn’t been there since my first couple days in this country, and wow! I can really appreciate it now, like I’d never been to a big city before. Azrou is a decent size and I love it, and I’ve never been much of a city girl, but wow! Rabat is just so big! And beautiful! And full of people! Linsey had been there a few months ago and remembered where some good eating was, and we managed to find everything we were looking for, but alas, it was all closed! Here’s a funny thing about our jobs and living here: we get most Moroccan and /or Muslim holidays off, creating a nice three or four day weekend off here and there. This is great because then we can travel further and meet up with long lost buddies, however, (like Linsey’s experience) there’s often less or no transport on holidays, and all alcohol options are closed. And let’s be honest, many of us would like to have a drink on our breaks. Anyhow, so we ended up at a hummus and falafel place, which was relatively cheap, and incredible! I haven’t had falafel since Kansas City! Then we topped it off with McFlurrys at McDonalds, which we also enjoyed far too much. Also, this entire time there was not a moment of silence as we had to catch up on so much after not seeing each other in over two months! We then had amazing hot showers at the hotel, I don’t even wanna think about how long it’s been, but I love having smooth legs. And then, we crashed. Poor Linsey had only been travelling for twelve hours or so!

The full day

Saturday morning we went to Marjan, kind of like a Walmart in Morocco, only expensive. It’s awesome because it has many things we just can’t get anywhere near our sites, but pretty far from our little budgets. We got some fanciful things anyhow and then went to the American Club for lunch. Can I say wow again? More than anything it proved to me that I am going to be a super freak for quite some time when I return to the states. Everyone spoke in English, the menu was in English, we sat at the bar, with a sports channel on in English and I had a beer, a caesar salad, cheeseburger and fries, oh yea. I haven’t had salad since the states either, it was great. After resting up a bit we headed off for the beach! I can’t decide what was the best about this trip for it was all amazing, but the beach was certainly fighting for first. I had never gone so long in my life without seeing the ocean. I do love the mountains, but only the great expanse of water can really ground me, the ocean is my center. It was like a reset button. The water was freezing but I stood in it anyway and was dying to jump in. Oh that salt air, mmm I miss it again already. I needed it, but I think standing in that ocean was one of the most homesick moments I’ve had. So I’ve now been in both sides of the Atlantic, the Pacific of course, the Red Sea, the Mediterranean Sea, and does the Dead Sea count? How many more do I have to go? We made our way back through the medina, which, along with the rest of Rabat is the most chill of all big cities. Meaning, you aren’t hassled nearly as much as other places. It’s so much more relaxing to shop without people screaming at you!

The cool kids

Later on, since vacations are really all about food, we went to the gunthe institute, essentially the German Club. Oddly, the food was all Italian, and I had, no kidding, the best pizza of my life! We were completely stupid over how much we loved those pizzas. Near the end a group began forming at a table next to us, and awesome mix of cultures and languages, and they asked us to join them. They were awesome! It was a group of daners, from Spain, Morocco, Mexico, Chad and I think France; and everyone spoke at least three of the following: Spanish, English, Darija, French, Tamazight. They were amazing, and it was so interesting to see such a different face of Morocco. They were amazed we were living out in the middle of nowhere for two years as volunteers and we were shocked by such casual conversation and people. It was quite refreshing. They then invited us to a jazz place, we missed the jazz and it was quite swank and quiet, so after a beer we headed off to another bout of culture shock-a real discotheque. Ok I swear it’s the last time I’ll say it, but WOW. It was just like any other crazy, loud, dirty dancing club you might be picturing, except that it felt so out of place here. Or at least Linsey and I did; in our hand washed and far from clubbing appropriate attire, and deep in the bled mindsets. We’re now used to never being in close contact with men, and haven’t observed PDA since leaving the states. We all stayed a bit, and really had a great night overall. We were overwhelmed by how nice these “city folk” were to us, and just how far from that life we are now living. It was after 3am when we finally rolled into bed and crashed only to wake up four hours later to catch early enough busses to get back to our sites before dark on Easter. It was a short tip to an entirely different world, but I couldn’t ask for more.

3aydx s tadartinu (I returned home)

And now I am home, oh how I love my house, my site, Morocco, truly I do today. It’s nice to go away to a city, but I’m so happy to be back here too. I left for the co-op this morning and on my way saw Mimoun. He was the host brother of a volunteer who had CBT here, and he’s very kind. Boundaries are difficult here, especially for a woman, but he’s one of those few that truly wants only to talk, share culture and learn. He helped the volunteer before with Tam, and vice versa with English. So after the co-op today we had tea and chatted a long time-a good mixture of Tam and English. And soon I’m going to get another couple volunteers out here and he’s going to take us on a hike. Finally I can conquer these awesome mountains calling my name! I haven’t hiked them yet because everyone in my town would flip out if I went alone, and since my little canine battle I certainly won’t. Then, as if I wasn’t exhausted enough, I went to Neddia’s house, as promised. It was great; her family is huge and so nice! My Tam is already rusty after Rabat where no one speaks it, but Neddia’s family is the type where me saying just one word in Tam throws them over the edge with laughter and praise. It was fun, and I’m certainly going to head over there more often.

Walani, awd ad ddux (but I will leave again)

I’ve just been relaxing in my tube now, I’ve got an insane amount to do, but am so dang tired! Tomorrow I’m going to Azrou for tutoring, posting this, and a variety of other errands before Wednesday, eek! For Wednesday I depart for nearly two weeks! I’m working at a Spring Language Immersion Camp, a good two day trip away from me near the border of Algeria! It’s essentially a weeklong camp for Moroccan youth learning English, to learn more English, do all kinds of activities and share culture, etc. I don’t quite know all that it entails, but I will be doing art activities with another volunteer and let you all know how it goes when I get back! I am super excited for this camp because I really haven’t had a chance to work with Moroccan youth or teach yet, but I am also excited to get back. I’ve been in Morocco almost seven months now and have not stopped moving! I am determined to stay put a bit and find some kind of routine when I get back. Maybe it’s just wishful thinking, but I need to ground myself a little better. I’ve been telling people in my site that I know I travel too much but I love it here and when I get back I want to stay put! They love hearing that and I do mean it. And hopefully I can start writing about my real work with the co-op too! For there is a lot happening with that, but it’s all fragmented and I’ll talk more about it soon. Oh my, I really need to get up and start packing and getting ready before the night is gone!

And I changed the settings on here so you can comment, sorry I didn’t realize I was blocking everyone! I love and miss you all as much as always.

Friday, March 14, 2008

6 month anniversary and why Ashley is my favorite person in the world

11 March 2008

Didn’t realize until nearly 11pm tonight when Linsey texted me, “I forgot to say happy 6 months, we’ve survived morocco for exactly 6 months today. Can’t wait to see ya!” So ya, purdy cool. Today was alright, did errands and tutoring in Azrou, and tonight I was arm deep in goat poo! That’s right, bought some raw goat hair at ssuq today, and goat hair I think reeks more than any other fiber, ugh. But I couldn’t be happier. Most of the time life and all my dysfunction’s are just too complicated and confusing to handle, and then there are those moments when I really think I’m just the simplest person on earth; gimme some coffee and some fiber and I’m high and happy as a kite. Doesn’t last long, but it’s nice. Haven’t done fiber properties in forever! I’ve never spun goat hair, but I’ve always wanted to, I’ll let you know how it goes. It’s really beautiful and I think if I card it with the wool the Cooperative gave me I’ll spin up a fine yarn. The staple is like 3 inches long! Mmm, can’t wait. But the other huge occupant of my time has been planning what I’m going to teach at Spring Camp, I’ll update you on what the heck that is soon, but the other half of tonight, taking a break from the goat shit, was experimenting with plaster to find the right ratio of water and what materials to do mosaics with, I’m very excited! And I got my ferno going on the first try!

12 March 2008

And then. . . I went to the post office and my dear postman pulled out a package, slowly as possible, and tried to read, “ass-heel-ee” and I screamed, “tamdaqltinu!” (which means “my friend”). It was hard to keep from giggling and smiling ear to ear on my walk home, which seemed to take forever even though I live right around the corner from the post office. I know I said I wouldn’t do this again, but I’m so dang excited about all of it I am going to flaunt here every crumb she sent. First popped out a lovely wool hat she knit with MY NEWT written across with a little newt above it, much of the contents are inside jokes, you don’t need to get it, but she’s my newt and I’m here newt, and that’s no minute fact. Then there were 7 balls of Cascade 220 Peruvian highland wool- the prime felting wool for slippers, yippie! And the pattern of course so I can finally make the slippers I owe people, some for myself, hey I may as well get a business goin. Then, Nilla wafers and Nutella. Which is hilariously unnecessary as Nutella is abundantly available here, but I don’t care, oh freshman year! Then a box of sweethearts and three king size packs of Take 5. Whats take 5 you might ask? Hahaha, it’s a very complicated answer. . . A couple framed pictures of us, some of our last days as well the hellish winter Wisconsin has had, other people and places I love. . . the Jan/Feb issue of Fiberarts, complete with yellow tabs and highlighting with personal jokes and touches- it’s crazy cuz we actually know so many people in that magazine, and weird to look at the art world I left. A dradle magnet from Emily *insert inappropriate jokes I can’t tell here* which is extra funny as I have no fridge to stick it to; I did however get a good ten minute laugh in as I realized the one thing in my house it would stick to- my ferno! Some all American tissues, which I kinda needed as I sniffled and laughed throughout the escapade of opening this package, an article from The Onion about alpacas being the answer to saving Americas economy, and an excerpt from The Onion’s book, Our dumb World on Morocco, some postcards of very important places in, and then, oh my, a tube! The tube is something just too great to fully comprehend, I’d explain it here but it would just take too long and I don’t know if all my readers are ready for it, but it’s in penguin fleece and its almost as good as hugging my Ashley. . and last but not least, in fact probably the best, a 15 page, front and back, so really 30 page letter, written exactly like she were sittin here talkin to me. So ya, that made for a splendid evening. I do love you all, am ever grateful once again for everything you send, there’s just nothing like family. And truly, there;s nothing like Ashley.

Also- I plan on being online again for quite some time Sunday afternoon, I have to go for ssuq anyhow, so, since I can’t say anything about the future without saying inshallah, inshallah I will be there! And ready to chat!