Monthly Archives: February 2012

Diggin’ the Real

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Rochelle told me today that she’s fascinated by my blog. (By Rochelle I mean Rachel, but I think the two Ls fit her name just like how she rocks that short hair DAMN GURL.) Anyway, I asked her why, and she answered simply, “because it’s real.”

“Real how?” I asked, intrigued.

“Real for two reasons,” she replied. “Firstly, because you talk about the emotional experiences you’re having, there’s no bullshit. Secondly, because the photos are beautiful. And you’re a good writer,” she added. I said thank you, a bit floored.

(I paraphrased, Rochelle. Hope you don’t mind.)

Anyway, I just wanted to post that because it really struck me today; not because I want to brag or anything, but because I’m grateful; and to let you all know it never occurred to me that it would be just as meaningful for someone else to read it as it is for me to write it. And now I’m looking at this blog a little differently, and I think (perhaps) with a little more humility (or maybe it’s because I’m feeling hungry and wistful).

This blog started out as my way of keeping in touch with friends and loved ones at home, as an avenue toward some sort of Personal Growth, and as an attempt to follow through with something to its fullest extent, for a change.  I’ve always looked up to people who seem to have Real Things to say, whose clear voices ring out with authenticity and courage as they say what needs to be said. I have a voice, I know, and I’m trying (with this blog) to figure out how to put it to use. I have these hot-sparkler ideas all the time, but they tend to fizzle out quickly—I want an Olympic Torch idea, man. I guess that’s what this blog is for, I don’t really know.

At first, it took a little more faith and confidence than I had to trust that the people I loved were actually reading it—blogging is a one-way sort of deal; I write, hope you read. I can see how many people look at my blog each day, and I used to check religiously whether I had views or not: as though two more views would constitute some sort of human connection with someone, somewhere. I don’t gain my sense of self-worth from the number of views on my blog anymore, though, that was probably just a silly self-conscious phase. Or maybe it wasn’t silly at all; for awhile there, it was hard not to feel desperate for some connection with the world I left behind.

Anyway, it’s been quite a journey, even after only a month: there’s a lot to write about, there’s a lot to grow on, and there’s a lot to learn. So I’d like to shout out a thank-you to all you readers out there that have accompanied me thus far, those who I know personally and those who I don’t. It blows my mind that people have signed up to get e-mails every time I post when they don’t even know me (and then I feel marginally guilty when I post 4 times in one day). WUUUT.  Thanks for the replies via e-mail, for the comments and likes, and for the affirmations that this is, assuredly, a good thing. Thanks for reading! Stay tuned! Stay classy!

YOU STAY AWESOME, ROCHELLE.

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Drumbeats in Djemaa el Fna

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Our first steps into the Ochre city matched the rhythm of the drumbeats echoing throughout one of the largest and busiest squares in the world: Djemaa el Fna. Monkeys and cobras, magicians and vendors, orange juice and street food vendors; meters away from one of the biggestsouks in all of Morocco—so much culture, so much history to see, so much AAH THIS IS SO COOL!

…So we went clubbing.

(photos are pretty much all taken by other people, like Angela, Carly, Oumaima, and oh, just everyone. Cameras get passed around like a bottle on New Year’s here.)

This is what we looked like at 3:30 in the morning in Djemaa el Fna:

This is a photo of a successful night out.

Our cohort planned this trip independent of our program’s trips together, and we also planned this trip knowing full well that we’d be returning to Marrakesh once, twice, MAYBE EVEN MORE TIMES THAN THAT so don’t worry, I’m not squandering cultural opportunities on clubbing. Besides, I believe that witnessing the strange ex-patriot and high-class prostitute bar-situation in Marrakesh is a cultural experience in itself. Besides besides, clubbing is fun. Besides besides besides, clubbing in clubs meant for tourists is hilarious.

For example, one club called Matisse had decided that off-beat art was its theme; they had me convinced until I read the profound, artsy-fartsy paint-splatter glowing sign saying:

ART CANNOT BE LIMITED. IT IS BORN IN MIND AND NEVER DIE.

Good try, I thought, and chuckled.  The club also featured a large picture of the Beatles, a projector flipping through random pop culture/boob pictures, and nooks with bookshelves full of books on Napoleon and Ancient Egypt and Poetry and Art. It was a pretty funny club. Then we did tequila shots and returned to our lovely Riad (legal disclaimer: drinking age for foreigners is 18 here), after listening to enough of the DJ’s mediocre remixes of Red Hot Chili Pepper songs to last us a good long while.

(You know, I don’t go out clubbing that often, so it was sort of like stepping into a different personality…till I hit the DANCE FLOOR. I GOT MOVES. Just kidding, tee hee.)

Anyway, a riad is a traditional Moroccan house, tucked behind the walls of the winding alleys in the Medina, that features a square in the middle that opens to the sky. We pretty much took over the riad (called Hôtel Ni-something-or-other), except for the French chain smoker in the room next to ours. We payed 50dh a night, which works out to approximately $6.01. I love Morocco.

HI RIAD!

Our cute little room (with beds and beds and beds shoved inside):

Catey/Rambo/Jellaba, Melissa, Olivia, me. YUP.

We explored the souk on Sunday before hopping onto the hot, sticky, but altogether pleasant 4-hour train ride. All in all, a wonderful trip. I can’t wait to return, and tell you all about Historical and Meaningful things in Marrakesh!

OH THESE KIDS.

Thanks, facebook, for the photos.

Imi-n-ifri: a hike through Middle Earth

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I’m going out of order catching you up on stories, but oh well. This is the story of our hike through Middle Earth last Saturday. After a Friday of NGOs in Casablanca and finding a Riad in Marrakesh, we piled into a pretty cheap hired minibus on Saturday morning to take us to Imi-n-ifri! This is what we saw on the way. Enjoy the not-super-interesting-out-of-the-van-window pictures to follow.

This is what the Moroccan countryside looks like sometimes:

But it sometimes looks more like THIS:

Other times, it looks more like this:

HELLO MAN BENDING OVER.

Sometimes, though, when we passed Amazigh villages, it looked more like this.

HI AMAZIGH VILLAGE

Also there was this:

After lots of that, we finally reached Imi-n-ifri, which means “grotto’s mouth” in Tamazigh. That’s the Amazigh language, I’m pretty sure. I’m also only pretty sure that that’s what it actually means; Allie’s guidebook said so, but guidebooks are wrong a lot. Anyway, we also drove through/briefly looked at the town of Demnat, which is known for its peaceful convergence of Jewish and Muslim culture. Cool!

And then, we hiked down 214 steps into a gorge, and discovered this land bridge/cave/stalactite/climbing galore/beautiful corner of earth:

I’m actually not sure if I captured some beautiful sunlight-art right there, or if my lens was just dirty.

We climbed all around under the drippy ceiling below this stupidly cool land bridge, and also climbed up the rather perilous and steep incline to the right in order to explore the small cavesinsidethe big cave. It was cave inception. It was quite fun.

Yeeees.

So then we hiked, climbed, sang songs, ate pralinutta (not quite nutella), jumped, and had an all-around grand old time. These pictures are a combo of mine and other people’s.

Cavezzzz

Falling with style. Nice camera work there, Angela. Nice catching there, Nick. Hassan in the background looks really intense, like Jason Bourne.

We are all Indiana Jones!

Big Bird’s North African cousins are big.

Yup.

So anyway, we hiked through Middle Earth last Saturday. It was an epic journey.

Edit: this picture is also great.

KITTIES

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or,

The Zoe Post!

I have about seven unfinished stories waiting, about Marrakesh and NGOs and hiking through Middle Earth, but we’ll get to those later.

Last night, I curled up under my covers and Rim the Pregnant Kitty lay down in the little fort in the crook of my bent knees.  Just another night in Rabat, I thought, I should probably do my homework for Gender class tomorrow.

In the middle of a rather restless night (lots of half-waking-up, confused, to some weird noises), I awoke to find that Rim the Pregnant Kitty was no longer pregnant! I thought of Zoe as I looked over to a shelf in our closet, and saw instead four (five?!) TINY BABY KITTIES squeaking like there’s no tomorrow. Newborn kitties squeak, by the way. None of this meowing business, they sound like squeaky toys each time they wake up and start crawling all over each other. Tomi the Barfy Kitty (Rim is his mama too, did I mention that?) came in to inspect the new kitties as well, and then Boushra, Wided and Abir, Jalal, Huria, Jamila, all the fam. Anyway, pictures to follow eventually; I don’t want to bother the kitties with a flash right now. They look so peaceful and snuggly, and I can’t find my camera cord anyway.

Allie did suffer one casualty of childbirth, though. Unfortunately, Rim thought it’d be a good idea to give birth on her clothes, which she removed from the shelf and dumped into the kitchen sink. (These kitties just have terrible judgment with some things.) Hopefully no permanent damage has been done!

ZOEEEEEE! Zoe is in India, teaching English. I’m a big Zoe fan, I have t-shirts and foam fingers and everything. This is her blog, you should read it because she’s awesome. Zoe, four more kitties just joined the legions of cats in Morocco! I wonder if they’ll let me name one. Got any suggestions?

So, hidden away in a corner of the blue-walled kasbah, a cat gave birth in our closet. I never know what I’m going to wake up to here!

TUNES

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I never realized how enormous a role music plays (PUN) in my everyday life, until I began to have these random music cravings. Ladies, it’s like craving a bacon cheeseburger and chocolate and pistachio ice cream when it’s your Happy Week: insatiable. Absolutely, persistently, gnawingly insatiable. It’s not just getting a song stuck in my head, it’s YOU MUST HEAR THIS SONG RIGHT NOW OR I WILL BREAK IT DOWN AND SING IT OUT LOUD ON THE BUS, AND THERE IS NOTHING YOUR PITIFUL EXCUSE FOR SELF-CONTROL CAN DO ABOUT IT.

Before you ask, yes I have done it. Well, not on the bus, on the street. It was faaaabulous. It was Mariah Carey, except US. YEEES INDEEEEEDY.

I realized that I listen to music every DAY at home, so now my brain must be somehow revolting against the lack of Western music; though I do love Moroccan music (ANOTHER BLOG POST, ANOTHER TIME: MOROCCAN MUSIC), and hear it pretty much every night on my host family’s strange Maghribian MTV.

So now I have to plan ahead for my Western music fix, because my subconscious keeps shoving totally rando songs into my head, demanding to be played during a would’ve-been-quiet moment snatched in our bedroom. Yesterday, it was this song:

So I listened to it twice while running in the park, and also danced. SO GOOD. NOT CHRISTMAS? DON’T CARE. MARIAH CAREY IS CHRISTMAS.

Also danced randomly to THIS one today. I was going to make a video of me dancing to it, but photobooth pooped out and it’s late-ish anyway (I promise to upload a silly dancing video eventually!!! PROMISE), so you just get to watch a boring music video. Imagine me dancing to it.

We ate delicious Italian food tonight at Luigi’s, which is our new favorite sanctuary (when we need a little bit of familiarity. Pasta: not frequently eaten here). Barry White and pesto pasta: yes, I do believe I shall, grazie. Sarah, Allie and I were really loopy from a long day and a lot of Fousha, so we giggled a lot and made the waiter laugh with our gasps and cries of amazement when he brought out platters of steaming spaghetti and lasagna.

Tomorrow morning, at oh-god-I-wish-I-were-still-asleep o’clock, we shall part for somewhere outside Casablanca, where we’ll meet with/volunteer for a couple NGOs, and then we shall travel onward to Marrakesh, to do Marrakeshy things (I suppose). We have no plans, no hotels or anything, so I’m excited to see how this’ll work out. I’m packing plenty of toilet paper, just in case. I’m also not bringing Mr. MacBook with me, so please excuse my absence from the tubes for the next three days. I’ll post Sunday or Monday or something, if I make it back alive.

THIS is what I think of awesome Italian food, Darija class, and YOU:

P.S.: Sometimes I wonder about the Quality of the Stories on this blog, and then I remember that I don’t care. I’ll re-read a post (like this one) and wonder should I actually post that? Is it good/eloquent/blahblahblah enough? Then I remind myself that this is all about staying somehow connected with the world I left in the U.S., and sharing whatever the eff comes out of my brain with the Internet because WHY NOT?! Anyway, hope you enjoy Blog, Crazies and all.

Much lovin sent your way! To Marrakesh, and beyond!

We, the Cynics

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This one’s to the American cynics, the ex-patriots, the privileged and powerful who despise it all the same—to the guilt-ridden, the fearful, the restless. I’ve noticed (only noticed, not fully understood, nor could I offer solutions) an underlying fear and self-deprecation among the youth of the U.S., paralyzed and infuriated by injustice, and I wanted to say a little something about it.

Sometimes it’s difficult to connect back to “the way things ARE” in the United States, because I spend so much time focusing on Moroccan culture (so call me out if I’m way off base on this); yet it is through this separation from my own culture that I have recognized this sort of self-loathing, born of our constant self-awareness, that colors our perceptions of ourselves. We are the educated, who realize the impact of our lifestyles on the environment and the global economy; we recognize the socioeconomic divisions that separate us from much of the world, we hate that we’re the parasitic privileged and we want to give back. We realize the sheer strength of the institutions that perpetuate injustice, poverty of all kinds, and war, and we often feel powerless to stop it. At least, I know I do.

For what it’s worth, here’s what I say: take heart.  We lose everything when we stop learning and begin to judge ourselves; we come to a standstill when we label ourselves the destroyers of culture and tradition, those who know nothing, those who have nothing to offer.  When we condemn ourselves and assign blame for things as they are, we freeze; we starve ourselves of hope, choosing instead bitterness, self-consciousness, and guilt. Self-deprecation, I’ve found, only isolates us further.

Yes, we’ll soon return to our comfortable lifestyle, our coveted U.S. citizenship, and shit will still suck, but it might help to remember that we’ll still be working,schwiya, schwiya, for the betterment of the human condition and the reversal of environmental degradation. It takes some degree of patience to marry happiness with dreams of a more just and humane world, but I dunno: seems like a better option than feeling crappy all the time.

Well, this was more rambly than I wanted it to be, so thanks for bearing with me today, readers. And, after all, this did turn out to just be a nicely-worded, abstract pep talk; but it concerns me that guilt seems to play such a large part in the formulation of our identity. We shouldn’t have to feel that we need to justify our own existence all the time; I don’t think anyone else does (at least, Moroccans don’t). It frustrates me to no end how sucky people can be sometimes, the state of the world is disquieting at best, but we’ve got to find hope in something.

Personally, I find hope, solace, and inspiration in THIS:

and ESPECIALLY this:

Pax, y’all.

BOOOOOO……BEEEEEEEEEEE.

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We giggled when I read that aloud in Fousha. Also,

TOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOT.

The juvenile potty humor splattered all over our Beginning Modern Standard Arabic I class stems from the necessity to differentiate long and short vowels, which results in solemn choruses of ridiculously prolonged syllables, like BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO….

OOOOOOOOOOOOOO…..

…OOOOOOOOOOB.

Then we all collapse into giggles again, to the chagrin of our austere young Moroccan professor. Today!

It’s the little things

I’ve written plenty about the Struggle: forays in and out of homesickness and depression, the ongoing war between Moroccan microbes and my intestines, the very rich and the very poor, the harassment, assholes. Sometimes it takes a concentrated effort to think about all the awesome stuff that happened in a day, but usually it’s effortless; there’s a lot to love about Morocco. Though I still think about Seattle every day, I also think more and more about things I love here, things I’m going to miss, things I’m glad I found: couscous Fridays, cheap taxis (i.e. lifesavers), pickup soccer, tea. So it’s about time I wrote a bit about the Awesome!

Things that make me smile: joking around with my host moms, receiving an e-mail from Heather (MADE MY DAY), getting almost everything right in a Fousha review, hanging out with Allie and Sarah, eating an awesome lunch, attending my first Gender Studies class, successfully completing a transaction in Darija, sitting in the sun, chatting with Heather AND drunk Ernie on facebook (FRIEND JACKPOT RIGHT THERE), snuggling up with a book in my fuzzy blue Hello Kitty bathrobe.

There’s no deep philosophical fulfillment in the way those little things buoy your spirits, only that confidence in familiarity, built day by day, schwiya, schwiya, that comes with settling into everyday life. No matter what, you have the people who love you, and that’s enough.  Take a deep breath and remember what Heather says: “I love you. You’ve got twelve weeks left? You got this. You got this. You got this. I love you.”

(Friends like her make everything beautiful. I keep reading that line, over and over and over and over, and it fills me with so much joy that I’ll probably explode.)

So anyway, I’m learning to take each moment as it comes, the good with the bad; to sit back from my own experiences and remember that there ain’t no mountain high enough. It’s with this sort of inner calm that I am inspired, once again, to take on the motherf***ing WORLD!

NOM. THAT’S WHAT COUSCOUS LOOKS LIKE: BEING EATEN.

Also, here’s an Awesome song:

Sending love and pax, errbody. Be/make someone happy today.