Monthly Archives: March 2012

GIANT AFRICA BUGS oh yeah, I have a blog

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I just saw the biggest ant of my life. BIGGEST. ANT. EVER. Think about a big ant. Multiply its size many times. GIANT AFRICA BUGS WHAAAT.

I googled “giant ant” and this is what came up:

That’s about right. Thank you, Them!, 1954.

Anyway, my reluctant return to Morocco has been busy as poop; everything, all of a sudden, is due, el Maghrib is now HOT HOThotothtohhotthohohothot and hectic crazy things to do and write and read and do and things and hectic and WHOA. Also, sick. Am more fatigued than seems humanly possible, taking weird Georgian fever drugs and eating cheese and oranges. Magaria.

Some quick updates: Morocco exploded with anger and controversy over this story the week before I left. The story spread like wildfire over the social media, sparking protests, calls for reform, regulation, and the resignation of the judge who passed the ruling. It makes me sick and furious that things like this still happen, and Morocco is still roiling in the aftermath.

There was a coup in Mali this past week, which I saw on the news at Press Café in Batumi on Saturday. I nearly spat out the Georgian beer I’d just sipped, realizing holy shit Nick and Asad are there!  They’re fine, though. They didn’t even know it happened till after they left.

Also, I’ll write something sometime about how my perceptions of government and democracy have evolved since being here. Returning to the Western news media is unsettling; I read this article just now, and though I normally dig the New York Times, the rhetoric of the writing bothers me a bit. I’d tell you about why if I were more coherent right now. Can you tell I’m in a sort of feverish haze? LALALALAAAALALAA

I haven’t had a moment to stop and gather myself, to reflect or even begin to think about how to write about what all went down in Georgia. So I’m just going to pick up where I am now, and let Georgia Stories happen when they happen. Quick summary for you all: GEORGIA FUCKING RULED. BEST TRIP EVARRRR. I DID NOT NOT NOT WANT TO LEAVE. GEORGIA = GREAT. KHATCHAPURI: YUM. RA GINDA, BITCHO?!?!??! DID I MENTION THAT I LOVED BEING IN GEORGIA WITH THIS GUY?

Did you know that neither Arabic H (there are 2) are the same as the English/American H? The letter ح is like an emphatic, back-of-the-throat sort of H, while the letter ه is more of a vocalized, resonant, chesty sort of H. Coooooool. Arabic is full of shit like that. I really, really enjoy studying Arabic, which is good because I have an exam on Thursday.

Moroccans use Facebook differently. The streets of Rabat are full of holes. I didn’t do any homework either, but class still went swimmingly today. I have a lot to tell you all but I’m really tired/it’s Tuesday and Sarah’s over and that has nothing to do with it but whatever. The bugs are coming out because it’s warm now. I’m pretty extremist when it comes to shoe ideology, and did you know that there are more Rastafarians than Unitarian Universalists in the world? Awesome. Holtz [well, holz if you spell it Germanly] is German for wood. Wood as in lumber, get your mind out of the gutter. There’s this sort of occupy movement/protest going on in front of Parliament. There are a bunch of people camping out in centre-ville, and it has something to do with political prisoners. The power went out twice today, big news. I cut my hair short last week and didn’t tell you because I left for Georgia, but it’s short. Wooo!

 

Nobody to Check over my shoulder for

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We left our plucky heroine halfway through a blog post when she passed out, exhausted, in a hostel in Istanbul. Where had she stopped in her narrative…airplane? Airplane. Well, the airplane ride was just like any other, except as we landed; I’d never been in a plane whose passengers burst into applause the moment the aircraft touched down. A collective cheer went up throughout the cabin, and my first thought as I applauded with the rest was I’m going to like Turkey. And so I did.

You know that knee-jerk reaction we have to check over our shoulders to ensure that whoever we’re with is still there? As I stepped off the plane, I had that sudden urge to look around, to make sure that–oh. There’s nobody I need to check for. Just me.

I’d like to write about how it was some big epiphany, but it wasn’t really; it was more a sudden realization of my absolute solitude and independence in the world at that particular point in my trip. It made me want to laugh, dance, throw my blue carpetbag in the air and SING. I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I’M DOING! I AM IN ISTANBUL, TURKEY, BY MYSELF, AND I HAVE NO FREAKING IDEA WHAT I’M DOING AND I LOVE IT! I’M FREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!

After figuring out how visas work (it’s simpler than I thought. You go hand $20 to the guy in the corner behind the desk that says “VISAS”) and making it past passport control, I wandered – bemused, amused, confused – to change another $20 to Turkish liras. I had no clue what was going on, and was grinning like a goddamn fool, so I guess I figured having some local currency would give me some small sense of security. I also realized that nobody changes Moroccan dirhams except in Morocco, because it’s illegal to export dirhams. Oh yeah. I walked out of the first set of exit doors and was greeted by an enormous, chattering crowd of people hanging over the bar, holding signs, craning their necks for loved ones and, in my case, strangers. I found my name printed in neat, red block letters on a piece of paper taped to a couple other pieces of paper. I met Sammy, a young Turkish guy holding my sign, and then went to an ATM to get cash to pay the hostel. Their prices had been in Euros, so I got some Euros and started laughing at how my coin purse was now a mind-boggling combination of Euros, Turkish Liras, Moroccan Dirhams, and American dollars. This whole trip just makes me want to laugh out loud like some delirious inchworm.

It was with this exhilarated sort of energy that I marched out of Ataturk Airport to stand munching popcorn and wafer cookies, talking animatedly with a couple random Turkish men in that crowd waiting for loved ones and strangers. Was it only Thursday that I presented a research proposal, went to Arabic class, and packed my blue carpetbag with my stomach churning? Only yesterday that, terrified but determined, I got on a train to Mo’5 airport? How we change when we realize our own agency to live fully, how we thrive when we grab our lives and experiences by the balls and MAKE them our own! I feel awesome about living right now. I can see why people travel just for the adventure of it. It feels so good to do things under my own steam, for my own reasons, in the big, wide, strange, wonderful world.

When I first wrote this in my notebook, there were 4 of us waiting for the airplane to Batumi, which made me want to laugh even more. What a great trip. How strange that, over the course of my first 2 months in Morocco, surrounded by people all the time, I felt lonely–and here, alone in a beautiful, dangerous part of the world where my language skills are useless, I don’t feel that way at all. I’m relishing this short-lived solitude, loving the challenge of figuring stuff out, enjoying my own cluelessness about the world around me because that makes is so much more FUN. I’m having a blast. What a weird story.

Anyway, Istanbul. I am in love with Istanbul. After waking up and eating breakfast with some Swiss and German people, I went for a walk in the brilliant sunshine and crisp morning air. I walked to the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia, talked to several Turkish people, and had an all-around fantastic morning. Istanbul is a beautiful, beautiful city, and Turkish people are awesome. I returned to the hostel to catch a shuttle bus to the airport, but not before giving the matron of the house a Moroccan Dirham note to add to the world currencies displayed beneath the glass on their kitchen tables. An American who lives in Morocco? they say to me. that’s weird. Georgia? Wow.

Istanbul, I’m in love. See you soon.

And now I’m waiting to catch a plane to Batumi, Georgia, where I’ll see an old friend. Going from imaginary to real again will be awesome for him, I’m pretty sure. It must be tough being imaginary. Lots of my friends at home are becoming steadily more imaginary, as our shared experiences dwindle as we live in different parts of the world, doing different things. That’s not a bad thing; we’ll pick up where we left off, with all the more stories to share. Okay. BATUMI. LET’S GO.

I AM IN MY UNDERWEAR IN ISTANBUL

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NOW AIN’T THAT THE GOSPEL TRUTH.

IN OTHER WORDS, I MADE IT TO ISTANBUL EFFING ALIVE.

I’d love to go out wandering (the Blue Mosque and Haglia. Sophia are literally a 5 minute walk, past all the bars full of sketchy good-smelling Turkish people), but I’m in Istanbul, I’m alone, and it’s late at night. I googled “Istanbul safety” (you can see how prepared I am trololol) and proceeded to chuckle: the article began with “Istanbul is a very safe city,” and as I scrolled down and read the rest of the article, was amused to discover that I should actually never ever go outside in Istanbul. Just kidding, I’m going to wake up early tomorrow and go see stuff. Still, it’s good to have an evening to chillax after what has been a day full of what the eff is going on where am I supposed to go okay I’ll just follow those people and hope I’ll get there. Besides, I need to tell you about this stupid ridiculous awesome trip, which seems crazy because it only just STARTED!

And I’m in my underwear. You should try it sometime, just sit around in your underwear in a room in a hostel in Istanbul writing about how you came to be there. It’s a strange and unexpected situation to find oneself in, and an altogether pleasant one too. I’d know. Commence the storiezzzzzzzz!

Much of the following narrative is taken from the all-new sequel to the Morocco Notebook with the even pages numbered:

Halfway there and Away we Go: Morocco Notebook #2!

This time, the odd pages are numbered. There is no spoon. Coming soon to a blog near you. I live a very, very exciting life, you see.

Train! Airport!

So I was sitting on the train, staring at my ticket and imagining Hagrid telling me Stick to your ticket, Harry. That’s very important—stick. To. Your. Ticket. until I was jolted out of my reverie as the train filled with what smelled like burning garbage. I glanced out the window and saw an entire field of burning garbage, and now a slum, and now a mansion. Oh, Morocco, I’ll still miss you! WHAT WHERE AM I GOING IS THIS REAL Also, I’m terrified of missing عين سبع, which is my train-change-connection-transfer-train to the airport. I probably spelled it wrong, too. I just can’t win sometimes.

Anyway, I chatted for awhile with the nice bank lady sitting across from me (Note to self: first stop after Agdal is Mohammedia), who is now plucking her eyebrows.

She took the next page of my notebook to write all her information down for me. Moroccans love giving people their information, imploring them to call should they ever need anything. I really appreciate it, because from what I’ve learned about Moroccans, they really mean it. What she didn’t write is what awesome eyebrows she’s got.

***

I have made it successfully to the airport! WOO! As we disembarked the train at عين سبع (still don’t know if I spelled that right), I overheard a gorgeous boy ask a woman where he ought to go to catch the train for the airport. Perfect, I thought, and sidled up next to him. You’re going to the airport? Me, too!He smiled and we followed the people carrying suitcases. As we chatted a bit, I noticed he wasn’t a native French speaker (we were speaking French duh), and he neither acted nor dressed like a Moroccan boy. I asked where he was from.

Español, he said, in his beautiful Spanish-boy voice. My heart melted. We sat together and chatted throughout the ride to the airport, he was funny and beautiful and adorably not-confident with his French, which was fine because I’m not either.

At one point during the train ride, he looked over at me and grinned. “You look like a hippie,” he said in adorably accented English. So I did. Boots and harem pants, possibly the greatest crime against fashion since lederhosen, plus fleece, plus scarf, plus bright blue carpetbag. For a second, I realized what I must look like through his eyes: some American chick dressed like a nomadic belly dancer who studies Arabic in Morocco is taking her spring break to go to the Republic of Georgia, yeah just south of Russia, that’s the one. What a charming and cute and funny weirdo, I’m going to e-mail her as soon as I get back to Spain, I hope he was thinking. Anyway, his name is Carlos, and he left for Terminal 1 with my e-mail address and my heart.

Slight interruption: I took a break from writing this to take a shower. A shower. A real shower. Need I say more? Whoa, Istanbul. WHOA. I’m now in my jammies, eating my trusty Moroccan dates and almonds (tastes like home! Actually, side note. I feel as though I always write to you about how much I miss home, but now that I’m not in Morocco, I never want to leave it again. Sense-making? Nada. This post is nutter butters), writing to you all. I opened the curtains because I’m now clothed, and outside my window is a scaled-down Turkish version of Rear Window; I can see across to what must be another hostel, though only one window is lit, and there’s a girl there with short blonde hair that I may have just made awkward eye contact with. Tight winding iron staircases run up and down the buildings, which must serve some awesome or badass purpose. If there’s a fire, I can leap sideways out of my window, catch hold of it, and escape Quasimodo style.

There was more but I’m going to finish this later. Sleep now. Happy Istanbul!

AAAAAAAAAAAUGH!

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Okay. So here’s the sitch.

Tomorrow morning, I’m getting on a train at early o’clock to some town in Morocco, getting on another train to the airport in Casablanca, finally actually paying for a plane ticket to Georgia, flying to Istanbul, and crashing in a hostel there. I will see Istanbul. (I WILL SEE ISTANBUL WHAT) Hopefully, I’ll meet some beautiful Australian man at the hostel or airport or in some Turkish café, and we’ll run around the city till I have to head back to the airport late Saturday morning, to catch a flight to Batumi, Georgia, where hopefully Ernie will pick me up. I can always call him though, because I just randomly did to see if his number worked and I definitely woke him up. Sorry, Ernie. (But actually. I find I’m always tired here, probably because being in a place where nobody speaks your language is freaking exhausting. Plus, he’s a teacher, and that shit’s hard. I realized that it was 1am his time (FUNNY STORY IT’S NOW PAST 1 MY TIME) a little after the fact; so for realz, apologies for waking you up. My very impulsive bad.)

I KNOW I WAS BEING ALL COY BEFORE BUT GUYS GUYS GUYS I’M GOING TO EFFING GEORGIA! REPUBLIC OF, NOT THE STATE. THE REPUBLIC OF GEORGIA. LEARN AS MUCH AS I KNOW ABOUT GEORGIA HERE!

This song has been stuck in my head all day, even though I know Ray wasn’t talking about this Georgia.

Especially since an old sweet song in the Republic of Georgia would probably sound more like this:

COOL.

Anyway, I’m practically shitting kittens here I’m so nervous. I feel as though my stomach is trying to do yoga again, but this time I didn’t even eat anything weird, which is categorically unfair. Packed in my bag is some clothing, a book that I hope will be awesome because I’m writing about it for Gender class, a list of Fousha vocabulary (actually, I just tore the glossary out of the back of my book), some dates and almonds, and a camera. There’s some other stuff too, but it’s less poetic stuff like soap and a small towel and so I thought I could leave those out. I’m not even sure why I’m writing about what I packed. I’m just nervous and tired and nervous and tired and nervous and tired I guess!  HAPPY SPRING BREAK! TAKE YOUR TOPS OFF! AND THEN PUT THEM BACK ON, ALONG WITH A SWEATSHIRT, BECAUSE IT’S COLD IN GEORGIA!

But really. I’m excited to get out of Morocco for awhile, to hang out in a country about which I know next to nothing. See a good pal, trade some good stories, go somewhere completely random and improbable. I AM SCARED AND EXCITED. On this side of this trip, things like change trains once to get to the airport sound terrifyingly complex, and the idea of traveling by myself, a white western unaccompanied woman, sounds even scarier. So, put in equal parts Scared Shitless and Excited as Hell and you’ve got the Traveling cocktail brewing in the pit of my stomach right now, as my blue carpetbag sits packed at the foot of my bed.

Also, I’m going to be spending the week wearing what might possibly be the biggest crime spree against fashion since Aaron Carter’s hair: lots of boots & harem pants. At least I’ll be comfortable.

…And have way better hair.

Also also, I just checked the weather in Batumi and Tblisi. I might need to borrow another jacket, Ernie, if you have one. I’m glad I packed Cameron’s hat.

Okay, it’s two in the morning now. I’m going to sleep. Spring break:go to the coldest motherf**king country you can think of. Great idea, Brain. F**k off and enjoy the last few hours of not-being-cold.

Peace, everyone. Wish me luck! HERE I GO! NEXT STOP, EVERYWHERE!

#moroccoproblems

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Well, everyone, we’ve been together since January – we’ve been reading dear-diary emotion posts, we’ve been telling silly stories, we’ve been looking at pictures of Morocco and people and pretty things. And now, it’s time for me to break the news to you: I’m a redditor (well, sorta. I lurk).

It’s true. It’s allllll true. So here’s my feeble attempt at satirizing our lives here, using meeeeeeeeemes! TROLOLOL!

FISH TAGINE STRUGGLES. SERIOUS BUSINESS.

I now have a game show I play in my head for whenever I’m in public: Hshuma, social faux pas, or Paranoia?! Usually it’s paranoia.

I never know anymore.

You know you’re in Morocco when you don’t shower to become clean, but to become less dirty. Yum.

And now, I present to you the Success Kid Morocco Potty series:

I’m having way too much fun with this.

Pax in Internetta, amigos.

Keep faith, spread love.

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And here, I am, smiling through tears, figuring things out, slowly but surely.

 

Keep faith.

 

I keep repeating this to myself when I feel myself slipping into that simmering, muted panic: a silent terror that everything that keeps my identity intact is gone, and that bit by bit, I’m turning into a stranger. Sometimes it feels even scarier than that: it’s as though I’m slowly erasing myself out of the life I’m accustomed to, and soon I won’t be anyone at all anymore. I miss being sure of who I am, and what I mean to the people I love, and I have a really hard time keeping faith in myself and what I’m doing. Shouldn’t it be the opposite? Shouldn’t I feel built up, enriched, strengthened? Perhaps, with time. With patience. Doucement, doucement, we’ll say. Schwiya, schwiya.

It’s so much easier to become disheartened here, because I still haven’t mastered the art of allowing myself to be me without judgment. If the above paragraph sounds a little crazy, well, okay. Sometimes we all get a little crazy. I just read an e-mail from a friend and felt as though I’d just released a breath I hadn’t realized I’d been holding; as though I could suddenly remember what it feels like to have my feet on the ground again.  It left me in one of those laugh and cry at the same time sort of moods, so I turned on some old Motown favorites and remembered how lucky I am to have friends who are so unapologetically wonderful—and who remind me that I can be that way too. She said a lot of wonderful things, like this:

Know that everyone you’ve ever looked up to has also felt stupid and clumsy and lonely before, too. Be gentle. Be you. You are doing something good by being there, because YOU are good.

Keep it real, friends. Keep faith. Second thing, before I fall asleep:

Spread love.

Remember the Ramblin’ Years? Yeah. Just spread love. It’s simpler than you think it is.

(To all ye non-SU readers: we were a band that Sean started as a Battle of the Bands side-project last year, and it unexpectedly turned into something special. It was just one of those things. Ya know. E-mail me if you want a link to the video, sweenums@gmail.com!)

The four of us, scattered across the world, have been catching up via group messages that have reminded me how easy and important it is to spread love. Why be detatched and aloof, as I fear I can be sometimes? Why be afraid of being only human? Remember the good times, the good people, and the music that you feel way down in your bones. It isn’t so hard after all.

That’s all I got today, folks. So, in true Moroccan fashion (Moroccans love Bob Marley, it’s kind of hilarious. Every live band in any bar in this entire country knows at least one Bob Marley song), I leave you with this song.

 

 

Keep faith, spread love.

 

Peace.

 

DRG-GR-D-DRG-DIG-RGD-DG

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You know, sometimes I have to remind myself that I’m not an island, and that people actually read/enjoy this blog because human experiences are nearly always shared. Also, sometimes I wonder if this entire blog is me just writing sappy girly dear-diary posts, because for some godforsaken reason I feel the need to share my feelings publicly on the Internet. Am I actually just some monstrous sentimentality-machine?! WHY CAN’T I ALWAYS BE WITTY?!?!?!

NO NO NO I REVOLT AGAINST THIS AND WILL TELL YOU STORIES NOW

Olivia and the Thief

Last night, Olivia, Rose, and a couple Moroccan host brothers and I hung out. We went to coffee and watched Moroccan Boys chain smoke their way through an entire pack of cigarettes, shoe-shopped our way through the medina, visited the ocean, and then parted ways for a bit: Moroccan Boys to coffee with other Moroccan Boys (probably at a man-café), American girls off to find dinner and maybe a bottle of wine.

On our way back through the very, very crowded souk, a man (typical skinny, mid-20s Moroccan dude, probably wearing a pair of tight acid-wash jeans) ran into Olivia going the other way. I was walking closely behind her and saw the whole thing; it was a classic medina collision, seen it a million times before, and I never thought twice about ’em. She had barely passed him when suddenly, she whirled around as the two jerked to a stop—holding hands?! For a moment, I didn’t understand why, and then I spotted what held them together: Olivia’s wallet, clenched in both fists. During the split second in which I realized what was happening, I looked up into his eyes, full in the face, and received what can only be described as an extremely shocked death glare. Olivia wrenched her wallet out of his hand, to the varied exclamations of the Moroccan onlookers (also barely realizing what was going on), and he booked it out of there. We kept walking.

Then we began to understand what had just transpired. You just took your wallet back from a pickpocketer! YOU ARE SUCH A BADASS! WHAAAAAAAAT THE EEEEEFFFFFFFFF JUST HAPPENNNNNNNED?!?!! HOLY SHIT HOLY SHIT WHAT?! WUT. OLIVIA IS A TOTAL BOSS. YOU JUST DESTROYED A PICKPOCKETER. GIRL.

So, kids, keep your hands on your valuables if they’re in your pockets. Zip up your bags. Clip’em. Velcro ’em. I checked for my coin purse (funny joke, I have about 3.20dh in there anyway) just afterwards, and was relieved to find it still there. I tightened the straps on my trusty rusty hipster timbuk2 bag that I found for 6 dollars at Value Village, and continued to marvel over Olivia’s catlike reactions and nerves of steel.

We exclaimed all the way to a seedy-looking Italian restaurant and ordered what turned out to be a huge pitcher of really good Sangria (we will be returning to this seedy-looking Italian restaurant with good bread) and talked about our lives. Then, on our ways to our respective homes, we told Moroccan Boys what had happened in excited-and-therefore-far-less-eloquent French.

Good job Olivia. As for me, I’m going to keep zippering my pockets and tightening the straps.

Oh, yeah, That American Life

This isn’t so much a story as a hey-this-is-what-I-do-sometimes. At home, I listen to This American Life; it’s my go-to distraction while doing chores, cooking, walking, bathing, pooping, you name it. You’re welcome, Ira Glass, for plugging your show. Anyway, I hadn’t listened to any since coming here, until I found myself with some (gasp) real alone time, during which I could have studied but instead re-folded clothes and listened to a show from 1999 that spoke to my current halfway-done-but-more-directionless-than-ever feeling: You Are Here.

If you’ve never listened to This American Life before, you’re welcome.

DR-DRG-GR-DIG

It’s something like that I’m pretty sure

Last night, we celebrated Wided and Abir’s birthday party. Moroccans love a good party, lemme tell ya! Cake, candy, lemon tarts everywhere, the LOUDEST music blasting from the tiny room on the rooftop terrace, dancing, Bastilla (YUMYUMYUMOMG YUUUUM), dancing, and posing for photos. Did I mention dancing?

Happy 13th to my girls!!! Left to right: Jalal, Abir, Me, Wided, and Jamila: proud mama looking mighty fine. Also, most of these photos were taken by Wided or Abir. I usually hand my camera off to them right away because they take thousands of pictures with wild abandon, and I love that.

There’s this type of Moroccan dance involving a lot of very-fast stomping, and it’s called…um…a name that I can’t pronounce, but sounds something like drg-gig-dig-a-rd-dig…I think. It’s hard to do when you have no idea what you’re doing and Houria is really, really good at it, but bucketfuls of fun to try!

Also, Moroccans don’t consider anything repetitive or silly. We sang Happy Birthday, in Arabic, French, and English, about 897 times. Who effing cares if we already did?! IT’S A PARTY. OF COURSE WE’RE GOING TO BLOW THE CANDLES OUT, LIGHT THEM AGAIN, AND BLOW THEM OUT AGAIN. DUH.

ALSO, pastilla. It’s freaking delicious. Jamila made ours with a sweet chicken filling, and HOLY CRAP YUUUM

And we ate it with our hands, like we do everything here. I don’t like eating with forks anymore, it takes too much effort and concentration.

Also, THIS IS DALEL:

You can tell why she’s so distracting.