Monthly Archives: April 2012

English Lessons


One of my host moms, Jamila, is all about learning English, and I love giving lessons whenever we find ourselves with a free hour. We’ll translate misspelled French sentences into weird Arabic transliteration, then she’ll write try to write out the English in Latin script and I’ll correct her spelling. Or something like that.

Native Arabic speakers have difficulty WITH: the P sound (which does not exist in Arabic), the American R (that one, I believe, periodically causes aneurysms for many non-native English speakers trying to learn the language. It’s a rrrreal killer), and the “th” sound, both voiced and unvoiced (which I actually don’t get, because those exact same sounds DO exist in Arabic: ث and ذ; but hey, I sound like an idiot when I try to speak Arabic, so who am I to judge?). Anyway it’s great fun, because I learn a lot of Arabic, we both practice French, and I get to discover over and over how FIDDLY the English language is.

When Jamila and the kids borrowed a French and/or Arabic-English dictionary the other night, the first word they decided to yell was: “BLOW!”

I giggled. They were using it as a noun, as in “hit” or “punch,” and I could already see them heading down hilariously dangerous path of noun/verb usage (“I BLOW YOU” as opposed to “I HIT YOU,” for example) and proceeded to define what “to blow” meant as a verb (AS IN BLOWING OUT BIRTHDAY CANDLES GET YOUR MIND OUT OF THE GUTTER) and told them to be careful of their usage because it’s got a sexual connotation as well. They giggled  too.


Oui, ça veut dire “aussi.”

“What about to?”

“That’s a preposition, as in I go to school, or a part of the infinitive form of a verb.”

“…what about two?”




Today, during teatime, I taught my host family the verb “to fart” and its proper usage when referring to the Rim the Farty Kitty (I’ve renamed her now, since she’s no longer pregnant. I think Rim the Farty Kitty goes rather well with Tomi the Barfy Kitty, don’t you?). As Abir, Abdenmabi, and Jamila repeated, “da cad – the cad- the CAT…FARDED!” I recalled walking to school with Ernie and his host brothers one morning in Buknari.

(For new readers: I went to the Republic of Georgia for spring break to visit Ernie, who teaches English there.)

“Ernie, you are suck,” Tengo said, as Temo walked stoically beside him.

Tengo and Temo are Ernie’s ninth-grade Georgian host brothers. Tengo is tall and talkative and Temo is short and silent, though Ernie says that’s only because he speaks less English. Tengo tied a piece of brown yarn around my wrist one evening to join the other bracelets there, which was probably some kind of weird Georgian marriage proposal. Temo is a wrestling champion who changed into his tight blue wrestling onesie and medals when I brought out my camera so we could take pictures of him, his medals, and his muscles. Temo enjoys doing backflips off the giant Soviet truck in the yard, and Tengo enjoys swearing at Ernie.

“You are sucking,” Ernie corrected him. “It’s the present continuous, remember.”

“Fuck you,” he replied, and looked over at me. “Ernie is beautiful woman.”

It’s funny: here in Morocco, saying bad words can either be really, really bad, or a strangely hilarious translation misfire. I was talking to another of my host moms about how weird it is to try to translate directly from French to English, from French to Arabic, la dee dah, and she agreed.

“Par exemple,” she said, “le mot: fucky.

I choked on my tea.

She laughed and went on to explain how that’s the way this particular Arabic word is translated into English, though it has a more pedestrian and everyday meaning in Arabic. Shit’s bizarre.  Also, who decided that “fucky” was an acceptable English swearword in the first place, much less one that could serve as a decent translation from Arabic?! “That’s pretty fucky” is a swear that makes “motha’ flippin” feel better about itself.

Anyway, this weekend’s pretty awesome thus far. I was going to do work, but I ended up sitting up in the room on the rooftop terrace listening to the rain and working my way through the View Askewniverse: Clerks, couldn’t get Mallrats to work, Chasing Amy. Next up, Dogma (again), and then Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, then Clerks II.

I love Kevin Smith. I love watching Kevin Smith movies while the pouring rain pounds the roof and terrorizes the cats on the riverbank fifty feet below us. What a delightfully improbable situation!

Oh, I like that phrase. A Delightfully Improbable Situation: A Memoir.

Pax in terra, bros.


Guys, I can’t stop watching Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.



A Proclivity for Purchasing Pants
and other stories

I think someone should stage an intervention.

“Katie, your recent inability to stop watching Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows has negatively impacted my life in the following ways:”


I can’t think of how it’s negatively impacted your life, actually, except perhaps if you don’t want to read this crap. If you don’t, go away. If you do, Congratulations! MEMES NOW!

let’s talk about HAREM PANTS.

Harem pants are awesome. They’re comfortable, stretchy, and awesome. They don’t show dirt if you buy a brightly colored pair, and they’re quite cheap if you haggle a bit. Harem pants are the best, and I love them. So,

This is how I feel about harem pants.

However, harem pants are undoubtedly daring when it comes to fashion. You’ve got to be really feeling harem pants when you decide to take them out for a spin, otherwise you’ll feel more like:

I’m curious to see if this is how I’ll feel like back in the States, or if I’m so used to people staring at me that I won’t actually notice.

It does make one feel quite comfortable and awesome though, completely worth the confusion come bedtime…

Well, now I’ve done it. I’m in a sort of meme-ish mood.


So. Moroccan tea.

HAHA. For some reason, this makes me laugh. Probably because Moroccan tea is made and servedeverywherehere. EVERYWHERE. Teatime is a big part of my family’s everyday routine, and I think sometimes that Moroccans measure their days by teatimes: morning, mid-morning, noon, afternoon, mid-afternoon, late afternoon, evening. The middle of the night. Whenever. I love it. The most common way to make it is with green tea, mint leaves, and a metric butt-ton of sugar. Sometimes, it’s made with absinthe or rose water as well. It’s wonderful.

Taxis are another part of life in Morocco that takes a bit of time here to understand. Petit taxis are simple enough: found in every Moroccan city, and each city has its own color. Rabat is blue, Casablanca is red, Marrakesh is yellow, etc. Petit taxis have a maximum capacity of 3 passengers, making it a rather spacious way to travel, and only drive within the city limits. They’re relatively cheap and easy. Time and a half after 8pm. In the bigger cities, especially Marrakesh, drivers easily fleece foreigners who are used to ridiculous taxi fares (one time, a taxi driver tried to make us pay 100dh for a 5dh ride to the gare. Ridic, we said), but in Rabat they almost always turn on the meter, or do it willingly if you ask them to.

No: it’s the Grand taxis that you’ve got to look out for.

These are taxis with a max occupancy of 6, making a full grand taxi ride a rather squashed ordeal, and they go between cities. So, rather contradictorily, though you can have a spacious ride in a petit taxi for a 5-minute ride, you’re going to be cramped and hot for the 5-hour grand taxi ride.

I still don’t quite understand how they work; grand taxis seem to act a bit like buses; if you catch one on its route, it’s only 4dh. However, if you simply have 6 people and need to go from, say, Marrakesh to Imlil, it’s suddenly a multi-hundred-dirham and immensely complex price-navigation process. I just. Don’t. Get it.

Grand Taxis: something about Morocco that may always be shrouded in mystery for me.

Also, this.

is how.

I feel.



We went over hours on Arabic class, so we canceled it last Thursday and for the entire coming week as well, but to keep up, we’ve been instructed to learn all of chapter 3 by ourselves. I mean, nbd. Whatever. That doesn’t sound properly daunting for anyone that doesn’t study Arabic, and to any one-uppers out there: I’LL TAKE YOUR 20-PAGE PAPERS. I’LL TAKE YOUR DISSERTATIONS AND SENIOR THESES. ARABIC WILL DEFEAT YOU, AND I WILL LAUGH!!!!!

The highest grade I’ve gotten on an exam thus far: 35/50. Good thing none of this has anything to do with my actual degree. TrolololololololololololANYWAY, I really do like it, but in studying Arabic, one goes straight from the Alphabet book (the ALPHABET book. Consider that fact for a moment) to learning shit like: “the linguistics professor is a specialist in his field,” and “the translators (FEMININE PLURAL!!!) work for the United Nations in New York.”


Anyway, I have a lot of free time the next few days, so WATCH OUT.


La Vie en Couscous


I’d totally forgotten that today was Friday, until Boushra called me to lunch and the huge earthenware dish made for serving couscous sat, piled high, on the low round table in the room on the terrace. We didn’t talk much as we ate, though the dialogue from the familiar Darija-dubbed soaps on satellite TV provided the ever-present background noise I’ve grown so accustomed to.

Family life here in Oudaiya is wonderful, though not without its quirks and challenges. My current awkward and silent battle is with the leaky septic tank in the downstairs toilet; after one incidence of desperately attempting to flush it by hand (which, I’ll have you know, takes forever when you don’t have good water pressure. By no-good water pressure, I mean a shower head with uneven water flow), I’ve resigned myself to pooping in the upstairs bathroom. It’s totally fine, I just never know if it’ll flush or not. It makes pooping rather stressful, but also a sort of forbidden adventure. HaHA! I mentally cackle evilly when everything flushes properly. I have defeated you, septic tank.

Other than that, living with Moroccans is fascinating. They are a kind, generous, raucous bunch, with their own traditions and habits that I’ve grown accustomed to and learned to love. Eggs with salt and cumin, salad dressing of vinegar and dijon mustard, flan (FLAAAAAAN!!!!!!). We’re allowed nowhere near helping with the laundry, though I do help with dishes every so often. Someone is always in the house, and so whenever I return I need only ring the birdsong doorbell to be let in, amidst bisous and salaams, to the whitewashed house in the Kasbah that I’ve learned to call home.

The ebb and flow of their conversation (as I begin to understand more and more) doesn’t sound anything like English conversation: their words are more forceful, their speech more intense, and everything is a level louder than it is in English. Oftentimes, normal conversation is conducted at a volume that might indicate a fight in the States, and I’m never sure if it’s because Moroccans just talk louder, or if it’s because the TV’s always on as well.

TV is different here too. Even in the poorest of poor families, there is a TV with a satellite dish; I believe satellite TV is either free or very, very, very cheap, and many researchers (such as Fatema Mernissi, who you’ve probably heard me rave about before) are looking into the effect that satellite TV is having on the creation of a pan-Arab identity, and on North-African and Middle-Eastern society in general. Driving past slums and cities is so strange: thousands of brown clay buildings, thousands of satellite dishes. Satellite dishes are how one can tell if a shantytown’s abandoned or not.

Slowly but surely, the number of programs in Darija is rising; most, but not all, Moroccans understand fousha; fewer actually speak it. The news and most programs are still conducted in either Fousha or Maasri (Egyptian). My favorite soap is “N’Oubliez Pas,” which is a Darija-dubbed Turkish show in which one of the main characters bears a striking resemblance to my friend Kenzie back home. Her character just gave enough money so that her would-be fiancé (-but-isn’t-because-she-married-somebody-else-for-his-money-and-that-guy-died)’s family could afford a lawyer for him so that he wouldn’t get hanged. I can’t wait to see what happens next.

Most Moroccans love Shakira with every fiber of their beings, as well as – to a slightly lesser extent – Adele. I’m getting to know their popular artists, too, but I couldn’t tell you their names. The girl with the weird eyebrows sucks, the middle-aged dude’s really good. It’s a science.

Lately, I’ve been enjoying the slow days and hazy sunshine, the distant sound of the ocean, the sea breezes and the long walks by the beach that I’ve been taking as the sun sets. I sit on my windowsill and look out at the river, watch the boats go by, and imagine what I must look like to the tourists below: a white girl in harem pants reading a book in one of the windows set high in the imposing wall of the kasbah like some modern-day Jasmine or reclusive weirdo. I spend the slow days folding socks and walking around, and now that I have five slow days ahead of me (most of my cohort is out traveling, but I’m hanging around to enjoy some peace, beach, and whatever else strikes my fancy), I’m really looking forward to all the books I’m going to finish and all the papers (yes, I have papers, but that’s all right) that I’m going to write. My time here in Morocco is truly winding down, and as I reflect a little bit on everything that’s happened, I feel pretty awesome about it. It was a lot harder than I expected it to be, but also a thousand times more rewarding, enriching, and fulfilling.

BUT MORE ABOUT THAT LATER, I’m sure. This sort of rambly type of post is probably going to come back as I wander through my last few weeks here, breathing the ocean air and smiling serenely to myself. It’s hard to believe that this place ever felt strange to me, as crazy as that sounds. Aw, MAN, we say when the topic of conversation turns to our looming departure, I was just getting USED to this place!

But you know what? I’m also excited to get home, so I can hear the inevitable question: “KATIE! Oh my gosh, how was MoROCco?”

I already have my reply ready.

Peace out, kitty cats!

(back to watching Harry Potter!)



Hi, everyone!

Today marks the exact 3-week countdown until I return chez moi – or, at least, to somewhere in the U.S. I don’t really have any summer plans at all yet. I’m laboring under the delusion that if I delay for long enough making plans for my summer, plans will magically materialize and I’ll have something awesome to do with my life for the next three months. Any suggestions? Here’s what I’m kicking around:

  1. Travel around U.S. as cheaply as possible, possibly via buses and staying with friends/couchsurfing. Perhaps center these travels around a theme, like read great American literature and go to the places they were written, or something like that. Thoughts? (Actually, I just had an idea. I could go around to as many of the JVC houses as I can in the U.S. they’re in 39 cities, that would be pretty cool! Hmmm…) Also, how would I go? By car? Train? Bus?
  2. Get a job. Any job. In Seattle. Oh, and an apartment. Live there. Feel free to offer me a job or free rent.
  3. Wander aimlessly.

I’m sitting in bert’s café contemporain in Agdal, which is this super pricey yet rather awesome café that plays Frank Sinatra and smells of coffee, cigarette smoke, and irony.  Bert’s also has internet, which is wonderful. Maroc Telecom has suffered some sort of damage lately, and it’s been periodically wiping out internet across whole areas of Rabat. This:


Every time the internet returns (even if only for a moment), it’s a house-wide phenomenon. Jalal, my host brother, will come bounding into the room yelling “IL Y A L’CONNEXION! KATIE!!” And we’ll all sprint to our respective PCs or laptops and frantically reload our internet browsers and feverishly push the “GET MAIL!!!!” button on our respective Outlook or Mail applications. At least, that’s what I do.

Then, the internet dies again and the stupid FAST3304-V2 page that I hoped never to see again returns to haunt us.

Then, I decide to have a dance party instead. Tina Turner, usually.


  1. Turn the following song all the way up.
  2. Get up from whatever couch or bed or chair you’re sitting on.

VERY GOOD! Well done. There’s nothing better than a good dose of Tina Turner when the Internet dies, wherever in the world you happen to be. Anyway, today we’re going to talk about leben! EW!

I believe this is an experience that every single study abroad student has on the first Friday that they spend in Morocco:


Leben. This link will tell you everything you need to know about leben, which is a traditional milk product made differently throughout North Africa and the Middle East. In Morocco, it is made – I quote the above link – THUSLY:

“Raw whole milk is not subjected to any heat treatment. Milk is poured in an earthenware pot or in a goat skin called “chetkoua” and is allowed to ferment for 24 to 48 hours. Acidification develops from natural flora of milk. If the outside temperature is too low, the vessel is previously heated before pouring milk and is kept at warm temperature until coagulation is reached. Subsequently, the acidified milk is churned for 30 to 40 minutes. Once the butter is removed, about 10% of water is added to the buttermilk. Then, leben is ready for consumption. It is kept at room temperature for up to 3 days in plastic bags or in traditional vessels.”

Basically, it’s fermented milk. They drink it with couscous. It tastes like spoiled, liquefied sour cream. It is gross.

Of course, we didn’t know this as we sat down for Friday couscous with the family that first time. “Oh,” we thought, “Cool! I like milk. Yaaaay!” and took a GIANT GULP after a few bites of delicious couscous.


Still, I’ve valiantly sipped Leben at other Moroccans’ houses and on trips, but I have yet to actually enjoy it. In fact, I shiver a little bit at the mention of its name.  Leben is the Voldemort of liquids.

…Leben is the Sauron of dairy products.

Leben is the chosen drink of the Dark Side.

Leben is the Master.

Leben is Evil.

“Leben is an acquired taste for many foreigners,” my host moms say kindly, as Widad drops a block of sugar the size of the Washington Monument into my tiny glass.

“It’s better with sugar!” She says, stirring. My host family looks at me expectantly.

Spoken like a true Moroccan, I think, as I take another sip of Culture.





I’d like to begin this post with a shout out to sharris, whoever you are! Thanks for commenting that my blog is popular in the wider study abroad population here, I realzzzzz appreciate the vote of confidence. YEEEHA! And since I seem to have an ACTUAL audience of real live readers that are people who are real and alive and who read – and are alive in Rabat – WE SHOULD TOTALLY ALL HANG OUT. I’m probably free this weekend. Hit me UP.

I’ve also been told – and can see on the handy “my stats” section of the WordPress Dashboard – that people liked that meme post from way back, #moroccoproblems. In fact, it’s my highest-grossing post of all time, after “Homepage/Archives.” I like memes too: awesome internet satire and laughter over shared experiences, what could be better? So, I’m going to do my best to keep ’em coming – if you have ideas for memes, send them to me and I’ll post them!

Also, keep thinking I’m funny. I like that. I like to think that relishing your approval makes me funnier, but then I just get drunk with power and start drooling and giggling and acting like a maniac and that’s MESHI MEZIEN.


Anyway, my recent absence from the blogwaves is due to days of SKETCHY McSKETCHERSON Internet (Maroc Telecom = Problem), a resurgence in my habit of downloading movies and watching them when I should be doing homework or Something Cultural, and the realization that EVERYTHING IS DUE SOON SO I SHOULD REALLY ACTUALLY WORK NOW. This also means that I’m flying back across the pond soon, which I have very mixed feelings about (I’m sure you’ll hear all about them when I’m in a philosophical mood or hungry sometime soon).

I have a few more substantive blog posts in the works for you, but I’m giving a presentation tomorrow on the Moroccan film industry and should probably start writing it now.

Peace out, everyone.



Okay. This is an UPDATES ON MY LIFE post, and boy oh boy, do I have some updates!

Mr. MacBook’s Great Adventure

Once upon a time, there was a macbook called Mr. MacBook. After three years of loyal service to a rather troublesome owner, Mr. MacBook began to tire. He’d freeze, seize, and cheese out of application memory. He couldn’t run programs without slamming into brick walls made of Katie-doesn’t-take-care-of-her-hard-drive-and-now-it’s-slow-and-not-working, and though he tried his hardest, basic tasks like turning on and checking e-mail were a real struggle for poor Mr. Macbook. Finally, one day, as his Katie tried to finish an important application on a computer that could hardly run Microsoft Word, she decided to give him a much-needed cleanup. Back him up, reload the operating system, and start fresh: what could be better? What could be easier?

(I would like to interject that the café at which I sit just started playing My Heart Will Go On, and it’s making me laugh. More about this awesome café later, but I will also like to add that it’s on the beach, and that I’m not looking at the keyboard as I type this because I’m good at typing and the ocean is more interesting to look at than my computer screen. YEAHYEAHYEHAYEAHAYEAH)

Thus, the dynamic duo—Mr. MacBook and the intrepid adventurer Katie—set off on what should have been a simple quest. They had all the tools they needed, except for a backup volume of some kind. And so, hopeful to complete the task before the impending application deadline, the two heroes, with Rachel by their side (a good friend to have on a quest), set off for the souk!

The winding alleys of the sketchy technological section of the souk are teeming with everything from pirated films to used computers, from iPads to adapters to game systems. Refurbished iPhones sit behind glass cases, piles of cords and cables spill out of cardboard boxes, and truckloads of pirated films plaster the walls of stall after stall. (I’m tired of third-person narration, so I’m switching now.) Somewhere, I knew, an external hard drive awaited purchase by a certain ME, sleuthy hard-drive hound that I am. After some searching, we found a marvelous external hard drive in a dingy used PC store, sold by a kindly Moroccan man who invited Rachel and I to Friday couscous. Delighted, we accepted, and skipped off to the bibliotheque to format the hard drive and back up my data.

After much nail-biting and clicking on things in Disk Utility (I had no idea what I was doing), I managed to format and partition the external hard drive now named José and JosB (that was Rachel’s idea. It makes me chuckle). I piled all of Mr. MacBook into José, and, ecstatic, inserted the installation DVD that came with Mr. MacBook. All that remained was to reinstall the operating system, and presto change-o, functioning computer

And then, mushkil. Problem. The DVD didn’t work.

The DVD…didn’t…work.

The DVD didn’t work.



This is when my composure began to crack in earnest, and little dribbles of panic leaked out as my mental state rapidly declined. Mr. MacBook’s now utter inability to function (due to his wiped hard drive) coupled with the impending submission deadline had me veritably scratching at the drapes in despair. As my mental window upholstery frayed, I desperately tried to clean my irreparably scratched installation disk. It was imperative that I get my computer to functioning capacity before the deadline, which was approaching ever closer, but to no avail: the disk was good and destroyed, because I am an idiot and left it out of its protective packaging.

Now, there is a Mac store, of sorts, in Agdal. Mac stores in Morocco aren’t like Mac stores in the United States, mostly because they don’t actually quite exist: this is actually a “Licensed Seller” of Apple products, and it’s probably the only one in the country (though there might be one in Casablanca). So, the morning of the application due date, as my panic threatened to explode like a badly manufactured pressure cooker, I headed to Agdal with my poor, wiped Mr. MacBook and a sense of impending doom. A very kind sales representative told me that they didn’t use the DVDs anymore, and that my computer was an older model, but to return in the afternoon when the technician would be there. I left for couscous at Hard Drive Guy (Hassine)’s house feeling something close to despair, though I held onto the shred of hope that this mysterious technician could reinstall my operating system. I mean, it’s such a simple process, there’s got to be something they can do! I kept repeating this to myself as I distractedly made my way back to the medina: they’ve got to have something.

I was then pleasantly distracted by Couscous, which was awesome! Another American student from a different program lived with Hassine and his family in a traditional Medina house. Invited to couscous at a stranger’s house: checked off the list, and an unprecedented success! If anyone invites you over for couscous in Morocco, even a complete stranger, accept. Moroccans are wonderful.

My spirits buoyed by the awesomeness of that particular experience, I headed back to Agdal, unaware that nothing less than a PARTY, lots of food, great conversations, and a brand-new operating system awaited me. It was more than a dream come true: it was, quite possibly, the most ridiculous experience I have ever had with computers in my LIFE.

I arrive again at the store, where the kindly sales rep introduced me to the technician, Hassan. Upon hearing my story, he promptly uploaded the most recent version of Snow Leopard onto my computer, installed a lot of new and useful software, and upon seeing the cheap, precarious adapter I used, gave me a brand-new mac AC cord that would fit the Moroccan plug. As we sat and chatted in a mix of French and English over the party music, purple-aproned servers brought us tea, sweets, and little snacks, because the store was celebrating its 20th birthday. I felt as though the whole world was celebrating the rebirth of Mr. MacBook, to whom I’ve now given a more fitting title: Mr. MacBook, esq. He is nearly unrecognizable beneath his familiarly battered exterior, with new versions of everything under the sun.  Even the battery lasts longer!  Microsoft Office, my music library, and all those other important things I loaded back on from José, where they’d been safely snuggled waiting for Mr. MacBook to get better. I couldn’t be happier.

We celebrated our victory by running to an Internet café (we had to try a couple to find one that actually had internet) and, with a sigh of relief, submitting that application, which I really hope was received. And now, I have a brand-new computer! I feel like a kid in a candy store!

Ahhhh. So that, friends, was the story of How Mr. MacBook’s health and my sanity were restored. It was a close call.

More about Oceans and Cafés and pics and stuff later. Peace out.

Material Mushkils, and I got HECKA lucky, dude.