Tag Archives: Morocco

2013! And…the Welcome Home post.

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Well, hello again, Blog! It’s been awhile. Last I posted was a day or two after my little brother’s birthday, which was in September. In the intervening months, I read a whole lot of philosophy (that’s my major. Nice and practical) and did a bunch of other stuff, too. Turned 21. Started baking bread. Considering running away to Japan to study Zen soon as I graduate. Applied to graduate. Applied to graduate!

Remember that one time I studied abroad in Morocco?

Wait WHUUUUT I REMEMBER THAT.

Around Thanksgiving, a friend of mine who was studying in Rabat at the time (WASSUP MAMA SAM!!!) asked what the transition back home had been like, because it looked like it was going to be a rough ride.  When I started to reply, I realized that it was the first time I’d really thought about it–about putting that transition into words for another human being to read. I think it turned into a bit of a novel. Oh, well. So as we all kick off the new year, I’m going to tell you about transitioning home. All yous guys coming back from study abroad, this is for you.

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In a way I’m still adjusting back from Morocco. I’ve got some pictures and my red blanket hanging on my bedroom wall, I doodle Arabic on my class notes, I make Moroccan tea ALL THE TIME. My experience in Morocco informs the way I think, behave, and interact with the world to this day (or whatever). It’s not as though you get back, endure 3 weeks of shitty culture shock, and then everything’s back to normal.

Nah. It’s way, way better than that.

(Ooh, that was dramatic. Suspense. Suspense. Woo!)

Here’s the thing–you get to Morocco, and what’s it like? HOLY CRAP NEW CITY NEW CULTURE NEW COUNTRY NEW LANGUAGE WHOA WHOA WHOA WHOA and every day brings you new awkward experiences, new laughs, new places you never thought you’d be, new words you never thought you’d say. It’s a constant barrage of discovery, and even when you start forming routines and begin to feel like you have an “everyday life” of some kind, you’re still not done adjusting. It’s a bit like that coming home, except…actually, no, it’s not like that coming home at all. Well, maybe just a bit.

Because let’s be real: studying abroad, particularly in a place like Morocco, is like climbing into a cannon (like the ones at the circus) and blasting yourself straight out of your comfort zone. In fact, the explosion obliterates your comfort zone. You don’t even have one anymore. So for one thing, you’re better equipped to handle the transition back than you think you are–hell, you already handled the transition
there. Possibly the worst thing you’ll face when you come back is your own disillusionment, and maybe some frustration with how little this world has changed compared to how much you’ve changed.

But seriously, you’ve probably only gotten more awesome in your time away. You’ve gained a lot of valuable skills in a lot of areas, you’ve thought new thoughts, you’ve left the bubble, and you’re looking at returning to the bubble, and maybe that weirds you out a bit. It should. It is sort of weird coming back. But it’s also not weird at all, because it’ll be so, so familiar. You’ll eat a bagel or a hot dog and LOVE it. You’ll hear some new Britney song that you don’t know all the words to. You’ll have missed some internet thing like YOLO or Friday or whatever. You’ll have some awesome stories to tell.

You’ll realize that you can answer those questions you’ll get that seem so obvious, even ignorant, to you – “did they make you wear a bourka?” – with patient “no, actually…”s, and you’ll be able to answer that silly old question that everyone knows is ridiculous but asks anyway: “so, how was Morocco?”

It was good. How was your quarter?

Because, well, it was good! Parts of it probably sucked, but at least for me, those parts were worth it–and, in retrospect, necessary for that experience to have been what it was. Sure it was life-changing, or whatever, but epiphanies are rare things, and life is always changing. And maybe, in the grand scheme of things, four months in Morocco isn’t the hugest deal in the world. And that should be a relief. And the transition home won’t be a super massive upheaval, probably. You’ll be okay.

I guess I’d say allow your past experiences to inform the way you shape your outlook on the present, in small ways. I cook dishes my family taught me to make sometimes. I speak darija to myself sometimes when I’m cleaning. Sometimes, I listen to Cheb Khaled while I do my homework. And then again, sometimes I don’t. It’s whatever. I keep in touch with my host family, on and off. They’re still wonderful.

I don’t think culture shock is always as crappy as it’s made out to be, it’s just a handy term for getting-used-to-where-you-suddenly-find-yourself. Going to college is culture shock, in a way, and I imagine graduating college is going to be a kind of culture shock too. I mean, hell, we live our lives in a constant state of evaluating and re-evaluating the way we live them, and we’re always striving to do something good with whatever that might be. Or something.

And yeah, the first few weeks do suck, or can suck, or might suck, but it gets better. And try not to presuppose that it definitely will suck, because maybe it won’t. Who knows?

Oh, and EVERYONE LOVES YOU AND MISSES YOU A LOT AND WILL BE SO SO SO HAPPY TO HAVE YOU BACK.

That’s all I can think of to say, at least out of my own experiences. You’ll be great.

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I always feel fancy when I do the above three-centered-asterisks-subject-change thing.

I’ve heard some people, bloggers, teachers, say they wish study abroad-ers would come back and write a bit more in their blogs after coming home. Updates on the transition, and all. So here it is, blog-sphere! Here I am!

Though the transition back to normal college life was a lot harder than I expected it to be, I’m doing really well, everyone. Hello, world! I’m still alive! Probably going to graduate on time, too! Definitely want to go back to Morocco sometime!

And wasn’t it just a wild ride?

I’ll probably come back to this blog, sometime. When I travel. When something cool happens. When I learn something cool or read a new Morocco-book. When I feel like it. You stay cool, gentle reader. Catch ya on the flip side.

AND!

MOROCCO SIBLINGS AND ROOMIE!!!! SMILES!!! Boy, how I miss these kids. Pax in terra, everyone.

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Happy Birthday, Tom!

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Tom’s my little brother. I don’t think he reads my blog, and his birthday was actually four days ago, but I did start writing this post on his actual birthday, so happy birthday anyway, Tomo! WOOHOO! PARTAY!

Here’s where I was four days ago:

Well, I’m all packed, my bedroom is – gasp – tidied up, and I’m enjoying my last real day of absolutely-nothing-to-do. Tomorrow, I hop on an airplane to Seattle, will hopefully paint my bedroom up there (the colors are ghastly), find myself a wardrobe, learn a metric crapton of music in time for Tuesday, and SCHOOL. Wait, what’s school?

In short, this nine-month break from my university is giving way to one more year of undergraduate classes, and then I’ll have to start Real Life. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, though. Right now, I’m concerned with the ending of my nine-month break from class, during which I saw a whole lot of the world…

And that’s all I had to say about that. I got distracted, probably by Tom’s birthday cake. School starts tomorrow. Anyway, got choir stuff today. Room painted, wardrobe built, music (sort of) learned – I mean, I’ve even bought my books. I don’t think I’ve ever been more and less prepared for school to such extremes before.

So there’s that, for what it’s worth. Hello!

And THIS is your last update before I turn to Nicaragua and possibly more Morocco stuff. I swear. Not sure what else I’m going to write about. Maybe I’ll take up quasi-Moroccan-cooking again. Zip! OH HEY! Tip (haha preemptive pun AND RHYME WHOA): Never say zip, or zipper, in Morocco, because it sounds like Arabic slang for the male anatomy.  We thoroughly embarrassed our intensive Darija teacher with that one in our very first week. We were an illustrious bunch, you can be sure.

Stay classy, world. Kiss kiss.

Operation Rosewater

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Now THAT sounds cool. Operation Rosewater. God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater. That’s a great book, you should read it. It’s by Kurt Vonnegut.

Moroccan desserts frequently include ingredients like rosewater, orange flower water, and other such floral…waters. Well, I hiked all over the hill and couldn’t find a DROP of rosewater, orange flower water, or ANYTHING. The closest I came were the shelves upon shelves upon shelves of COCONUT water, which is a craze that I still can’t quite wrap my head around. I didn’t particularly like coconut water when I tried it, though I do like coconut milk. Whatever.

Anyway, after a grocery store, Trader Joe’s,anda natural foods co-op yielded no results, I decided to screw it. I’d make my own. So here’s my makeshift rosewater operation:

Big pot is on stove, with water and rose petals a few inches deep. Empty mug is sitting on top of a thingy inside pot. Lid is on pot upside down. Ice cubes added to top of lid. Is this making sense? Basically, as the rose petals simmer, the steam rises, cools, condenses, then drips back down into the cup sitting, empty, inside the pot. Here’s hoping that it’ll turn out to be rosewater! I mean, that’s basically how distilling works, right? Well, steam distillation. I’m pretty sure there’s around 39,045,802 ways to distill stuff.

I should probably get a job. I’m spending days making makeshift stills and boiling rose petals. HAH! Well, anyway, if this works I’ll be able to make some Moroccan desserts, which nearly always involve almonds, sugar, and rosewater. Cool. Go me. OH! The spiced eggplant was delicious, except it gave me a wee bit of an upset tummy. Huh.

I’ll let you know how the rosewater turns out! If it’s good, then all you need to make rosewater is a bouquet of roses and a little ingenuity. Science is cool. Peace out, friends!

Spiced Aubergine (and zucchini) and Ghobz, sorta…

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HEYA, Morocco-foodies! Today, I’m attempting ghobz (bread), which didn’t turn out all that great, and a spiced aubergine (eggplant) recipe to which I added that wilting zucchini I’d forgotten about. And tea, duh.

This my first time ever baking bread from scratch, so I’m forgiving myself for the strange consistency. I have no idea what I’m doing. I’d post pictures, but my camera’s in California. Imagine those round loaves of bread we ate every day in Morocco, except baked by a total newbie. Yeah, not super interesting.

The spiced eggplant I’m excited for, though! EEE!

Before I tell you about that, though, this is the cookbook I’m using: Made in Morocco: A Journey of Exotic Tastes & Places, by Julie Le Clerc and John Bougen. I bought it at that big ol’ book fair we attended in Casablanca, back in February. It’s a pretty good cookbook, full of beautiful pictures and information about diverse cities and regions of Morocco and their varied cuisines. It’s great because it’s full of Moroccan recipes adapted for the Western kitchen, which is a blessing for this clueless college student cooking in her under-stocked kitchen with a temperamental oven and a motley pile of pots and pans.

The book’s not exactly full of the food we ate on a day-to-day basis; after all, it’s a “journey of exotic tastes & places.” It’s full of special-occasion food, though a few of her recipes are SPOT ON. I’m going to be tweaking her beghrir recipe, perhaps with a little baking soda and a bit more water, and probably simplifying some of the fancier recipes. Anyway, as a bemused beginner taking baby steps into the world of Moroccan cuisine, I wanted to share with you my home-base cookbook. You’re welcome for the plug, Julie Le Clerc and John Bougen.

So, for example, this eggplant stuff is out of her cookbook. The couscous I made last time was my own improvised recipe based on what I’d seen my family cooking. The tea I make is also based on what my family made. Have I told you how to make it?!? Here’s Katie’s Moroccan Mint Tea recipe!!!

Stuff you’ll need:
Sugar
Loose leaf green tea, gunpowder pearls
Fresh mint leaves
…Water. Duh.

What to do:

Heat up some water in a saucepan on the stove. Add green tea. Steep that mo’fo.

Fill a glass jar/cup/whatever with mint leaves, enough to fill up the glass. Don’t stuff them in and leave no room for the tea, just fill the glass and leave some space. Add 2 tbsp sugar to the glass. Yes, to each glass. I’m serious. Or, add sugar to your taste, but know that back in the day sugar was extremely expensive in Morocco, which is why mint tea is so sugary: it’s meant to honor the guest/family/whoever. The sugar is pretty essential. Sugar: the taste of Morocco. ANYway!

Once the green tea’s steeped, pour it into the glasses with the mint and sugar in them. Stir. Enjoy! You can use the mint for multiple servings, I just keep adding tea and sugar. Mint is potent stuff.

If you have rose water, you can add a little bit of that in with the tea as well. My fambam did. It’s awesome. I haven’t found/bought rose water yet, but if you have it, go for it!

YUM YUM YUM The spiced eggplant/zucchini is simmering away happily on the stove, and it smells pretty good in here. The bread’s weird, but I’m sure it’ll be much better with this spicy veggie stuff!

I’ll let you know how it goes. Over and out, homeskillet! (GET IT!?!?!?!!? HAHA!)

Day 2: Breakfasty Couscous and BEGHRIR MADE CORRECTLY!

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I think I need to slightly modify the name of this particular project. Operation Cook Moroccan Food and Feed it to Caroline is a bit too specific, especially because today I cooked Moroccan Food and Fed it to Joe, Zoe, and Ernie. Joe, Zoe, and Ernie are pretty much the best people on the planet. Heather and Amanda too, but they were at work (SOME people have jobs, Katie). Today was a phenomenal, wonderful, fabulous, tiring day, and I now find myself in that classic conundrum: I’m too hungry to go to sleep, but too tired to want to get up and eat. As you’ll know if you know me or have ever read this blog before, hunger won out.

Katie, you’re unemployed and all you do is cook food and nap all day. Hungry and tired?!

ANYWAY!

Today’s menu featured my first crack at couscous and second attempt at beghrir. The couscous turned out decently well–I sauteed some pears, cooked onions and raisins in sunflower oil and added as many spices as I could to form a sort of ras al-hanout (I know I can buy it, but I was having fun just throwing in different spices. Wheeee! It makes me feel like a real cook! You know, not a holographic one!), and topped the whole thing with some dates and a sprig of mint. If I’ve learned anything from the dishes I ate in Morocco, it’s that presentation matters. We ate it out of a baking dish because I don’t have a tagine or anything. Anyway, it was a bit of a take-off from the sweet couscous served on special occasions in Morocco, only done on a smaller scale and with a lot less knowledge of what I was doing. Uh.

Speaking of couscous, I hear that you sort of have to use instant couscous in the US, which is dumb. I don’t think it turned out as well using veggie broth as it does using chicken broth–I usually make my instant couscous with chicken broth and orange juice to give it flavor. I probably could’ve gone the extra dollar and bought real, not from-concentrate OJ, but I’m cheap. Anyway, I’m going to start looking for a better way to make couscous here, because instant really isn’t the same.

ANYWAY, note to readers, when doing seat-of-the-pants couscous, always make more sauce than you think is necessary. In my case, I should’ve made sauce. Couscous can get a bit dry if there’s not enough goopy stuff to go with it. Still, I shouldn’t be TOO judgy-judge with myself, because it was also pretty yummy. I kept some Moroccan tastes and definitely made it in the spirit of Morocco: fruit and onions cooked together! Woohoo!!!!

Also, beghrir is the SHIT when made correctly. Each batch makes enough for…a lot of people, so I put them on the table with a note to my housemates to dig in, and they were GONE in two shakes. I’m going to try to tweak the recipe so that they turn out spongier and a bit thinner, but I’m new to baking and cooking (I’m not a cook, really. You know this, right?), so I have absolutely no idea how to go about that. I’ll probably google something like “how to make spongier beghrir” and see what comes up.

Okay, now you google it. There is ONE result, a page of the Encyclopedia of Jewish Food that mentions it. I’m going to google–oh. Yeah. Googling “beghrir recipe” is a bit more productive, huh?

Well, I’ll go back to my red beans and rice, take my nap, and leave you in peace. When I decide to stop being a lazy fart, I’ll upload pictures.

Peace and happiness, yo.

(oh. Maybe I’ll start posting some recipes or something. That’d be useful, huh? Might give a bit more purpose to this blog, which is currently me telling you about what I cooked today? Hmmm.)

And now I’m cooking.

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Have you ever noticed how breaking up summers makes them go by faster? A little time here, a little time there, WOOHOO I’M UNEMPLOYED, let’s go ride bikes, holy shit this room needs a rug. That’s sort of my summer. For the next two weeks, though, I’m holed up in Seattle: beautiful weather, big library, not much to do, Moroccan cookbook. I’m SET.  Two weeks to keep myself busy: LET’S COOK MOROCCAN FOOD (and feed it to Caroline)!

Today was Day 1 of Let’s Cook Moroccan Food and Feed it to Caroline, and it was a bit of a flop. I came decently close to making beghrir/galettes/those spongy-bread crumpet-like things that you drizzle with melted honey and butter and it’s the SHIT–but I (dumbly) decided “screw it, I’ll try it with whole wheat flour instead of white flour because I’m too lazy to run to the grocery store!” and, well, the consistency wasn’t at ALL what it’s supposed to be. Caroline would never have known, because they were still pretty good (I mean, what could be bad about a fried pancake drizzled in butter and honey?!), but I’m going to try again soon and use the right flour.

So, uh, I’m not a good Moroccan cook. What kind of blog IS this, anyway?! OH WAIT! I did successfully make BOMB Moroccan mint tea, as close to my family’s as possible. Got some loose leaf green tea, some fresh mint (I want a mint plant. I want potted mint. It grows like a weed in my mom’s garden), and a buttload of sugar, and POOF. AHAHAHA. It was this instant portal back to the whitewashed house behind the high blue walls, where we sipped endless cups of tea and traded stories about our lives.

I’m going to try to find some rose water to put in it too, my fam did that.

ANYWAY, that’s my plan, update this blog with tales and pictures of MOROCCAN DINING! Operation Cook Moroccan Food and Feed it to Caroline is a go.

HaHA! And you thought this blog would WIND DOWN once I got home! MUAHAHAHAHAHAAAAA!!!!

Peace out, scouts.

CAMPING!

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(just kidding, I’m not going to talk about camping. HA! I AM THE MASTER OF DECEPTION! MAYBE I NEED A NAP!)

I love seeing the things people Google, hoping to find something useful and informative, and instead they find this blog.

On the WordPress.com dashboard, my little ego-homepage where I can obsessively check how many people have read my blog today (FOUR VIEWS! I’M INTERNET FAMOUS!), I can see the “top searches” that led to some poor schmuck accidentally reading this blog. Today, it was: mezien, can’t talk memes, morocco meme, arabic mint tea memes, is farting sexual harassment

I read the last one and WHAT?!???!?!! I HOPE not, JEEZ! If so, I’m screwed. I’ve written a personal statement about it and published it on the INTERNET. Wellp, there goes my life. Maybe I’ll get off because it was retaliatory, but probably not.

Another of my favorites was (I had to go back and find this in the draft of a post I never published) March 28: the 10 scary seconds when u trapped in the shower with the cold water running

Terrifies me too, those 10 scary seconds when u trapped in the shower with the cold water running

Anyway, I figured (since now more people are following this blog – OH HI WELCOME! – ) that I should continue to write and update you on bringing the Morocco experience back home. Well, here’s how it’s going: remember how I said that Morocco was hard to talk about because it was in a different universe? Not emotionally difficult or anything, just that Morocco resided in a separate sphere of existence that simply didn’t translate into life in the U.S.?  It was as though Morocco, Arabic, French, tea, and all of that just dropped out of my life all at once–oh, wait. It did. Well, that train of thought just derailed.

Well, anyway, Morocco has begun to turn from a cynical internal monologue (about the meaningless materialism of life in the U.S. and all that stuff) into stories. Anecdotes to pop into conversation here and there: an interesting factoid about something, an I-can-relate-to-your-stomach-problems-and-by-that-I-mean-one-up-them-HAHA story, stories that I keep short to avoid those awkward moments when everyone remembers that they don’t really care about Morocco. No, that’s a good thing. My friends doze off while I tell my usual stories, and there’s never even a good punch line. They call them Katie stories. Oop, derailed again.

Well, ANYWAY, long story long, it’s been great. I have fun facts to share. I wear poofy pants. This lack of Struggle and Emotional Journeys and all that stuff that I spent January through March writing about PROBABLY makes for much boring-er reading, but oh well. You’ve read nearly 487 words of derailed thought-trains heading for those poor schmucks googling stuff like “do cats in morocco understand french”

(DO they?)

I’m off to go invent some arabic mint tea memes, while hoping that farting isn’t sexual harassment. Peace out.