(Or Happy Valentine’s Day from Morocco)
Yesterday, I was sitting out on my roof thinking to myself, “My God, what a beautiful, sunny day.” Felt like it was maybe in the mid-seventies with one of those light breezes that hits you just right – you know, when it’s spring and everything is just, well, perfect. And then it hit me – it’s mid-February. Back home, snow has been falling across the South and Midwest in a series of blizzards making everyone think Punxsutawney Phil got it all wrong this year. I’ve been having moments where I’m thinking the weather is beautiful or maybe even slightly too warm, which leads me to one conclusion – it’s going to be a long, sweltering, hot summer here in the Moroccan desert. Better enjoy this nice weather while I can.
Last night, on my way home from the cyber cafe, tiny pellets of sand smacked me in the face as the wind drew up a small dust storm of sorts, and when I woke up this morning, it was a bit chilly and had snowed on the mountain some. Winter isn’t exactly over just yet, but the sun sure is trying to send it on its way.
Every morning here starts with the weather for me, and I guess what I mean by that is that my entire day sort of revolves around the weather. That’s probably true back home to some degree, as well, but the weather never dominates conversation back home the way it does here. I mean, almost every conversation I have here seems to begin (after ten minutes of greetings) with someone saying, “There is cold” or “A lot of sun today” or “There is dusty wind. Problem.” That’s the literal translation, anyhow. And so the whole day begins with one of my favorite things, which essentially boils down to determining what kind of day it’s going to be, and that all takes place in one very special spot, my roof:
6. Sitting on my roof. And so it seemed most appropriate to begin round two of my top ten list by sharing with you one of my favorite pastimes in country. It’s certainly not culture, and it has little to nothing to do with Morocco or Mos Eisley, but every morning, I carry a banana, some yogurt, and a journal up to the doorway of my roof, plant myself down and make a schedule of all the things I want or need to do. Then, I sunbathe and just breathe in and out and let the weather tell me how this day is going to go. It’s a little bit like a meditative moment of sorts before the day begins, though if I’m not careful, I end up sitting there for too long and having to rework my schedule.
7. So, if sunbathing is not enough reason to love my house and everything about it, much of what I love about the ole Dar Yanayr dyal Fouad boils down to buying new things to make it all look nice and spiffy. And where does that happen best? Souq. Every week, there are two days (Monday and Tuesday) where Mos Eisley turns into a giant Goodwill experience complete with all kinds of used and new clothes and shoes, ovens, fridges, televisions, everything you could ever possibly want. There’s absolutely nothing I love more than walking around town glancing at the carpets I could buy or figuring out how to pay for tomatoes in Ryals instead of the Moroccan Dirham.
This weekend in particular was quite the souq experience when I decided to buy two leather couches to complete the furniture in my house. But I wasn’t alone in this endeavor. Naoshi helped out. Who is Naoshi, you ask? Well, to be honest, I’m not really sure, because I can only barely communicate with him, but it turns out that Japan, like America, has its own version of the Peace Corps, and young Naoshi is the Japanese volunteer who lives an hour south of me in a town not too much different from Mos Eisley. He ran into Avery in a cafe, and Avery invited him to visit us, so while he was here, we bought my couches and walked literally from one end of my site to the other.
To be honest, there’s nothing weirder in terms of cultural experiences than speaking Moroccan Arabic (Darija) with a Japanese guy who knows only little English (actually, we were speaking something I like to call “Daringlish”). Talk about a clash of cultures. But Naoshi was extremely nice, and he’s been invited to tomorrow’s Valentine’s Day Party (I know; it’s today, but we had to celebrate tomorrow instead because of scheduling conflicts). I suspect you’ll be hearing more about Naoshi before the end of my service.
8. I was really worried when I left the country that the next two years I would be deprived of good music. Boy was I wrong. Coming in at number eight (though these are in no particular order) are the over forty albums I have added to my musical repertoire in the past five months. Have a listening for yourself:
9. I started my BAC classes. It’s nine girls, half of whom are nurses working in the hospital, and the other four are actually students who will take the BAC (the exam that determines their future or whether or not they will pass high school). In short, I love it. I use English the entire time and help them with grammar. Next week I will introduce a few songs as listening exercises, and there’s talk about watching the Mummy (or some other movie as a class) and analyzing the English in the movie. Finding creative ways to teach is something I was born to do, and since these students know English well, I am hoping to eventually branch beyond our class and use them in different projects, including the up-and-coming glasses project (which I’ll tell you all about later).
10. And last, but certainly not least, the Gendarmes. I won’t go into much detail. I want to leave this one a mystery of sorts, but I love everything about the Gendarmes. In short, they serve as the “military police” here in my site and especially since there’s no police station, though they’re a little more like state troopers than anything else. Every time I walk into their office, their desks are covered in endless paperwork (that I’ve had to help them sort out on one or two occasions), I’m invited to have tea, and there’s lots and lots of laughter. It’s the most ridiculous, enjoyable experience ever.
So that about does it for now. Keeping this one short because I have a headache and a head cold. Nothing serious, but these allergies are keeping me from putting everything down in writing I wish I could. My apologies. Hope everyone has a wonderful Valentine’s Day. There are protests against the government planned in Casablanca and Rabat for this Sunday. I don’t think it will amount to much, but if you’d like to read more about it, check out the article here.
As my friend Jeff said, “I will not be evacuated from this country.”