So it begins
September 29, 2010 § 1 Comment
The start of my fourth week here a bar of bittersweet chocolate, that first raw cocoa flavor that almost makes you cringe if you weren’t addicted to its boldness would be from the end of the days of waiting accompanied by sleepless nights of blogging. The blogging wont stop, but the frequency might, because here’s the sweet sugary part that lingers like a John Legend outro: I’ve been making friends, the university classes began today, and I met with Mme Rhissassi again.
While I was sitting idly/ recovering from Tanger on Monday, I received an uncharacteristically urgent email from Mme Rhissassi with vague directions for a meeting that afternoon. I thought that the UW campus was bad. But finding my way to the “Faculty of Law” was no picnic. Expecting the headache from navigating unchartered campuses, I arrived by taxi at 2:50 for the 3:30pm meeting. By the time I found out that no such Faculty of Law existed (it was in fact, Le Faculte de Science et Economics Jurisdiques) and that the room I was searching for was the President’s office, it was 3:50. As it turns out, this was to be a meeting for my introduction to the University President who’s name has more vowels than Wheel of Fortune. While Mme Rhissassi and I sipped tea in the plush office, she gave me two tasks. I am to read through the entire Moudawana (the Moroccan family code) and compare it to the older versions making special notes on the changes regarding polygamy, divorce, marriage age and arrangements, and child custody. She also promised to send me report of the UNESCO chair’s activities last year in French, which I am to translate it into English. Mr President of UM5S (Universite Mohamed V-Souissi) was even more fashionably late than I was, so fashionable that my introduction was to be postponed. In place of the university leader (who is also the co-chair of la Chaire UNESCO) I was introduced to who I will consider my first Moroccan friend. As I was leaving the office, a girl slipped me a piece of paper and a smile. Meryem- not my host sister- was inviting me to hang out sometime. We chatted for some time and made plans to hang out this weekend, “inchallah,” she added.
I spent yesterday morning doing Arabic homework, reading al-Moudawana, and checking my inbox for the material from Mme Rhissassi more often than the calls to prayer.
I made another friend! She could be considered a shipmate because we are both in the same boat: she came here independently, has showed up for canceled classes, is taking the same aerobics class as me, wants to buy a bike, and has a twin sister named Nicole. Oh wait, not that last one. She’s from Germany but speaks nearly perfect French and commendable English and tonight we studied Arabic together. Last night, she invited me to dinner at her house in the Kasbah, the same Kasbah I posted about a few days ago. If you could jump into the last picture in that post (with the boys playing soccer and tripping over each other) and walk straight along the wall, you would see her door to your right. The dinner party consisted of me (an American), Lisa (my new German friend), Farid and Youssine (both Moroccans), and Pierre (need I even list his nationality?). I laughed more at that dinner than I have my entire stay here. Well, except when Abdorhamane started singing a Beyonce hit. I stayed out late by medina standards, but managed to wake up in time to attend my first classes at the university a 30-minute train and taxi ride away. And woke up to find a 15-page test (the report Mme Rhissassi wants me to translate) in my gmail-box.
I was a bit antsy for my first class, “Grammaire Corrective”, but found that I am on about the same level as the other six students that bothered to show up today. Class passed, with the professor’s voice resonating along the walls of our tunnel-like classroom. After a quick conversation with the professor, I faced my next challenge: a 4-hour gap before my next class. With such a lull at Humboldt, I would perhaps take a nap on the lawn, post up in the library with a newspaper, or pester some kids into joining APACC. Not being officially enrolled in the university has its perks- principally the “no tuition” feature- but also some downsides like not being able to use the library. But the best summary of how unalike HSU and l’univeriste Ibn Tofail are: it is forbidden to even step on the grass.A refugee in a world of strange restrictions, I lurked in random stairwells, read one thousand notices, and walked toward town for some grub. I bought some avocado/almond milk and riiyfa bread and pitifully snacked out of sheer boredom. That killed about 30 minutes. I wont make you endure the same boredom by further commentary on how I ran down the clock like the last quarter of a basketball game (go Jacks!) until 2pm rolled around. My professor was late, again, but she needn’t have hurried anyway: I was the only student who showed up for “L’histoire litteraire”. She gave me a humiliated introductory speech and outline of the class before saying “class dismissed”. She spared us both the ungainly assigning of homework.
Forget John Legend. It’s more of an Aretha Franklin sweet lingering melody in that at last I’ll have more to put on my agenda than “yoga at 5”. Alhamdulilah for the marvelous dilemma of budgeting time between work and friends.