The poor (wo)man’s iPad
October 7, 2010 § 1 Comment
Now I can geek out on train rides and scroll through the Moroccan Family Code, courtesy of my new PDF reader app for my iPod. The palm-sized screen speckled with cramped lettering unfailingly treats me to a helping of motion sickness. However it is proving my closest ally during the interminable school days. There was no net gain or loss in terms of bearable-ness in this week’s waiting period. I quickly lost what little consolation I had found in portable PDF files with the realization that none of the university restrooms have toilet paper. Frankly, not many of the university restrooms have toilets. The “squat pit and faucet” facilities don’t necessarily bother me. But today, fighting a gushing runny nose and coughing up phlegm, longing for the Western comfort of T.P. didn’t seem too off base. Using your garments to mop off snot doesn’t get you very many friends.
I fired my snot-rockets, renowned for their poor aim, in secret for fear of a sticky situation. I got so desperate during grammar class that I dropped a pen and used the bend-and-snap from Legally Blond to hide a nose wipe on my sleeve. Hate to admit it, but my cold began around the same time that I stopped taking Emergen-C regularly (which was also around the same time I started using my designated Emergen-C cup to catch the cockroaches in my room). In grammar class, the professor asked us why we need grammatical rules. I had agreed with several enthusiastic students who exhausted themselves with suggestions of “consistency” and “solidarity”. The answer: for power. The professor cited Plato and Aristotle (in French “Platon” and “Aristote”) and the use of intelligent language as a means for everyday citizens to move up in the ranks of the old Republic. Sitting in a classroom in Morocco, I was being told to empower myself through the language of their former colonizer. Oh, the irony of it all.
During my waiting period between “Corrective Grammar” and “History of Literature”, I trekked back to my usual lunch joint. Then tried to take a picture of the entrance to my school without seeming like even more of an oddball. Someday when I grow bolder, I’ll take some photos of campus that are slightly more composed.
I killed more time by counting the number of girls who were fully covered versus those who were uncovered. My consensus, its about 50/50. This average is noticeably higher than down-town street where about a third of the women are covered, but about the same as the ratio in the medina. My guess is that in the presence of youth and male professors, girls find it more appropriate to cut down unwanted distractions by covering themselves.
I’m still trying to unravel my feelings on veils. In the United States, I maintained the stance of giving women their right to a beautiful cultural expression and symbol of devotedness to their religion, thinking that the current veiling of women is a crossroads of longstanding Arabic culture and religious interpretation. From my Islamic studies, I know the exact Quran surah (chapter) so often cited for women to be veiled. From my understanding, that particular instance refers to an advisory specifically intended for the Prophet Mohamed’s (peace be upon him) wives. In their position, it was necessary for a degree of hijab to help them uphold their dignity and the dignity of the Prophet by eliminating temptation for others. Hijab can also be interpreted as “veil”, “curtain”, “partition”, or “separation”. My host mother here never goes out in public or even answers a knock at the door without covering her head, and I would never dream of telling her to do other than what she is culturally accustomed to doing. Being so intimately close to women who practice such a degree in modesty is slowly changing my perspective. But modesty has a multifarious meaning. Other surahs calling for modesty for the prevention of sexual desire and distraction can be applied as equally to men as to women, yet men can go unharassed in a t-shirt and shorts. The fully-covered girls, though they are exercising bodily modesty, are some of the most fashionable girls in the streets, complete with high heels, elaborate makeup, and bedazzled pins for holding their headscarves in place. On one hand, I can understand the draw. Honestly, a few distasteful catcalls might make me want the refuge of a scarf myself. Lately, I’ve been getting “meows”, making me think that the men here take catcalling a little too literally. But why must the weakness of men make women take precautionary steps at preserving devotedness? I will never pretend that my body doesn’t exist. I need further exploration on this topic.
The bathrooms were strangely more pleasant on the train than the pits they charge a dirham to use at the station. I quickly discovered the reason: in my flu-like state I had wandered into the first class cabin of air-conditioning and clear aisles. Not even my sniffles and dumbstruck smiles softened the heart of the ticket checker, who knew that even if I couldn’t understand his derija, I could still understand a finger pointed to the door. I pushed my way into the standing room only of a 2nd class car and apologetically covered my coughs the rest of the way back.